Intro: For our 23 SEO Trends in 2021, we’re going to start with User Intent and Increasing Clicks as two major factors this year.
Did you know that you can increase clicks to your website by actually earning them from Google without ranking higher? It’s one of the least well-known facts and one of the best things about SEO. Essentially, you don’t have to rank higher up on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) to get more traffic if you can get more clicks from the rankings that you already have. Here are some specific CTR (Click-Through Rate) strategies for increasing the number of clicks you earn…without increasing rankings.
- Focus on user intent
Let’s start with user intent and search intent, and why they’re so vital in 2021. User intent and their search behaviour is constantly changing…especially after 2020 and the onset of COVID-19, when so much rapidly changed online.
Google, at its very heart, is somewhere millions and millions of users go when they want an answer to their query or to learn more about something. Understanding the reasons why people search and helping them by serving up hyper-relevant content that fully answers their queries is what SEO is about.
Here are some examples of how to structure this:
- content that surpasses the user’s needs and wants, rather than content that focuses purely on your company and your products
- a fast-loading website that renders well and is quick to stabilise
- making it easy for users to find your content and not having to spend money with you i.e. removing forced pop-ups and registrations etc
This really is one of the Top 23 SEO Trends in 2021.
- Customer Data, Retention & Lifetime Value
After the year that was, businesses will have less money to spend and will need to concentrate much more on customer retention and increasing customer lifetime value.
Your content must answer the questions and needs your customers are searching for and you need to show up for those terms. Traditional keyword research has changed massively. Those businesses who understand their customer best and provide them with highly relevant content are going to thrive compared to those who serve up less relevant answers…as Google will always provide alternative entities who understand their needs better.
- Meta descriptions
Here’s one of the best-known and oldest SEO values; optimising the meta descriptions. It really is old-school SEO. However, a recent study showed that 30% of websites don’t even use meta descriptions. You might think that’s incredible in 2021, but another study shows that 70% of the time, Google itself will rewrite the meta description, usually because the site’s not using the keywords that the user is searching for. If you write a well-constructed and catchy meta description, though, it will most likely entice users to click. This means using keyword-rich descriptions that people are realistically searching for, so when Google displays your meta description, it’s actively encouraging those clicks and writing your meta-description marketing content for you. Another of the Top 23 SEO Trends in 2021.
- Numbers in titles
As well as meta descriptions, take a look at your titles. Studies show that when dates are added to titles it increased rankings for a particular brand. Numbers are generally something that should always be tested in title tags…and they usually produce fairly consistent results. Especially adding dates to title tags; this is nearly always a good idea. However, don’t use spammy tactics when doing it. For example, don’t include it if it doesn’t make sense or doesn’t look right. If you can include a number, though, it will most likely increase your click-through rate for any given search query.
- Favicon optimisation
Favicons are surprising in that they weren’t mentioned much in 2020, but are among the SEO Top Tips for this year. Google displays favicons in mobile search results, and they can influence your click-through rate if they’re high contrast and if they stand out. Utilising a good favicon can make a couple of percentage points difference – which may not sound like much – but it does make a difference…if it’s executed well and is on-brand.
- Breadcrumb optimisation
In addition to optimising your favicons, you should take a look at breadcrumb optimisation. Google exhibits breadcrumbs in both desktop and mobile search results. Those displayed can be keyword-rich breadcrumbs, which can influence your click-through rates. Google retrieves the breadcrumbs from a diverse number of sources. It could be from your URL, your schema markup or the actual breadcrumbs on your page.
What is important to do is to make sure Google is displaying the breadcrumbs that you want them to display, using your chosen (and heavily researched) keywords. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure you have breadcrumbs physically on your web page with links and that you’re using schema markup. In principle, it should ideally match your URL structure, but it doesn’t necessarily have to.
- Title boilerplate
Have you considered doing a boilerplate audit for your title tags? What is boilerplate? I hear you ask. Boilerplate simply means standardised, non-unique sections of text within, in this case, the title tag that are used repeatedly. This often includes things like categories, product categories, author tags and taglines etc.
If you test your title tags with and without the generic repetitive content…you may well find that you actually get more clicks and higher rankings when it’s removed. Essentially, you want your titles to be stand-alone and provide really unique value. So, why not experiment with your boilerplate and see if removing it actually increases your rankings.
By removing the boilerplate, however, it won’t always win out. Sometimes you need it in there. But carry out the test to find out – one more of our Top SEO Tips.
- FAQs & How-to schema
The next tip is to do with schema, specifically FAQs and ‘How-to…’ schema. Google was being generous to SEO Pros when they introduced these in SERPs. FAQs schema allows you a great deal of SERPs real estate. Now, you can’t always win this prime real estate, and you can’t always win the How-to schema, but when it does go your way, it can certainly encourage or influence people to click on your result. For best results, you should expand on your FAQs schemas.
Although, it isn’t appropriate for every page, just to be clear. You want to make sure that you actually have those specific FAQs on your pages. This is one way that you can increase clicks without increasing your actual Google ranking.
- Relaunch top content
For this tip, you should consider relaunching your top content.
Content can go stale after a couple of years, so we write and post fresh content. You have a blog, you launch it, and you share it across various social media platforms. The majority of website owners forget about it after that. So, ideally, you should go back and look at your top content over the past three to five years and see what you can relaunch by updating it. Here’s a top tip, though…keep it on the same URL. In some instances, you might see gains of 500% to 1,000% just by relaunching some of your old content with a few updates.
Why not think about doing a relaunch audit in 2021?
- Increase internal linking
When they need to quickly increase rankings for clients, many of the top SEO agencies generally work on only a couple of key levers that they know are going to move the dial in the quickest way. First of all, title tags and meta descriptions; what will get their clients more clicks, plus the second lever being to increase their internal linking.
We all know that you can increase internal links on your client’s site – so there are almost certainly a few opportunities there that you haven’t exploited yet. For the next couple of points and tips, let’s go over a couple of easy ways to do this without the need to create too much work.
- Refresh old content with new internal links
Carrying on from number eight, you should go back and refresh your old content with new links. Numerous people often miss out this step time and time again. When you create a new blog post or publish a new piece of content for a service page, make sure you go back and update your old content with the links to those new pages / posts.
When you’re researching the top keywords that you want to rank for, and going to Google Search Console or checking keyword research tools e.g. SEMrush, Ahrefs to see what other pages on your site rank for that keyword, you should then add links from the new content to those pages. When this is done, it will nearly always lower the bounce rate. So, you’re not only adding relevance by updating your old page with fresh content and new links, you’re adding links to your new content.
- Remove any unnecessary links
It’s really important that you remove any unnecessary links from your content. Ask yourself; do you really need a link to your About page on every single page of your website? Do you need a link to your contact form on every page of your website? In most cases, the answer is no. Sometimes you do need them, but if you remove any unnecessary links, you can pass more ‘link equity’ through the links that actually count…and those type of links are a major Google ranking signal.
- Mobile link parity audit
What is a mobile link parity audit? Good question. It’s ensuring that the links on your mobile site are the same as the links on your desktop site. Why is that important? Ok, over the last few years Google has moved to a ‘mobile first index’, as many of you will know, meaning that what they see on your mobile site is essentially the only version of your website.
Your mobile site is the most important version to Google. With the majority of sites, there’s a desktop site, which then gets shrunk down to their mobile site and there are missing links. Often, they get rid of header navigation, footer links and other links like that. Studies have shown that the average desktop page features around 61 links and the average mobile page has 54 links. What this tells us is that on the web as a whole there are seven fewer links on mobile pages than desktop pages. This equates to a lot of link equity simply being lost.
So, perform a study or audit on your own website. Ensure that your site has mobile link parity between your desktop and your mobile site so you’re not missing out on that critical link equity.
- Take the time to create long-form content
You really should invest in long-form content. Although content length is not a ranking factor on its own, it can ‘out-perform’ some of your competitors on occasion and should be part of your overall content strategy anyway. It is worth saying at this point that short-form content can also rank perfectly well. It essentially comes down to an indirect attribute; long-form content does consistently, over and over again, backed up by numerous studies – long-form content earns more links and shares. The length does indeed vary and is linked heavily to the industry that either you or your client is in.
Long-form content also generally tends to rank higher in Google search results when tested against its short-form variant. Over and above, long-form content essentially helps get you to where you want to be when we’re talking about SEO ranking potential.
- Increase number of headings
When you’re following the long-form content tip, make sure you do this as well; use more headings. What I mean here is your H2 and H3 tags.
Your content should be sectioned off with strong, attention-grabbing, keyword-rich header tags. For what purpose? Research shows that you can rank for a higher number of featured snippets with the more header tags that you have (H2s, H3s etc). however, it’s important to note that you should only ever have one H1 Heading. This is your page’s main heading title. How many does depend on how long your content piece is, too. On average, sites with 12-13 H2s and H3s etc, tend to rank for the most featured snippets compared to those who only have 2-3 header tags.
So, make sure you break up your content with header tags in the appropriate spots. Additionally, it adds contextual relevance as well as making it easier for the user to read. Do this and your content should benefit from some increased ranking potential.
- Leverage topic clusters
Leveraging topic clusters also falls as part of your overarching content strategy. Instead of just publishing one piece of content, ensure you write multiple pieces of content around the same subject area and link those together. If you link them cleverly, you will likely increase engagement, as people are reading the different articles and your chances of being shared etc goes up.
In addition to leveraging topic clusters, it’s best to insert intelligently sourced contextual inner links as well.
- Bring content out of tabs
Bring your content out of tabs. If you have content that is structured as drop-downs or you have to click to reveal the content, numerous studies have shown that content that’s brought out of tabs and brought into the main body – so people don’t have to click to discover it – generally performs much better than content that’s hidden away in tabs.
To clarify, Google doesn’t likely penalise you if your content is in tabs; they’re able to index and rank it perfectly well. However, I believe that users are more often than not more engaged with content when it’s not hidden in tabs…and it’s likely that some of those signals help those pages rank slightly higher.
- Core Web Vitals
2021 is the year to look into Core Web Vitals; it’s been on Google’s radar for some time now and is one of OMG’s Top SEO Tips this year. Core Web Vitals are a set of specific factors that Google considers critical in a webpage’s user experience. Core Web Vitals are formed of three specific page speed and user interaction measurements: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). Essentially, Core Web Vitals are a subset of factors that help to make up some of Google’s ‘page experience’ score. This is Google’s method of analysing your page’s overall UX design.
This will become an actual ranking factor very soon. Generally speaking, what we’re talking about is site loading speed, visual stability and delivering a great page experience to the user. Some of these things are very technical, but Google and others have some tools, to try to help you work out how your website stacks up.
- Limit sitemaps to 10,000
With your sitemaps, you’re allowed to have up to 50,000 URLs per sitemap. It’s a common question for many SEO Pros, though; How many URLs are you meant to have per sitemap? Of using all 50,000 – if you have a large site and you have indexing issues – try to limit your sitemaps more to 10,000 URLs instead.
There is evidence out there that using smaller sitemaps by compressing them into a limited set of URLs can actually improve their crawlability. Breaking it down, it’s as though Google is more likely to prioritise those URLs somehow. Research tends to support this. You’re also going to see much richer data within Google Search Console if you do this. Then you can see what is being indexed and what’s not.
- Leverage dynamic sitemaps
As well as limiting your sitemaps…leverage dynamic sitemaps. What a dynamic sitemap is, is one that changes based on what you would like Google to crawl. That means, if you have a large cluster of URLs that you want Google to crawl, place the highest priority URLs in their own individual sitemap grouping.
It’s a good idea to limit this to a thousand URLs maximum, though. When Google has crawled and indexed those, you should remove them and add in any high priority URLs that you want Google to find. Make sure you keep the sitemap compact, and actively tell Google that those are the URLs that you want them to pay close attention to.
- Passive link acquisition
Within the greater realm of link building, we have passive link acquisition. Passive link building is where you’re creating content that passively earns links, as users discover that content in SERPs.
This avoids having to outreach to people for your link building requirements. It also means that when users find it and when bloggers find it etc, they inherently want to link to it. You can achieve this by creating the type of content that relevant subject matter bloggers and web creators are seeking. In general terms, this covers: data, guides, definitions, how to’s and possible FAQs across various mediums. That kind of content tends to earn a higher number of links as users more frequently search for answers to very specific questions. Passive link building is one of the most sustainable ways to earn links in the long run.
- Link intersecting at page level
Tip number 20 is about link intersection at page level. When the time comes to reach out to others for your link building, you want to target the best outreach to those pages that are most likely going to link to you. For some years, SEO Pros have conducted link building exercises by finding sites that link to your competitors but not to you.
You can narrow this down further by locating web pages that link to at least two other competitors but not to you. This typically means that those pages are resource pages, if they’re linking to multiple competitors but not to your site – and more likely to link to you when asked.
- Be the last click
What does that entail? To be the last click. If your users are happy with what you’ve served them up content-wise, then they’re unlikely to need to go anywhere else for that answer afterwards. Ideally, you want to be that first click that users make, but you also want to be the last click. Meaning they’ve found what they’re looking for. Engagement and user satisfaction are right at the top of the ranking signals. That should always be the main goal when you create any new content.
Essentially, that’s what it’s all about for the final in our 23 SEO Trends in 2021! Users type (or say) a query, and you serve up the best response at the precise moment they’re searching for it. If you can be the final click in their search journey, you’re almost certainly going to augment your rankings, win more targeted traffic and increase your click-through rates while slashing your bounce rates.
See our other SEO blogs here for more trends.