No, search engine optimization (SEO) is not dead — it’s still a powerhouse of digital marketing and is an essential part of any decent strategy. In fact, 93% of online experiences begin with a user search query. With more than 3 billion internet users globally, that’s nearly 3 billion opportunities to reach the right person in the right place at the right time to convert them to a lifelong customer.
But developing a winning SEO strategy is not as simple as following a universal set of instructions: SEO is evolving, and will continue to do so throughout 2021 and beyond. Businesses must remain at the forefront of current optimization best practices in order to gain a competitive advantage and reach their target consumers. Our team has helped simplify this process by providing a complete breakdown on how you can win at SEO in 2021.
The Optimal SEO Strategy in 2021: 8 key elements
While there are many factors that contribute to a successful SEO strategy, these eight categories are especially important for businesses to focus on in 2021. By investing the time and resources in crafting a personalized strategy for your brand, you can dramatically improve site traffic, conversions, and sales for your company.
Focus on the Big 3…
Since the inception of SEO in 1997 there have always been three core ranking signals: content, backlinks, and being technically sound. This isn’t going to change in 2021. It will always be important to revisit these practices regularly and keep them at the front of your SEO strategy.
The key to an optimized site is having enough valuable content published that is focused on user and searcher intent. Forty-seven percent of consumers view at least three pieces of content created by a brand before speaking to a sales representative on their team. In order to produce quality content, you need to first identify the search terms your target audience uses on a regular basis.
There are plenty of free tools you can use to find such information such as AHrefs, Moz, UberSuggest, Answer the Public and Google’s Keyword Planner. Identify the terms that are most relevant to your company to find a wealth of related terms that your audience already finds compelling. Not only is this a great way to find terms that are already proven to convert customers interested in your industry, but it also allows you to find inspiration for the content topics you should be publishing to your site. Once you identify your targets, your pages need to be optimized for SEO.
With the Penguin algorithm that Google released in late 2017, the search engine effectively cracked down on sites that purchased or developed backlinks from low-quality, unrelated websites. The algorithm helps identify sites that are painting an artificial picture of popularity and relevance within their field by placing them lower on the search engine results page (SERP). While this is great for users, it has made it increasingly difficult for small businesses to get found on the platform.
But backlinking is still important for the greater SEO picture as it adds to your site quality and authority, increasing your chances of making the first page of results. The best ways to address this issue without triggering Penguin include the following:
- Allow others to credit their work for you on their websites
- Develop and disseminate shareable content
- Write more sharable posts
- Network online
- Collaborate on creative projects with others in your industry
- Conduct interviews and be interviewed
The more opportunities you have to establish yourself and your brand as a thought leader within the space by appearing elsewhere on the web, the better for your SEO!
This refers to your interlinking structure, your website’s sitemap, and URL structure or hierarchy. Google and other search engines use what are known as “bots” or “site crawlers” to quickly and efficiently determine a site’s quality and domain authority.
These crawlers look for specific information on your site to ensure the utmost accuracy when serving your page in response to a user query. When a URL is not “crawlable,” they become invisible to the search bots and therefore never make it to the SERP.
In order to ensure your site’s technical crawlability, be sure to:
- Provide your XML sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
- Remove duplicate content
- Fix or redirect broken links
- Optimize your site architecture and URL structure
- Add breadcrumb menus
- Use pagination
- Link similar content together to show correlation
How to really get ahead in 2021
After addressing the 3 priority elements listed above, the following 5 strategies will give you a competitive advantage for SEO in 2021.
Not only have these strategies been verified by Google, we know that with where organic search is headed, these methods will yield the best results in search.
Core Web Vitals Site Speed
The longer your consumer has to wait for your site to load, the more likely they are to drop off and bring their business elsewhere. Page speed is a crucial aspect for enhancing the user experience and improving conversions. In fact, it’s so important that Google recently announced that core web vitals such as page speed will be a ranking signal in 2021. That means if your site elements take longer than 2.5 seconds to load, it will result in a decrease to your site ranking on the SERP.
The easier and faster it is for your target audience to find and explore your site, the more opportunities you’ll have to retain and convert them.
Usability & Readability
When people arrive at your website, are they staying on it and navigating? Or are they bouncing off the page after a few seconds? It’s important to track the user journey on your website by analyzing the length of time spent on specific pages.
The goal is to have the user stick around for at least a few minutes on any given page as this signals that they are reading and engaging with the content. If you want to get even more sophisticated with your audience usability and readability tracking, you can use a heat map to identify exactly what areas of your page attract the most user attention and which ones fail to improve the consumer journey altogether.
Use graphics, beacons, and callouts to make content easier to digest and navigate. You should also link like content together to give users an opportunity to navigate within your site.
More users than ever are identifying specific brands to go along with their search queries. For example, someone might enter a branded search term like “Adidas women’s shoes” and all the page results will include URLs from Adidas.
That might seem like a concern for big-name brands to worry about, but even “offline” brands have seen 60% of organic search traffic stem from branded queries.
This is key to your SEO content strategy: By developing content that contains branded search terms, you’ll increase the likelihood of appearing on the first page of results when a user searches it on Google.
Learn more about branded SEO by reading about how it works as an assist to other marketing.
Run SERP Analytics
One great way to analyze your SEO opportunities is by searching your businesses top terms or entering search terms that your target consumers may use to find your offering.
By identifying and analyzing what Google showcases on the first and second page of the results you can get a great understanding of 2 key elements and strategize accordingly.
SERP Analysis #1: You can identify what content Google deems worthy of first page results, and in turn, what content a users deems as important. This will help you prepare your own site’s content.
SERP Analysis #2: By reviewing the SERP pages you can get an understanding of what elements are on each of your results pages. Do you see a local map pack? PPC ads? knowledge graph? understanding what SERP elements are displayed will help power your SEO strategy.
You’ve probably noticed the nifty dialogue that appears on Google that states, “People also ask.” This isn’t just a great tool for users searching for the answers to their questions. These SERP features are an excellent way for businesses to identify the key questions their target consumers have so they can build content around it.
Search for popular phrases about your brand, business, or service to see what questions Google suggests. Then, answer those questions on your site.
SEO is Here to Stay
SEO isn’t going away any time soon — especially as long as Google is still a company. Especially in the ever-expanding digital age, it’s essential to implement a proper SEO strategy to remain relevant and gain a competitive edge over other companies within your industry. If you’re unsure about where to start with your optimization strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to a member of our team. Through our SEO services, we’ve helped countless clients improve their search engine rankings, dramatically increasing their conversions and sales. Contact our digital marketing agency today to get started with our team.