Five SEO Tech Trends To Prepare For In 2021

Amine is a tech entrepreneur and writer. He is currently the CMO at Regal Assets and CEO at IronMonk Solutions. 

Digital marketing evolves at a lightning pace. What might have been a winning SEO strategy only a few years ago could relegate you to Google’s dustbin today — that is, anything after the second page. To stay ahead of your competition, it’s crucial that you keep your mind fixed on the future and always adapt your SEO practices as the industry progresses.

As someone who has owned two digital marketing agencies for over a decade, I’ve seen firsthand just how rapidly the SEO world can change. For example, the initial Penguin and Panda 4.0 updates to Google’s PageRank algorithm (in 2012 and 2014, respectively) changed how all of us manage SEO virtually overnight. 

In SEO, the only constant is change. In this article, I’ll share my thoughts on where I think the industry is headed in the second half of this year and comment on how you can tweak your strategy to embrace these changes. 

1. The Resurgence Of Core Web Vitals

The development team behind Google Search has stated that, beginning in May 2021, three metrics — collectively referred to as “core web vitals” — will take center stage. These consist of the following:

• Visual Stability: Cumulative layout shifts (CLS)

• Interactivity: First input delay (FID)

• Loading: Largest contentful paint (LCP)

The specifics of each is outside the scope of this article, but I highly recommend this BACKLINKO report on them. Together, these metrics measure the loading speed, interactivity and stability of your domain. To become a top-ranking site, you should make sure your backend and your web host allow your page to load quickly (i.e., less than three milliseconds, or ideally two, according to BACKLINKO) and consistently in a user’s browser. 

Upgrading your web host, removing unnecessary third-party scripts and cutting out unnecessary and clunky visual elements from your page can go a long way toward nailing your core web vitals. 

2. Intent Over Everything

With the advent of Google’s BERT update, a searcher’s intent became a top priority. It’s not complicated: If you don’t manipulate or mislead your audience, this probably doesn’t affect you negatively. 

In days past, lots of ranking content would pull a bait-and-switch where the title would suggest an article about, say, how to perfect your fastball. But once you opened the article, you’d find that it has more to do with where to buy the best baseball gloves. This goes against the user’s search intent, and I’ve found that it’s a surefire way to get your content penalized by PageRank.

3. Formatting For Featured Snippets

The “featured snippet” section of a search engine results page (SERP) is the text box that appears above the first-ranking result. Usually, it contains a bulleted list or a paragraph and speaks directly to your search query. 

Featured snippets are prime SEO real estate, and you can increase your chances of scoring them by tailoring your content in a snippet-friendly fashion. Snippets are best suited for content that addresses a pointed question or query (e.g., “where to go on vacation in South Florida”) with blunt, no-nonsense answers (e.g., a bulleted list that includes places like the Florida Keys, Fort Myers, etc.). 

To maximize your chances of getting a snippet, I recommend using the first paragraph of the article (or the first paragraph under the first H2 heading) to briefly state the answer to the question in just 50–75 words. 

If you land a coveted featured snippet position, then you’ll likely get a higher click-through rate. 

4. Authority Over Quantity

Ahrefs says that backlinks (i.e., incoming links from other sites) are still arguably the most important ranking signal. However, I’ve found that it’s less about the number of backlinks accrued and more about where each of them comes from these days.

If you pile up backlinks from dodgy websites with low domain authority or, even worse, if you’ve paid for backlinks from spam sites or private blog networks, then your domain authority may be penalized. For the best results, you should focus on acquiring do-follow backlinks from top-notch websites. I prefer to shoot for websites with domain rankings (DR) of at least 50 as measured by Ahrefs or SEMrush.

5. Human-Centered AI Improvements 

In recent years, Google’s PageRank has become more human-friendly and less oriented toward keywords alone. Beginning with Hummingbird in 2013 and then the “RankBrain” update in 2015, Google’s search algorithm started incorporating machine learning and natural language processing to understand intent.

I believe Google is focused on creating a better internet experience for all. I mean, who wants to read a poorly written web page full of stuffed keywords and links and nothing of actual substance? In the early days, the internet was chock full of pages like these, but Google’s clean-up efforts have made the web more user-friendly. 

The takeaway is that we all have a responsibility to create content that helps human beings rather than robotic web crawlers. PageRank is likely going to continue to incorporate deeper machine learning algorithms designed to put humans first, so your content should put them first too.

Putting It All Together

In 2021, you should give a mix of off-page and on-page SEO factors priority. For the best results, I recommend a strategy that prioritizes UX factors like page-loading speed and element stability while building content that avoids keyword stuffing or excessive linking. Instead, focus on maximizing value for the reader. 

Remember that Google has the internet’s interests at heart. If you want to improve your standing with the internet’s top search engine by market share, you should create a website that’s packed with clear, human-friendly content that focuses on serving your reader’s needs and interests rather than your own. 

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