We think it’s fair to say that, looking back, any predictions for 2020 are now pretty absurd.

COVID-19 changed the game dramatically, and it doesn’t really matter which game you were playing.

The entire planet was affected in some way, and even now as we head into 2021 there doesn’t seem to be much progress in many parts of the world.

Strangely, with so many people in lockdown, internet searches have increased dramatically, leading many sites to blossom while others withered.

Looking at these trends and Google’s response to them, we can see what’s likely to be big in the coming 12 months.

These are our SEO predictions for 2021.

COVID-19 and SEO

Internet usage has soared in the past year, with the rate doubling in the UK alone.

But higher usage doesn’t mean more business.

Most of that increase in data was going on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and online gaming.

Entertainment is where it’s at and with economies slowing down, businesses closing their doors and millions of people finding themselves out of work, spending isn’t what it used to be.

For companies who needed to trim their budgets, marketing was often the first to go, and this included their Inbound Marketing strategies.

Paying for clicks, Google Ads, Facebook boosts… for a lot of businesses, these were simply an unaffordable luxury.

But for those businesses who put in the hard work from the beginning and had their SEO in place and relied more on organic results, they weathered the storm better and were not as affected.

Lesson learned.

Kids with rocket pack

Keywords won’t cut it anymore

Let’s get one thing straight first of all, keywords are still important.

In fact, they’re very important, but by themselves won’t do the job.

Google’s algorithms are so smart now that the intent behind search queries is now understood rather than simply which words are being typed in.

For example, if you type “Rolling Stones Age” into Google, what is it you’re searching for?

Are you looking for each band member’s individual age or the age of the band?

Or maybe their combined age?

For those of us older than 20, we remember searching like this in the early days, using keywords and hoping to find the result we wanted, and it’s a habit that many can’t get out of.

Today, you can type specific questions into Google for specific results and that’s thanks to the advancement of the algorithms.

The intent of your query is now just as important as the keywords that make it up, and Google promotes sites that answer the questions best.

The coming year will see an increase in this trend of favouring specificity.

The all-seeing eye of Google

You would be surprised what Google knows about you.

Who you are, what you look like, your political beliefs, how healthy you are, where you live, where you work, who your friends are, what type of food you like, your favourite movie genres, which websites you go to… and more!

Like many other big companies, Google collects massive amounts of personal data to monetize its services, resulting in an astonishingly accurate and robust picture of you and your life.

The company has so much information on you that they can tailor search results to suit you.

How does this work in the real world?

Let’s just say you search for “Restaurants near me”.

From the data Google has collected on you, the results you see will differ from what others might see.

Google knows what type of food you like, if you prefer Chinese to pizza. It also knows how much you usually spend on food, so the results will be on a scale from fast food to fine dining.

For businesses, this means that Google knows which people to send your way, so you must be consistent with your brand across all platforms.

The scattergun approach is no longer working.

Find your target audience, stick to it, and Google will direct them to you if they deem you suitable.

Gold nugget

Google passage ranking

If you find all this hard to believe about the end of the scattergun keywords approach, look no further than Google’s latest revelation, Passage Ranking.

This is an advancement of the “Snippet feature” brought in a few years back, but taken to another level.

Designed to find the “needle in a haystack” of very specific information, the new feature can show a small passage in a larger block of information which directly answers your query.

The difference is, the page it is contained in doesn’t have to be ranking highly in the SERP.

This allows pages that are poorly formatted, lacking in SEO optimisation, or containing multiple subjects to show in search queries, but only if they answer the question.

Now, you may think that’s unfair. You do all the hard work with SEO, put in the time and effort, and then some website from page 23 is the first to come up, but guess what…

That site answered the question.

It may have been one or two sentences in the middle of a page about some other topic, but that’s what the query was about.

It’s your job to answer everything you can about your industry, as clearly and as quickly as possible.

If you do, Google will know, and when someone types a specific query into their search engine, no matter how detailed, random or bizarre, you need to be the authority on that subject.

After all, you’re supposed to be the experts.

SEO is becoming more nebulous

Every year there will be some article decrying that SEO is dead, and every year it’s proven wrong.

But SEO is becoming more complicated, nuanced and demanding.

Google’s algorithms are now focusing on what people want rather than what they’re searching for.

If you’re searching for restaurants it’s because you’re hungry, not because you want a list of the nearest buildings that serve food.

The trends in the coming year will be more about the meaning behind queries rather than the queries themselves.

With that in mind, how does your website shape up?

Do you answer people’s why rather than simply regurgitate information?

If not, you need to change things up, because believe us, Google is catching on and cutting loose the deadwood.

If you would like an upgrade of your SEO to better-handle these future changes or simply a chat to figure out where you stand, then please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

We can help guide you in the right direction and keep you ahead of the curve, or at the very least, take a look at your site and offer suggestions on how to improve.

Assuming there isn’t another pandemic.