The groundwork for a successful SEO strategy must be laid in advance, at best, before the new fiscal year starts. A comprehensive and thorough SEO strategy requires an exhaustive panel of tactics that covers, not just keywords, but a keen implementation of all trends and updates.
Google’s algorithm updates are the siren calls for all SEO professionals. While most are unannounced little tweaks that need due tracking, the ones that are announced, promise a lot of upheavals in the SERP. The current year has seen a lot of updates about changes in ranking signals like the Google’s Featured Snippets updates, in the heels of page loading speed of January 2018, and mobile optimisation of April 2015.
The 2021 horizon
The latest announcement for the coming year includes the roll out of new SEO ranking signals. True to its vision, Google is gearing towards improving the overall experience consumers have on the web. The most familiar page ranking signals currently in use towards evaluation are: mobile friendliness; safe browsing (zero malicious content, no social engineering); secure HTTPS; and intrusive interstitials.
The detailed guidelines along with the announcement and the buffer time before the rollout commences, all point to the significant impact these ranking signals will trigger. There are many page ranking signals that will monopolise attention in the evolving world of SEO. Here are some of the most important ones to watch out for, if you want a well optimized site in 2021.
Now, a user’s experience with a web page will play a crucial role in determining page ranking. In other words, if the user’s interaction is poor, the page ranking will drop. This update solidifies the commitment of Google to display only high-quality links in its search results. Thus, from this search algorithm, better user experience of web page receives more weight.
As site owners strive to offer a seamless experience, the audience engages more deeply and are happy to access the exact information they searched for. This ranking signal is based largely on the core web vitals update launched on May 2020.
Core Web Vitals
The Core Web Vitals metrics will not be incorporated until 2021, along with further metrics intended to integrate annually. It will be evaluated in conjunction with the existing page experience signals that are currently in use directly for rankings. High-quality content being the primary focus, Core Web Vitals metrics will give you that sought after ranking edge after necessary improvements are made according to its focus areas.
The three aspects of this focus are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – Loading or ease of loading speed for a user;
- First Input Delay (FID) – Interactivity or measure of the level of responsiveness of a page and response time for a user;
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – Visual Stability or expected layout shifts after clicking.
Schema – Structured Markup
Google is architecting SERPs to accommodate shorter answers, mainly in the form of Featured Snippets and Answer Boxes. Thus, schema markup as an evolving concept enhances the chances of appearing in these sections. It helps define the context of a query and simplifies page content for search engines, making it easier for search engines to identify the essential information on a website and rank the page better. Schema markup makes the all-important difference when title tags and descriptions are essentially the same, as in eCommerce sites.
Branding with E-A-T
The E-A-T initiative was a 2018 algorithm update, however, the importance of these ranking signals will be profound in 2021. Google will determine your brand strength through your own website, as well as through other website’s indication about your brand. Creating great content along with establishing the contributor’s expertise, recommendations and reviews of your high-quality content will all boost your brand strength. The expertise, authority, and trustworthiness associated with your brand will influence the rank your web pages receive in the search results.
The AI and the BERT algorithm introduced in late 2019, the growth of AI assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, and the fact that 72% of voice-activated device owners use it in their daily search routine point towards a new way—voice search. In terms of SEO this means that optimising for the way people ask questions, understanding local queries and intent, showing content for short answers like Featured Snippets are going to be important.
No more preference for AMP in news
AMP was created by Google to allow for web pages that load almost instantly on mobile phones. They were technically hosted on Google’s website, loaded in less than one second, used fewer data, and were preferred in top rankings. Specifically pertaining to the news publications and media outlets, AMP pages were the only ones featured in Top Stories. This will no longer be the case with the page experience update as it will determine which content sits in the Top Stories section. Thus, even though AMP did help pages move faster, it’s no longer a requirement for top story eligibility.
Tools you can use
Improve your ranking signals readiness for 2021
Align your SEO goals with that of Google where all ranking signals are aimed at preferring pages that users love the most. Remember, ‘page’ experience over ‘website’ experience, so the algorithm will rank from a page-level basis. Professionals should be working towards a more comprehensive and sophisticated SEO strategy to optimise the user experience. Keeping in mind the 2021 updates in ranking signals will create utmost value. Here are some components of page experience that businesses should focus on:
- Revamping content strategy to provide relevant content
- Keyword analysis for better focus
- Seamless user experience across devices, especially being mobile-friendly
- Improve page speed and reduce loading time, aim at website load time for both desktop and mobile to be under 3 seconds
- Audit 400 errors, remove broken pages as they create negative experience hitting rankings
- Safe browsing and security certificates to avoid being filtered out SERPs
- Interactive content boosting audience engagement
- Increase site authority and reputation
- Eliminate popups and ads that disrupt page viewing, analyse usability issues in design
Each new Core Update enables Google to understand and measure content quality signals. In the forthcoming web vitals update, page experience and performance are going to become more essential for ranking on page one. They will reward high-quality pages and penalise low-quality sites and spam.
Ranking signals are Google’s way to ensure that a strong emphasis is being paid to user’s experience on your website. In fact, adhering to the updates and guidelines ensures that a positive, engaging experience has been built with the visitor.
Take a look at the below related Chapters
Chapter 1: Top SEO Success Factors You Should Know
Chapter 4: All About Tracking Google Algorithm Updates
Chapter 6: SEO Keyword Research: How to Do it Right?
Chapter 7: How to Communicate Your SEO Strategy in 2021
Chapter 11: Things You Need to Know About Mobile SEO
Chapter 12: Top 8 KPIs to Track for SEO Success