There is no magic cure-all for a website to rise it to the top ranking spots in search results. There really isn’t even a definitive, clear-cut strategy. Yet, year after year, certain marketers aren’t guessing—they are getting results. Understanding how SEO changes every year is a key part of improving your strategy so you can stop guessing too.
How will SEO change in 2021?
Did you know that the Google algorithm changes hundreds of times every year? With so many changes, it’s no wonder small business owners have a hard time keeping up. The AI search algorithm was built to help searchers find the answers they were looking for. Many of the changes for 2021 are changes that will actually help improve your site or UX.
Positioning is Crucial
For a long time, you’ve known that it was important to get to the first page of relevant keywords. More than 35% of clicks are going to the top position. Getting to that top spot is crucial to get seen. But it’s not everything these days!
User Experience Impacts Rankings
Google has announced changes in their algorithm that include ratings for site experience. Negative experiences include slow loading times or layouts that suddenly shift as they load. You need to make sure your pages are stable and fast. Condense content as much as possible and build with structured site framing so they don’t reconfigure as slower parts (like ad banners) load. They’ve named these page experience signals Core Web Vitals and say they will roll out in May of 2021.
Optimize for Mobile
Google doesn’t take kindly to sites that are still stuck solely on desktop. A responsive design is going to impact your SEO and help you gain appreciation among smartphone users. More than 72% of American adults own a smartphone.
Rankings will Change
Google is planning to release some major algorithm shifts this year. Whenever the algorithm shifts, you can expect rankings to be all over the place. This may mean that you bounce up and down, despite doing everything correctly. For 2021, brands just need to stay calm and focused on their audience’s needs. Even if your rankings are bouncing around from week to week, they should start to stabilize and improve by this time next year. Overall, you should see yourself going on a gradual upward trend for rankings if you stick with SEO best practices.
Get to the Point with Quality
Word count is no longer a big concern for SEO on it’s own. During content creation, the word count should be determined by the topic and level of detail required for a quality response. In some cases, you may need to take 2,000 words to truly cover a topic. But, other topics may only need a quick video or illustrated GIF to get the point across. Don’t draw out content to hit a ranking—no one likes boring. Google is looking at bounce rates as a sign that your content isn’t meeting the query. So, focus on quality content that really keeps the needs of the user in mind.
Updating and Repurposing Content
Conduct a site audit to check for content that is outdated, contains inaccurate information or includes broken links. Keeping your content updated will help that page stay relevant while building authority with a history. You put a lot of time into your content. Rather than just trash it after a couple of years, refresh it and add a note so your audience can see when it was originally written (gives you credibility for being around) and when it was last updated (gives the page credibility).
If you do need to delete a page, it’s better to create a 301 redirect so that any backlinks that might exist would go to a real page and not a broken one.
Authority over Branding
Making your brand look and sound cohesive is important, but not nearly as important as being the authority on something. A niche authority spot is even better—since users tend to seek out niche sites when they have odd needs or interests. Rather than focus on building your brand alone, you need to build up your weight in the community.
Choosing the perfect site name, logo and web domain isn’t enough. Google is looking to rank pages that answer questions well and consistently provide quality content. Plus, when you improve your authority, you are likely to increase your shares—which not only increases reach for that content, but also improves your SEO.
Last year we saw an increase in Google searches that were completed without visiting any sites. A zero-click search might be asking for restaurant information, checking a game score or asking for a word definition. Google now tries to include the big answer right there, featured on the results page. In many cases, users don’t need to click on anything because their query is answered. For 2021, it’s important that businesses continue to design their pages and write content with these zero-click searches in mind.
Simple SEO Checklist for Small Business
Improving your optimization takes concerted effort every year. Algorithms change, content gets outdated and competition gets harder. In order to improve your SEO for 2021, follow this simple checklist.
Design for SEO
The very bones of your site need to be built for SEO. Work with a designer who will update the parts of your site that could be slowing SEO. Check your experience scores with Google to ensure your site isn’t being penalized for poor function. Work on your marketing tools to improve your ability to provide a personalized experience for your visitors—especially loyal customers and contacts you can track with your own data.
- Site architecture / sitemap
- Responsive mobile-friendly design
- Fast page speed and load times
- Check Core Web Vitals report
- Personalized per device
- Structure for zero-click SEO
Audit Visuals and Optimize Images
If you don’t have a strong set of rules in place, now is the time to check into your images. You need to ensure your images aren’t holding your site back with slow load times. You also want to ensure you are getting the most out of your images by using them to help verify your page intentions for SEO and optimizing them for digital search. If you aren’t using original images, now is a good time to stop using stock images and increase pictures of your brand at work in real life.
- Optimize and tag images for visual search
- Improve SEO with better alt tags
- Compress images for faster load times
- Increase original images and video content
Optimize for Local SEO
Don’t forget your local SEO checklist for local small business websites. If you can leverage your location at all—do it! You will have less competition due to proximity and will rank easier for local keywords.
- Hyper-local content
- Create a detailed Services page on your website
- Create a detailed Services Area / Locations page on your website
- Local backlinks with other businesses in the area
Perform a Content Audit
As you catalog the content you already have published, check to see what could benefit from a little dusting off and sprucing up. Outdated content should be revitalized, not junked. Look for areas where you can improve your indexing with new content that fills specific gaps in your marketing funnel, uses different visuals, answers a question customers frequently ask or improves conversational search.
- Consistently update older content which has lost some value over time
- Don’t create duplicate content
- Beef up content groups targeting different buyer stages
- Conversational content for voice search
- Optimize title tags, header tags, and meta descriptions
- Leverage visuals (images and videos) to improve engagement
Improve Your SEO for 2021
Are you ready for a stronger 2021? The digital move has increased focus on the virtual realm of businesses. The wave of digital migration isn’t going to slow. Keep improving your efforts to keep up with the competition and grow your business. There is so much power in an optimized online presence.
One of the biggest challenges small businesses face is their lack of resources. Without a team dedicated to your marketing and SEO, it can be extremely hard to keep up. At Surefire Local, we offer the tools to help you succeed. Our all-in-one platform offers a smarter way to track your optimization and control your virtual presence.
We understand that digital migration is hard. There is a lot to learn and things just keep changing. Our platform is cost-effective and scalable—growing with you as needed. We can help clarify your approach for a more productive strategy and ROI.
Build up your site for better search in 2021. We can help. Request a demo of the Surefire Local Marketing Platform today and see what we can do for you!