Marketers and advertisers have long championed the value of a solid SEO strategy. What makes this challenging is that SEO is anything but static. For one thing, consumer behaviors are constantly changing, altering the ways in which people search for information. For another thing, Google is constantly tweaking its algorithms, with the goal of improving quality, relevance, and convenience for the end user.
Naturally, 2021 has seen a number of notable trends and changes, some tied to changing consumer behaviors (often pandemic-related), others simply reflecting Google’s ongoing quests for improvement. As we enter a new year, it’s crucial to have a sense of how the SEO goalposts have shifted.
How SEO Changed in 2021
- Mobile-first indexing. Google has long touted the importance of mobile-friendly websites. Algorithmic updates in the first part of 2021 found the search engine embracing a truly mobile-first mentality, meaning that the mobile version of your website is now the primary version. Meanwhile, the desktop version of your site is considered secondary. Naturally, mobile design is more critical than ever for achieving good SEO rankings.
- Voice search. Not everyone searches by actually typing a query into their Google search bar. More and more consumers speak their requests out loud to Alexa or Google Assistant. In fact, 2021 was the first year in which roughly 50 percent of queries were made via voice search. SEO strategies should be adapted accordingly, with a greater emphasis on natural language patterns and long-tail keyword phrases.
- Short-form video. Right now, you can do a Google search for almost any topic and you’re likely to find a few short-form videos on the search engine results page. This content format has come to dominate, thanks to TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube shorts. As such, developing short-form video content is a smart way to boost your brand’s visibility.
- Artificial intelligence. Google has repeatedly asserted the importance of artificial intelligence in evaluating search queries, specifically citing their RankBrain technology. This AI algorithm is likely to become an even more critical ranking element in 2022. While there’s still some mystery as to exactly how RankBrain functions, it’s clear that click-through rates and time spent on page are important considerations if you want your content to be ranked well.
- Long-form content. In years past, it was often possible to get serious SEO traction out of a 300- or 400-word article. In some cases that may still hold true, but the shift in 2021 has definitely been toward long-form content that keeps readers on the page for longer periods of time. It’s not that there’s a specific word count you need to hit, but we do advise writing content that allows you to really dig into the details and offer valuable information about the topic at hand.
- EAT. We’ve written about EAT before. Basically, this is Google’s principle that content should possess expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. These concepts are especially important in fields related to healthcare, or even to personal finance. EAT has been a major talking point in SEO circles this year, and we expect that to continue as we enter 2022.
- Online shopping. One of the major effects of the pandemic is that consumers are doing more and more of their shopping online. Before COVID-19, Google’s online shopping capabilities were still fairly nascent, but in 2021 we saw the evolution of their Shopping Graph and other important tools. Commerce has become an increasingly central part of the search engine results page, and we think that will continue well into the coming year.
- Passage ranking. Having trouble getting an entire page to rank? Now, there’s a way you can focus on ranking just a single relevant passage that might clearly and concisely answer a user inquiry. “Passage ranking” went live in 2021, and already Google says that it impacts around seven percent of all queries.
- Suggested clips. Along the same lines, it’s now possible to focus on ranking a specific section of a video, as opposed to a whole video. Breaking your videos into clips, or chapters, may allow you to hone in on one suggested passage that you can try to rank on the Google SERP.
The Future of SEO
Clearly, the field of SEO is always evolving, and in the new year there will be still further changes for marketers to grapple with. One way to make sure you’re on the vanguard of SEO trends is to work with an agency like enCOMPASS. Our team is constantly monitoring what’s new in SEO, and we are nimble and adaptive in changing our strategies as needed. We’re also happy to talk with our clients about the changing face of SEO at any time.
Questions or concerns about any of this? Ready to move forward with a robust, up-to-date ranking strategy? We’d love to talk. Reach out to enCOMPASS at any time.
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