Is SEO dead in 2021? We say no!

29 Jan 2021


Nick Boyle

Nick Boyle

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Is SEO dead? What a question! But, it’s an important one when looking ahead for 2021. 


2020 was an eventful year. Biden won the US election, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle quit the Royal Family, Elon Musk’s twitter got hacked, and what else?… Oh, a global pandemic slapped us in the face. Can’t forget about you, COVID-19.


The pandemic rocked the boat for industries everywhere. However, certain industries were able to stay afloat since lockdowns drove more people to shop online and use the internet for a whole number of things: see our digital marketing 2020 round-up


Whilst 2021 may still seem shaky, SEO has quite a few important updates and factors to look out for. Let’s run through them!


Mobile-first indexing set for March 2021


Google’s mobile-first update was first planned for September last year, but due to the pandemic, Google decided to push it back to March 2021. So, what can we expect from this upcoming update?


Google loves to stay ahead of the curve; it’s why they are switching to mobile-first indexing.

When in 2021, we’re living in an even more accelerated digital age (with more online users now), Google understands most users are on mobile devices when searching online and using websites today. It makes sense then to have websites ranked based on the performance of their mobile versions rather than desktop ones. 

So… If you haven’t already been working on your site’s mobile version, you should be putting it to the top of your SEO strategy pronto. Luckily, Google has a few tips on improving your sites for mobile:

  • Use the same meta robots tags on the desktop and mobile site as well as making sure content is the same on both i.e. use the same clear and meaningful headings on the mobile site as you do on the desktop site
  • Make sure that Googlebot can access and render your mobile page content and resources
  • Review your ad placements to avoid harming your mobile page ranking. For example, ads at the top of the page can take up too much room on a mobile device, creating a bad user experience
  • Some resources have different URLs on the mobile site from those on the desktop site, so make sure you’re letting Google crawl all your resources
  • Make sure that your structured data is present on both versions of the site
  • Make sure that your mobile site has the same alt text for images as the desktop site
  • Maintain high-quality imagery (don’t use images that are too small or have low resolution on mobile) and use a supported format for images
  • Make sure your website on mobile is responsive


And even luckier for you, we’ve also got a little guide on how to create a mobile-friendly website.



Core Web Vitals and user experience page ranking signals set for May 2021


This summer is set for another big Google change with their Core Web Vitals and UX becoming page ranking signals. You may have all the wordsmiths and brilliant blogs written up, but if a website visitor is not feeling your site, then Google is going to factor this in for ranking now. 


Linking to a range of attributes, like mobile-friendliness, codes, interactivity and navigation, you need to provide comfortable digital spaces (websites), rooms (web pages) and interaction (less clutter and easy navigation) for your users; high-quality user experience is the goal and a soon-to-be ranking factor! It’s why you need to make sure your website’s tech SEO is up to scratch – start with a guide on technical SEO: accessibility and crawlability.  


Remember, Google prides itself on finding and presenting the best websites and answers for its searchers, hence it’s why they want to put more emphasis on UX, and emphasis being ranking signals! 


Expect to see visual indicators on SERPs, Google says:


“We are working on [a visual indicator] that identifies pages that have met all of the page experience criteria. We plan to test this soon and if the testing is successful, it will launch in May 2021.”


Worried about your website and its technical SEO? Get ahead of the curve and use a talented technical SEO agency to help your site be prepared.


Not needing AMP to get featured in Google’s Top Stories


As part of the UX page ranking signals, Google’s aim is to make non-AMP (AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages) content eligible for appearances in the Top Stories feature for mobile phones. 


“As part of this update, we’ll also incorporate the page experience metrics into our ranking criteria for the Top Stories feature in Search on mobile, and remove the AMP requirement from Top Stories eligibility.”

Google’s announcement on evaluating page experience


Being in a top story on Google means the search engine can use your articles or content to notify mobile users through push news notifications, therefore driving more traffic to your website. 


Again, set for May 2021 (a busy month for SEO this year!) in line with the UX page ranking signals update, this is going to give SEO geeks more exciting strategy ideas.



Google ranking factors for 2021


As well as mobile-first indexing and user experience being factored into rankings, these will also be key ranking factors for 2021:

  • Domain authority and referring domains: It will still be a high-ranking factor to get links or have content on an authoritative domain. A page on an authoritative domain can significantly improve the chance of a higher ranking than one on a domain with weak or lacking authority 
  • Total number of backlinks: The higher the backlink count, the higher the ranking. Of course, this is just one factor and your site must be ticking off other important factors like UX, speed and content etc. But, if you’re getting more backlinks, Google will see your content as more relevant and useful
  • Organic click-through-rate: Google loves a high CTR. Pages that get higher click-through-rates stand a much better chance of being boosted on SERPs for a particular keyword
  • Dwell time: Google is curious about how long users spend on a page from its search results, aka ‘dwell time’. Naturally, if people are spending longer on your pages, Google picks up on this and likes it because your content is keeping people engaged, so it must be of value! 
  • Mobile usability: It can’t be stressed enough that Google will be focusing on mobile usability this year with their major updates. If your mobile site isn’t compatible, easy to navigate or is simply annoying for users, expect this to begin impacting your SEO
  • Content quality: It’s all about the content. Keywords, context and relevance all helps Google determine what your page’s topic is. The better your content is with feeding Google relevant keywords, LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing), images with alt attributes, and readable elements, the higher chance of higher rankings
  • On-page SEO: Tying in with good content, your title tags, meta descriptions, images and words on any page have all got to be optimised and monitored. Trends may change, info may change and links may break, so you need to be on top of updating pages and their on-page SEO. Stay on top of keyword research to make sure your on-page SEO is relevant


Keep your eyes peeled for more SEO updates and tips from TAL Agency this year, and if you ever need to talk through your website’s value for Google, simply contact us here.

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