The internet has not only made a lasting impact on our lives, but it has also changed the way we do nearly everything. Notably, it has changed how advertising is done. Online advertising is valued at more than 400 billion dollars a year, making it even more valuable than TV ads.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the value of online advertising. Now, we must look ahead and take the time required to understand how SEO will be impacted. What will SEO look like in 2021? How will it be different?
SEO lives and dies with search engines, and the bigger the search engine, like Google, the bigger the need to be properly optimized. When Google changes their algorithms, our SEO approach must adapt. We must be aware of changes so that we can pivot and take advantage of them, instead of being left behind.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the four most important factors that will impact the future of SEO.
1. Page Experience Ranking Factor
Google has instituted a new ranking factor they call “page experience signals,” and as of May 2021, it will be a vital factor. Page experience is the way people feel about a page as they interact with it. Many different variables factor into this experience such as HTTPS, mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, and more.
These rankings have already existed, but moving forward after May 2021, they will be implemented to work within the “page experience” design.
Another element of the “page experience” is Core Web Vitals, user-centric metrics that seek to determine the quality of the user experience. Visual stability (Cumulative Layout Shift), loading speed (Largest Contentful Paint), and interactivity (First Input Delay) are the parameters that denote Core Web Vitals.
Loading speed and interactivity are self-explanatory, but we can explore visual stability more. At first glance, the wording can be a bit tricky, but it boils down to a verbatim translation. Visual stability measures how much the web page moves. If there is a button on the page that follows your mouse movements, that can lend to an undesirable experience.
Google wants to track and capture that. Google aims to provide more engaging content with the highest quality to its users. High page experience scores will mean that a website is interactive, mobile-friendly, secure, and faster than most.
Google wants to enable non-AMP content that is eligible to appear in Top Stories the ability to do so. This change could shake up the rankings for websites on mobile as websites continue to try to drive mobile traffic to their website content. May 2021, will also see this new implementation roll-out, giving SEO specialists plenty to do in May.
2. Mobile-first indexing for all websites
Mobile-first indexing has been a staple used by Google for years. As more people began to use their phones to browse and search the net, Google introduced this system to account for the new problem. Traditionally, Google indexed the desktop version of a website, but many desktop and mobile versions of websites do not match up on content, which created a mismatch in rankings—that was the issue Google needed to solve.
Instead of indexing the desktop version of a website first, Mobile-first indexing is the practice of indexing the mobile version of a website first in Google’s databases. The adjustment is meant to give a more accurate gauge of the content on mobile sites and their relevance before displaying results.
It has taken Google years to implement this, as going from entirely desktop indexing to entirely mobile indexing is a huge process. At first, the webmaster could change the indexing of their website, then Google switched to indexing via mobile-first as the default for new websites. Now, beginning March 2021, mobile-first indexing will be the overall default for all websites.
Meaning that in March, your indexing will change, and you may see a change in content that is considered by Google as well. It’s unknown how big of an impact this change will have, but at least some instability is expected.
Google has produced a guideline to ensure the transition to mobile-first indexing is as smooth as can be.
- You need to make sure the content of your website is visible to Google crawlers and bots.
- Fill out all relevant meta tags on desktop and mobile versions of your landing pages.
- Enable lazy load so that the mobile version of your website loads quickly.
- Check your robots.txt file to make sure you aren’t blocking any relevant mobile-specific URLs.
- Try as much as you can to have identical primary content on both versions of your website.
- Check the alt tags of both image and video embeds.
3. Voice Search
Five years ago, voice search was a non-factor, but now with the inventions of Google Assistant, Alexa, and similar products, voice search has become something we need to keep informed on. It is estimated that voice search revenue will multiply by four times, from $2 billion to $40 billion, from 2017 to 2022.
Unlike traditional text searches, achieving the first position in a voice search is crucial. This SEO arena is new and largely uncharted, and to be effective, we must stay up-to-date and informed so that we can capitalize to the fullest.
Featured snippets are becoming a mainstay for Google and it is actively trying to add more—from tutorials to news, to recipes, and more. Snippets allow Google to keep traffic on their platform and they enable faster searches for users. Being featured means more traffic to your site. Knowing this, we can see how much of a benefit it will be.
There is data that shows that being featured does help, but it doesn’t always mean that you’ll see immediate and extensive growth in traffic. The average is estimated to be 8.6% CTR on average, and the highest ‘natural result’ will get 19.6% of the traffic.
We can see from this that the featured click can obtain a substantial amount of clicks from the top result. Without the feature, the CTR would be about 26% in SERPs. You do want to be mindful of your snippet, and how it’s featured by Google. Keep a close watch to monitor your ranking and adjust for optimization.