The Definitive Guide to SEO in the Year 2021
If you’re optimizing your site for rankings in 2021, Check out this definitive guide to SEO and focus on your core web vitals.
Most algorithm updates in 2020 had a mild impact on the majority of websites. If things are working well for you, then there probably isn’t a real need to alter you SEO strategy. That being said, there has been shifts in ranking factors, so if you were impacted negatively or you’re just starting out these are the factors you need to keep in your mind for the SEO strategy of the year 2021.
Your Guide to SEO in 2021
Table of Contents:
- Resolve technical issues
- Optimize your website for the “core web vitals”
- Schema markup should be implemented
- Create quality content
- Use EAT signals
- Link building with quality
- Increase your local SEO efforts
- Seek out SERP features
1. Resolve technical issues
SEO is probably most successful when the technical audit is conducted. No matter how much content and links you have, none of that matters if Google can’t access your pages. The first step is to run a website audit and check if there are any technical issues that need fixing. Here are some best practices to follow when it comes to technical SEO:
Make your pages search engine friendly
A valid sitemap must be present on your website. Resources should be accessible to search engines and should not be restricted from indexing (4xx/5xx codes).
If you are not a technical person and don’t know how to implement this thing you can hire an Affordable SEO Services Agency to do all the stuff for you.
Redirects should be set up correctly
Check for redirect loops and overly long redirect chains, resolve conflicting versions of your website (www/non-www, HTTP/HTTPS), and use 301 redirections or rel=canonical to deal with duplicate pages.
Make sure the protocol you’re using is secure
Install an SSL certificate on your website to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. Once done, make sure your website’s resources (e.g. images) are loaded from secure websites.
Develop a shallow website structure
This type of structure for a website ensures that users and search engines are able to navigate your website easily.
Make sure your URLs are short and readable
You need URLs that are short, clean (lower case, no special symbols), logically structured, and readable to humans. They indicate the type of content on your page and where it fits into the website structure.
You need a mobile-friendly website
You should check if your website is optimized for mobile view before Google begins enforcing mobile-first indexing.
Make sure your links are up to date
Make sure that none of your internal or external links lead to 4xx pages and either fix or remove them.
Use SEO PowerSuite
This WebSite Auditor is designed specifically for technical audits. It crawls your website, finds issues, and reports them with their exact locations and recommendations on how to fix them.
This is basically a checklist you can accomplish yourself or pass along to your development team. Once the technical issues are taken care of, you can move onto other parts of search optimization.
2. Optimize your website for the “core web vitals”
Core Web Vitals are three metrics that Google has recently introduced as ranking factors for improving user experience online. Page speed as perceived by the user is measured by all three metrics. Pages that perform well on these metrics will be granted the same ranking advantages as AMP pages.
Google will calculate your optimization score and provide specific suggestions on specific things to improve on your site, whether you use PageSpeed Insights to check a specific page or the Search Console to check your entire site.
These are the best practices for a good Core Web Vitals score:
LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) should not exceed 2.5 seconds
Make FID (First input Delay) under 100ms
Maintain CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) under 10%
No more than 10% of the screen should shift during loading. All you have to do to optimize for CLS is include size attributes for your images and videos and make sure your content loads sequentially, top to bottom of the page.
3. Schema markup should be implemented
The Schema markup language allows you to add thousands of different tags to your content to use in search engines such as phone numbers, working hours, author’s names, cooking times, prices, recipes, etc.
Once the tags are added, Google will be able to better understand your content and show it to searchers. Examples of this would probably be a product or recipe pages. When properly structured (cooking time, ingredients, reviews, etc. ), Google will create gorgeous rich snippets.
Additionally to enhancing search snippets, Schema markup is also used for local SEO and for building stronger entity associations. Frankly, there is hardly any type of website that is exempt from structured data. Here is how to add it to your site.
Use a markup helper
You have three options when it comes to implementing Schema markup: go to the Schema website and learn how to apply the markup manually, use a plugin on your CMS platform, or use a markup helper from Google.
Add Tags to your content
You just need to choose what type of content you are working with, add the URL, and start tagging. Just highlight pieces of content and choose what they are.
Put markup on your website
Once you are done tagging, click CREATE HTML and the tool will provide you with a piece of code to be included in the head section of your webpage.
4. Create quality content
Content optimization refers to creating content for websites with the proper structure, length, and keyword saturation. Here are some best practices to follow when making content SEO-friendly:
Utilize keywords naturally
No need to stuff your copy with exact match keywords today. You’re free to use keywords, keyword variations, and associated words in a natural manner. That being said, do not miss the chance to use a keyword instead of a pronoun.
Compare content length with competitors
A page’s content length is not a standard, but it is a good indication if your content is in scope. For example, if top-ranking pages are all 5K words long and your page is just 2K words; you might have missed some vital points.
Content structures can be created by using HTML tags.
The use of headings particularly can help split up your content into sections and make it more readable for your visitors as well as for search engines.
5. Use EAT signals
We are not certain Google can assess all of the signals associated with Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (EAT), but some of the easier ones may be taken into account. Here are some things you can do to appear trustworthy:
Make content ownership and creation transparent.
All of these things should be true and easily accessible, including the date of publication, author of the content, and website owner.
Make sure all of your policies are disclosed
You should have all your policies easily accessible on your website, preferably with links in the footer.
Providing a secure connection
Make sure your website is loaded using HTTPS and not HTTP.
Observe the scientific consensus.
Google does not perform automated fact-checking, but since the COVID-19 crisis and the recent US elections, we have seen mounting pressure on tech companies to censor misinformation. Right now it is carried out manually, but there is no doubt that the days of misinformation are numbered — it’s best not to invest in the content of this nature.
6. Link building with quality
Backlinks continue to be some of the strongest ranking signals. But what has changed recently is that Google now takes into account the quality of your backlinks, whereas previously it only considered your overall number of backlinks. Here are some best practices for creating high-quality backlinks:
Use high quality, relevant websites
Backlinks are more valuable if they come from websites that share a theme. Such websites should be of good quality themselves, i.e. follow Google’s guidelines, provide plenty of content, and show user engagement.
You need to diversify your link sources.
Links from ten different websites are considered more valuable than links from the same website. Yes, having reputable link partners is great, but make an effort to expand your backlink network.
As a rule of thumb, links placed in the main content are more valuable than links placed in the footer or sidebars. Links that pass actual traffic are the most valuable.
Ensure the links have a “do-follow” attribute.
In the current digital era, most websites, especially web 2.0 websites, add the no-follow attribute to outgoing links. These links do not pass any link juice. When building backlinks, make sure that they are do-follow. Otherwise, they are not worth the effort from an SEO perspective.
Editorial backlinks should be prioritized
Editorially placed backlinks are the only kind of backlinks that aren’t punished by Google. Therefore, your first priority should be to go after website owners in your industry and arrange an organic-looking link placement.
7. Increase your local SEO efforts
The process of showing Google you are tied to a specific area or have a physical location has been quite straightforward since the introduction of Google My Business (GMB):
Getting listed on Google Maps is as easy as creating an account and then adding your business details. Your company name, location, business category, email, etc. will be added to the map as soon as you get verified.
Optimize your Google My Business listing
There are now several options available to users directly from Google My Business listings, including booking tables and placing phone calls, viewing menus, and asking a question. Users can use GMB listings in place of other sites. In your business dashboard, you should activate all of these features so that you can make the best use of the GMB.
Your website should have a schema for local businesses.
You can improve local search performance by adding local business markup to your website, in addition to GMB listing. This way Google is guaranteed to recognize your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information and use it for relevant local search results.
Look at other local directories
In spite of their popularity, business directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor have seen a decline in recent years. Instead of creating so many listings across thousands of directories, choose just a few that are useful to your target audience — that’ll be plenty.
8. Seek out SERP features
Google’s SERPs have grown so massively in recent years that sometimes no organic search result is seen:
All sorts of featured snippets, knowledge panels, recommendation systems, and rich snippets are much more prominent than your regular search snippets. Getting featured instead of being ranked is more important nowadays for many types of queries. Fortunately, there is still a way to get featured: Here are the steps:
Featured snippets can be found using text formatting
Paragraphs, lists, and tables all belong to the same long tail of text formatting. Use proper HTML tags to set up your templates. Include query-like headings and don’t forget keywords. Use parallel syntax for all of your lists. Keep each paragraph under 50 words.
Make rich snippets by using Schema.
Schema markup, which lets you turn ordinary snippets into richer ones, is best targeted at articles, recipes, products, or reviews that require structured data.
Optimize your image search by using alt tags
Your image must be properly described for Google to understand that the image is relevant to a particular search. And the best way to describe an image is by writing a simple yet keyword-rich alt text.
Make video searchable by using markup
Video timestamps and closed captions help Google analyze a video’s content, and with this information, Google understands what the video is about. If you provide this information, Google is more likely to consider your video for search results.
SEO goes beyond the advice laid out in this article, and there is always a lot of small print, but this is a great outline guide to SEO for you in 2021. If you can implement these eight points, you will be in a very strong position to move towards page one.
Sajid Hussain is a senior content specialist at TechNerds with proven digital marketing experience under his belt. He harbors a passion for writing on a diverse range of topics related to futuristic technologies, innovation, and digital marketing to educate and inspire his readers.