About a month ago, I reached out to some highly successful SEOs to find out what SEO trends to keep an eye on in 2021. I was specifically interested in publishing trends that you the reader could turn into actionable insights.
Wondering if anyone would reply, I waited…
After a few days, I was literally swamped with great content. So much so that I had to break it up into different parts. This is part two.
If you missed part 1, you can see it here:
In part two you’ll learn:
- Google’s long term content goals and how that could affect your content strategy today
- How Google uses machine learning to understand your content and how you can easily use this to your advantage
- How to easily use online reviews to scale your local business rankings
- How to broaden your SEO strategy to include other tools and platforms
Let’s dive in…
Mordy is the official liaison to the SEO community for Wix. Despite his numerous and far-reaching duties, Mordy still considers himself an SEO educator first and foremost. That’s why you’ll find him regularly releasing all sorts of original SEO research and analysis!
It seems that there’s a push at Google to create search marketing equity. That is, Google doesn’t want to show your over-optimized content when, in truth, there is better content out there that an SEO has never gotten their hands on.
The clearest example of this would be Passage ranking. Here, the entire idea is that a page that might not be overly optimized can be assimilated by the search engine and shown to users when appropriate.
However, this trend goes well beyond Passages per se. If you look at Google holistically, there’s a lot to the company beyond traditional search itself. One such property is Google My Business. This is a property that has not only seen Google invest more into it, but is also targeted towards those who are not SEO professionals.
The entire idea of the product is to help local sites thrive and is meant to be seen as a way to provide your business with value. What sort of value does the average business owner get here if the only way to succeed is to spend a fortune on a search marketing professional?
Taken to its logical conclusion, the search marketing equity Google seems to be advocating for is set to fundamentally change the SEO industry as we know it. (Not that SEO won’t be important, it will be, more than ever, but it will be vastly different). This won’t happen during 2021 (or even 2022), but it’s still worth taking notice of and moving towards.
Meaning, for a large demographic of sites, technical issues are not where Google thinks the focus ought to be. Google doesn’t want nor thinks there needs to be a focus on the technical aspects of SEO when business owners have options at their disposal to help them do otherwise. What does seem to be lacking is overall direction and content (which to me are one and the same). For SEOs that means that having an outlook on SEO is more important than it ever has been. Being able to think strategically about SEO is no longer just for the upper-echelons of SEOs or those managing SEO teams agency-side, etc.
Your greatest commodity is going to be the ability to provide “SEO direction” by helping the sites and businesses that you work with develop the right SEO/content strategy.
If Google is reaching for search marketing equity by removing the barriers of optimization as we now know them, then understanding the nature of content vis-a-vis search engines takes on new importance. Being able to craft a strategy for a site out of this understanding is crucial in such an environment.
In other words, Google doesn’t want to have to rely on secondary signals (think links) nor does it want to have to put much weight on top-level identifiers (think title tags). What it really wants is to be able to better understand the content on the page because it, not a link nor a title tag, is the commodity that searchers are after. The ability to do so brings with it more ‘search equity’ for sites that have not focused on the traditional aspects of optimization but do offer a staunchly relevant content offering.
Being able to provide guidance to sites that have the potential to offer substantial and relevant content to their target audience will be and is quickly becoming a highly in-demand skillset.
If you want to see this in action in 2021, just take a look at BERT.
Rebecca Todd – Don’t Forget About BERT
Rebecca Todd is an SEO consultant, coach, & public speaker based in the UK. Her main interest lies in psychology and semantics, which are the basis of her talks and podcasts.
She is the owner and founder of Honeypot Marketing, working with brands all over the world, including Ryman, Wix, SEMRush, Nanny Mcphee, and more.
A few years ago, the SEO industry was abuzz with chatter about natural language processing algorithms, BERT. Since then it’s gone a little quieter.
If you keep on top of industry developments and Google announcements, like we do at Honeypot Marketing UK, you will know that most SEOs are focusing their 2021 efforts on web vitals. Google announced its core web vitals update coming in late July but we still believe that we should be talking about BERT in 2021. Let’s take a look at why, what it actually is, and four things you should be doing this year for BERT.
What Is BERT?
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It sounds super complicated. But actually, it’s just about understanding human language.
A machine can understand what we say, but as you would expect, it struggles to understand what we mean. BERT is a clever bit of machine learning designed to do just that. It can help to understand things like: named entity recognition, sentiment analysis, and question and answering.
As of October 2019, BERT is used in Google’s search algorithm. It was actually produced by Google in 2018 and quickly open-sourced, which means that it is accessible to everyone in the research field. It has arguably changed the future of machine learning when it comes to natural language processing (NLP), but its widest use is still in the Google algorithm for search.
How Does BERT Affect Search?
BERT is all about machines being able to understand the meaning behind the human language. So BERT helps Google to understand the words we use when we ‘Google’ something. In other words, it helps Google to understand search intent.
Search intent is all about what it is that we’re searching for and what outcome we expect from our search. With BERT, Google’s algorithms are more fine-tuned to understand intent than they have ever been. So Google is providing more relevant and useful results for searchers than ever before.
What Does BERT Mean For SEO In 2021?
With the core web vitals update coming in 2021, most SEOs are focusing on their page performance. But you shouldn’t be neglecting your content in favor of web vitals. Because, no matter how quick your page loads or how great it is on mobile, BERT will not rank your content if it doesn’t provide the answer the searcher wants.
BERT isn’t an algorithm penalty – it doesn’t judge sites but it will always choose to rank a page based on search intent over quality. So that means in some instances a website will rank below another smaller site despite the detail or quality of their content.
That means that publishing content based on search intent this year is still as important as ever. So what can we do as SEOs in 2021 for BERT?
How To Optimize For Google’s BERT
Technically, you can’t directly optimize for BERT. Many experts will tell you that unlike other algorithm updates in the past, there is nothing you can do specifically for BERT. After all, it changed the way Google understands search queries, rather than the way it ranks query results.
However, I believe that there are things that you can and should be doing (if not already) to help optimise your site for BERT in 2021.
1. Understand Search Intent
You can optimise your site based on an understanding of search intent. Which, in effect, is sort of optimising for BERT too. To do this you need to understand the search intent behind individual keywords. This will help you to optimise existing content and inform content creation.
My trick for discovering search intent is to GOOGLE IT. Yes, just Google your keyword. By doing this you can look at the types of results Google is ranking. Are there blogs? Are there products? Are there tutorials? Are there local results? Whatever you see ranking is the type of content you should create for that keyword.
2. Write Answers To Questions
It sounds obvious, but if there is an implied question in the search query, you should provide an answer. For example, “Roast Beef Temperature Guide UK” search query isn’t a question, but there is an implied set of questions: “what temperature should rare/medium/well done roast beef be?”
My tip here is to use simple sentences and answer the question within the first sentence. If you’re struggling, imagine the answer Alexa would give you if you asked her the question. It would be short and concise.
3. Make It Easy For BERT
BERT is clever, but it’s not infallible. So you still need to make it easy for BERT to understand your content. Its meaning needs to be obvious and the specific answer to the searcher’s query should be apparent.
My tip here is to think about asking someone for directions. If you’re on holiday and get a little lost, you don’t want to ask someone who is going to speak so quickly you can’t understand them, or tell you a story about the place you’re headed. Instead, you want turn-by-turn instructions so you can get there quickly and easily. Writing content is the same for both BERT and users. They want their answer to be given to them without having to work for it.
4. Use Nouns
By using nouns it is obvious to BERT what or who exactly you are talking about. So if you are writing a product blog, use the product name more than once. Especially if there is more than one product featured in your blog. You should still use pronouns, like “it” or “they” so you don’t impact readability. But make it clear what you are talking about by using nouns more often than you would normally.
My tip here is to think about buses. In the classic sentence ‘the folder was on the bus, but now it’s gone,’ what has gone? The buses or the folders? A human may be able to decode this based on context, but BERT would struggle.
No matter what changes are happening in 2021, BERT is something you should still pay attention to. It will become more refined and be better able to understand search intent as time goes by.
BERT isn’t perfect yet. It still struggles to understand negation, e.g. what things are not. Having said that, BERT has still had a big impact on Google’s algorithms and has therefore had an effect on search results. So make sure you are still optimizing your content for BERT and for search intent this year.
Garrett Sussman is the Head of Marketing at Grade.us, an online review management platform. He’s also the host of the Agency Ahead podcast by Traject. When he’s not creating content, he’s scouting the perfect iced coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.
Local SEO requires a completely different approach than traditional SEO. Darren Shaw of Whitespark recently completed his 2020 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey and online reviews continue to dominate as a ranking factor in the opinion of the experts.
Online reviews are a tricky entity for SEO practitioners because they require coordination across business departments and depend more on business quality, customer support, and business attributes than purely optimizing a Google My Business profile.
Your Google reviews will continue to increase in SEO value. Not only do they offer fresh content that indicates to Google that your business is popular and active, but they will also typically include keywords used by your customers that can show up in justifications in the local pack or Google Maps.
These little review snippets can increase relevancy for search queries beyond your primary business categories.
Liraz Postan is an International SEO and Content Expert for more than 13 years. Liraz led SEO and content strategies from B2C to B2B, from gaming to business niches. … Liraz is an International SEO speaker at global conferences: from SMX, SEMrush offline and online events to BrightonSEO and more.
There’s a new wind blowing in SEO, as more and more business owners are abandoning their one-dimensional use of this tool.
I believe people have started realizing that to maximize the efficiency, quality of service, and the overall process of digital marketing based on smart SEO, we have to think about collaborative techniques and tools that help optimize a business.
Given recent business requirements, for an SEO strategy to fully take effect for a business, a combination of smart marketing tools needs to be implemented to approach the issue from multiple angles at once. It is only through carrying out a combination of efficient digital marketing tools that SEO strategies can work and deliver the desired results. Some of the most fruitful digital marketing strategies include:
SEO + Product Marketers – through setting up regular meetings, and addressing issues as they come, product marketers help establish proper marketing goals and determine the KPIs used to measure your success. Product marketers are essential to SEO-run business as statistics show that 69% of B2B buyers enjoy the content that directly speaks to your company.
SEO + Pay Per Click – most times PPC and SEO are done separately but they work amazingly well together. Using both PPC and SEO tools ensures an increase in search engine presence, with PPC helping businesses recover missed search engine clicks. Remarketing campaigns are favorable for reaching out to previous visitors, and encouraging them to revisit your brand, or convert them into leads.
SEO + PR – The PR team ought to be largely supported by the SEO team.
This enables link optimization across all media channels, via releasing company press releases or organically managed stories. While SEO can choose the keyword-friendly links for higher ranking, PR can pull the right URL to link these to. When used together, PR and SEO tools can enhance the media presence and share targeted content efficiently.
Starting 2021, the SEO industry will shift its client focus towards building brand authority, technical management, minimizing the competitors’ gap, and understanding a business’ USPs and downsides to maximize market efficiency.
Understanding Google for Higher Rankings
As we can see from this post, Google is putting much emphasis on understanding content. This means as an SEO, the more analysis you can put into this, the more long-term insights you will glean.
In other words…
Getting this right will not only help you for 2021 but for years to come.
This doesn’t only mean looking at how Google currently understands content. Where is Google headed? Understanding where Google is headed should inform where your SEO strategies should be headed.
This should not only improve your rankings but also help you along when updates happen.
Hope you enjoyed the content. I’ll be publishing part three around this time next month.