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Back to the Basics: What You Need to Know About SEO Going into 2021

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It’s a new year, thankfully, and that means a fresh start. You’ve probably written down your resolutions and are working hard to achieve them (for now) — but what about for your business? The new year is a perfect time to re-evaluate your marketing strategy to find out what’s working and what’s not. One thing that should be a critical component of your overall plan is search engine optimization, or SEO. (And if you’re not doing any SEO at all, you really should get on that.) 

In this guide, we’ll examine new and ongoing trends for SEO best practices so that your business can put its best foot forward in 2021.

User Intent for Searches

In the early days of SEO, one of the keys to winning was to cram as many keywords onto your page as possible. Today, Google’s algorithms are much smarter, and they don’t care how many keywords you have — they care about whether your website has the content that your users want to see.

In order to do well with SEO in 2021, you absolutely need to consider user intent when you are creating your content. So what does that mean for you? 

Take a look at each page on your website. If you have a page about a service you offer, such as professional landscaping, is there information on that page that addresses questions many first-time customers have? Does it clearly explain your process? Does it showcase the extent of your capabilities? Is all of this information clearly organized so that a visitor to your website doesn’t have to struggle to find the answer they’re looking for? These are the types of things that you need to look at in order to consider user intent.

Page Experience Matters

You can have the best content and the most concise answers on your page, but all of that is for naught if the user experience on your page is severely lacking. Starting in May 2021, page experience will be a ranking factor for web pages. Google will consider “Core Web Vitals” — loading, interactivity, and visual stability as part of how your page ranks. You can check out your website’s Core Web Vitals in Search Console.

Think about it this way: when’s the last time you waited more than three seconds for a site to load? Many of us would rather get the answer we’re looking for as fast as possible, which is why pages with long loading times have much higher bounce rates. 

Mobile-First Is Now the Standard

Beginning in March 2021, Google will finally switch to mobile-first indexing. If you haven’t already, you should start preparing your site now. If you have two different versions of your website for desktop and mobile, you’ll want to make sure that they’re both telling the same story about your business. That means having the same primary content and headings, and having high-quality images on both versions of the site. If your mobile site also has different URLs, you may see a slight drop in traffic during this transition.

One solution is to create a responsive website design that will look great regardless of which platform your users are visiting from.

Content Continues to Be King

Over the past few years, it’s become clear that this trend isn’t going anywhere: having high-quality content on your site is crucial. To Google, “high quality” means that your content has Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT). Your content is what tells Google what your website is all about so that it can help you show up for relevant searches. Again, this is where considering user intent is key.

Having great content gives you another SEO opportunity: the coveted “position zero,” also known as featured snippets. This is when a short excerpt from your page is displayed at the top of the results as an answer to a search query.

A new extension of this is Passages. Rather than looking at your page as a whole, Google will also consider showing just a specific section on your page as a search result. This means that it’s more important than ever to ask and answer specific questions within the content of your page. Make sure both users and bots can find this information by effectively utilizing header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.).

SEO Tips for Specific Industries

While the above guidelines are important to consider regardless of your industry, there is also advice that applies more specifically to certain businesses.

SEO for Home Services

Did we mention that user intent is super important for SEO these days? As a home service provider, you’ll want to pay careful attention to what your users are looking for on your site and think about ways that you can differentiate yourself from the competition. You need to use your content to create a sense of trust right away. FAQ sections can be particularly helpful for home services, as many homeowners have a lot of questions about whatever service they are enlisting you for, whether it is plumbing, HVAC maintenance, lawn care, painting, or anything else. If you give them the information they are looking for up front, they will be more likely to trust you as an authority and eventually call for an estimate or appointment. Remember user experience too — things like pictures of your team and your work can also go a long way in establishing confidence in your company and create a better experience for potential customers.

SEO for eCommerce

While the technology is still relatively new, visual search is definitely something to keep an eye out for. Technology like Google Lens can accurately identify over one billion objects. The implication for eCommerce here is huge. Suppose someone is over at a friend’s house, and they fall in love with a neat little lamp. They can open an app like Google Lens, scan a picture of the lamp with their camera, and get image results for similar lamps which — you guessed it — link back to sites where you can buy them.

What can you do now? Make sure that you have clean, crisp images of the products that you offer on your site. This will not only put you in a better position to rank for image searches, but it will also improve the user experience on your website, enticing customers to make a purchase.

SEO for Professional Services

As a professional service provider, you are an expert in your field, whether that be accounting or criminal defense. And over the years, you’ve certainly heard a multitude of very specific questions from your clients. The fact is, before people pick up the phone, they are often looking for the answers to these questions on Google. You have the opportunity to go after some longtail keywords and search queries like, “How do I file my taxes if I live in PA but work in NJ?” or “Can I lose my driver’s license for a DUI in Philadelphia?” These hyper-specific questions may have lower search volume than a general term like “NJ accountant” or “DUI lawyer in Philly”, but they have high intent, which makes them much more valuable to your business as it greatly increases the likelihood of a conversion.

The Future of SEO Is Bright

With a name like 1SEO, you might’ve guessed that search engine optimization is kind of our thing, and we’re excited about these recent trends in search. But do you know what’s even more exciting? Helping businesses just like yours to put these practices in place so that you can grow!

To learn more about how you can make 2021 your year with a revamped digital marketing strategy, contact us today!

About the Author:

Sabrina Lopez is the Managing Editor at 1SEO whose passion for grammar is surpassed only by her love for her avian companions. When she is not chasing her tiny human offspring, she may be found basking in the purple glow of her PC or watching a fantasy flick.

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