Fine-tune your content in 2021 with these SEO tips and trends

Polly Bolitho

Senior Content & Outreach Executive

As we take our first steps into 2021, now’s the time to identify the most effective ways to use content to connect your business with its audiences. Not only will this help you get ahead of the competition, but after a curveball year in 2020, it’ll ensure you’re on the right track if your audiences’ behaviours online have changed at all. 

Here’s how to refine your onsite content with the latest SEO trends in mind. 

It’s all about brand authority 

Brand authority matters more than ever in 2021. It’s natural for businesses to feel the need to add value to the company’s name itself above everything else, but according to Search Engine Journal “The more you can centre a single person as the expert and authoritative figure that represents a business, the better.” These days, people are far more likely to respond to personal content that gives first-hand experience and insight. 

So if you have a team of experts, why not let them do the talking? Blog content is a great way to allow other members of the team to get involved and show their expertise. This could be a guide outlining their favourite products in-store, for example, “Tried and tested: Lucy’s favourite wetsuit boots”, along with a biography of the expert in the post. This kind of content will help build trust, a strong following and repeated visits to your website.

Customer reviews 

Including reviews on your website helps to build brand authority because it showcases real-life and honest experiences from your customers. Reviews boost credibility for a brand as a trusted service, and also gives a chance to show good service/communication in reaction to a bad review. Not only this but in terms of SEO, GMB reviews correlate with a higher ranking. Google has shown that it can understand the content and context of reviews which could improve rankings for longer tail searches.

Online reviews and SEO have gone hand in hand for a long time, and an estimated 10% of the criteria for how Google displays search results is made up of them. Though reviews need encouragement, and it's said that 30% of customers are more likely to leave a review if it’s negative, if that happens here’s how to respond. A good way to combat bad reviews is to bury them with more positive ones. That said, a conscious effort needs to be made in order to collect them. According to a BrightLocal study, 70% of consumers will leave a review if asked, but businesses will need to make sure their product offering is good before doing this. More reviews will not only make a business more visible in search results but social proof drives brand authority and more users to content. 

User experience is key 

Google’s UX algorithm update

In May 2020, Google announced the new algorithm update set to happen in 2021, which focuses on measuring how users experience the performance of web pages. The search engine wanted to give webmasters plenty of time to update their websites before it would be made an official ranking factor due to Covid-19. It has since been announced that this update will happen in May 2021 so if you haven't considered what this will mean for your business, it’s certainly something to jump on. We should be looking at how a page makes users feel, rather than just its accessibility to a search engine crawler. This will involve businesses taking a user-centric approach with their optimisation efforts. 

To understand how a user will experience a webpage, Google will evaluate a set of signals. These include the speed at which a page loads, if it’s mobile-friendly, run on HTTPS, and whether content jumps around. These are all important factors in how your content will be perceived by the user. For more on the update and how to prepare for it, Search Engine Land has more

Content’s user experience 

With the new UX algorithm update in mind, businesses must focus on their content. Content has the ability to influence consumers, but that means a good user experience when digesting it. In order to create content with good UX, focus on the following factors: 

  • Readability: Ensure that your content is clear to read with structure, headings, and visuals. 
  • Information architecture: Organise content so that it can be accessed by the user in an ordered way. When content is laid out well it improves user comprehension.
  • Conversion optimisation: A smooth user experience will make a high conversion rate possible. This should include clear wording, a call-to-action and a value proposition. Use keyphrases that will focus on target consumers, and make sure your content is readable around them. Think about every possible query your user might have. 

Mobile-first ideology

What’s evermore prominent this year is the number of consumers using mobile to find information and shop online. Though mobile usage has steadily increased for years, this year it’s gone from a preferred channel to an almost essential one due to users staying at home. According to Statista; mobile usage was up 46% due to COVID-19 amongst internet users in the UK since July 2020. That said, how readers experience content has changed with mobile. Attention spans are shorter and content is more likely to be skimmed or glanced at. Good design helps improve user engagement, and good content answers their questions. Therefore, design and content need to work together to captivate attention and help businesses build trust and loyalty with their audience.  

2021 is a pivotal year to shift the focus even more steeply onto mobile. When it comes to mobile optimisation, Google has stated that it’s a must with its mobile-first indexing update. It’s also a good time to review your web pages, making sure they are intuitive, easy to navigate and that all valuable content and images are visible on a mobile device. 

A future in video and voice 

“54% of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support''


Video on mobile devices has also seen an increase, and it’s estimated that in 2021 the average person will watch 100 minutes of video a day. This comes with last year's TikTok boom, a platform that is said to be the world's fastest-growing social media channel. So with video becoming more popular, businesses who didn’t utilise it before will likely choose to include it in their marketing strategies for 2021. To add video format to your SEO strategy and optimise it for search you’ll need to consider: 

  • The right video platform depending on your objectives
  • Including a video transcript; for wider user accessibility and to be scrapable by search bots
  • An engaging thumbnail image 
  • A valuable title and meta description; make it interesting with keyphrases in mind
  • If the page is relevant to the video and is optimised
  • Embedding the video you want to rank first. Google usually indexes one video per page
  • Making the video a focus on the page to keep play rate and rank high 
  • Avoiding embedding the video in multiple places so as not to compete against yourself 
  • Using ways other than SEO to promote the video, like social media

Voice search is fast becoming a trending topic in the mobile SEO optimisation world with more and more users discovering the power of voice. “32% of people use voice-activated search daily instead of typing” and “58% of consumers find local businesses using voice-activated search”, says Much like the traditional Google search we all know and love, voice search allows users to simply say the question with the correct answer found through a standard search. 

In order to stay ahead of the game with this, it’s important to make sure your website is optimised for voice search. Here’s how:

  • Use long-tail keyphrases; they help voice search AI engines to determine between relevant and non-relevant information
  • Update Google My Business to include an address so that users can be taken to the right place using only voice
  • Include rich media on your website so that crawling robots have as much correct information as possible in order to take the user to the right place make your content SEO friendly to voice search by filling it with answers to questions 

User search intent and keyphrase research 

While it isn't so much a new trend, it’s important to refocus on search intent every year. User behaviours are changing all the time, and 2020 was a year where a lot changed quickly. Keyphrase research is the first step in creating any kind of optimised content if a business is to gain traction in search results. 

"Keyphrase research trends for 2021 should target 80% evergreen, and 20% trending keywords."

Ron Lieback for Search Engine Journal

Long- vs short-term keyword research

When creating content, it’s worthwhile targeting keyphrases of all volumes, including those of 10-20 visitors per month, not just those of high-volume. While it’s great to target keyphrases with a high search volume, targeting them could attract visitors to your website whose goals don’t match the content you’re providing. That said, don’t underestimate the power of long-tail keyphrases with lower search volume, they often convert better because those who are searching are likely further into their decision making. For example, someone searching for ‘trainers’ is likely just browsing, however, if they’re searching ‘best running trainers mens size 10’ they’re more likely to buy what they find because it’s what they want.  

It’s important to consider trending and seasonal keyphrases and how they work with your products. For example, you may have used a seasonal search term to end up here, such as ‘SEO trends 2021’ or ‘SEO trends for the new year’. Also, topically, Covid-related search terms have been incredibly prominent over the last year. Think about what you have to offer that will fit with a timely search topic.

Until now the focus has mostly been on primary keyphrases, the main that closely describes the business, however, secondary keyphrases, those supporting with more information, are proving to be just as important as they’re closely related to search intent. Semantic search and intent optimisation are set to gain eminence, according to Semrush. Google is no longer looking at long strings of words but is analysing query context and aiming to detect user intent.

Take time to understand the content needs of your market and audience. The goal is to answer the reader’s questions. Google has launched the Question Hub tool for this reason, which helps publishers to create richer content by leveraging unanswered questions. Google has enabled searchers to tell it when the search results are not answering the question. Those questions are then given to content creators to answer, meaning more valuable content for users with intent. 

Long-form content success

Last year, marketers noticed blogs over 2,000 words dramatically outperforming blogs of 1,000 words or under. This insight has allowed us to expect this long-form content trend to continue in 2021. One way businesses can aim to outrank their competitors is by publishing this longer-form content, that not only appeals to their audience but to Google’s E-A-T guidelines; expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Longer-form content doesn’t mean longer sentences and paragraphs, as tempting as it can be to do so. When it comes to marketing especially, shorter sentences tend to win. This is because readers are likely to scan and skip anything that looks harder to read, even more so on mobile.

Keeping things visual 

According to Google, people search for over a billion images a day. So how do you push your image ahead of the competition? When it comes to images, “alternative” text is needed for search engines to read to them. Images should have a unique title and alt text that include a target keyphrase. Adding relevant captions to images can also be beneficial, as it can increase the on-page time by giving users something a little more than an image to see. 

Image search has evolved immensely, and eventually, consumers will be able to use images for shopping and acquire information, as part of Google’s long-term plan.

(An image we may all recognise from 2020 Zoom calls)

Stay on top of the basics

With many things changing for content SEO, one thing’s for sure, optimisation should always be kept on top of in order to keep position in rankings. Here are some basic optimisation tips to help keep things running smoothly.

Title tag 

  • Keep it informative; it’s one of the strongest signals to help search engines explain what the page is about.
  • Aim to include the targeted keyphrase in the title tag to satisfy SEO and engage users.
  • Keep it between 50-60 as Google usually clips it at 60.

Meta description

  • Meta descriptions are usually recommended at a length between 150-160 characters, however, an experiment carried out by Search Engine Journal showed that keeping them to 120-130 characters led to higher click-through rates. With more and more people using their mobile phones this year than ever, this trend is estimated rightly so. 
  • A meta description is a good opportunity to advertise, it should effectively entice the user to click, so include a call to action. 
  • Though there isn't a direct ranking value, using keywords within the meta would be beneficial as they’ll show up in bold, providing relevancy to the users, influencing a clickthrough. 

H1 Headings

  • Make it clear and readable; header tags break up text and provide article structure, but mostly, for those that scan when reading, they’re the first things they read. Not to mention that they’re vital to ranking for featured snippets, with Google often using them as bullets for a snippet. 
  • Use your main keyphrase in at least one header tag and high-value keyphrases in others. However, it’s good to weave your chosen keyphrases in as naturally as possible, which should come easily if the content is providing the relevant information on the subject to the reader. 
  • Keep the header tag short, ideally six words or less. 

Internal links 

  • Don’t go overboard but be liberal. Instead, use them where a reader would most likely want to learn more, keeping placement as natural as possible. 
  • Strong anchor text is also key; including text that includes the linked-to page’s target keyphrase. This practice will send a signal to the page’s most valuable information to search engines and users 

This year, like many things, SEO is growing in new ways. The days of only optimising meta titles and keyphrases are behind us, making room for SEO’s current and new trends like video and voice. With metrics, as well as our world changing continuously, as a business, it’s always important to try and stay ahead of the game. 


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