Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) by its very nature is constantly changing and evolving based on technological trends, and this is something that we as SEOs have to be vigilant about when planning a long term SEO strategy. In this blog, we are going to be discussing some of the big changes to SEO in 2021 so far, and any future changes we can expect to see.
Why is SEO always changing?
Google and other search engines like to constantly change what can be determined as “good content” in accordance with technological, society and behavioural changes among those who are using search engines. This can make a long-term search engine strategy quite tricky to master as what may have made web pages perform well once, may not work at another time. By consistently changing the ranking factors and what determines “good content”, Google and other search engines are ensuring that content writers and SEOs are consistently producing up to date and useful content which fulfills the needs of users and their queries and/or searches. This is why online organisations with a search engine presence need to ensure that they have a solid search engine optimisation strategy in place, incorporating potential SEO changes.
How is SEO changing currently?
As we’ve already touched on, SEO is constantly changing in several different ways to ensure that online content is the best it can be for users, and most appropriately answers their searches and/or queries. Here are just a few of the main ways that SEO is changing:
Traditionally websites have always been set up to prioritise desktop users, as for a long period of time the majority of internet users were on a desktop device. In recent years and especially since the advancement of the smartphone, the majority of website traffic is from mobile devices which is why it has become such an important ranking factor for SEO.
58% of online searches come from mobile devices with mobile users having a higher buying and search intent than desktop or tablet users. This is something that Google and other search engine companies have incorporated into their ranking factors, and is something that web developers will need to seriously consider if they want their pages to perform well in the search engine results page (SERP).
Without mobile optimisation, a website will not function as efficiently on a mobile device if it has only been optimised for desktop and/or tablet use. In order for a website to perform well in the SERP, their web pages must be mobile friendly or alternatively, have a mobile version of a webpage.
Core Web Vitals
“Core Web Vitals” is quite a new term in SEO and it essentially refers to page experience on a web page itself. Core Web Vitals are metrics performed by Google which monitor elements that affect page experience, such as page loading speed, ease of interaction and the visual layout of a page.
Each metric can be used by Google to monitor how users interact with a web page and what can be done to ensure that users have a positive experience on a website and individual pages. The three metrics listed among a handful of others are instrumental in ensuring those on a web page have the smoothest possible experience and this is something the Google bots are taking very seriously seriously when crawling websites and deciding the rankings in the SERP.
Similar to Core Web Vitals with page experience, user experience is also a very important factor that Google and other search engines will look at when crawling websites during algorithm updates. When we refer to user experience, we literally mean that in its entirety. The experience of a user.
There are different areas within user experience that can contribute to user experience as a whole and that can be recognised by Google as ‘good content’. For example, including relevant videos on pages has become a very significant ranking factor as this can enhance a user’s experience as opposed to unnecessarily large amounts of content.
Traditionally, large amounts of content and “keyword stuffing” would help a web page to perform well in the SERP however recently and certainly in the future, more visual elements of content such as videos, images and other infographics are certainly what Google wants to see when crawling a site and deciding which web pages should rank.
One of the most important SEO changes that we can expect to see impacting SEO in the coming months is voice search with voice search optimised content expected to be looked at favourably by Google and other search engines when determining the rankings. Voice search content is essentially content that incorporates verbal phrases that are physically spoken into a microphone as a search tool.
Nearly all smartphones and some smart desktops and tablets will have the microphone feature which allows users to verbally search on the search engine and this is now impacting SERP. Voice search optimised content will often include longtail keywords and verbally spoken phrases. Despite this, since voice search content is now a significant ranking factor, longtail keywords and common verbal search phrases are expected to become common practice for website content that intends to rank on Google and other search engines sites.
Zero-click searches refer to searches that don’t actually end up with a click on a URL, but instead find the answer to said search query in the SERP. The reason why this happens is because Google will ensure that the highest ranking pages for a search term will display what they determine to be the most appropriate answer to a search query on the SERP itself, meaning that users are staying on Google and not clicking onto a third party website.
Zero-click searches also coincide with ‘People Also Ask’ boxes which is a popular feature on Google. This involves similar search terms to those typed in the search bar are placed on display in the SERP with answers displayed, also coming from the highest ranking pages.
Search Intent Content
This has been touched on slightly already however Google and other search engines aim to prioritise content that is most relevant to the search terms and/or queries typed into the search bar. This means that the content must contain relevant or semantic keywords and content related to the search term/query to be able to rank. This is so that it meets the searchers’ intent as appropriately and accurately as possible.
High Quality Backlinks
Backlinks have always been vitally important for SEO and a website’s performance in the SERP. Despite this, Google and other search engines are moving away from the concept that as many backlinks as possible are good and are instead going towards the quality of backlinks as opposed to the quantity.
Web pages are more likely to rank if they have backlinks from high-quality, high-performing websites as opposed to several more links from poor websites. This is essentially because it acts like an endorsement in Google eyes and if your website has been endorsed by a successful, high performing website, then your website should indeed be high performing also.
It is also important to note that having all your backlinks from websites with a high domain authority (DA) number can look a little suspicious to Google. So in the long run it is better to have a range of relevant links to your site even if they have a low DA, as to search engines this is seen as more authentic and more realistic.
When your business has a physical location such as a restaurant, spa or showroom and potential customers or clients can visit, it is important that your website implements a good local SEO strategy. By having a good local SEO strategy in place, when a keyword relevant to your business is searched a map alongside three listings will be shown and thus help your business to expand.
Over the years search engines have realised that when searching for certain topics, the need for results in local areas is imminent and because of this Google's local search algorithm majorly focuses on your location when the intent of the query is location based. As this is an advanced feature of Google, there is no need to add phrases such as ‘near me’ or city you’re looking for.
Local search has been around since 2004, however due to most searches now being on mobile it is more important than ever for your business to take advantage of it for the most success.
Is there anything I can do to prepare for SEO changes?
As we’ve already mentioned, SEO is a constantly developing area that is always looking to change it’s ranking factors and what it determines to be “good content”, so it is quite difficult to stay ahead of the game at all times. Essentially, no one can be fully prepared for SEO changes as they change so drastically and so often, however it is definitely possible to keep up to speed with SEO changes and learn to move with the times where you can.
As a means of general housekeeping and good practice, it is always advisable to continue with the SEO basics and always meet the minimum standards. This involves appropriate, keyword-focused page titles and meta descriptions as well as ensuring that your website has no faulty respond codes and no broken internal links. Whilst this may seem obvious, Google will still look to punish sites with any of the above issues where it can when crawling during an algorithm update.
Another way of preparing for SEO changes is by subscribing to and reading SEO blogs and newsletters. This allows you to receive regular updates on any forecasted SEO changes due to happen with experts in the industry providing high-quality updates that can often be very useful when planning both short and long-term SEO strategies.
How can Wriggle help?
At Wriggle Marketing, we have a dedicated, and experienced team of SEO experts, and a full knowledge of search engine behaviour and how to drive organic traffic to websites. We work with a range of clients in different industries to provide a full SEO service which includes technical SEO, content optimisation and providing a full SEO strategy to a client’s website.
Are you looking for an SEO service to improve website’s visibility in the search engines and potentially gain more traffic to your site? Get in touch with us here at Wriggle Marketing today and find out how we can help you achieve your marketing goals!