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2021 SEO Trends to Keep an Eye On

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In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), change seems to be the only real constant. Adapting and overcoming is nothing new for our nationally leading digital marketing agency, or the many small and midsize businesses we represent. However, 2020’s global pandemic threw even the most senior of search optimizers through the loop as the entire world went remote, and with more users online than ever before, there’s now more data available than ever before in the history of humankind.

The fascinating thing about this piece, in particular, is that it began before we even knew what the coronavirus was, let alone endure seven months of this “new normal” that feels all but. 

Nevertheless, when we first began this blog on that chilly January day in the Delaware Valley, the calendar said that it was still Winter and the 1st fiscal quarter for most US-based businesses. A few of us had just finished passing around one of many industry-published articles trying to serve as equal parts digital marketing experts & trend prognosticators by “predicting” what they believed to be the top SEO trends for 2020. Naturally, it only made perfect sense for us to put together our “1SEO guide to SEO;” what we in the Philadelphia & Central New Jersey region’s digital marketing world believed would be important SEO trends to factor going into the new year. 

What We Learned About SEO Trends in 2020 

Back then, when we were all still first becoming acquainted with the coronavirus, most of us were under the assumption – or led to believe – that this would be a short-term inconvenience. We would all be able to resume our pre-virus lives within a few weeks. Based on this initial analysis, and our collective optimism, most businesses were preparing their short-term practices “adjustments” accordingly. We packed up our offices, sent our employees remote, and battened down the hatches for the foreseeable future. 

As we draw closer to the New Year, it feels appropriate to revisit this previously back-burner blog topic to help small businesses, many of whom are just now tapping into the power of digital marketing thanks to quarantine, prepare their search engine optimization strategies for 2021.

Before diving into what to expect in the SEO realm next year, recent months have offered a wealth of knowledge regarding the search behaviors of users during an unprecedented moment in human history. Given the stressors of social distancing, the internet helped society feel a little less distant, and in turn, provided digital marketers with new opportunities to observe digital behaviors like never before.

COVID-19’s Impact on Search Traffic

Though there has been a substantial hike in internet users throughout 2020, it’s important to note that there’s a between an internet user and a search user. Given that most of our days in quarantine were hyper-focused around video streaming, gaming, and virtual calls, most of our time online wasn’t on search engines unless we searched for health updates or looking to place an online order for groceries. 

Increases for eCommerce

 Of course, we anticipated a significant uptick for eCommerce sellers once the world went remote. Still, few could have guessed that the eCommerce industry would experience a five-year acceleration in the wake of Covid-19. In just the first half of 2020 alone, the eCommerce industry saw a remarkable 30% increase year over year.

As anticipated heading into the year, eCommerce will continue to expand in the months and years to come. As foot traffic transforms into search traffic, right now is time for brick and mortar businesses to get their free digital marketing assessment and begin planning for the new year. 

Local SEO Goes Global

With many small and midsize businesses making a push on digital for the first time, and searchers opting to shop within their communities during the shutdown, nearly three-quarters of users who searched Google visited stores within 5 miles of where they were searching and nearly half of all searches on Google featured a local intent.

One of the biggest opportunities for small local businesses was found through Google My Business (GMB), the free listing which provided local businesses with an easily accessible, all-in-one platform to manage their business across Google Search and Google Maps. As of 2020, over half of all local businesses have not claimed their free Google My Business Listing.

Check out our other piece about How to Create And Perfect Your Google My Business Listing to learn how you can start taking advantage of this free platform to manage your online presence. 

Google May 2020 Core Algorithm Update

Last and certainly not least, Google opted to launch their most significant core algorithm update three months into quarantine, which threw the SEO industry through a loop for fourteen days as the algorithm update rolled out and left some industries thriving while others were left to die on the vine.

As expected, News, Business, Online Communities, Entertainment, and Health all saw a substantial jump following Google’s May Update, while industries brought to an abrupt halt by the Coronavirus, such as the Automotive industry, Real Estate, and especially Travel, suffered across search throughout 2020. 

Back To The 2021 SEO Trends, Redux

When we decided to revisit this topic & blog, our inclination was to rewrite it in its entirety, expecting much of what we had written almost eight months back to now be all-but irrelevant. The entire world has changed since January, and SEO trends must be no different, right? Well, not entirely…

There have been some modifications & alterations to the anticipated SEO trends since we began “living in Coronaland.” However, we were most pleased to discover that many of the previously-predicted SEO trends for pre-pandemic 2020 were similar, if not identical, to what our digital marketing industry experts predict as trends going into 2021. It seems that good, solid advice has a degree of “evergreen status,” be that advice related to internet marketing & search engines or anything else! Our complete list of SEO trends to follow in 2021 and beyond is quite long. However, here are some of what we believe are important trends to bear in mind when trying to maximize your business’s search engine visibility in 2020, 2021, and beyond:

The Robots Are Taking Over The (SEO) World

We’ve been referring to lots of things as “smart” for years now, but when it comes to search engine optimization, they’re even smarter than you think. The ever-increasing use of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) & predictive algorithms have reached unimaginable points. Nowadays, it matters less what the searcher says he wants than what the “brains” behind the screen think the searcher is seeking! Many of these “bots” assume that you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, or how to ask for it, and are designed to predict & suggest what you are most likely to be seeking – and doing it well!

If you require proof of the A.I. “intelligence” in SEO, start typing any specific search parameter into the browser search bar, and watch what happens. As you begin to type, numerous variations of your words will appear just below the main search bar. These suggested phrases are what the A.I. believes might be the search you are likely initiating. More often than not, before you finish typing you’ll find your intended search sentence in one of these variations. You’ve probably noticed this before, and now you know how that works!

Image Is (Still) Everything

You might likely pay more attention to an attractive spokesperson than to an unattractive one; yes? Well, that rule applies to what your company looks like on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). How “attractive” your website design and social media pages are can often be the difference between being noticed – and visited – than being overlooked and bypassed. Focus your efforts (and dollars) on “looking pretty,” as well as being informative, using visual content like pictures, video clips, charts & graphs, to catch and hold the searcher’s attention and keep them engaged after landing on your site.

Words are (Still) Key

In the same vein as looking good to a searcher’s eye is essential, so is looking good to a search engine’s eye. Many of the tricks we’ve been using all these years still work today – just differently. We’re talking about Keywords if you didn’t know. The trick to the SEO keyword game is knowing the right ones to use at the right time. They also must be used in the right frequency and used in the right combination with newer ones. Doing this will surely help your company climb up the Google rankings ladder or assist in maintaining the strong position you’ve already established.

Get Back to the Basics of SEO in 2021 

In short: If you’re not already single-handedly dominating the SEO Universe based on what you’ve been doing up to now, don’t feel bad; almost no one gets to be the “Top Dog” for long, if ever. But before you go searching for something new or different to help your results out, remember that adage about “what’s old is also what’s new.” In this case, perhaps you might wish to go back to the beginning to make sure you’ve got yesterday’s (and today’s) basics covered first!

As our name might suggest, we’re experts in SEO and many other aspects of digital marketing. We know that you are not, but fear not: If you would like to put our SEO services to use for your business, please do not hesitate and contact us!

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