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We’re already well into the new year, so it makes perfect sense to be looking forward at the SEO trends which we expect to be big in 2021, particularly as many of these are already taking shape. While the fundamentals of Search remain relatively static there are already some trends emerging for this year which marketers would be wise to keep an eye on! We’ve rounded up a few below…

Discover what’s going to big in the world of SEO for 2021 our guide by Client Director and data expert Aimee Philipson…

Google Passage Ranking

We know that Google ranks whole pages of your website, but did you know that it’s now switching to rank specific passages of text? This recent update published by Google explains how it’s helping users find ‘the needle in the haystack’ by returning specific passages of text on pages identified in the SERP. 

To optimise for this change, making sure your content is split in to clearly defined sections will be essential, so be sure to use h-tags and images to ensure your passages are still clear and engaging – even if they’re part of a longer content piece!

Visual Search

Visual search is the next big leap in search, but seasoned users will know that this technology has been around for a little – albeit in different forms (Pinterest, for example!). Visual search involves using Google Lens on your mobile device to conduct a search, without using your voice or keypad. It’s great for shopping, directions, recipes and so much more so it’s time your business prepared for it. A few starting points will be:

Digital PR

Google’s John Mueller recently praised Digital PR in a Twitter thread as he compared the increasing importance of the practice with Tech SEO. The truth is that Digital PR and SEO have similar goals, are both equally important and work extremely well together when done right. In fact, Digital PR is currently the most effective way to gain both valuable coverage of your brand, and those all-important backlinks to your website.

Utilising the tactics of traditional PR with the added edge of content marketing tactics, Digital PR can see businesses build their brand and improve their SEO through content that journalists and publishers will actually WANT to share. Think storytelling with data, engaging and useful content with a hook, relevant newsjacking and products that cause a stir.

First Position is now #2

Featured Snippets are stealing clicks away from the #1 spot within SERPs now more than ever. Commonly referred to as ‘zero click searches’, these will be an even bigger focus for content creators in coming months to get their sites in the Google snippet results through considered optimisation.

While there is much debate around the art of creating content that will get picked up for rich snippet’s, there are some great tactics to give your content the best chance to appear in that coveted top bar. From structured data implementation, content that directly answers common questions, formatting, length and positioning on a landing page, all of these elements make it more likely that your content might be picked up as a Featured Snippet.  

Mobile-First Continues To Reign

Google’s mobile-first update means that mobile-optimisation remains crucial in 2021. Google sees your mobile site as the primary version of your website, and will base your search rankings on this version, so it’s important to ensure that your mobile site is adaptable, optimised and user-friendly.

With more users browsing on their phones compared to other devices, and the number still increasing, it’s essential that your sites mobile useability remains on point, and that you’re continuing to improve this throughout 2021.

Check your website’s mobile usability on Google Search Console and make sure you schedule improvements in to your digital marketing plan this year.

Voice Search

Voice Search has been tipped as the big SEO trend for a while now, but it continues to become more relevant as users switch to voice queries thanks to apps like Apple’s Siri and devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.

Users may still be typing queries into their laptop or smartphone browsers, but with greater presence of voice activated devices in the home, voice search is slowly becoming the most effective way to search for certain types of content.

Using long-tail keywords will be key in optimising your website, as this will mimic speech and answer user questions. Think along the lines of ‘How long should I cook rice for?’ rather than ‘rice cooking time’. Local search – which also features on this list – will also be a big element of optimising for voice search, so getting your Google My Business profile up to speed is a must!

Size Does Matter (for SEO)

There’s a myth that the best blogs are short and sharp but things are definitely changing.

The truth is that your site should include content of all lengths, but that ultimately long-form content tends to get higher engagement, shares and links as well as providing opportunity to rank for essential long-tail keyphrases.

According to SEMRush’s State of Content Marketing Report, “long reads of 3,000-plus words get three times more traffic and four times more shares. They also achieve 3.5 times more backlinks than articles of the average length of 901 to 1,200 words.”

Focus on relevant and informative long-form content to increase your search engine rankings and explore your chosen topics in-depth. The best way to format long-form content is to break it up with headers into easily digestible sections that make it easier to read for both Google and users.

SEMRush even have an SEO Content Template Tool which can help you optimise your content for search. Enter the query you want to rank for, and you’ll get recommendations on content length, semantically related keywords to include, and a closer look at the top-ranking pages. 

Think Local

Because businesses tend to think of the internet as a global resource, it’s easy to forget that most people use search engines to find local businesses and places. Think about the last few things you searched for; was it ‘takeaways in Newcastle?’ or ‘pizza restaurants near me?

These were mine, and I’m not embarrassed to say that my search led me to a local pizza place (with cracking pizza! Thanks @calsown), which helped me support a small business and met user intent – for pizza!

Local search – particularly during a year where none of us are travelling too far – is more valuable than ever. Make sure you have a Google My Business page as a starter for ten. If you want to get more advanced, start building a strong backlink profile, and ensuring that your directory information is up to date across the board.

Have we missed anything? Tell us what you think are already shaping up to be the biggest SEO trends of 2021. Tweet us @NarrativeComms with your tips!

This post was created on 29th January 2021
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