The most important SEO trends for 2021

What is going to be important in 2021 in the SEO industry? 


Our SEO Manager Luca Tagliaferro shares his thoughts on this rapidly changing discipline. Google launches hundreds of new search algorithm changes every single year and the impact of many of them will go unnoticed across many industries. 


However, there some changes that are significantly impactful on organic search performance and are here to stay, so we have identified these along with the help from some of the best SEO experts in the world. 

1. Increased importance of SEO during the pandemic

In 2020, SEO became even more important for small to medium businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic because travels were (and still are) restricted, and consumers can’t visit their local businesses. While Covid-19 has caused search traffic to plummet for many industries, on the other side of the coin, it also caused traffic boosts across many other sectors such as consumer goods – garden and home, games, food and drink and of course health and fitness.

This means that SEO looks very different depending on the industry:

  • For essential businesses, SEO is important for standing out and getting chosen over competitors, look for example at local businesses like food deliveries, courier services and online retailers 
  • For non-essential businesses and those temporarily closed such as restaurants, and clothing stores, SEO is not so important as they rely on customers walking in the door 

If you are a non-essential business and think that SEO is pointless at the moment and should only be invested in when the pandemic ends, read on because I’ll try to make you change your mind on this.

We all know that governments and Big Pharma are working hard to deliver the vaccines and stop the pandemic so this trend cannot, and will not, continue for ever.  


But it’s not just this one the reason. There is more to it.  


First of all, in terms of search volumes, Covid-19 is trending at the moment. As you can see below, this graph reminds us that Covid-19 is a trend and it’s fading. I am not minimising the global issue; my point is that it’s just a trend and it will stop at some point.  

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SEO is not just about traffic

Yes, most SEOs have been trained to increase the volume of organic traffic from search engines to websites, but the best SEOs know that this is only part of the deal. The hardest thing to do is to actually send qualified and relevant traffic that has high potential for converting.

SEO (if done right) provides the best ROI of any other inbound marketing channel.

Research shows that “SEO leads inbound marketing conversion rates, netting 15% above the average conversion rates.” 

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SEO gains are made to stay

This means that SEO is about gaining trust from search engines, consistently delivering accurate and informative results over time. Another study shows that only 1% of pages that ranked in the first position on Google are less than 1 year old.  

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An Ahrefs study showed a positive correlation between page age and position (on the first page of Google). 

All these three reasons explain why SEO is especially important during Covid, even if traffic to websites is down, traffic to search engines is not.

Nowadays, all generations are adept at using a variety of devices to perform various functions online including high intent searches, often using voice search, which takes us to the next SEO trend of the year: voice search.

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2. Voice Search

In 2016, 42% of the entire global population was using voice search on their mobile phones. In a more recent research in 2019, 72% of 2,000 people surveyed by Microsoft answered that they regularly use voice search on their devices.

So, we can safely say that the trend between 2016 and 2019 has already increased. If you look at the sample of people interviewed, it’s very small, but it’s a trend, nevertheless. 


Now here is the thing, because voice queries expect one very specific answer, differently from desktop/mobile based searches where the number of answers is up to 10 per page, most of the queries are long tail and, obviously, very specific.  


You wouldn’t ask Alexa or Siri about “car insurance” but you would type it in to Google to assess your options. That’s why when using voice search, you become laser-focussed on the best answer. 


This means that searches with voice will be restricted in options and provide only the first source in the top 10 standard results. Imagine Google or Bing with only 1 result, that’s voice search. 


The search veteran Rand Fishkin, former CEO of Moz and Co-Founder of SparkToro, believes that the value provided to a website from a search query is inversely proportional to its ability to be answered by a voice: 

The results [of voice search] will be least likely to have driven valuable traffic anyway. Mostly because voice answers cannot help with choice-architecture problems, i.e., those that require examining multiple options and selecting from them. Voice answers are only really pragmatic for very short snippets of factual information: weather tomorrow, number of tablespoons in a cup, age of an actor, those kinds of ‘quick facts’. A voice answer to a query like ‘best printers 2021’ or ‘Costa Rica hotels’ or ‘startup accounting software’ are so impractical as to be useless.

Rand Fiskin


To the question, then, ‘how can you optimise for voice search?’ Google has specifically said back in 2016 that optimising for Featured Snippets, also known as position ‘0’, will increase your chances to be answered in voice search.

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Featured snippets

Using featured snippets to answer voice search queries confirms exactly what Rand Fishkin is saying, which is that most of these answers will not provide any valuable traffic to websites as the answer is given on Google directly. Here is an example:

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Voice is a hot topic

If online searches have become a habit, with Google processing around 63,000 queries per second, what will happen when people realise that it’s easier to ask rather that type on a keyboard?

That’s why I believe that voice searches will obviously be a hot topic in 2021, it’s just not clear yet how impactful it is on website traffic, as they won’t get clicks anymore, but just mentions instead.

3. The increasing importance of Structured Data

You may have noticed that the search results on Google have changed considerably over the years? The SERPs landscape is constantly evolving, and it’s come a long way since the standard top 10 organic listings with same Ads topping and tailing it. These are some of the features of the new SERPs designed to provide the searcher with the most relevant information:

  1. Featured Snippets, which we have seen being important for voice search 

  1. Site links, displayed below the standard result for a page 

  1. Website searches within Google search results 

  1. Carousels 

  1. Image packs 

  1. Videos 

  1. Reviews 

  1. Recipes 

  1. Breadcrumbs 

  1. And many more… 

This list of elements is called Structured Data because it provides extra information (data) in a structured way (an element) and it requires lots of coding in the backend of a website for Google to understand it and display it.  


Why is Google doing this? It’s because it is deliberately trying to keep users on Google to drive less and less clicks to websites. Study shows that more than half of Google searches now result in 0 clicks. 


It's all about providing the best possible answer

Others say that’s because Google’s mission is, and it will always be, to provide users with the best possible answer and this mission hasn’t changed since Google was born back in 1998.  


Google's mission statement is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” 


As always, the truth lies in the middle. Structured data not only informs voice search, but also have other tangible benefits, in fact experiments show that one particular Structured Data called “Breadcrumb” improved CTR from 2.7% to 2.8%, clicks by 43% and average position by 12%. 


That said, structured data is becoming more and more important for SEO because it really provides the best answer to the user, which is something that Google will always reward, and it increases brand trust and often results in extra clicks and better positioning.

4. Core Web Vitals

Core web vitals are a metric for measuring User Experience (UX) and, as we have seen above, user experience is a very important factor for search engines.  


That’s why from May 2021, Google has set Core Web Vitals to become an official ranking factor, which ensures that there no annoying pop ups on the website, for example.  


All the elements like page load speed, how fast the site becomes interactive, how stable it is are all concurring to improve the UX. So, when visitors are using your web page on a mobile or desktop device, what’s the experience in terms of speed and interaction? We at Dare put lots of focus and attention to the technical aspects of websites, as when we perform audits for clients, we go into the deepest details thanks to our own 25 items checklist, where no stones are unturned.  


However, while it’s not clear yet how big the impact will be on search rankings, let’s not forget that search engines have hundreds of signals to consider and when one signal is not optimised this is generally not a big deal. That said, if a site is particularly poor in one or two ranking factors, it could make a difference in rankings.  


Google's own studies show that for pages that meet these thresholds of Core Web Vitals, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site. 

In conclusion

These SEO trends for 2021 show some important strategical aspects:  


  1. Search is obsessed in serving the users, which has been the core focus since it was invented over 20 years ago, so focussing on the user is always a good strategic action. 

  1. Voice search is unlikely to take off despite the billions of search devices being sold worldwide, simply because they don’t provide exhaustive answers to users, thus showing limitations that search engines cannot seem to overcome, at least in the short term. 

  1. SEO success lies in a strategy that looks to gain visibility across all aspects of search engine landscapes and snippet strategy and position ‘0’ are a must, as gaining the standard search results are no longer the wiser strategy to go after. 

  1. With so many SEO tactics and goals to pursue, a good SEO strategy will require experts who are able to pick the winners from a variety of actions and interests. SEO strategy is at least as much about what an expert decides what not to do as it is about what it does. 

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