We are weeks away from 2021—hard to believe this year is finally over! Google is constantly evolving, often times faster than we realize, and the impact is typically felt most after core algorithm updates. The latest update, which happened on December 4, has so far shown a larger impact than the one in May. Since first releasing broad core algorithm updates in 2018, there have been, on average, four per year. This year, due to COVID, there were only three —one in January, another in May, and now December. The impact sites receive can be negative but there are times when you may see an organic search boost in your favor.
As a reminder, if you feel like your site may have been hit by a Google core algorithm update, here is what they want you to know. Through data acquired on our owned and operated properties, like SheKnows and StyleCaster, combined with our publishing partners in the SHE Media Partner Network, we’ve come up with a list of tactical SEO trends we seeing taking flight (or continuing strong) in 2021.
1. User First
Due to historically low, industry-wide RPMs in earlier months of the year, January is the best time to take risks with site design and layout. Regularly visiting your website, particularly on a mobile device, will help you experience your site like a user does.
Website elements you should be paying attention to are:
– font size
– information organization
– padding between the lines
– page speed
– content accessibility (Do ads block content? Are there pop-ups?)
All of these factors play a part in your brand perception and user’s desire to stay on your site. Google uses engagement metrics like bounce rate, time on site, exit rate, and pages per session to perceive a user’s satisfaction. Another metric that plays a huge part in this assessment by Google is how often and how fast a user clicks on a result from the SERPs (search engine results page), lands on the page, and clicks back to the results page. This metric isn’t available in Google Analytics, but one Google is definitely tracking.
User experience optimization, as well as page experience optimization, are two common strategies a site owner would take to perfect their user’s experience. And as a bonus, several of the strategies that make the experience of websites better for users, also increase the page revenue.
2. Content Organization
How you organize your content on the page can have a direct impact on user experience. When Google shifted to mobile-first indexing in 2016, it wasn’t a plan driven by Google. They were just following the user. The trend of mostly mobile never slowed down and Google continues to advance in how they deliver the right results to each search query.
In 2019, Google tested a feature that highlights the place on the page that directly addressed the user’s search query. In the coming year, it’s been said that Google will not only deliver the best result for the user but also take the user to exactly where on the page the answer is. This prediction alone is an excellent reason for content creators to intentionally organize their page information in a clear way. Use heading tags to break up content into sections that address each area of information on your page. Heading tags help Google to quickly crawl and understand the page.
3. Quality Content
Another one that we’ve talked endlessly about over the last five years is quality content. But in 2021, content creators need to intentionally write content that is presented to the user in a thorough but concise way. For certain topics, long-form will always be the winner. It’s hard to satisfy the user looking for the latest information on cancer research or step-by-step directions on how to lay tile floor in 500 words or less. But for other topics, those requiring much less information, shorter can be most helpful to the user.
Make sure your content is unique, accurate, interesting, and also only as long as it needs to be. Too many off-topic narratives or useless facts is a fast way to lose your user.
Another content trend that will continue is the emphasis on E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). Content written by true experts will be favored in the search results.
4. Predictive Search
Predictive search is slowly and quietly making its way into daily search functionality. Google’s predictive search feature uses an algorithm based on popular searches to predict what the user is searching for as it is typed. Basic autocomplete, providing a dropdown list of possibilities that change as the user keeps typing.
When Google Discover popped onto the scene several years back, Google was open about their end goal of providing a user with the answer before they start searching. Lofty goal, but with their amount of data, it’s possible that by tracking each user query, they could realistically understand the path of the searcher from one topic to the next.
Quality content isn’t just referring to the words on the page. Page assets outside of words, such as video and images, need to have the same quality standards as content.
Video content will continue to soar in 2021. Users value step by step tutorials and being able to watch how something is done is a huge value prop to a searcher. Affordable DIY video platforms like JumpRope and Animoto will gain popularity as smaller publishers adapt more to video.
While 2020 may have taught us to never attempt to forecast anything, we’re confident these trends will pick up in the new year.
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