To answer your question shortly and briefly – yes! There may be several reasons why people ask this question every year. In particular, when Google changes their search results page (SERP) algorithm, it tends to throw people for a loop. This means that old techniques that you may have used to boost your website’s SEO may no longer work. Thus begs the question, is investing in organic traffic a good marketing strategy anymore? Is SEO still relevant in 2021?? The answer is still yes. SEO has never been more important than it is now, and remains one of the most potent ways that will guarantee long-term results.
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and is the process of changing your website to achieve higher organic traffic by ranking high on search engine results pages (SERP). SEO is affected by a variety of factors such as keywords and often depends on search engine algorithms. Depending on what keywords people tend to use to search for products or services related to your industry, your SEO ranking factor will change depending on how relevant your website is to those keywords. This emphasizes the importance of keyword research and SEO strategy.
The Importance of Organic Traffic
Organic traffic still remains, in 2021, one of the most important things to strive for when boosting your website. In fact, Bright Edge found that organic traffic is actually responsible for 51% of all website visitors, which is more than all other sources such as paid search or social traffic combined. SEO is one of the best strategies that drives organic traffic, thus making SEO and your SEO strategy still relevant in 2021.
Other benefits of Organic Traffic
- To Google something is now a household term – people will Google products or services that they are interested in buying for more information, especially for big purchases
- Organic traffic highly targets user search intent – for example, people searching for “auto repair shop in my city” are probably looking to get their vehicle repaired. Search engine results play a big role in allowing your website to be discovered based on user intent
- Investing in organic traffic is cost-effective – once you make it to the first page of any search engine, you are likely going to stay there for a long time
- Organic traffic brings in more sales – higher SEO rank means more website traffic, which means higher potential for website visitors to turn into actual customers or clients
- Local SEO is important – many search results that Google will show will often be based on the user’s location. Good local SEO will not only improve your website traffic but also in-store traffic as well
- Google is one of the most trusted sources – people tend to turn to Google for answers. If Google recommends you on the first page of the results page, people are likely to trust it. In fact, ranking #1 on Google search results will get you around 21% of clicks, which is huge!
- The Increasing accessibility of technology – Search engines are now more accessible than ever before, and with the growing use of smartphones, more people are now able to find your business online wherever they may be. In fact, 87% of smartphone users use a search engine at least once a day, with more searches taking place on a smartphone than on a desktop.
How will SEO change in 2021?
Google is continuing to grow smarter and smarter, and that means that their search engine algorithm is constantly changing to provide the best information for their users. In fact, Google updates between 500 to 600 times each year. This makes it a lot more difficult to get to the #1 spot on Google search results due to the endless amount of criteria that Google considers to determine who deserves to take that spot.
In 2021 in particular, two things have changed: Google algorithm updates and the updating of Google’s search results pages.
Google Algorithm Updates
- Panda (2011) – penalizes poor content quality, blocking you completely from appearing in Google’s top search results
- Penguin (2012) – penalizes websites determined to have spam-like behaviour
- Hummingbird (2013) – an update that allowed Google to be able to determine the context behind words and phrases, in turn affecting ability to understand user intent
- Pigeon (2014) – provides more useful, relevant and accurate local search results
- Mobile-first update (2015) – favors websites that are user-friendly and can operate on mobile platforms, optimizing user experience
- RankBrain (2015) – a machine learning AI algorithm that helps Google understand search queries, and can change the importance of backlinks, content freshness, content length, domain authority and other ranking factors depending on the keyword
- BERT (2019) – Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. This allows Google to better understand natural language by understanding the context of the sentence, and therefore, user intent
Google’s Search Results Pages Update
Google’s search results pages now include more than ever before, with several new features that are designed to respond to user’s search query much faster and with more information. These include:
1) Google Ads
Google Ads are usually displayed at the very top, which pushes organic search results down lower. This can impact CTR. Sometimes, ads can also appear at the bottom.
2) Featured Snippets
When people ask a specific question, Google will sometimes extract snippets from websites to answer that specific question. Featured snippets have higher CTR than organic search results and is sometimes referred to as the #0 position on Google. Featured Snippets can either be a paragraph, a list or a table.
3) Image Packs
Image packs appear when Google determines that the user may be looking for visual content. If you are revamping your website for a higher SEO, visual content may be the way to go.
4) Knowledge Cards
When users are searching for data information, knowledge cards will appear.
5) Knowledge Panels
Also known as Knowledge Graphs which will take information from reliable sources and display it on the top right side of search results. To appear in this section, you will need to optimize your Google My Business (GMB) listing.
6) Local Packs
Local packs will often appear with local-related keywords, such as “chiropractors in my area”. You will need good reviews and SEO to appear in the local packs.
7) News Boxes
If the keyword is related to something on the news and Google determines that you are searching something news-related, news boxes will appear.
8) Related Questions
Related questions will show up when Google determines that similar questions are related to what you searched for. This usually consists of just 4 related questions.
When people search for products or services, reviews will appear often in the form of review stars above the meta description.
10) Shopping Results
Shopping results will often show paid shopping results or Product Listing Ads (PLA). If your products have an image and a price, you will more likely be able to quality for Google’s shopping results.
11) Site Links
When people search for a specific brand or service, different sections of the website will appear below the link to the main website. Sections can include “sale”, “contact/locations”, or “about”.
These include relevant tweets in Google SERP, which appear for some trending keywords.
13) Video Results
Video results will appear when Google determines that video content is what the person may be looking for.
Outdated SEO Techniques
Google’s search algorithm is constantly changing and with the many major updates that have occurred since 2011, there are some techniques that will no longer work in boosting your SEO. These include:
- Spammy backlinks to your website
- Copying content from another source
- Keyword stuffing
- Slow and unreliable sites
- Sites not optimized for mobile devices
- Clickbait headlines
- Other malpractices often penalized
Achieving good SEO is now a complex game that will require a solid SEO strategy to worm your way into the good graces of Google’s algorithm. Although it may take some time and commitment, achieving a good SEO will pay off immensely in helping you achieve business growth and success.
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Tips on Keywords in 2021 to Boost SEO
1) Use online tools for keyword research
Keyword research allows you to discover exactly which keywords people are using when they search for information on search engines. Tools such as Keyword Tool, KeywordsFX, and SEMrush can help you determine which keywords you need to include to allow people to discover your business online. Doing this will also help you boost website traffic.
2) Use Keywords naturally
One of the worst things you can do for your SEO is engaging in keyword stuffing. Using keywords in a way that resembles spam is a sure-fire way to get blocked by Google from appearing in their top search results. It may sometimes be beneficial to use fewer keywords with less frequency.
3) Focus on Long-Tail Keywords
With shorter keywords, there is actually much more competition compared to long-tail keywords. This is because shorter keywords are easier to integrate, but if you take the time to figure out how to use long-tail keywords that are relevant to your business, it can attract website visitors who are seeking exactly what you are offering.
Other Factors that affect your SEO:
1) Dead Ends or 400 Errors
No one likes to click into a page that doesn’t work. Dead pages also speaks to the maintenance of your website, making your business look sloppy or lacking in credibility. When dead ends or 400 errors occur, visitors will not spend extra time to dig deeper to find information they need. They will simply leave, making you lose another prospective customer. Good SEO will make sure to fix or get rid of any dead ends or 400 errors.
2) Content Organization
When your website’s content is structured and organized, it can lead to a more pleasant user experience, encouraging them to spend more time navigating and exploring your website. It also makes it easier for search engines to crawl your website. Getting rid of irrelevant content on your website is also important, as it does not boost your SEO nor is it helpful in optimizing your website.
3) Meta Description, Meta Title & Alt Tags
Meta titles, tags, and descriptions are important elements of SEO. The title tag is what appears on the search engine as your title listing. Make sure the title is short and concise, but also compelling enough to make visitors want to click on your link.
A meta description is approximately 30 words and will appear as a short blurb on the search engine to accompany your website’s title. The meta description should include important keywords and similar to the title, further convince readers to click in. However, it’s important to keep in mind that your website meta description may not always show, search engines sometimes replacing it with a random blurb from your website.
Alt tags are often assigned to images and can reinforce the keywords present on your website to appeal even more to search engines. When using alt words, make sure these alt words aren’t spam or consist solely of keywords that you’re just trying to shove in for the sake of including more. These alt tags should make sense.
Use of headings is so important in increasing your website’s navigability and also in helping search engines identify your website’s content. Headings, such as H1, H2, H3, H4 and so on, are actually read by search engines.
5) Inbound Links
Inbound links are links from other websites that lead back to your website. When other websites link back to your website, it increases your website’s performance, visibility, as well as visitor traffic to your website. This further increases the possibility of converting visitors to your website to actual customers.
6) Internal Links
Links from one section of your website to another is important in increasing your website’s navigability. Making it all interconnected will lead your visitors smoothly through your pages. This is also helpful for search engine spiders to do a complete crawl through your website.
7) External Links
External links are important in indicating that you’ve done your research, and that you are pointing to other sources of credibility to back up the information and content on your website. When several different websites provide the same information, it makes your content more reliable. Each search engine often prioritizes ranking quality content for their users, which means that if you have a lot of quality external links, it is more likely that your website will rank higher on the SERP.
8) Word Count & Keywords
Optimizing your website’s word count with important keywords will boost your website’s ranking on the SERP. Important keywords to include will be based on what people are searching on search engines and will also be based on what your competitors are using on their websites. Tools such as Google Analytics, Google Keyword Planner, or Keywords Everywhere can be helpful in identifying keywords.
Word count is also important in optimizing your SEO. For example, a website with 2,000 words in a section will often rank better than a website with only 500 words in that same section.
9) On-Site Website Security
Website security helps protect your website against unwanted and malicious attacks. This can compromise your information and spread viruses to your visitors when they click into your website for information. This would be a sure-fire way of losing and repelling potential customers. On-site website security is non-negotiable.
10) On-Site Page Speed
It is no surprise that people are impatient, and when people are looking for information, they want it as quickly and conveniently as possible. The longer the page speed, or the longer it takes for any page of your website to load, the more likely visitors will click out of or exit from your website, making you again, lose out on potential clients. Page speed is important but is often overlooked.
11) Calls to Action
Be transparent about next steps! Make sure potential customers know exactly what to do to inquire about services, as well as exactly what will happen if they choose to follow through. Make it as easy as possible for them to reach out. For example, adding buttons on your website or tools that visitors can click on can be extremely helpful in motivating potential customers to take that next step.
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