As the digital landscape continues to evolve and mature, marketers need to be aware of what’s changing in search engine results pages (SERPs) and major search algorithms, in order to stay ahead of the curve and drive business results.
Here are five important SEO trends that marketers should keep in mind this year.
1. Core Web Vitals
In May, Google rolled out Core Web Vitals, which consists of three major ranking factors that all relate to user experience. The three core web vitals metrics are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Largest Contentful Paint measures how fast a page displays in full and will give weight to websites with quick loading speeds and lightweight development.
First Input Delay looks at how quickly users can interact with a page, and the time it takes for an element to begin processing in response to a user’s desired action.
Cumulative Layout Shift measures visual stability and how page elements move as the page renders. Google states that objects shouldnt move around as a page loads, and this may be something you may have experienced if you’ve ever tried to click a button, but you end up clicking something else because the page changed right as you clicked.
Below is a table from Google’s update showing how each metric is scored:
Google has shaped the internet and how we search online, and as more people start their buying process online, sites that offer the best user experience will continually be rewarded. To help you get started in measuring your core web vitals, here’s a tutorial from Screaming Frog.
2. Optimizing Existing Content
Building and optimizing your website and premium content pieces is an iterative process. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for marketers to start something like a blog article or new landing page from scratch, instead of optimizing what may already exist.
Below is a screenshot from a blog that SmartBug® republished for a client in August of 2020. This particular blog talks about trading gold and offers tips for new traders. When we saw that we were ranking low on page two for this topic, we decided to add more tips, more imagery and charting examples, and a link to a related webinar on the topic.
After republishing in August, we were able to reach the first page of Google. You can see below how this has resulted in a spike of traffic. This blog is now one of our top-performing posts each month.
So before you create a new piece of marketing collateral, ask yourself what content you have that already tackles that topic:
- Do you have a blog post that ranks on Google page 2-3, and with a little optimization work it could reach the first page?
- Do you have a highly trafficked website page, but it is struggling to convert users?
- Do you have nurturing emails that are being received, but no action is being taken?
By digging into and optimizing current marketing materials instead of creating new collateral, you will:
- Save time by not having to recreate the wheel
- See what has worked over time, so you can lean into strategies or tactics that you’ve seen good results from
- Save time by not having to update more collateral in more places
- Learn what’s missing from the current collateral, so you can generate ideas on how to make it better
SEO tools like Ahrefs, Frase, and SEMrush can help you understand where your content is ranking, how much traffic is being brought in, and what other questions, phrases, and search queries you can include that will help your page or blog rank even higher.
As Google continues to reward sites that best answer a user’s search intent, you need to continually audit and evaluate your site pages and blogs to understand if you are thoroughly answering the question that brought someone to your site. Cover topics that people are searching for in your industry, and then create content that is better thought out and more thorough than your competitors.
3. PR Outreach to Leverage Domain Authority from Credible Sources
Backlinks from credible websites will continue to be an important ranking factor, especially from highly trafficked, high-quality websites and sources. Recently, Google’s search quality advocate said that a single backlink from a top news site can often be more valuable than having millions of links from lower quality sites.
To continually drive traffic and build up your website's domain authority, marketers should follow SEO best practices in combination with outreach and news releases, to earn links and placements in highly trafficked new sites and industry publications.
4. Earning Featured Snippets
More than 50 percent of Google searches are “zero-click” searches, which means that users are finding answers to search queries without ever having to click on a link.
Because of this, it's important for marketers to look into the keywords and phrases that are driving traffic to your site, and optimizing those pages or blogs to give quick, helpful answers that Google’s bots can crawl and display in a featured snippet.
Earning a featured snippet on a competitive search query will oftentimes ensure that the user never even looks at your competitor, because you’ve provided the answer. So the more you can optimize your pages and blogs to show Google that your article is the one that best answers a search query, the more you should benefit from a traffic and impression perspective.
Unfortunately, there is no clear science or strategy to guarantee you’ll earn a featured snippet, but certain formatting tactics and writing tips, like using lists or bullets, are common in articles that get featured.
5. Pay Attention to Intent and Experience
Two key areas that marketers should focus on in the year ahead revolve around intent and experience. Search engines are ever evolving, but the trend that we’ve continued to see over the years is that algorithms are being updated to reward businesses that offer the best user experience in their industry or niche.
So make sure your site is fast and optimized for mobile, and then focus all of your content around the intent of the user. What are users looking for on your website or blog, and how quickly will they find the answer?
The better you can provide this in your content and site pages, the better you’ll rank in search engine results pages, and the more leads you’ll convert over time.