With 2020 gone, the world has seen pretty much everything in the last decade. Technology has never had a more avant-garde, yet tumultuous decade in recent history, from Apple releasing the iPad in 2010 to the gradual rise of social media, cloud computing and artificial intelligence by the time we come to 2020. We started with US leading the technical market with IBM’s Watson and Instagram taking over Facebook in 2012. These innovations were still to mark their entry in India. 4G networks and the IPv6 launch over the course of 2010-2012 put US in the front seat, with some of world’s greatest advancements under its head. Breaking away from the shackles of recessions, India never looked back. Here we are today, surrounded by AI, in the age of online marketing,boasting to be the third biggest AI-focussed start-up hub among the G20 countries (2016). The AI is exponentially advancing since 2011 at a CAGR of 86% higher than the global average. This is where SEO barges in the scene.
For web centric business platforms, online prominence is imperative and visitors are needed for enterprise branding and to push-up sales, which is possible only through a diligent SEO practice. On its part, SEO undergoes change at swift pace as new updates are implemented by major search engines, especially Google, here’s the most prominent updates is the last decade –
Panda 2011, – Duplicate, plagiarized or thin content; user-generated spam; keyword stuffing.
Penguin 2012 – Spammy or irrelevant links; links with over-optimized anchor text
Hummingbird 2013 – Keyword stuffing; low-quality content.
Mobile 2015 – Lack of a mobile version of the page; poor mobile usability
RankBrain 2015 – Lack of query-specific relevance; shallow content; poor UX.
Medic 2018 – Lack of authority on YMYL websites; weak E-A-T signals
Bert 2019 – Poorly written content; lack of focus; lack of context.
Core Updates 2017-till now – SERP and Content Recency
For impressive SEO outcomes, one needs to focus upon a range of factors, such as strong backlinks, traffic arising from it, followed by an enterprise’s active involvement on popular social media platforms among others. In this article, we have tried to capture some of the trends while eyeing and vying for 2021 in whichresides the basis of every SEO strategy.
Here are a fistful of key SEO trends that one should aspire for to rank prime in 2021:
This is the premium AI technology of Artificial Intelligence, which now defines the way users are led towards online content. The AI infected algorithm of Google deserves special attention here. This was exposed to the world by Google just a few years ago and is termed as RankBrain—this has been pivotal in determining ranking in Google listing in the overall context of SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
The brain behind such innovative tech amalgamation, Greg Corrado sounds promising when he declares, “the other signals, they are all based upon discoveries and insights that people in information retrieval have had, but there’s no learning”. As such, one can easily and hopefully assume that RankBrain is likely to get better and more advanced as time passes by resulting in AI among the top most trends in SEO field.
This brings us to a pertinent question: How should we approach SEO for RankBrains? Google is not likely to provide any hint upon it anytime soon, but SEO stalwarts and programmers opine that frequent user interaction is like to be a major factor, including the frequency of clicks received on each website as well as the time one spends on a particular website and so forth. Content relevance becomes essential as visitors need to be fascinated withinteresting and informative content revealing crucial info. For such a purpose, any on-page SEO checker is likely to be useful in evaluating the worth of a webpage on various grounds such as backlinks, readability etc.
- Google’s EAT Principal is critical for websites to get through:
Time and again, Google has emphasized website content as a major reason to rank ahead in searches. But what exactly counts worthwhile in the eyes of Google’s crawlers? The answer lies in the EAT principle, i.e.ExpertiseAuthoritativeness and Trustworthiness. By the virtue of this aspect, Google assesses the quality of web content. In certain business fields such as healthcare and finance, the enterprises run under the label of “Your money, your life” (YMYL).
For business enterprises, thereare numerous ways to improve the quality of their website content and initially, we advise creating buyer profiles in a bid to determine the type of content your customer base looks for. Following this, a research should be carried out to capture buyers’ preference. Finally, such an insight becomes the basis of content that a specific buyer base looks for.
Let’s say we are a business that fulfils demands of youngsters. For this video approach will be palatable, but if our product line is for older people, video based content may be that much effective.
Lastly, even while drafting the content, writers ought to keep the EAT principle in mind as well as the statistics. There should be proper backlinks connecting to popular places such as “.org”, “.edu”, “.gov” etc. Truly, when we enjoy links from authoritative sites back to us, which is a supreme way to pacify the EAT criteria.
- To improve SERPs, opt for lengthy content:
Following the insights that our panel of SEO experts have found, when the content of a webpage ranges up to 3000 words, it fetches 3 times more traffic than the usual while the frequency of sharing is 4 times more. Besides, such content can gather more number of backlinks, say 4% more than the articles which are concluded in just 1000 to 1200 words. As such, it is high time that we should bring detailed and comprehensive content under our focus, in order to improve our SERPs. Apart from this, quality content, enriched with varied insights (which users are able to share further across social media) should remain hooked to your website.
To achieve, we would advise you to split the content into different paragraphs under H2 and H3 subheadings in order to make it more comprehensible. Subheadings bear great importance in case of mobile websites. Besides, it is also essential that we should link to authoritative websites with a stunning PA score. It is also vital that users find our content shareable and to facilitate this, a link should be provided at the beginning as well as the end of the article.
- Due prominence be given to featured snippets:
It was in 2017 that featured snippets made their way into public arena from Google, as a useful aspect to gain Google ranking quickly. When you type a search query on Google, you would find a box above the SERPs that lies above the real outcome. This is a snippet.
Seeking a snippet is an assured method to get to the first page of Google. Additionally, with snippets we can gather traffic from those in similar business. To draw insights about possible snippets, we can rely upon the “people also ask” function, while certain snippets are rich with data such as reviews accompanied by stars, price listing, images and other such info. In fact, snippets are an effective feature to reveal a stream of information in organized form, such as Q & A or short bulleted points, or in the form of suggestions etc.
- Mobile- First Websites will dominate search listing:
Two years back, i.e.2019, Google specifically emphasized upon mobile-first indexing, focussing how the mobile devices would gain preference. Hitherto this major search engine browser and desktop version was put on the backburner. Such a declaration is deeply arguable as internet is going to be accessed by around 75% people through mobile gadgets of diverse ranges by 2025. As such, it has become essential that businesses assess the mobile-friendly aspect and such test should be done before launching their websites live to the global audience.
While evaluating the user-friendliness, we must see that all of our URLs are easily crawled by Google and for such a purpose, “disallow directive” should never be activated. Besides, we should also be attentive to Googlebots, so that no content is unleashed when user interactions occur like clicks or swiping. In other words, we let Google scan such loosely-loaded content.
Lastly, we ought to enable similar tags of meta-robots on mobile versions of our websites as we do and care for our desktops.
- Search Queries to be managed by Voice Searches:
A handful of amazing tech breakthroughs in voice search technology have evolved over recent course in the form of Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, restructuring the technology from ground up and has been generously accepted. Moreover, by 2022, it is confirmed that over 50% families will have a smart speaker.
Now, to enhance our business website for successful mobile searches, one should pay heed to the major set of keywords. It is for these that competition occurs on popular search engines, especially the long tail phrases common to popular vocabulary as well as commonly used short-forms. For example, instead of typing “what are the ways to control air pollution”, one can simply type “ways to control air pollution”.
- Video Inclusion for an adequate SEO strategy:
Sans doubt, video based information is easy to grasp while viewers get amused as the details are unravelled. To emphasize the point, we can refer to the massive user base of YouTube which stands at around 1 billion. Cisco maintains that videos are likely to get more popularity that any other form of info made in the coming days.
How can the content included in such videos be optimized?
There are umpteen ways, tried and tested, for the purpose ranging from amending the video channel name to managing its description and managing keywords to avoid stuffing and so forth. Besides, one should pay attention to keywords too and while trying for YouTube, which has an auto-complete feature. As we type in the topic, we are flooded with the ideas and suggestions most relevant to the searches in the search field which are just popular keywords that reveal what exactly is held favourite widely among the rising YouTube community.
- Experts count upon predictive search:
IT was only in 2017 that Google Discover was unveiled wherein user query isn’t needed. The tool is powered by AI which simply detects the user’s habits and frequent activities on the web and develops a possible pattern on such basis, consequently showcasing the most appropriate content post judging popular preferences amongst them.
Interestingly, around 800 million users have already been listed proactive on Google Discover. Google, however, hasn’t specified any precise factors for such inclusion. Yet explicit users’ behaviour, such as search history, location, occupational details, places etc. are some prominent criterion.
- Searches will be guided by image optimization:
There has been a great emphasis upon visual image in recent months and it is very likely that purchases, queries and discussions will be based solely upon images in the years to come. From Google’s perspective, emphasis has long been upon proper image optimization and necessary indication. Hence one can easily conclude that Google prefers images. Unique images are a type of content within themselves.
If you haven’t optimized the images embedded onto the website, better do it now! Images ought to be high-quality and relevant, while file names should be customized too as images should have labels as per content, accompanied by ALT tags which are identified by crawlers.
Lastly, even the sitemaps need to carry images, as such to become easier to be crawled. We are going to have a specific article on image optimization tips in days to come.
- Semantic keywords to be given importance:
Until previous year, primary keywords used to gather the attention of SEO professionals, but in the coming years, it is claimed that even secondary keywords are going to enjoy similar treatment. This is all a result of semantic search. Google doesn’t confine its focus to particular stream of words. Rather content analysis is carried out for the overall query, while emphasizing user’s inherent determination behind the search. To address this aspect, suitable content needs to be drafted to act like a response to the queries that users put up. Content structure paragraphs and sub-heading should be replete with keywords. Then, data ought to be organized too in a logical way, in sync with primary and secondary keywords. In short, we need to limit our writing for people, not machines.
- Effective SEO Strategies will be guided by Local Searches:
Generally, we consider internet to be a global entity but there are made local searches too. These cater to goods and services for restaurants, carwash, florists, etc. Here local searches become as crucial as any other search and it is growing too, which is limited to growing number of zero-click searches, a common practice according to the SEO professionals.
Queries from users, in a zero-click search, get answers from SERP itself and any other listing fetched as a search result is not accessed by users. Zero-click searches have also advanced in number because of the growth in featured snippets. Another crucial aspect of zero-click searches is that they are local in nature and the outcome is thus specified to the “local pack”.
How should you try to get your business into the local pack? For this, one should begin by creating a “Google My Business Page”, alongside being equipped with strong backlinks. To get an idea, check where your competitors get their links from and try to manage those tactfully.
- Focus on data and analytics to lead:
With the help of premium analytics, we can easily get to the pulse of our main customers, dwelling upon their preference following craft appropriate marketing campaigns to send them serviceable messages, personalised to their needs. Further, owing to analytics, we can also get to know about a variety of things, such as usefulness of URLs, if they get crawled, sources of referrals, loading time of pages, errors in responses, number of redirects, bounce rates and so forth.
Besides, with data science, we can also select pages which we don’t want crawlers to index and deter unusual traffic sources, especially the spam websites which will also damage our EAT score.
How to lay hands on all of this information? To begin with, SEO field is flooded with analysis tools and SEMrush SEO toolkit is prominent and we are equipped with it to accomplish a range of things, such as checking ranks, researching about competitors, On-Page SEO checks, checking and building links among others.
Clearly, by paying heed to the aforementioned factors, one can easily determine their strength and weak areas, addressing the issues which need attention, making positive overtures to amend these. What we have in hand is an efficient, well reformed website.
By Ravi Kumar, Independent Consultant