I've been reading some articles about search engine optimization (SEO) trends in 2021 to write something about them. But for what it's worth, I cannot tell why the trends I'm reading about are considered just “trends”; I am not downplaying their importance. On the contrary, it's baffling to me why SEO experts don't consider some of the SEO trends, SEO fundamentals instead. I read several articles with quotes from SEO experts, such as this article from Search Engine Journal and another one from SEMRush.
SEO or Google SERP trends 2021
The majority of these articles have to do with SEO for Google's search engine, which is to be expected as Google dominates the search engine market. Let's get down to the SEO trends of 2021 then, deriving mainly from Google's search engine.
Focus on user + search intent and long-form relevant content
User-focused optimization has been a top priority at Google for a long time. The goal is always to deliver content that meets the user’s intentions.
So is focusing on the user and search intent a 2021 SEO trend? Did digital marketers and SEO experts focus on something other than the user and search intent until 2020? Do serious businesses try to trick the customers into visiting their websites? I highly doubt it. SEO was always about understanding the user and search intent, and the better you do it, the higher the chance the user will stay at your website longer. If your SEO game were good in that regard thus far, you would get even better results with 2021's improvements in the search engine.
On to the long-form relevant content part now. Long-form content implies more expertise, but I dare say that you should focus on on-point, informative content rather than throw in a ton of stuff on one page. I have some doubts about whether Google shares the same point of view, but according to other SEO trends in 2021, they probably do.
What I mean here is that content may be king, but context is everything. Not every topic requires writing a ton of content. Focus on writing what servers user and search intent (see what I did there) instead of your content length. Then the user will decide whether your content is shareable or not. For instance, many users won't stay for long on a highly informative page if it ends up obstructing what they are actually searching for.
Of course, presentation matters a lot, so the content needs to be easily readable and sharable, especially on mobile devices. This brings me to my next point.
Mobile-friendliness will impact Google search rankings.
My blog is 3 months old, and I already know that most of my users come from mobile devices. Almost 75% of the world will browse the web using only their smartphone by 2025. This is all you need to know. I would expect that SEO experts and digital marketers know the importance of mobile devices, as they account for an ever-increasing part of web traffic.
I don't know if Borderpolar is great for mobile users (as far as I have tested, it is doing pretty fine). But even I know how important it is for a blog or website to look good on my phone.
So I don't see a 2021 trend here. I read from this that the best-presented content across all platforms will remain the best-presented content across all platforms. If the SEO experts you hired have not focused on mobile content so far, they are not SEO experts. So it's a good time for a paradigm shift for your business as far as SEO is concerned. Smartphones are tools, not toys, in 2021. Eventually, they may even replace desktop computers.
AI and Voice Search will impact search queries
I will go borderline “I-don't-care” here. Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, or call it whatever you want, will improve the Google search engine itself. In fact, what I hope for is that the search engine will get much smarter because right now, backlinks and PageRank are still so important that even when I write something that greatly outperforms other posts in quality, nobody sees it. So, yes, please, I want the search engine to get smarter. But it's going to get smarter in terms of solely understanding and evaluating page rank based on topology; then I doubt I should care.
As far as voice search is concerned, I doubt people will start asking scientific or complex questions anytime soon. What SEO experts already do in terms of keyword research is pretty much voice search without the propositions. Nothing new here either, if you ask me.
When a post by Fox News on the front page of Google claims from a GOP member that “Biden stole the election,” where exactly is the expertise in that? Where is there any proof of that claim to make it rank on the front page of Google? A banana stand would probably make for a better search result.
What does this tell us? Get backlinks, domain, and page authority. The engine does not want to fact-check in SERP. As long you are deemed “trustworthy,” you have a higher chance of getting to the front page, even with controversial articles or posts (one could argue that these are even better). For instance, my blog is mainly harmed by its lack of backlinks and domain authority at this point, as I cannot compete with pages that deliver virtually the same content, even though I provide it faster.
Predictive Search Is Set to Improve
Time for the actual SEO trends in 2021 now. Google Discover daily recommends great articles from high-quality sources on my Android smartphone. This tells us one thing. Keywords don't matter that much anymore. Not just in 2021. This has been true long enough that SEO experts should know.
Google Discover trains its own self based on behavioral patterns and user activity, but it also understands most content quite well and matches it to user preference. What you get with Google Discover is a personalized search tailored to the individual user. Without the users themselves performing any search. This is one of Google's strongest cards when serving ads to users. Digital advertising of the most intrusive form in a non-intrusive way.
Let's now focus on the implications of the emergence of Google Discover. Why does Google prioritize mobile-friendliness? You guessed it right. Google Discover is available on smartphones, tablets, and mobile browsers. For now. But it's in every place where Google can best keep track of you. But these places have one, two, or three common characteristics. Android, Chrome, or your personal Google account. Are you aware of all these stories about Android and privacy?
Now let's head to the next elephant in the room.
Core Web Vitals and page experience optimization
Following efforts to optimize users’ digital experience, Google introduced Core Web Vitals in 2020. The main factors are related to loading, interactivity, and visual stability. The idea is to offer the best possible page experience.
But after all, what are the Core Web Vitals, and how will they impact the SEO ranking in 2021?
Google itself, in its Central Blog, defined the three factors that will be analyzed by the algorithm:
Large Contentful Paint
LCP measures how long it takes for a page to load and display its main content.
Therefore, it fits the loading factor of the Core Web Vitals. The ideal, according to Google, is to keep the LCP measurement at 2.5 seconds maximum.
First Input Delay
The FID measures the time it takes for a page to become interactive. In other words, from the moment the user accesses a page, how long does it take before they can interact with it?
According to Google, this process should take less than 100 ms.
Cumulative Layout Shift
Finally, we have CLS, which refers to the volume of unexpected layout changes in visual content. The ideal is to keep this index below 0.1.
Core Web Vitals are more vital to…
You guessed it right, mobile devices! Yes, Google wants to push SEO experts, digital marketers, bloggers, and developers towards extremely mobile-friendly, fast-loading, and simplified mobile pages. And this is where Google AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages comes in to deliver faster but less complex pages.
Basically, Google requests the following from SEO experts. Remove all the bells and whistles for websites to be properly displayed on mobile devices. Structure your content perfectly so that it can be easily served on smartphones and tablets. What is interesting, though, is that Google Adsense may be the primary culprit for large Cumulative Layout Shift. Choose your poison?
Here is what's coming next and it's a big one.
Featured Snippets and Zero-click searches
Perfectly structured and simplified, relevant content is great for everyone. But no more than it is to Google. Almost everything we discussed above leads to the featured snippets and zero-click searches. You want to be featured in snippets, not lose traffic first and foremost, then gain extra traffic. For instance, when metagameguides.com was on a featured snippet on January 1st for “afk arena codes 2021”, people got the code they were looking for without having to visit my blog.
The point of featured snippets is to keep people on Google instead of directing them to your website. This way, they can spend more time looking at their ads. The real elephant in the room, brings us to the final point.
The SEO trends of 2021, video, image and contextual long-form
At the moment, video and image are irreplaceable. Do all the SEO workaround to introduce your video and throw your actual value on the video. This way, people will visit your site and watch your YouTube video. And Google still wins. Eventually, Google will optimize even video snippets, so your video will end up being watched on the Google SERP page.
What all this means is that a lot of the On-Page SEO work will now be related to your page's introduction to the video or YouTube channel description. Again you want everything to be user and mobile-friendly.
At the same time, image search has evolved drastically. It used to be that people could look at images. In the future, people will be able to use images to purchase products, obtain information, and more. Google has long insisted on the proper marking and optimization of images, so it makes sense that this is part of their long-term plan.
And finally, yes, long-form content matters a lot in the right context. If the search engine can summarize your value with a snippet, then maybe it's not real value in some cases. In others, it may be your greatest strength.
My take on SEO in 2021
This opinion comes from a non-expert, but I hope it has enough value. Nothing is doom and gloom, and nothing will happen overnight. Bill Gate's “content is king” quote will always stand true, but what content means is evolving. A marketer and most of us try to be one, take full advantage of the tools available. So, of course, video and even more interactive media are the future. Start future-proofing your content. Ensure that your audience will receive your website or blog's whole experience rather than just the parts Google decides to serve.
My thoughts on Google
Google does what is best for its revenue and its search engine. I am sure that whatever it loses from Google Adsense, it will make the difference from ads. But the emphasis on all these SEO 2021 trends leads to one direction. Maximizing the time users spend on Google SERP.
What they seem to be trying to accomplish are content separation, extraction, and reliable delivery. So the best way to fight against that is indeed video and long-form content. The reason for this is once again context. Long-form content should be used for topics that cannot be partially analyzed, such as… the 2021 SEO trends.
Finally, my takeaway for the 2021 SEO trends, or generally SEO, is this. Originality, quality, flexibility, and shareability. Whether people approve or disapprove of your ideas, services, or products, first and foremost, ensure that you don't just repackage existing value and deliver uniqueness instead.
Here is a final 2021 trend
Local SEO. Yes, you want to be among the first listings in your local area because… Covid19. With limited transportation allowed and slow delivery times in many countries, many customers will decide to go local in their searches. Naturally, you want to be among the top choices in the local listings of Google Maps. This has been the case since 2020 and, in some cases, even earlier than that.