2020 has been…a year.
But despite all the challenges we face as humans this year, 2020 was not all bad.
I learned a lot about our industry, SEO, and I think we should all pay close attention to what happened this year and take advantage of this information to become better and better-prepared search marketers in the future.
So, without more information, here are three things you need to know about SEO in 2021!
Search Intent & Demand Are Fluid
It is important to know that search intent and demand are fluid and much more than you previously thought.
Understanding the intent of the search engine is a critical part of a successful SEO strategy, as you need to have a fundamental understanding of the intent behind a search query in order to build a page that satisfies that intent.
If your page is the one that best matches the intent, Google will rank your page in its results, plain and simple (although it is a bit more complicated to make your page the best match).
But what happens when a global pandemic disrupts the research intent of a query?
Well, you either adapt or you lose rankings.
For example, Lily Ray from Path Interactive shared a study in which she saw consultations like [Alcoholics Anonymous] and [Meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous] returning to sites like AA-Intergroup and In the Rooms, which offer meetings and recovery functions virtual.
This shows how quickly Google can adjust its results to match the intent of quarantined people who needed virtual recovery support, even without including “virtual” or “online” in their search query.
And changes in the researcher’s intention are not the only ways that the researcher’s behavior can change.
There is also the possibility that the volume of research and interest in a particular query will skyrocket or disappear almost overnight.
Once again, we saw this happen in various sectors during the early stages of the pandemic.
Check out this Google Trends chart for [toilet paper]:
Or this trend line for [sourdough bread]:
We can also see how quickly search interest can dip as well by looking at [movie tickets]:
Although the chances of another pandemic like COVID-19 are (hopefully) small, these charts illustrate how important diversification of your keywords can be.
In fact, it’s strong evidence that you should diversify your entire marketing strategy, rather than putting all your eggs in the “Google basket.”
These charts also emphasize the importance of flexibility and the ability to capitalize on the opportunity or pivot when the opportunity is elsewhere.
So how do you protect yourself against a change in search intent or a sharp drop in search volume?
Although it is not possible to control the searcher behavior, you can monitor it and adjust it accordingly.
To identify possible changes in searcher intent, keep an eye on your target SERPs and how they are changing.
If you see more and more pages starting to rank and have a different intent than yours, Google is probably testing placement for a different intent; you may need to change your page or risk losing rankings
To track search interest, you can choose from a variety of tools that measure monthly search volume, such as SEMrush, Moz, or Ahrefs.
Google Trends also gives you an idea of where search interest is headed as well.
Local Businesses & Local SEO Pros Must Be Agile
Speaking of the need to adapt quickly, nowhere is that more true than in local search this year.
One of the sectors most affected during this pandemic was local commerce.
Social blocks and restrictions have forced many of these business owners to be creative and find new ways to stay connected with their customers, such as contactless collection or virtual consultations.
However, for many businesses, simply letting customers know if they are open or not can make a big difference.
To its credit, Google has done a decent job, providing various options on Google My Business for local businesses to communicate with their customers.
I saw an impressive presentation from GMB’s Joy Hawkins earlier this year, outlining all the options available on the Google platform. Some of the recently added GMB features include:
- An LGBTQ-friendly attribute.
- Call buttons in local knowledge panels.
- An online operating hours attribute.
- Online appointments attribute.
If you want to keep up to date on all the new attributes that have been and are being added to the GMB, I highly recommend checking out this resource on the Hawkins website.
The most agile companies and local SEO professionals should be able to take advantage of new local search opportunities, taking full advantage of the tools provided by Google and other search engines, and with new features being added all the time, these agile businesses and SEO pros will continue to thrive beyond the pandemic.
The SEO Community Continues to Become Stronger
Even in the face of such adversity, the SEO community will remain open, supportive, and innovative.
I have always been proud to be a part of this vibrant community of search professionals, but never more than this year.
In the midst of what has been one of the most challenging years in the US and around the world, I’ve consistently seen SEO professionals working hard to help each other.
I saw SEO professionals supporting other professionals who were laid off due to the pandemic, sharing their resumes on Twitter, and helping them find new jobs in the industry.
I have also seen various search professionals and agencies share free information and advice to help businesses during these difficult times.
This has always been a practice within SEO, but I saw its growth especially in 2020.
In fact, I had the privilege of being part of one of these initiatives in my own company.
SEO professionals have even leveraged their non-SEO skills to help raise money for people affected by COVID or to support positive mental health.
I am proud to be a part of such a wonderful community and it will be even stronger in 2021!
2020 has proven that change can happen very quickly, and you must be nimble as an SEO professional to adjust your strategy quickly to accommodate new search behaviors, consumer environments, and potential constraints.
Fortunately, search is a channel in which rotation and change is possible relatively quickly, if you are up to it.
So, in 2021, be sure to periodically review the SERPs to ensure that your future pages or pages remain aligned with the intent and interest of the research.
Also remember that you are not alone and that there is a whole community ready to support you and help you grow.
I know it was a difficult year for many of us, but I know that the future is bright and that better times are ahead.
So thanks for reading, keep your head up, and we’ll continue to drive the research industry forward in 2021 and beyond.