Ensuring your business can be found online by potential customers is vital these days and search engines are the number one place people research your products and services. Google reports that over 40,000 searches are performed every second – this equates to 3.5 billion searches per day.
Put simply, SEO (search engine optimisation) should be an intrinsic part of any marketing strategy, if you don’t have a presence on search engines it’s very likely your competitors do.
SEO in 2021 is different
With the seemingly constant changes to search engine algorithms and continued advancements in the way people digest digital media, it’s easy to think that investing time and resources into SEO is useless. However, push the doubts aside because SEO continues to grow in importance and is allowing many businesses of all sizes to thrive.
It’s true that SEO has changed and many techniques that were once prevalent are now outdated but SEO is far from dead. It’s essential to have strong search engine visibility for relevant keywords (search terms) if you want your target customers to find your website.
So what’s changed?
In years gone by, achieving high ranking positions was relatively straightforward for any company who was willing to put the time in. Search engines like Google are now far more intelligent and quickly pick on websites using outdated techniques in an attempt to manipulate ranking positions.
Below are a series of well used techniques of the past that are now only likely to only hurt your SEO performance:
Outdated tactic 1 – Exact match domains
An exact match domain is one that is centred around a well used keyword, and the days of thinking that exact match domains (e.g. seocompanyincumbria.com) instantly give an SEO advantage are gone. It’s true it could boost click through rates from search results once rankings have been achieved, but it won’t give you rankings alone.
In the past exact match domains were set up to manipulate ranking positions but now all domains have an equal chance to compete. Creating a strong and recognisable brand is far more influential than simply selecting an exact match domain.
Outdated tactic 2 – Thinking any backlink is beneficial
Getting backlinks (a link to your website) is still a vitally important ranking factor but in years gone by any link was beneficial. It used to be easy for any webmaster to create links in high volume and achieve high ranking positions. This could be achieved through link exchanges, link networks (working with other webmasters who run potentially hundreds of websites) and adding your websites to every online directory that existed.
Google now heavily monitors backlinks and it’s no longer the case that creating as many links as possible is a positive strategy. There are still ways you can manually introduce links, however the most beneficial ones should be earnt and be on authoritative websites – more on that below.
Outdated tactic 3 – Prioritising quantity of content over quality
You absolutely should be regularly posting fresh content to your website. This spreads your reach and target keyword basket but low quality content will never get noticed by search engines. Search engines are looking for useful, interesting and unique content that demonstrates your knowledge.
Your website content should be helpful to users and fully address a subject. “Thin” content will rank poorly and really not be worthwhile.
Outdated tactic 4 – Keyword stuffing
In the early days of SEO you could identify a keyword and then add it to your content at every opportunity – this was later labelled as keyword stuffing. In addition, even if you’re not obviously keyword stuffing, it is still easy to overuse keywords.
All your content should be natural and readable by both search engine bots and humans. Well written content will naturally include your keywords and then work can be done to introduce keyword variations to create a highly optimised web page.
So what does SEO look like in 2021?
The above SEO practices should have been shelved a long time ago as Google has long since picked up on them. Continuous honing of ranking factors and algorithms will now likely result in old tactics causing far more harm than good and can cause any rankings and therefore visitor numbers to drop.#
A proper SEO strategy shouldn’t be just looked at as a way of increasing visitor numbers to your website (although that’s obviously the first key benefit), it can revolutionise your business through evolving working practices and ultimately revenue.
So with the above techniques out the window what does an SEO strategy in 2021 look like?
Let’s cover the basics:
Detailed keyword research and optimised pages
Keywords are the search phrases your target customers are using to research the products or services you provide. There are many tools out there that provide statistics on the most used keywords for any subject. To build ranking positions it’s vital your website content is built around the most relevant keywords to you, and that they are used in the right places around your website.
As touched on earlier, using your keywords too often will likely negatively impact your SEO. These days your keywords need to slot naturally within your content, as well as close variations. Google is getting smarter every day so ensuring your pages take full advantage of all keyword opportunities is not easy.
Write quality content for humans to read
With search engine algorithms continually getting smarter, there are very little in the way of loopholes you can use to outwit them, so our advice is to not bother. Write your website content to be read by humans, not search engines. Your focus should be to provide your audience with useful content that ensures they find what they’re looking for. That only comes from writing natural and engaging content.
Create a positive user experience
It doesn’t matter how great you think your website looks if your visitors find it hard or frustrating to use. Things like slow loading pages, dead links (those pointing at deleted pages) or confusing page structures will impact how long someone spends on your website.
Not only do these things impact on user experience they also impact on how search engine bots navigate through your website. In 2021 your website load speed should be highly optimised, your navigation easy to understand and your website should work and look great on any device.
Earn backlinks through interesting and useful content
As mentioned earlier, introducing backlinks to your website is still a key ranking factor but they need to be the right links.
A link to your website is seen a vote of confidence by search engines. However, it’s vital they are from relevant pages and are earnt. Plus, don’t be afraid to link to an external website yourself. For example, if you use statistics someone else has sourced to enhance your own website content then you should link to them, in the same way you’d expect sites to link to you.
Prepare for voice search
Thanks to intuitive voice controlled systems such as Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant, people performing voice internet searches is rapidly increasing. These type of search tend to be different from usual keywords as they put more emphasis on conversation and questions.
Someone using voice search is not just going to ask their device to do a search including just 1 or 2 words. They are going to ask questions or use more long tail searches (usually 3 or more words). Including detailed information that users need is vital to hone in on this area.
Re-visit old content and find ways to improve it
There should never be an end point to your SEO strategy, thanks to the algorithm updates and your competitors they’ll always be work to be done. Long standing websites will likely have have historical content that can be improved through updated keyword targeting or re-writes for better user experiences. This also stands for any content that has been published more recently.
Your SEO in 2021
So if you ever hear someone mention that SEO is a dead or dying marketing tactic you can tell them with confidence that it’s not. It’s just ever changing and important that websites evolve to meet the expectations of users as well as search engines.