Editor’s Note: This post was written by nDash community member Suman Sridhar.
From 2020 to 2021, you’ve likely seen enormous changes in the global business world and possibly your own organization. User needs have diversified, and search engines have continued to evolve, better understand humans, and serve searchers the most relevant content they can. Therefore, your SEO goals and strategies need to evolve as well, from improving your UX to optimizing for voice searches.
Read on to learn the SEO priorities you should focus on in 2021 and beyond.
1. Search intent should be the bedrock of your SEO strategy.
Search intent, or user intent, is the main goal a user has when they’re typing a query into a search engine. Optimizing for it should be a front-and-center goal. Search intent means focusing on serving the user first instead of worrying about internal issues, like adding more meta descriptions.
“When we understand the nature of why people search and help them with content that provides the answers they are looking for, then our business benefits,” said Jen Mathews, SEO Manager at GitHub, to Search Engine Journal.
The point? Forget about yourself and cater to users by creating pages that answer their questions. SEMrush describes four purposes for search queries:
- Navigational: The user wants to find a specific page or site. For example, typing into a search engine: www.twitter.com.
- Informational: These searches typically include “how-to,” “what is,” “why do,” etc. The user wants to answer a specific question.
- Transactional: The user has an intended action to complete. For example, signing up for a newsletter or finding flights.
- Commercial: A search clearly indicating that they want to buy something. For example, “I want to buy skis.”
2. Optimize Your User Experience (UX).
Your users want information delivered in a split second. If your site takes too long to load or it’s impossible to view on mobile, they’ll quickly lose patience and look somewhere else. User experience is about how someone feels when they experience your product. However, UX and usability aren’t the same things. Your site can be totally usable but can deliver an experience that may be frustrating or dull.
UX matters to SEO because Google wants to give people the best possible result for their search query, according to Yoast. When ranking, Google considers factors like your site speed, how it works on mobile, the way you’ve structured it, and internal and external linking. The best SERP result means more than just providing the best answer, but the best user experience as well.
3. Speaking of mobile-friendliness...
Right now Google may have already mobile-indexed your site—that is, using the mobile version of your content for indexing and ranking. If your site is responsive, you won’t have much to do. If you have an m-dot or complex website, Ahrefs recommends crawling mobile and desktop sites to check for any differences in the two. As you’re doing anything from building a new page to finding a hero image, ask, “How would this work on mobile?”
4. Hello, Siri and Alexa.
Experts say over half of US households will adopt smart speakers by 2022, and voice search’s popularity will only increase. Voice searches load much faster than average searches—52 percent faster, in fact. After all, when users run a voice search, they’ll have the best result right at their fingertips, and you want your result to be the best one. To optimize for voice, you’ll need the strategies we’ve already discussed like answering search questions and making sure your page loads fast. Also, get a Google My Business Profile so users have easy access to key information about your business like its hours and location.**
5. Don’t forget to EAT.
This means Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, and Google will get better at identifying it. Many businesses are spitting out content these days, but how much of it is actually quality? Creating quality content gives users value and shows that you’re a good source of information, ensuring better traction on search engines. Of course, this goes beyond creating blog posts and marketing content but also fleshing out your web pages to provide substantial value.
6. Make sure your Core Web Vitals are all right.
Core Web Vitals are how Google sizes up your Website. They are the specific factors Google considers important in your web page’s overall user experience. According to Backlinko, the factors are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): How long it takes a page to load from an actual user’s viewpoint.
- First Input Delay (FID): This measures interactivity in the context of how real-life users interact with your websites. It’s the time it takes for users to actually do something on your site.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): How your page loads, or its stability.
However, remember that good quality content is more important than a good page user experience.
7. Detangle your site structure.
Re-evaluate your site’s structure and see if everything is supposed to be. View it through the lens of a user and check how easy it is to comprehend and navigate. Sites become complex as you add pages, tags, and categories. If there are outdated components, delete them and direct users to something relevant.
8. Redo your keyword research.
From 2020 to 2021, your business may have changed, so you need to research new keywords to take advantage of relevant opportunities. Research consumer trends in 2021, and take note of what’s changed in your organization and in and around your audience. Also, look for changes in people’s language and anything new in where people search.
9. Boost your internal linking.
This is an easier task than the others on this list, but also easy to overlook. With the right links, you can direct Google and your visitors to your most important pages. Internal links help Google and users discover your content and boost your PageRank. However, the quality of the links matters more than quantity.
10. Image Optimization will play a bigger role.
Image SEO has become increasingly more important as search engines evolve and user behavior changes. People will do more than just view an image; they can use it for purposes like finding out product information and engaging with your brand. If the images on your website aren’t optimized, now’s the time to take care of it. This includes adding labels to your image files that are relevant to your other content and adding alt tags to your images for crawlers to identify them.
To succeed at SEO in 2021, you need to empathize with your users as much as possible. What is the purpose of their search? Are you giving them the answers to the questions they asked for, and are you giving them in the best possible way? How do you think they feel when they click through your site? Catering to your users more will help you realize the potential of your SEO strategies and beyond.