Chris Osborne

22 SEO Experts reveal their search trends for 2021

My team at SEO Newsletter, our weekly newsletter covering everything SEO, reached out to 22 of the smartest people in SEO to find out what trends they see happening within the space over the next 12 months. Here’s what they had to say:

I think we’ll continue to see further growth of voice search as it is becoming more prevalent in our daily lives. This will cause SEO’s to be considerate of how a user might be searching vocally compared to how they might have typed something in.

Chris Makara – Founder of Bulk.ly

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The main thing I’m watching is how the SERP landscape is changing. Google continues innovating new SERP features that provide complete answers to user queries.

Zero-click searches continue to increase in prevalence, meaning that brands are experiencing a decline of click-through rates in relevant organic searches. I’ll be curious to see how brands adapt in an attempt to curb this cannibalization of website traffic.

Maddy Osman – Founder & SEO Content Strategist at The Blogsmith

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More reactive PR! We’ve already seen a huge increase for this over the past couple of months, but I expect more traditional agencies and more tech SEO agencies will want to start doing more of this for increase in links.

Those working in traditional will continue to make a move from print to digital with a higher focus on websites, backlinks etc and tech SEO agencies will start, if they haven’t already, recruiting for more digital PRs who can work with them to build links to specific pages using PR and storytelling, rather than guest posting and paid links.

Emma Hull – Senior Digital PR Executive at Liberty Marketing

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Probably the biggest will be putting the nail in the coffin of the debate on user experience and impact on SEO. There is an update coming that revolves around it exclusively. It matters.

Beyond that, the biggest thing I’m watching is the SERPs themselves (esp in shopping and local). Google is pushing features into them to improve their own UX, and in turn impacting how we can. Some work to our advantage, like new schema and SERP features, others not so much – like the rise of zero-click queries.

Beyond that, most things fall into the usual impact of machine learning and algo updates. Interesting and important to be sure, but they’re more the means to the end in my opinion.

Dave Davies – CEO at Beanstalk Internet Marketing

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The biggest trend I see is marketing teams paying attention to user experience. This should always have been a priority, but branding teams and operations teams normally go with what they want as a brand vs. what is best for their customers. For example giant hero images and pulling in social media posts to show off the product in real life. These are fun and cool looking, but both kill website conversions and hurt user experience.

With Core Web Vitals and page speed now important, companies that do focus on SEO will be addressing these performance issues and beginning to see conversions increase because these companies are building faster websites with an experience that talks to the customer’s needs vs. what the company thinks is cool or trendy.

Adam Riemer – CEO at Adam Riemer Marketing

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I’m hearing a lot of talk in the SEO community about the importance of content over everything else. While I do believe content is king in many ways, I don’t think it’s going to be on top alone for too much longer.

Over the next year there will be an ever greater shift towards more attention being placed on improving the overall user experience. We know that Google is becoming more and more concerned with page experience and the businesses that ignore this may find themselves at a disadvantage against competitors who have invested in page speed, usability and ultimately ensuring their users are able to complete their goals.

Bethan Vincent – Marketing Director at Netsells

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We’re moving away from Search Engine Optimization and moving towards People Optimization. With so many new businesses online and on social media now, it’s not enough to just be online.

You’ll need to stand out and get personal so that your digital business connects and resonates with your audience. Get creative, get personal, answer questions in your content, use video to show (not tell) what makes you unique and tell your story.

Diana Richardson – Social Media & Community Manager SEMrush

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SEOs are being pushed to optimise for third party scripts as part of the Page Experience Update. As a result, I expect to see increased use of speed optimized YouTube embed alternatives, façades for features, and a much more selective use of third party scripts than we’ve seen in the past. 

Crystal Carter – Senior Digital Strategist at Optix Solutions

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The most important trend to watch is how Google will handle that there is both less real estate available among the commonly clicked organic search results due to SERP features ads and more embedded commercial functions AND more corporate consolidation so there are major corporations that can purchase ad placements and purchase the sites owning most/all of the organic real estate. 

The fact that Google will have to sort that out and the backlash that will follow will be the story of 2022 and go against their long-standing policies.

Jeff Coyle – Co-founder &CSO at MarketMuse

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More focus on Ux, understanding that Google really wants to have a good experience for the readers. Focusing on a good design, easy to read content etc

Liraz Postan – Founder and CEO at LP Marketing Services

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Accessibility will become a much larger part of the conversation with clients and developers. Accessibility has always been indirectly tied to SEO and in some cases such as Alt Tags, directly.

As we incorporate site revisions to address Core Web Vitals, the next leap will be making sure those same sites are also addressing a significant portion of the population with partial or full impairments.  

Jonti Bolles – Founder &CEO at White Hat Ops

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I see much more effort being required in order to create content that can compete in the SERPs. This is based on Google product reviews update and the upcoming page experience update. 

Dani Owens – Owner & Local SEO Consultant of Pigzilla 

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User experience is going to play a critical role in climbing up page 1 & 2 in the SERP. The fundamentals of great content and relevant links will still be key for getting on the radar to begin with, but more now than ever we’re going to see pages with a great overall UX beating out the clunky pages even if they’re losing the links battle.

Factors like clean overall design, fast load speeds, engaging visuals, and more will be must-haves to win for competitive terms.

Josh Gallant – SEO Lead at Foundation Marketing

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Over the next year I believe Google is going to continue doing what it has been doing for the past 2-3 years in organic search – really focusing on improving how well they can address “needs met” for users queries.

I also believe they are going to integrate more of the data they have from their knowledge graph into aspects of organic search.  

Callum Scott – Senior SEO at Marie Haynes Consulting

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SEO continues to grow in importance and is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies that deliver long-term results. 

A big 2021 trend is the Page Experience update. As Google deems a site more enjoyable, it is more likely to display it as favored. Google places significant importance on user experience, and that importance has manifested itself as a ranking factor.

Internal linking, new targeted content, and optimized page experiences for multiple devices will keep you ahead of the competition.

Businesses will continue the battle with Google My Business Spam and fight fire with fire by joining the Spammers and stuffing keywords in their names. Suspensions will rise. 

The key to ranking will remain with the 2021 trend of adding fresh content like photos, posts, Q&A’s, and getting reviews. 

We’ve been testing out Local Service Ads and merging them with the GMB Page. We’ve also been testing out Google’s Smart Ads and linking it to the GMB page. This is becoming an effective strategy for us.

Crystal Horton – Google My Business product expert at CrystalHorton.com

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Voice search impacting search queries. With the continued rise and improvement of voice search functions (i.e. Siri, Alexa, Google Assist) we’re likely to see a continued rise in people searching in a more conversational way. Whereas we may typically type the main keywords, for example, “baby shark lyrics” people are likely to ask a question with voice search, e.g. “what are the lyrics to baby shark?”.

SEOs can make use of this shift by integrating longer-tail keywords into their research and optimisation.

Alix Charles – Managing Director at Alix Digital

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In terms of SEO trends for 2021 I think the one that mobile friendliness will play a big part on how successful websites are this year, while Google rolled out mobile first indexing in 2019 I think this is the year we will really see that start to impact more and more websites from big corporate sites to smaller business websites.

Other key trends I think for this year will be the impact of AI in the search results. AI is changing how we interact and use the search engines and business will need to make sure they are ready to optimise for that, making sure they are focusing on user intent.

Core web vitals will be a must to focus on as Google plan to roll it out in the second half of the year. Mobile friendliness will come into play here as well, so will image optimisation, site speed, security protocols amongst other things.

The other thing I’m interested to see play out is from a slightly different angle. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns showed people that they needed to have a presence online for their business. Many location based businesses, especially smaller, family run ones had no online real estate when they had to shut up shop.

This year I think we will see these types of smaller business invest not only on their website but on SEO, I think there will be more small business owners looking to the search engines to ensure that if they find themselves having to shut their doors again, they have a place their customers old and new can find them and continue to use them and keep the income flowing in.

We’ve already seen a big jump in smaller business owners looking to learn more about SEO and I think that will continue through the rest of 2021.

Marion Leadbetter – Founder & Search Engine Optimization Specialist at The SEO Upcycler

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Server-side rendering will become even more important as mobile-first indexing will index sites by throttling their normal load speeds.

Colt Sliva – SEO Engineer at iPullRank

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When it comes to SEO trends, there are several areas that will play a role in 2021, including mobile availability, building the authority of the domain and strengthening brand awareness, which will be closely related to social signals. In 2021, it is certainly worth focusing on creating content that will closely relates to the users intentions. Not only the appropriate saturation with keywords, but also the structure of the content itself will be an important aspect of SEO activities. The precise adjustment of the length and form of the text to user’s query is definitely the trend I am going to follow.

Using semantically related keywords in content, voice search optimization and mobile -friendly content certainly deserves special attention in 2021, if we want not only to acquire the user, but also to accurately read his needs.

Irena Zobniów – Co-Founder of Insightland

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The Core Web Vitals provide both an interesting set of ranking factors for usability and a challenging playground for technical nerds. I expect – I wish – that with the page experience update, at last, all SEOs and business owners place their users’ needs as a priority in their SEO roadmap.
In 2020, a decrease in daily business activities created a forced marketing introspection within companies. For a market like Switzerland, where SEO is a rising field, companies that dare to change their marketing strategy and act today will definitely have an edge. SEO grows steadily over months of optimization. When the competitions will realise the gap, they will have a huge lag to recover from being late to the game.

Isaline Muelhauser – SEO consultant and Founder of Pilea.ch

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In January, John Mueller said on Twitter, “I love some of the things I see from digital PR … it’s just as critical as tech SEO, probably more so in many cases.” He later followed up on Google Search News to say, “Links are an integral part of the web, so it’s reasonable that sites think about them.”

My conclusion? Link building will continue to be an essential part of SEO. However, using digital PR tactics as a way of building those links will be equally essential. This is to not only add value to the web but also satisfy Google and the user’s need for expertise, authority and trust.

In short, you need to develop a hybrid approach to link building. Adopt the technical expertise from SEO to ensure your links really make an impact and combine it with the creative thinking from PR to ensure you gain the coverage in the first place.

Laura Slingo – Head of Outreach at Seeker Digital

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The largest trend I see is SEO continuing to connect with other aspects of web development. With the core web vitals addition being rolled out that’s another step we’re all taking to become more integrated on the websites we work on. 

Whether that be working closer with development, or understanding more about what development’s outputs are or even getting into the code ourselves and minimizing thread networks. 

There’s already signals out there for usability and the focus on providing the best content for the user so you should be already working with those teams or understanding more about those facets of websites. So I really see this all as another step in continuing to have SEO be more integrated into every part of web properties. 

Jess Joyce – SEO Consultant at Jessjoyce.com

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