Organic search is the single most effective tactic for getting consumers to click through to content on webpages. In 2020, organic search accounted for 40% of all trackable website traffic, putting it ahead of paid search (28%) and other methods.
Affordable search engine optimisation (SEO) will therefore be a top priority for brands again this year, especially with budgets being pressured by challenging real-world events.
To ensure that you are heading on the right track and have everything in place to benefit from the natural search landscape on Google and Bing, here are six trends and tactics to consider when crafting and updating the content on your webpages.
Optimise for Core Web Vitals
Google has been espousing the virtues of page experience and user-focused signals to SEOs during the last 12 months, and this will culminate with the arrival of a new ranking factor that incorporates Core Web Vitals this spring.
Google will use the Web Vitals centred on the performance metrics related to speed, input time and visual stability, along with factors such as mobile-friendliness, safe browsing and HTTPS to evaluate webpages for search.
How this will have an impact on rankings remains to be seen, but Google has stated that the new page experience factor will be one of “hundreds” of signals that it takes into consideration.
In its own guidance on Google Search Central, it notes: “While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content.”
As always, Google appears to place high-quality, relevant content above all else, but being ready for the user-focused signals will be in your best interests in 2021.
A good place to start is by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see whether your site is delivering an adequate experience on smartphones and tablets.
You can also log into Google Search Console to see your scores for Web Vitals. With this knowledge, you can then work to make changes and improvements where necessary to support better user experiences. The new ranking signal is expected to go live in May.
Mix short form and long form
Longer, editorial-style content is generally deemed to be better for providing the insights that will engage visitors and provide value while attracting backlinks as a trustworthy source over time, but this doesn’t mean that you should neglect short form.
Whether it’s a new section on your site, concise, targeted product copy or FAQ pages, shorter content can get to the point quickly and answer questions without further information.
If you believe that a 250-word article is best for a certain objective, go for that rather than thinking that you have to pad out text. Trying to make things longer when they don’t need to be can lead to poor page experiences that will force visitors to click away.
The ideal scenario is to mix and match short and long content, with the latter being used for instances where you need to be more comprehensive by elaborating on a topic or subject.
Take a second look at long-tail keywords
A recent study of 1.9bn keywords by Ahrefs found that 29.13% searches with three keywords or more had a large search volume of 10,100+ every month.
This goes against the common conception that only shorter search queries can drive higher search volumes and opens up the potential for more content tailored for long-tail queries that can more closely align with searcher intent.
While you should continue to optimise for shorter ‘head’ terms that are competitive in search rankings, using a tool to find long-tail keywords and crafting the right content to rank for them could unlock traffic, lead gen and sales from areas you may not have previously thought of.
The key is always creating content with SEO in mind. Take a look at how keywords are performing and try to identify terms that could shake up your search rankings in 2021.
Consider passages and subtopics
Google’s commitment to parsing the exact context and meaning of search queries has also been extended to webpages with the arrival of indexing for passages.
Back in October, Google revealed that it can take a closer look at individual blocks of text to see whether they contain specific information that could answer an oft-searched question more concisely.
It said: “By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for. This technology will improve 7% of search queries across all languages as we roll it out globally.”
Google also confirmed in early January that its subtopics ranking was now being used in search. This new feature will see a broader range of content being served for queries, covering a topic more in-depth and from different angles.
When searching for a new car, for example, Google may now show options for budget cars and premium vehicles, and everything in between.
Optimise for featured snippets
Featured snippets are another aspect of search that can effectively supercharge your click-throughs and traffic, but the difficult part is earning them consistently. Only 12.3% of queries included a featured snippet, according to research by Ahrefs.
Taking the time to optimise for them is worthwhile though because featured snippets get around 8% of all clicks when they are surfaced.
Featured snippets are special boxes that include short blocks of content formatted as a paragraph, list, table or video with a link, URL and page title listed beneath.
There are certain requirements for eligibility for these forms of ‘rich’ results, including the need to rank near the top of SERPs for a search query. To optimise for them, you should follow best practices for page headings, implement structured data markup, and try to answer key questions related to a topic within your content.
Clean up on-page and technical SEO
While linked to the user and page experience covered earlier, it is always worthwhile to clean up and optimise on-page and technical SEO factors. This means using compressed images, short and concise URLs, the right alt text and keyword-focused file names.
You should also run Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see whether your pages are loading as quickly as they should. With all that covered, you should now be ready to align your web content with SEO and achieve important goals as the new year gets underway.