SEO trends for 2021 you need to be aware of

Search engine optimisation is a long term form of marketing living in a world of short term marketing tricks. It tends to provide relatively few easy wins, and instead requires long term work on tech and content creation. This is why it sometimes gets pushed aside in the modern short-term oriented business landscape. However, it is often a crucial factor in creating marketing efforts sustainable and creating the bigger, long term wins for your digital business.

Google updates its search algorithm hundreds of times a year and rarely announces these changes beforehand. Based on past algorithmic changes and Google’s own predictions and announcements, we have built this list of broad trends and changes to take note of if you want to maintain or grow your online business through SEO in 2021:

  1. Core Web Vitals — The Elephant in the Room
  2. Content SEO — Same look, different machine
  3. SEO meets CLV
  4. New tech ❤, actually, is all around

1. Core Web Vitals — The Elephant in the Room

The exact potential impact of the change could be debated endlessly, but most experts tend to agree this is not just any small update. The uncharacteristically long warning time from Google, and the inclusion of Core Web Vitals report in Search Console imply that this is a big one. Google is also testing a visual indicator in the SERP for pages that have met all the page experience criteria . This would imply that pages with good Core Web Vitals will also see an additional CTR boost, and likely improve in rankings due to the existing relative CTR ranking factor as well.

How to respond to Core Web Vitals

So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to take note: you will need to respond to this. If you haven’t started working on your site’s Core Web Vitals, the time to start is NOW. You need to make your site quick to load, immediately interactive, and provide a visually stable experience on actual browsers. (We’d be happy to help with that 🙂)

2. Content SEO — same look, different machine

Entity based search

The push toward entity-based search intent will likely reduce the focus on using specific words and phrases in key locations. Keywords will still be relevant to understand user intent, and thus discover and fill content gaps, but they will be more like clues for content creators, and less like magic words you need to use.

On the other hand, it is likely that entity-based search will add focus on how topics relate to each other. Referencing a broader set of interrelated entities in your content will be a way to build authority for your page and improve rankings. [1]

Passage ranking

Let’s say a user is interested in knowing “how search engine optimisation works”. You will no longer need to have a <h2> for this question, or add structured data to jot out the question you are answering. Google will recognise themes based on NLP modelling, and offer the results as a snippet. Just answer often used questions in an easy-to-understand and engaging format, on an authoritative website, and you should be competing for these valuable search results.

Optimal site structure

AI for SEOs

3. Customer lifetime SEO

Customer service as an investment

Serving your customers well in any arising issues, and providing additional value for likely later interests that arise after your purchase can be key in getting them to buy and keep coming back to you. SEOs should have a keen eye out for ways to make the company easily available for searches that support these ambitions. The real trick is how to spot in advance the searches you want to optimise for. Using the knowledge graph network will be a good place to start, and good old-fashioned keyword research will help you to get going. But you should consider testing the impact early on.

Test SEO through SEM and advanced attribution

4. New tech ❤, actually, is all around

Proper tech SEO is worth it

While Google has also mentioned that some 2021 algorithm updates will be aimed to help “less SEO-savvy” sites, the old truth of building your site from ground up for easy crawling and indexing will still be the foundation from which to build all other SEO activities.

Server-side or pre-rendering for JavaScript

We see this is something that will be important in 2021, too, as it makes your website faster for users and crawlers, and of course readable for those bots that don’t run JavaScript.

Put Google Search Console to work

Those of us using Google Search Console daily know that the Request indexing, a feature greatly valued by many developers, content creators and SEOs, was suspended for over two months in 2020, and Google has promised to bring updates to this feature too.

Structured data and markups

As we expect entities to play a larger part in SEO in 2021 ( see separate section above on these), structured data will likely increase its value too. Prioritise adding Google-supported markup types that will make your pages eligible for rich search results.

Updating old tech

If your site is using these old structured data types, update these to or preferably to JSON-LD which is Google’s recommended schema format.


Embracing the many aspects of SEO will still get you the best results. Build your site using solid technical solutions that enable easy crawlability, logical site structure and best possible user experience for mobile users. Offer your users high-quality content that matches their intent and is in the format users are looking to consume it in. For many of us, this may mean still growing our volume of useful, evergreen video content optimised for search. Build authority on the subjects that matter to you. Monitor your brand search queries and see that you respond to these — if you don’t, there will always be another site that will.

There’s a vast amount of questions on every decision maker’s lips regarding the effects of COVID-19, and what is the correct course of action to ensure business success and the correct course of action for the future. Download Columbia Road’s market research report on the topic to learn how COVID-19 has impacted consumers and companies, and what are the key things to focus on in the future for digital sales & marketing leaders.

Download COVID impact research report

Originally published at

Nordic digital sales consultancy. We help companies get more revenue and more customers in the digital era.

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