How will SEO look in the “new normal”? 5 things to expect in 2021

by | Dec 16, 2020 | Analysis, Public Relations

2020 has not been a normal year. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have either closed or scaled-down. However, many have also innovated and adapted, going from strength to strength and making significant profits along the way. Many of these businesses have taken advantage of the increase in online traffic to rank high on search engines.

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), nothing is constant. The strategies that worked years ago have lost their edge. That’s because search engines such as Google are constantly tweaking their algorithms. On average, Google makes changes to its algorithm between 500 – 600 times each year.

Throw in the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought into the world, and you could be looking at a rather tricky 2021. Whether you are reopening your business or trying to scale your marketing efforts, here are some of the top SEO trends that you can expect to see in 2021.

Artificial Intelligence

Thanks to machine learning software like Google’s Rankbrain and BERT, artificial intelligence (AI) has begun a takeover of the SEO world. The good news? AI and SEO are a match made in heaven. Because of the advanced analytics abilities of AI, it can help simplify and automate SEO processes.

Firstly, AI can help you analyze and understand customer intent and your competitors’ strategies. This insight can feed into your overall content strategy and help you offer personalized and high-performing content. You can also automate your keyword research, making it easier to discover trends, link-building opportunities, and gaps in the market.

Additionally, with AI, you can run automated SEO experiments to measure and test your SEO strategy. AI can extract data and insights at scale to help you assess how you’re doing and decide on the changes to make.

Mobile SEO

In 2015, Google updated its algorithm to reward mobile-friendly sites, giving rise to what has been dubbed “Mobilegeddon.” Since then, Google has given preference and higher search results positions to mobile-optimized websites.

In 2021, the shift promises to be even more drastic. Google’s John Mueller recently announced that the company would switch to a mobile-first index by March 2021. This move means that Google will drop desktop-only websites from its index.

But there’s more to mobile SEO than preventing Google from dropping your website. According to Blue Corona, mobile devices now account for 52% of all website traffic, and every 2 minutes out of 3 spent online worldwide. In other words, if you do not optimize your website for a mobile experience, you will lose leads and your conversion rates will plummet. For instance, if your ecommerce website takes forever to load on a smartphone, you may experience an increase in cart abandonment.

If you want to excel at SEO in the forthcoming year, you must make your website mobile-friendly. You can check out if your website is mobile-friendly using this simple test.

E.A.T. Concept

E.A.T. is short for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. This concept is a metric Google uses to determine the ranking of a site. While E.A.T. has been around for some time, it promises to take on an even more crucial role in 2021.

The rise of “fake news” has made some apprehensive about trusting what they read online, which is why Google is making it a priority to ensure that only quality content ranks high. For businesses in the Your Money Your Life (YMYL) categories like healthcare and finance, E.A.T. is especially relevant. Here are a few strategies to ensure you deliver on E.A.T:

  • Expertise: Create an “About” page that details your team’s credentials, qualifications, certification, and achievements. Highlight any connections you have with other reputable organizations.
  • Authority: Back up what you write with data and facts. In addition, guest posting on authority sites in your niche will build your authority as well as building valuable backlinks to your content.
  • Trustworthiness: Use case studies and reviews from happy customers and clients to build your reputation. Make sure that your site is secure and free from user-generated spam. Finally, display your policies and guidelines for visitors to see.

Zero-Click Search Results

The phenomenon of Zero-click search results is growing. SparkToro reports that more than half (50.33%) of all Google searches were zero-click searches and featured snippets as of mid-2019:

How will SEO look in the "new normal"? 5 things to expect in 2021


This means that more than half of all Google searches do not result in a click. That’s thanks to featured snippets displaying the information users need to satisfy their search intent without needing to click. While this move makes search easy for customers, it deprives websites of leads. Thankfully, there are ways businesses can take advantage of zero-click results.

As you plan your content, aim to answer questions. Conduct keyword research to determine what questions and concerns are on your audience’s minds and craft compelling content that answers those questions. However, make sure your answers are clear and specific.

Google loves long-form content, but you should break down such content into short and easy-to-read paragraphs. Finally, make sure to use data and facts to back up your points in each piece of content you produce.

Voice Search

Statista projects that by 2024, there will be 8.4 billion voice assistants (such as Amazon’s Alexa) in use globally. That gives us a hint of just how influential voice search will be in the coming years.

How will SEO look in the "new normal"? 5 things to expect in 2021


Even now, 55% of users ask questions on their smartphones using voice search.

Optimizing your content for voice search will position your website to attract traffic and leads. Here are a few ideas to help you optimize for voice search:

  • Write in a conversational and interactive style. In other words, think about how people typically speak and try to ensure your content matches that style.
  • Target long-tail conversational keyword phrases and filler words (for example, voice users are likely to ask something like “what is the best pizza restaurant in Boston?” while a text search user might simply type “pizza Boston.”)
  • Leverage your Google My Business listing. The information you provide, including your opening hours and address, must always be current and up to date. That’s because voice searchers might ask questions like “what time is [your business] open today?”
  • Improve the loading time of your website. 47% of users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less.

By optimizing for voice search, you’ll open the door to show your content to an enormous prospective audience who may never have found it through text search.

Be Ready to Adapt

A year ago, nobody could have predicted that a pandemic would ravage 2020 and change the way we live and work. One thing has been made clear: businesses that cannot adapt to changing circumstances will be left behind. What separates a thriving business from a struggling one is the ability to adapt, pivot, and approach things in a different way.

Your team should approach new challenges with excitement, and they should not be afraid to try new things. The best businesses are the ones that run lots of experiments, tests, and trials, using the lessons as a springboard to do even better in the future.

Be on the lookout for the trends and changes within your industry. Anticipate challenges and prepare for them. In this article, we have shared some of the SEO trends that 2021 is likely to bring. This list is not exhaustive, but it covers a few of the main areas you absolutely must not ignore.

Best of luck with your SEO efforts in 2021 and beyond!

Matt Diggity
Matt Diggity is a search engine optimisation expert focused on affiliate marketing, client ranking, lead generation, and SEO services. He is the founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders, LeadSpring LLC, and host of the Chiang Mai SEO Conference.


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