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The year 2021 posed many challenges to marketers, most importantly ‘’the new normal’’ caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, SEO professionals have been pleasantly surprised by the lack of major turbulence from Google. There have been a few disappointments, but generally, they have not been issues that have significantly affected a site's search engine position.
Most enterprises have had to adapt to new advertising and SEO trends to remain relevant in the market. The year 2021 will be a challenge for business owners because to stay relevant, you need to keep up with algorithms, invest in new technologies and adapt to SEO updates.
A lot was going on in the SEO industry in 2020. We experienced changes related to algorithm updates and mishaps with Google's indexing, canonical tags, or mobile version, which affected the work of SEOs. There was no week without more problems, which is why people became somewhat wary of the new changes that could be introduced in 2021. The first update of Google was January 2020 Core Update, which caused massive changes in search results. According to some sources, it affected even 70% of all of them, causing high fluctuations. However, the second half of 2020 has shown more stability.
The most significant change was the introduction of Core Web Vitals metrics. These key factors will set user experience as the primary focus for future web designers. From 2020 it will also be security and mobile-friendliness. If you don't want to lose your ranking in 2021 take care of UX and pay close attention to your page's Core Web Vitals.
Another May's 2020 Core Update actualisation affected Health, Travel, Pets & Animals pages' search results.
The following change altered, among other things, ''nofollow'' links, which currently might not be enough to stop Google Robots from crawling through your website. So from now on, to keep the page from indexing, you have to add a noindex value in meta robots or Disallow command in robots.txt.
Google has added a new structured data type for sites that publish updates and information regarding the pandemic. Results from such sites are displayed in a special extra result box.
Google has also introduced Analytics 4. GA4 lets you track the customer journey. Thanks to this, you can see the places where they left a page or know the reasons for that decision, e.g. bad UX.
In the fall of 2020, Google has actualised Search Console adding better indexing Statistics.
Google announced that voice search had become smarter. New language capabilities and the carrying over of context between voice searches meant Google could gradually "learn" more about the searcher's true intent.
Over 60% of Google Searches in 2020 did not result in a click. This means users probably got their answer without entering any website. It means that they possibly got their answer through a ''rich snippet'' feature. It a box with a brief explanation for your query displayed at the top of search results,
The implementation of Passage Ranking made us realise that Google can evaluate properly divided sections from a specific page. Thus, instead of considering the relevance of the whole subpage, the relevance and intent of the sections will be checked.
Online shopping has seen a tremendous rise. It became the easiest and preferred way to shop. Even if the pandemic ends, it's clear to see that businesses that invested in new technologies will continue to see growth as COVID 19 has changed the way people shop and function.
Most of us will continue to work from home; some companies are taking a hybrid approach which means their workers can go to the office for a few days and work from home when possible. This means more traffic, searches and time spent surfing the net.
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It is inevitable, 2021 will bring significant changes to the SEO industry worldwide. The algorithm update announced for May this year and the inclusion of Core Web Vitals in ranking factors will make it necessary to review our work on SEO. This is evidenced by Google's latest announcements, from which we learn that all Core Web Vitals ranking factors will need to be met to benefit from the upcoming algorithm update.
As part of its Page Experience update, Google has come up with a new set of metrics that determine the quality of a website, but from a User Experience perspective. These are the so-called Core Web Vitals, which include page load time, response time to user requests and visual stability.
From May 2021, Core Web Vitals will officially become ranking factors affecting a website's position in organic search results. This is a consequence of announced actions, which are to make Google start putting much more emphasis on users' comfort while using websites. Google wants to prioritise websites offering the best user experience calculated based on factors determining user comfort. Core Web Vitals consists of three primary indicators:
Google's LCP stands for the largest contentful rendered on a page and measures the time it takes to load the largest element to a page user. This could be an image, a block of content or an attached video. A good Google LCP score means that the largest element is rendered in no more than 2.5 seconds.
Google's FID is the time it takes for a page to become interactive. A good website user experience will be ensured when Google's FID value is as low as possible and preferably below 100 milliseconds.
Google's CLS helps determine the visual stability of a page. More precisely, CLS measures cumulative layout shift, i.e. it represents the sum of unexpected changes to a page since its first loading. To optimise Core Web Vitals, you should control that the cumulative shift on the page does not exceed a value of 10%.
The most significant change was the introduction of Core Web Vitals metrics. If you don't want to lose your ranking in 2021 take care of UX and pay close attention to your page's Core Web Vitals.
Data security has become a major concern for consumers, especially as they spend more time (and money) online. Hacks and scams are becoming more frequent and malicious. Cyber threats are not only evolving in sophistication; they are also becoming more destructive. To create a secure website for customers, get an SSL certificate, especially if you have forms or other input fields on your site.
In cases where user-entered content is submitted server-side, and there is no SSL certificate, Google will tag your site as non-secure, meaning users will see the non-secure tag in their URL bar
Suppose you're not already familiar with it. In that case, Google Search Console is a free Google service that helps you monitor your website's position in Google's search results, take care of it and eliminate related problems. In April this year, Google announced they would be adding new features to the search console, including a page experience report, which will provide you with valuable metrics, and information on Core Page Vitals of your page.
As brands compete for consumers' attention and as image and visual content optimisation continues to gain SERP position, new channels are opening up beyond YouTube. If you're looking to stand out in 2021, you should utilise images and videos to inform and educate customers as they spend more time online. According to some sources, 62% of millennials want visual search over any other new technology. (Visenze) About 36% of consumers have performed a visual search(The Intend Lab), and 35% of marketers would like to optimise visual search technology. (Search Engine Journal)
The transition from standard to mobile indexing has been taking place for several years. It was initially presented as a response to the fact that more and more people are using their phones to search for things and browse the internet. The problem is that mobile and desktop versions of websites are not always the same, and Google generally indexes only the PC version.
Mobile-first indexing refers to indexing the mobile version of the website first in Google's databases rather than the desktop version. This would allow an accurate assessment of the amount of content on mobile sites and its relevance before posting the results.
The last and final update was made in March of this year when Google will begin making mobile-first indexing the default option for all websites.
The introduction of the new page experience ranking framework caused non-AMP content eligible to appear in the Top Stories feature for mobile phones. It's one of the main ways websites generate traffic to their content from mobile devices. This could be a meaningful change that would disrupt the rankings of many mobile web sites.
Mobile search is going strong, and there are sources to confirm that, including:
In 2015, Google revealed that more people were using mobile search than desktop search in 10 countries. It has been measured that in 2018, more than half of website traffic in the US was coming from mobile devices.
Much has been written and said about the advantage of mobile traffic over traditional computers. The increase in traffic is followed by an increase in conversions from mobile devices. However, there are still many websites and online shops that are not mobile responsive. 2021 is another opportunity to build a competitive advantage through responsive websites, optimising their loading speed and making them intuitive for users and easy to navigate.
Both mobile and voice users are usually looking for answers while in the middle of doing something else. They need an answer straight away, meaning they don't have time to click through pages to find the information. It makes it evident that we are competing for the top result now. Mobile users rarely have time to scroll, and with voice search, there's only one result being read to the user. This makes featured snippet optimisation incredibly essential for your online visibility — you are either there or nowhere. The winner takes it all.
Google moved away from exact keyword optimisation years ago, but our industry is a bit slow to follow. Nowadays, Google does not use the actual string of words that are typed into the search box. Instead, it examines the query context and analyses the possible intention of the search for results.
Google has been taking multiple steps to become the number one ''answer provider'' in the world.
With a knowledge graph, quick answers, and interactive and visual results, Google builds an ultimate resource to give comprehensive answers to any query. That's why you have to post content in every form possible to have a chance to compete.
Content diversification lies at the foundation of omnichannel marketing. It has multiple benefits (including cross-device compatibility, smoother shopping experience, creation of more marketing channels and more). So you may want to start working on it, whether you are planning to increase your search visibility or not.
This year has been huge for semantic data, with Google updating their initial guidelines and adding support for new types of structured data, including FAQPage, fact-check, and more. Google is interested in extracting more data from websites for giving publishers more exposure in exchange.
The good news is that this gives SEOs a competitive advantage over those website owners who are not adapting to Google's updates.
The share of zero-click searches in organic queries is increasing year on year. Depending on the category of query and the device used, different data is available, but still, most of them report a share above 50%. Zero-click searches refer to search results that do not result in a transition to organic results. In most cases, this refers to new types that appear in SERPs and respond to queries, allowing users to find relevant information at the level of the Google result itself.
Understanding SEO trends and adapting to them is a cornerstone of improving (and most importantly protecting) organic results in the future. Google introduces updates to its algorithm relatively frequently, with Core Updates being implemented periodically for many months. Google's algorithm covers hundreds of different factors - as you can see from the examples above, new criteria are being added all the time. Therefore, to achieve good results in your SEO strategy, it is important to keep up to date with trends that may significantly impact changes in organic results.
We can't predict precisely all specific SEO changes for 2022. However, we can still indicate some essential information and tips to help you with improving your SEO game to prepare for 2022.
Long-form content - this type is seen as a constant traffic generator to your website. You can never go wrong with it; with recent updates, it's valued even more by SE, plus it's a cornerstone for organic traffic on your website.
High-quality content - Focus on original, lengthier, more valuable, diversified content.
High-quality links - Quality over quantity, focus on good partnerships.
Website Performance - Loading speed, RWD, page structure, onsite SEO.
Featured snippets will be bigger and better. 60% of non-click searches in the last year are a clear indication it will be a preferred way of getting an answer in Google.
Voice Search - it will, without a doubt, change the way we're looking up information online. With AI and the development of personal assistants, we can be sure more and more people will perform searches using their voice.
Google will be the most important search engine for questions and answers; however, Amazon will stay the king of product search. It's not very likely to change.
Youtube is currently the second biggest search engine after Google. People want to show how to do certain things. Youtube will continue to grow along Google.
Predictive search will become better, leading users exactly where they want. If you're a niche author, this might help you get more traffic on your websites.
Image and Visual search will become more optimised and popular. Make sure you include pictures and good descriptions of them on your website.
Don't forget about EAT. Classic.
Make sure your page has good Crawlability, as search engines can't rank it if they can't find it.
Mobile search and viewing will continue to grow in favour of desktop search, focus on Mobile-Friendliness and Responsive Web Design. You can learn more about RWD here
Understanding SEO trends and adapting to them is paramount to improving (and most importantly protecting) organic results in 2021. Google introduces updates to its algorithm relatively frequently, with Core Updates being implemented periodically for many months. Google's algorithm covers hundreds of different factors - as you can see from the examples above, new criteria are being added all the time. Therefore, to achieve good results in your SEO strategy, it is important to keep up to date with trends that may significantly impact changes in organic results.
Author: Przemysław M. Pajdak