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Let’s Take a Look at SEO Trends: How to Rank Higher in 2021

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a vital part of any website owner or digital marketer’s work. This is unlikely to change in the new year, but that doesn’t mean you can just rely on old strategies. In fact, as browsing habits change, you’ll need to keep your SEO techniques up to date.

The way people use search engines such as Google changes constantly. For example, over the past few years, “mobile-first” has become an essential mantra for improving both accessibility and page rankings. While nobody can tell for sure what the future holds, it is possible to get a good idea of what you should focus on for the next year.

In this article, we’ll discuss why SEO will continue to be a critical consideration in the upcoming year. We’ll also discuss some of the trends that may come to dominate your SEO strategy in 2021. Let’s get started!

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The Current State of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In case you’re new to the concept, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to a series of techniques for helping your site rank higher in search results. It’s an integral aspect of everyday work for most developers and content creators and looks poised to remain so for years to come.

There is no shortage of ways you can improve SEO on your website. General considerations include making sure its loading times are kept to a minimum, for example, and performing keyword research to tailor your posts to match people’s search queries.

However, while it might seem like SEO practices are evergreen, this is far from the case. In reality, what ranks well depends on the search engines’ algorithms, which are continually changing

Just one example: Google will begin to measure Core Web Vitals, a series of signals that focus on user experience, in 2021 to rank sites (we wrote an entire guide about the implications of the Core Web Vital minimum threshold if you’d like to read more). 

The ever-changing nature of SEO naturally means you can’t keep relying on the same optimization techniques over time and expect good results. As such, you’ll want to stay up-to-date with the changing world of SEO. This tutorial will help you keep your site optimized well into 2021 (and beyond).

SEO Trends: 12 Tips for Ranking Higher in 2021

To help you get a head-start on optimizing your content, we’re now going to take a look at some of the SEO trends that will be worth paying attention to in 2021. We’ll also give you some tips on adapting your content and strategy to take advantage of those trends. Let’s jump right in!

1. Prepare Your Site for Voice Search

Voice search has already nestled comfortably into many people’s lives. Perhaps you use Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo, or Google’s Assistant, just to name three examples. As this technology becomes more prevalent, you’ll need to consider how voice search will affect your SEO efforts.=

The main difference between typical SEO strategies and optimizing for voice search involves using more “natural phrasing.” After all, text searches usually involve stilted, compressed phrases like “best blog hosting 2019.” However, if you were to use your voice to search for the same information, you’d probably say something like: “What is the best hosting for blogs this year?”

Do you notice how the second phrase is both more natural and considerably longer? This means you’ll also want to consider optimizing your content for long-tail keywords to a greater degree. Since the ultimate goal is to use keywords people are likely to search for, this might actually make your job easier, as you won’t need to jam cumbersome key phrases into your content.

2. Use Schema to Markup Your HTML

Schema is structured data that can help web browsers and search engines gain a deeper understanding of your page’s content. Consequently, adding this markup can improve how your website displays (and ultimately ranks) in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). 

It’s recommended that Schema markup be used to benefit content such as creative works, events, recipes, organizations, people, and products. For example, a search result using Schema will display richer information than one without.

‘Schema examples in search results’.

As you can see in the example, one of the results displays ratings, images, and more. You can manually add this kind of markup to your posts, or you can use one of the many tools available to test and improve your Schema data. Fortunately, if you’re not prepared to tinker with the HTML of your posts, you can employ a dedicated plugin to help you take advantage of this SEO functionality. 

Additionally, you can review Google’s own structured data guidelines, as well as numerous reports offered in their webmaster tools. Ultimately, Schema is a vital addition to your website if you want search engines to read your products’ details rather than view your content as non-descript text. 

3. Optimize Your Site for Speed

Optimizing your site for performance is something we’ve discussed in several previous posts. However, the importance of this step bears repeating. Loading times will undoubtedly remain a huge consideration in 2021, especially when improving your site’s rankings.

The issue of load times came to the forefront in 2018, when Google announced it would begin factoring in page speed for mobile devices. This was due to the growing popularity of mobile browsing. Since then, keeping load times short has been a primary concern for all website owners.

Fortunately, we’ve also previously explored how to speed up your site in general. Key strategies include implementing a caching solution, as well as optimizing your media files

For more information, you can take a look at our full series of tutorials on performance optimization.

4. Make Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a distinctly futuristic ring to it. So it’s no surprise that it’s going to play a major role in how SEO changes in the near future. We’re (unfortunately) not talking about hiring a robot to handle your SEO strategy, but that’s not as far from reality as you might expect.

Google already uses AI extensively, thanks to its RankBrain system. This is a bot that uses machine learning to continuously improve Google’s search results. It finds patterns and context in millions of pages, which the search engine can then use to return more relevant results for specific queries.

However, Google isn’t the only party that can also use AI to its advantage. Tools that utilize machine learning to improve SEO are becoming more popular; one such example is Automated Insights.

The Automated Insights home page.

This solution helps you turn unorganized data, such as site analytics, into a clear narrative. In turn, that can help you spot patterns more quickly and start making improvements.

Another tool that can help you when creating content is WordLift.

The WordLift plugin.

This WordPress plugin uses machine learning to help you optimize your content. It does that by offering suggestions for the actual content, adding structured metadata, and suggesting relevant links.

We suspect that this is only scratching the surface of what AI-based tools will be able to do in the future. As such, getting familiar with this technology now can give you a vital head start.

5. Improve Your Mobile Pages


Google’s mobile-first index means that the search engine now ranks pages based on their versions designed for mobile devices. As such, even if your site performs flawlessly on a desktop, but it’s hard to use and sluggish when viewed on a smartphone, your SEO rankings will likely suffer.

For this reason, optimizing your site for mobiles is no longer optional. In reality, you’ll need to spend even more time making sure your mobile site is fast and usable. This is also called making your website responsive, since the goal is for it to work well regardless of the screen size or device type used to view it.

You’ll also need to consider how your site will actually work on different screens. For example, if you’ve designed your navigation for desktop browsing, is it still intuitive and simple to use on mobile devices? If your site contains additional elements, such as pop-ups, you’ll also need to ensure that they don’t interfere with the mobile user experience.

Thankfully, this is not as difficult as it might seem. For instance, the vast majority of WordPress themes and plugins are built with responsive design in mind. However, to avoid any issues, you should still make sure to test your site on multiple devices thoroughly.

6. Focus on More Personalized Results

It often seems like people are getting less patient by the day. They want to find the information they need much more quickly, for instance, which is why Google has placed a greater focus on personalized results

Most notably, Google gathers information about each individual user to return the most relevant results. Another example can be found in Google’s “answer boxes.”

A Google result using an answer box.

Google’s service is also personalized by offering searchers contextual results based on previous searches or even the user’s location. If you try searching for “Where is the nearest coffee shop?”, you’ll be shown options that are close by.

This may seem like a tricky trend to leverage to your own advantage, but it’s far from impossible. You can increase your odds of appearing in answer boxes by merely providing clear and organized information on your site. Using lists and distinct headings to summarize each page’s contents will also help Google parse and index the information, making it easier to get your site featured in the coveted “position 0.”

7. Create an Optimized Knowledge Base

One area of SEO you might have overlooked is your knowledge base. As part of your customer service strategy, you want users to have access to support and common service questions on a 24/7 basis. This is where a robust knowledge base can be quite useful. However, you may not have considered the SEO benefits of a knowledge base.

‘The DreamHost Knowledge Base’.

A knowledge base can offer a plethora of quality content possibilities, all of which can help you improve your SEO ranking. This includes creating specific content full of valuable keywords. Additionally, you can fine-tune your knowledge base experience to keep customers loyal and happy. 

Keeping your customers satisfied can truly be a make-or-break point for many businesses. Research indicates 92% of customers will switch to another company after three or fewer bad customer service experiences. This means you have a golden opportunity to knock out two birds with one stone — provide rich content and excellent customer service at the same time. 

Since you want users to be able to find the articles they need, knowledge base content also tends to follow SEO best practices. You can also ramp up your knowledge base efforts with the use of plugins

One thing to keep in mind: Since visitors to a knowledge base are not really looking to be entertained, you can just get down to business and cover the topic using highly optimized keywords. 

8. Extend Your SEO Strategy to Your Social Media Channels

Having a strong social media presence is a significant aspect of online marketing. Naturally, this also applies to your SEO strategy. While social media shares aren’t currently a direct ranking factor, there does seem to be a correlation between social signals and rankings.

How this works is complicated, to say the least, and we won’t get too deep into the details here. Suffice it to say that the more your content is shared, the more traffic your site will likely get through search engines. This also helps you build backlinks and brand awareness, since more people will see and talk about your site.

As such, it’s vital that you factor in your social media presence when considering SEO. Focus on a few essential platforms and maintain a consistent strategy for sharing content and interacting with your followers. This will help you across all areas of your marketing.

9. Shift Your Focus Away from Google Search

So far, we’ve consistently referred almost exclusively to Google when considering SEO. This is no accident, considering that it remains the most popular search engine by far. Still, it may not be a good idea to focus solely on Google’s ranking algorithms when putting together your SEO strategy.

Amazon’s search engine, for example, is becoming one of the most significant on the web. As it turns out, over half of shoppers turn to Amazon when searching for products rather than to Google. Another example comes in the form of YouTube, which remains the world’s second-largest search engine.

What this means for you is that relying solely on Google may not be feasible from now on. For example, if you want your products to be more visible, you’ll need to consider Amazon to a much larger degree. If you have a lot of video and other non-text content, on the other hand, YouTube and similar platforms should be high on your list of targets.

10. Understand How Blockchain Affects SEO

If you’ve never heard of “blockchain” before, you’re not alone. While the concept is too complex to do full justice here, we can break it down in simplified terms. In essence, a blockchain is a list of records that cannot be modified after the fact. Every item — or block — in the chain is recorded and preserved as-is forever.

This technology can affect SEO because using blockchain changes the relationship between advertisers and website owners. With blockchains, you can guarantee that every click is valid, meaning that the days of bot visitors are over. This will lead to improved verified data, meaning that sites won’t be able to get away with artificially improving their rankings using automated clicks.

At this point, your best move is simply to learn more about blockchain and how it can affect your site and business. This is a complex and nuanced topic, so being prepared is key. You may even wish to hire an expert to help you if you’re interested in implementing blockchain yourself.

11. Improve Your Technical SEO

SEO is often thought of as a concern exclusive to content creators and marketers. However, the reality is that it’s also something developers need to think about. The process of “technical SEO” refers to making sure your site is compatible with the standards set by search engines.

Two major aspects of technical SEO that we’ve already touched on include page speed and mobile-friendliness. However, another crucial consideration is site security. For instance, Google now requires sites to be delivered using HTTPS in order to be labeled as “secure” in the Chrome browser.

These are just a few of the elements that fall under the technical SEO umbrella. While we don’t have time to go through everything, here are a few additional aspects you’ll want to consider:

  • Site architecture. By designing your site in a logical way, you’ll make it easier for crawlers to catalog and index your pages, which improves your rankings.
  • Rich snippets. This type of markup adds extra information to your pages, making them stand out more in search results.
  • Duplicate content. Search engines penalize sites that feature the same content in more than one location. As such, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t repeat or re-use the same text.

As we mentioned, this is by no means a comprehensive list. However, it should be enough to get you started, whether or not you have an interest in development.

12. Use SEO to Optimize Your Videos

For our final tip, we should acknowledge that SEO isn’t just about text. It’s also vital to look at SEO as it pertains to video content. This is increasingly important as video is becoming more prevalent by the day.

To give you an example: In 2018, nearly half of all internet users watched at least an hour of online video every week. Site owners have started to take heed of this trend, and you can do the same. An easy way to start? Include videos on your site. Search engines consider the quality of your content and the length of time users stick around as ranking factors. By using video, you can improve both metrics.

What’s more, you can also aim to improve SEO on the videos themselves. This involves using clear and descriptive titles, choosing the right video hosting platform, and making sure to address your users’ questions and pain points. This will make sure your visitors get the information they need while improving your rankings at the same time.

3 SEO Tools to Improve Your Search Ranking

If you’re wondering how to up your SEO game, we’ve got good news: There are lots of excellent SEO tools to help you improve your rankings on popular search engines. Here are three options we recommend — at varying price points — to help you achieve your online goals.

1. SEO Toolkit

SEO Toolkit makes it easy for DreamHost users to become their own SEO pros at an affordable price. 

With more than 100 automated checks and verifications, SEO Toolkit audits your site to identify potential issues. Then, it creates a personalized SEO plan along with a list of simple tasks you can tackle to start seeing search engine ranking improvements.

Another plus? SEO Toolkit is a budget-friendly tool, costing only $4.99 per month. New DreamHost users can add SEO Toolkit when signing up for a hosting plan. Existing customers can enable SEO Toolkit directly in their panel.

2. Semrush

Semrush is a 20-in-1 SEO suite with the largest keyword database on the market — a mind-blowing 20 billion keywords! This giant database makes it easy to figure out which keyword phrase will give you the biggest bang for your buck, find highly-searched related terms, and generate new ideas for your content marketing efforts

What’s more, this SEO tool gives you a look under the hood of your competition’s text and media ads, so you can optimize your strategy. 

While you can get up to 10 results for free per day, the best way to unlock Semrush’s features is to sign up for a Pro account ($99/month for an annual plan). The good news? We’ve worked out a special 14-day trial with Semrush so you can see if it is a good fit for your site before splashing out any cash!

3. SEO Marketing Service

SEO Marketing at DreamHost. "Get More Visitors, Grow Your Business"

If you’ve learned anything from this article, it’s probably that SEO is a complex, multi-disciplinary marketing activity. And even if you want more traffic, it can be hard to take the time to focus on SEO when you’re busy running a blog or small business.

The good news is you don’t have to go it alone! Our SEO Marketing service brings together a team of SEO professionals to handle all the nitty-gritty tasks that go into getting a site to rank well.

In addition to creating and publishing new content for your site each month, our team will develop a keyword strategy and continuously optimize your existing website to improve your Google ranking on relevant search results over time. Plus, we’ll compile a monthly report for you to track ranking improvements and traffic growth. 

We offer three plans — Startup, Business, and Enterprise — starting at just $399 per month.

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What’s Your Fave SEO Trend?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not a static pursuit. As the internet changes, so do the parameters that determine how well your site ranks in search engines. This means you need to stay up-to-speed with the latest SEO trends in order to ensure continued success for years to come.

Are you ready to optimize your website for 2021? Consider DreamPress, our managed WordPress hosting solution. With automatic updates and strong security defenses, DreamPress takes server management off your hands so you can focus on what really matters: getting more traffic. Learn more about plan options today.

About the Author:

A long-time WordPress user, Megan has wielded a red pen (and keyboard) at DreamHost since 2017. Her passion: helping others turn great ideas into thriving websites. Her arsenal includes insightful guides, in-depth tutorials, and the occasional pun.