Search engine optimization (SEO) is essential for creating online relevance and being digitally relevant in search engines. The coronavirus pandemic magnified how significant digital presence is these days. People are relying heavily on online information versus real-time in-person interactions. They want the latest information on hours of operation and how businesses are working to keep customers safe. So, folks are using search engines, maps and social media to learn as much as they can online. Now is the best time to revamp a website’s SEO and make sure the online content is up to date and optimized. There is no better time than now because Google, the world’s largest search engine, has several improvements for 2021. Here are a few ways to prepare for these changes and maintain online relevance.
Core Web Vitals Are the New Ranking Factor
New page experience signals measure how users perceive their interaction with a web page beyond its pure information value. Google is already using this as a factor in the Google Search ranking. The Core Web Vitals measure how users experience speed, responsiveness and visual stability. Google will factor in data like mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS and no intrusive interstitials (pop-ups) when presenting search results.
According to Google, a page should open within three seconds. Even a one-second delay could deter impatient users. Compressing large files, minimizing HTTP requests and reducing the number of plugins are few easy ways to help the page load faster. Google shifted to mobile-first indexing in 2020, which predominantly uses the mobile version of indexing and ranking content. Hence, the focus on mobile-friendless only enforces the push for great mobile sites. When building a website, designing the mobile site first and then adapting to a desktop is one strategy to ensure the site is optimized for mobile searches.
Google’s goal is to help users find relevant and quality sites online. There are various online tools, like Google Page Speed Insights, to test the website’s performance. Businesses should consider meeting with a website developer or marketing team to ensure the site is updated appropriately.
Ranking Passages Could Give a Boost
Google improvements include ranking passages or words on websites that provide the best answers to questions typed into search. While this may not be a huge change, it does present an opportunity to consider what a website’s content provides users. Using this phrasing and optimized SEO correctly will certainly help sites rank higher organically. Another strategy that will generate traffic to a website is to note popular industry or product questions and add those answers to website content. FAQ pages are a simple way to tackle questions and give longer-format answers, and Google will reward the website with a higher ranking for the effort.
Voice Search Is Here to Stay
In addition to the upcoming changes by Google, another factor to consider when updating SEO is voice search. According to Juniper Research, voice assistant devices will grow by 113% by 2024, and 55% of users use voice search to ask questions on a smartphone, according to Perficient. When searching for a business, voice assistants pull information from Google My Business, Yelp or Bing profiles to help find locations near the user. That means now is the time to have a strong presence on each platform and have accurate information. When updating a business profile, it’s important to take the time to include every detail possible. It’s not the time to do the bare minimum. That means including up-to-date information, a local phone number, adding business attributes, uploading photos and video, and more.
When it comes to SEO, change is constant, so individuals and marketing teams must stay up to date on the latest changes and trends. As far as marketing goes, SEO is an essential pillar of a comprehensive strategy. Since 2021 will be a breakout year for many, it is important to give some attention to the website’s SEO and digital footprint.
Mark Stewart, a former Fortune 50 leader, is founder of marketing and business accelerator Concept2Completion. Stewart is Vice-Mayor of the Chandler, Arizona City Council, and represents the Job Creators Network as the Arizona State Ambassador. He serves on the board of directors for the East Valley Partnership, National League of Cities Economic Development Committee and several other Arizona business boards.