2021 Trends and Best Practices Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization
16th, 2021
Keyhole - Digital Marketing Agency - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: SEO
16th, 2021
Keyhole - Digital Marketing Agency - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: SEO
2021 SEO best practices

This post on 2021 SEO best practices is the second of a 3-part blog series in which we explore digital marketing trends for this year. Be sure to check out our other blogs on social media and email marketing.

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As online competition continues to increase with new websites being launched and more and more users work remotely, it’s time to rethink content marketing strategy and invest in SEO. Websites must meet specific requirements set by search engines like Google, and be prepared for the changes to content creation. Being prepared for proposed updates will ensure your potential clients find you easily and that information doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

SEO continues to evolve. And staying on top of the latest updates can be challenging, but it’s worth it. Studies show 70% to 80% of users focus exclusively on organic results and ignore paid listings. What’s even better is that 28% of those searches convert, resulting in a purchase.

Ranking well with SEO means you must pay attention to a great number of details which is why we’ve laid out some of the top trends and best practices so you can be prepared for this year.

2021 SEO Best Practices - Content Marketing

High Quality Content

To succeed in 2021, high quality content is not only relevant, it’s valuable. Online ads still work, but they’re expensive with no official guarantee. Ninety-one percent of total ad spend is viewed for less than a second; this led to a $38 billion in digital ad spend wasted in 2017.

That’s why creating high-quality content is an essential element of effective SEO strategies. Users want content that is relevant, helpful, and timely — and that is what Google tends to reward. People head to search engines with questions, and your web page needs to deliver answers.

Online consumers are quick to detect and ignore web pages or blog articles that are too salesy. According to the Economist Group’s “Missing the Mark” Report, 71 percent of readers say they were turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch. This year is the time to move away from the obsession with keywords and focus more on topics.

The goal of switching to a topic-focus is to create content that addresses an entire conversation holistically as opposed to just worrying about the single keyword a page should be targeting.

SEO Best Practices Tip

Make it your goal to present relevant and meaty information for your topic, or at least for an important subset of your topic. By doing so, you will be Google-proofing your business. People want educational content delivered to them in easy-to-digest forms, such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, etc. Make it interesting and make it genuine.

Local SEO

Local SEO remains an incredibly effective way to market your local business online, as it helps businesses promote their products and services to local customers at the exact time they’re looking for them online.

Local search engine optimization (SEO) can be incredibly powerful for small businesses as the majority of consumers use search to find information on businesses closest to them. While this is generally a great thing, it can be tough if your business isn’t optimized for local search. If local SEO isn’t harnessed to its fullest potential, you could be missing out on some major traffic and new business coming your way.

SEO Best Practices Tip

Start by creating a Google My Business page. Having a strong backlink profile is also important. You can check what kinds of backlinks your competitors get for inspiration and target those yourself. Be sure to also check out our article on Local SEO to learn more techniques.

Long-Form Content for SERPs

According to SEM Rush’s State of Content Marketing Report, long reads of 3,000-plus words get three times more traffic and four times more shares than shorter blogs with less content. They also achieve 3.5 times more backlinks than articles of the average length of 901 to 1,200 words. Businesses would be wise to focus on long-form, high-quality content to achieve higher search rankings.

SEO Best Practices Tip

To achieve this, start by breaking up your content into sections with subheadings to make it more scannable. Then, ensure that you link to relevant sources with a solid authority score. Finally, make the content easily shareable. Include sharing links at the headline and again at the conclusion so that readers can share with a quick click.

Featured Snippets

Google has worked hard to deliver more effective experiences through featured snippets — a summary of an answer to a search query. Google displays it at the top of the SERP result, above ads. Scoring a featured snippet is a great way to get on that coveted first page of results. What’s more, snippets steal significant traffic from competitors.

Featured Snippets are evaluated and boosted based on quality. This is no laughing matter, as 54.68% of clicks from Google originate from featured snippets — proving that they drive more than half of search engine clicks.

SEO Best Practices Tip

To take advantage of this feature, you need to provide clear answers to commonly asked questions. Focus on how our users talk about their issues, problems, and needs at each aspect of the buyer’s journey much more. Extend your efforts far beyond the purchase in that journey to include content that addresses needs after the sale – support, opportunities to advocate, community-building and staying relevant for future purchases.

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EAT — Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness

Google has reiterated that content quality is critical for ranking success. But just what does “quality” mean to Google? Remember the EAT principle for a company’s website: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Companies that struggle with a poor reputation will have a harder time competing.

The offline is coming online, especially this past year. With EAT, the capacity to create an accurate and convincing online representation will become a major differentiating factor. All those offline events, conferences, awards, partnerships, etc., that Google cannot see need to be pulled online and pushed to Google to feed its need for understanding and credibility.

SEO Best Practices Tip

There are a few ways to have a digitally-based competitive advantage:

  • Buyer PersonasDo you have personas outlined for your business? Create buyer personas, which let you understand what kind of content your clients value.
  • Customer Service — Are you able to answer the user’s question with minimal friction?
  • Digital Interaction — Are your reviews genuine? Does your company respond to reviews? Are you actively seeking to engage your audience with ways in which you seek to improve quality? How long does it take your company to respond?
  • User Experience — Is your digital experience more convenient / useful / simple? Are people getting where they need to go?

Image Optimization

Visual image search has come a long way from people being able to just look at images. Now, people will be able to use images to purchase products, obtain information, and so much more. Google has always been working toward the proper marking and optimization of images. Even though Google is moving towards AI recognizing a vast majority of what’s included in an image, it can’t see everything or know the full context. Poorly optimized images are one of the main causes of slow web pages, and improvements made can have a big impact on how fast your site loads.

SEO Best Practices Tip

If the images on your website aren’t optimized, take care of it now. Use high-quality, relevant images, and make sure to customize the file name, labeling the photo file so that it’s relevant to the content. Be sure to also use alt tags, which site crawlers use to classify images and then add images to your site map.


In 2021, be sure to optimize your marketing plan for voice search

Voice Search

Thanks to innovations like Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa, voice search technology has come a long way. As technology has gotten better, it’s also gotten more popular. In fact, the percentage of households predicted to own a smart speaker by 2022 is 55%.

As voice search increases, more people will type search queries the same way they speak. Users want an accurate answer to the exact question they asked. Users who search long-tail keywords are in the consideration stage and are more likely to convert than someone in the awareness stage. This amazing new technology is completely changing the way we think about keywords and will continue to do so as we become hands-free.

SEO Best Practices Tip

There are a few helpful suggestions for improving your site for voice search.

  • Own your Digital Presence — Voice assistants are not all-knowing. They rely on information from websites to answer queries and use citations from trusted sources, such as GMB, Apple Maps and Yelp to provide information. What should you do? Cite your business on some of these major directories.
  • Produce Content Supporting Voice Services — This is where user intent is important. When you know what your audience is searching for, you can create content that briefly answers these questions. You don’t need to create unique pages for each question, but a short subheading inside a post should suffice. Google pulls it as a snippet and shows the answer in search results.
  • Use FAQ to your Advantage — An FAQ page should be used to answer all the questions a user may have when using your service. Since voice search is conversational, your FAQ should mirror a similar tone with the questions. Focus on leveraging user intent to answer long-tail voice queries. Answers should range between 30-50 words, which makes it perfect for an FAQ section.


Just as voice searches are becoming much more popular, videos on the internet are also on the rise, especially among the younger generation. According to Cisco, video is projected to surpass all other content forms in terms of consumption. It’s a crucial part of SEO strategy and digital marketing efforts nowadays.

Current internet users prefer to get information through online videos, either for academic purposes or for entertainment. That’s why implementing online video should be on the radar for most businesses.

SEO Best Practices Tip

Create helpful videos that support existing content on your website. It’s not a guarantee for first page results, but you’ll enjoy higher traffic when Google indexes your video. Remember to optimize your video to your blog’s width. Add copy on the page to help Google understand the topic of your video content. To improve your reach with more people, optimize by using appropriate keywords in the description and headline of your video, which will guarantee that the video reaches the largest number of interested viewers.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most important technologies today and is being used in a wide variety of industries to create unique, personalized experiences for consumers. Companies like Google use artificial intelligence to deliver better search results to its users. Google’s AI algorithm is especially worth noting. Unveiled a few years back, the algorithm, RankBrain, plays a major role in Google’s ranking factors for search engine results pages (SERPs) results.

But how does artificial intelligence work? Without getting too technical, artificial intelligence learns the characteristics of what makes published content valuable or not. Then, AI ​classifies these web pages and determines their rankings.

SEO Best Practices Tip

Many of the best practice suggestions above will likely ensure that AI is likely to crawl and find your site and content without issue. As goes with nearly everything we say, ensure content is strategic and relevant — quality over quantity. The better you can engage users with readable content that is linked properly, the more likely Rankbrain will crawl and rank your site.

SEO may seem complicated, but the above trends are designed to ensure your business succeeds and moves forward with ease. Notice how many of the best practice suggestions name user intent as a key factor? Businesses need to be more aware of their clients’ needs, now more than ever. Knowing your audience and how they think is and will be one of the biggest defining factors these next few years.

If you have questions about how to prepare your small business for these 2021 SEO trends and best practices, please contact us today!

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