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Elements of a Successful 2021 SEO Strategy

Brock Messner

Digital Marketing Strategist

Competing for organic search traffic isn’t going to get any easier in 2021. The amount of online content grows every day, and our current climate is adding even more challenges when it comes to SEO. Not only is the web becoming more saturated with content,  but the number of internet users is at an all-time high. That means it’s more important than ever to focus on a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.

There’s a lot more to SEO than just optimizing content based on keyword research. When done properly, your SEO efforts can pay dividends with long-term gains. The foundation of SEO is all about proper site structure, keyword research, and high-quality content. Those pillars will never lose their importance. But, there’s a lot more you can do to increase your online visibility and engage more organic visitors.

Let’s look at what’s changing with search engines and the top 10 SEO strategies to leverage in 2021:

What’s New with Search Engines in 2021 

Google constantly makes changes to its algorithm (a system used to determine which content to display on search engine results pages (SERPs)), which means SEO can feel like a puzzle. Here’s what you need to know about Google’s latest updates.

Understanding Search Intent

It’s not news that search engines have grown from their original word-matching ways to become sophisticated search intent matchmakers. Google knows what users are looking for even when they spell with typos or phrase their search terms oddly, and it is only getting better at this. So, in 2021, creating quality, user-focused content needs to remain a top priority.

Search Intent and SEO

SEO Authority and Engagement

Search engines are getting better and better at recognizing when users are engaged and happy with the content that you publish. Receiving backlinks from credible sites and inserting keywords with depth, breadth, and longevity throughout your site earns you meaningful ranking authority.

What are Rich Results?

One change you may have noticed with search engines is the increase in featured snippets, answers, image or video carousels, and “People Also Ask” boxes. These Google add-ins typically take up the entire screen of the first page and even more on mobile. Based on search terms you want to rank for, it’s becoming more important to focus on answering questions and displaying videos, organized lists, or step by step directions with proper markup or Schema to snag a spot in the featured snippet.

Is Google Losing Market Share?

The other thing that’s changing is the search engine itself. Historically, Google has dominated as the search engine of choice. In reality, it’s still extremely dominant, but smaller competitors are starting to steal some market share. According to Statista, Google has maintained search engine market share above and around 90% for much of the past 10 years. However, between October 2018 and April 2020 we’ve seen a downward trend, placing Google around 86% market share. Other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, and Yandex have been fighting for a bigger piece of the pie. Also, DuckDuckGo is a new search engine that is gaining some momentum among users that are concerned about data tracking. The privacy-related search engine appears to have exponential growth that doesn’t show signs of stopping in 2021.

So what does this all mean? It’s not only important to focus on ranking on Google. It’s critical to understand ranking factors, title lengths, and meta description lengths on other popular search engines. Lucky for you, we have the know-how and flexibility to create an SEO strategy that can earn you ranks across the board! Here are the top 10 SEO tactics you can start implementing immediately.

Top 10 SEO Strategies for 2021

1. Schema Markup for Rich Results

Schema markup can help communicate the content of your site to search engines so they can display your content in a meaningful way on the SERP. Whether you’re writing articles, showcasing products, communicating your services, providing a recipe, or hundreds of other scenarios, Schema markup can help you earn rich (more appealing) results.

2. Targeting Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are short blocks of text at the very top of Google search results. These snippets of text often provide an answer to the search query without the searcher even needing to click on a search result. So why should you target these featured snippets? Well, they can still drive traffic to your site; according to Ahrefs, 8.6% of clicks go to the featured snippet. Plus, why wouldn’t you want to rank in position #0? Here’s an example of a featured snippet:

featured snippet screen shot

3. Voice Search Optimization

Voice search has become increasingly popular via home assistant devices and mobile phones, so it’s important not to overlook it. The good news is that a solid SEO strategy should already set you up for voice search success. In fact, many of the items on this list will aid in voice search optimization: rich results and featured snippets are commonly the go-to results for voice search. In addition, many voice searches tend to contain question words like what, why, where, when, and how. Providing clear and succinct answers to common questions can help you rank for all searches, especially voice search.

Voice Search Engine Optimization

4. Focusing on Click-Through-Rate, Dwell Time, and Bounce Rate

When visitors see one of your site pages as a search result, do they want to click on it? Once they click through, are they engaged with the content? Search engines know the answers to these questions, and they rank you on it.

A common SEO misnomer is that meta-descriptions should be keyword optimized. In reality, meta descriptions provide little to no ranking factor. They do, however, affect click-through-rate (CTR), which in turn affects rank. Rather than stuffing keywords into your meta description, you should write compelling, captivating meta descriptions that match search intent.

Once you get organic visitors on your site, keep them engaged with a large amount of great content that is clearly organized and easy to read. Be sure to include internal links so your target customers have plenty of opportunities to work their way down your funnel.

5. Influencer Backlinks

Influencer marketing has become increasingly popular over the past few years. Leveraging the popularity of influencers can allow brands to connect with customers and earn loyalty like never before. If you don’t already have an influencer budget, reach out and we can help you discuss the optimal influencer marketing strategy for your specific business needs.

Even those who are driving traffic from influencers might not be achieving full SEO potential. Optimized influencer content with strategic backlinks can be one of the most efficient ways of building out a backlink strategy (if you know SEO, you know that reputable backlinks can have a significant effect on your rank).

6. EAT: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness

Google uses this acronym to determine page quality; other search engines use similar ranking factors.

  • Expertise: Basically, you need to prove that you are a subject matter expert (i.e. a CPA should write content about tax preparation, not an intern).
  • Authoritativeness: Measures your reputation on the topic. Do you have lots of reviews, and are you highly recommended by other industry experts?
  • Trustworthiness: Ensure you only publish accurate, reliable information and cite trustworthy sources.

7. Local Search Results

Search engines have become more likely to display local search results, so you should be optimizing for all the web-searchers in your specific location(s). There are a variety of things you should be doing both on- and off-site. This includes ensuring your website clearly communicates (to both humans and web crawlers) where you’re located and what you do. If you only want local traffic, you should add your location to your longtail keywords and title tags.

local marketing agency search results

Off-site, you should take advantage of the Google My Business tools and other local business directories.

8. Mobile Page Speed

Search engines measure the time it takes your page to load on mobile devices and desktop, and they rank you on it. About half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, so it’s important to have a mobile-responsive site that loads quickly! Image size and formats, render blocking resources, unused JavaScript and CSS, server response time, and more all play into your page speed. A thorough site audit and skilled programming can help you zoom past the competition.

9. Video – We are Serious This Time!

You’ve probably heard “you need to do video!” for years now. That phrase is only becoming more important: MarketingCharts reveals that people will spend 100 minutes a day watching online videos in 2021; that’s up 19% from 2019. Additionally, video has been shown to increase CTR, lower bounce rates, and increase dwell time. Now that’s a win-win-win SEO scenario!

10. Remove Zombie Pages

Zombie pages are all those pages on your site with old, stale, useless content that doesn’t provide any value. You may think these pages don’t matter because no one is going to see them. Not true! In this example from Backlinko, deleting zombie pages resulted in a 48.7% increase in organic traffic.

Get Expert Help in SEO Strategy  

Implementing any of the strategies explained in this post will certainly help your SEO efforts, but you’ll always be leaving organic traffic on the table unless you make SEO a priority with a dedicated, strategic approach.

If this seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. But, we have you covered. Element provides an SEO process with over 50 documented touchpoints. Reach out to learn more and we’ll walk you through the process and show how the right SEO strategy strengthens your bottom line.