Search engine optimization (SEO) is ever-changing. It can feel like every week you hear about a new algorithm Google released to provide its users with the best content. In order to succeed at SEO in 2021, enterprise organizations need to pay attention to the tactics and trends taking shape to stay ahead of the curve.
While Google doesn’t share its exact SEO algorithm, the company is forthcoming about changes to SEO criteria, and usually gives advance notice before making updates. This gives businesses an advantage and, by paying attention to the changes and working proactively to incorporate them into their SEO strategies, companies can succeed in the search space over time.
Why SEO matters in 2021
While keeping up with SEO practices and trends may seem daunting, it is the cornerstone of building a successful business.
The better you are at SEO, the higher your page will appear in results on Google, Bing and other search engines—meaning more eyes on your content. In fact, there’s a direct correlation between search ranking and organic website traffic, with more than half of all website traffic coming from organic search. Whether you're a global news site or local retailer, search visits translate directly to eyeballs (and dollars) for your business.
It’s clear that SEO updates and strategy ties into the bottom line. However, in 2020 90% of pages received no organic search traffic from Google, so an opportunity remains for many businesses to boost their SEO strategies and make SEO a priority this year.
And, what isn’t always realized is that championing SEO is an ongoing and iterative process. Brands must not only adopt new SEO practices as they come, but they must also go back to apply updated criteria to old content. In addition to paying constant attention to these changes, usual SEO best practices must be maintained, such as regular monitoring of traffic and backlinks.
2021 SEO trends to focus on
Given the importance of SEO, marketers and content teams will want to know: what SEO changes will Google implement this year?
For content marketers, the trends on which they should focus surround on-page SEO, which is the practice of optimizing individual web pages so they rank higher and earn increased traffic from search engines.
Trend #1: NLP and semantic search
One trend to watch in order to advance SEO performance is the up-and-coming technologies of natural language processing (NLP) and semantic search. NLP focuses on transforming natural language, such as the results found in a Google search, into information that can be understood by a machine. The search machine then uses semantic search to produce the most accurate results, almost as if a person were responding to the question instead of a computer. This is done by identifying the context, intent and relationships between words in a search.
So, what does all of this mean? Google continues to work on NLP and semantic features to return better search results, and SEO professionals must optimize content accordingly. They can do this by thinking beyond keywords: SEMRush explains SEO professionals should understand that “high-volume keywords matter less than they once did, and that long-tail, related keywords and quality content matter more than ever.”
It’s also important to think about search intent—or how your customers are searching for your offerings—and tailor content to those behaviors. Finally, using clear, structured writing and understanding word relationships will make it easier for computers to understand your content, leading to a higher ranking.
Trend #2: Video is (still) king
Video is another medium that brands should pay attention to in 2021, as it offers great SEO benefits. This is because Google ranks pages higher when they have a mixture of text and quality visuals like videos, since it makes pages varied and more useful to the consumer.
When ranking, Google also considers how long people typically stay on an organization’s site, and video is what tends to keep people engaging with a page for longer periods of time.
There are many tips and tricks to optimize video for SEO. A big part of being successful with it is understanding it’s not just the visual aspect that matters, but the words that accompany the asset as well. For example, optimizing your video title for SEO and including transcriptions can be incredibly helpful in boosting your ranking. Integrations like the one Brightspot has with Amazon Transcribe are particularly useful here.
Trend #3: CLS and UX (translation: make sure everything is awesome—for your user)
Finally, creating pages with great user experience (UX) has long been a tactic to boost search engine ranking, but it has become even more important in the last year.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is a Google metric that measures the UX event of website elements shifting unexpectedly while a page is loading. Pages that have more of this shifting create a diminished experience for customers, and therefore are ranked lower by Google. In spring 2021, CLS will officially become a factor in Google’s SEO rankings.
CLS is one element of a larger update that Google is making to prioritize page experience in rankings. This change emphasizes the importance of not only creating strong content, but ensuring the content experience is seamless across channels. Some of the steps that teams can take to keep up with Google’s experience expectations is to optimize for mobile, enhance page speeds, and add alt text for images.
As SEO trends shift, so will the important metrics you need to prove SEO results. This is why all the players involved in a company’s SEO strategy must keep abreast of changes and have the resources to do SEO well no matter when and how things evolve.
Brightspot’s pulse on SEO
Having partnered with leading media companies and top global brands, Brightspot has gained valuable insights into the best practices for optimizing article pages for SEO to grow your audience. Brightspot’s platform provides many best-in-class features for creating and collaborating on strong content that ranks high in search engines to reach the best audiences.
We know that editors aren't developers, and developers aren’t editors. This can cause hesitation about jumping into SEO with team members that appear to have conflicting priorities and needs—not to mention, bandwidth constraints. But the right CMS tools can make it easy to optimize content for SEO.
In fact, most CMS technologies include useful fields that can enhance writing for search rankings that support content teams’ needs, while preventing IT from having to step in and help. It’s a win-win situation. Here are some of the ways Brightspot can help you win in SEO from day one: