Welcome to our SEO tutorial where you’ll learn more about first-hand SEO insights and trends in 2021.
Setting up your SEO campaign looks easy when you look at the available content on the topic. But the details and the finesse is what makes the SEO and ranking process so hard to achieve.
SEO is getting even more exciting with the rise of voice search, Core Web Vitals update, AI, and emphasis on search intent. Still, there are crucial areas of an SEO campaign where you need to go in-depth to achieve better rankings.
The key areas you want to focus on are:
- Content promotion
- On-Page optimization
- Link Building
- Technical SEO
In this SEO tutorial, there are actionable tips to improve each key area. But, the basic premise of the SEO campaign remains the same. Match the user’s search intent with useful information and show them your business has a solution for their problems.
Keywords are the foundation of any SEO campaign. After you finish the keyword research, you should have a list of keywords that satisfy search intent and high-value keywords. The final list has to help you develop business-relevant pages that match how users perform relevant searches.
Search intent represents the reason behind a user’s search on search engines. Planning an SEO campaign is all about anticipating what users search and why they search for it. A method to get such insight is to create a search persona.
A search persona is similar to a customer persona. The difference is that the search persona focuses entirely on the search behavior of the user. Collect as much information as possible while trying to imagine the user’s search process.
Here is a process you can use to develop search personas:
- Define your target audience
- Define searcher’s pain points
- Define searcher’s basic queries
- Define your solution
- Use available data
Knowing your target audience is the core of any marketing task. A successful SEO campaign rests on your ability to match the user’s queries and searches with pages and content. And, you can measure that success with available data.
Let’s break this down.
When you look for keywords, think about whether they fit in your site structure and pages you want to rank for specific keywords. Even if you are unsure of whether you have the high-value keywords, look at available data. You can find all the data you need with keyword research tools.
SEO Tools for Keyword Research
There is a common misconception about keyword research tools. Paying for an Ahrefs subscription isn’t a guarantee of a list of high-value keywords.
Of course, using Ahrefs or SEMRush helps a lot. Paid keyword research tools have additional features to help you analyze the competition, get extensive keyword lists, and even find new content ideas. Also, you can check out competitors’ backlinks and see their anchor text.
However, there is another tool that is completely free and reliable. Google search gives you a chance to use the engine as a user would. Then, you can use websites like Reddit and Quora to find questions, learn about pain points, and find more keywords.
With free and paid tools, you’ll get a comprehensive list of keywords for your SEO campaign. Now, it’s time to separate high-value keywords and finish your keyword list. High-value keywords are business-relevant terms with high volume and low difficulty.
Also, your keyword list should utilize the three types of keywords – Head, body, and long-tail keywords:
Head keywords or head terms are single-word keywords with a lot of search volume. These keywords are highly competitive and hard to rank. Head terms have broad search intent, which makes them very hard to convert.
Body keywords are phrases consisting of 2-3 word phrases with a decent search volume. They are more specific than Head keywords and easier to rank. These keywords are less competitive and have more chances to convert.
Long-tail keywords are phrases with more than four words. They are very specific, but these keywords have less search volume. Yet, even with less search volume, long-tail keywords make up the majority of online searches. Also, they aren’t very competitive and are easy to rank.
Keyword grouping is the final edit of the keyword list. While your keyword list has a lot of different keywords, select those relevant to your business.
Remember that there are no best keywords when it comes to SEO campaigns. The closest to the best keywords are those that best reflect the search intent.
The best way to group keywords is to separate them by pages and content you’ll have on your website. Separate them into several categories for primary and secondary pages. After that, the keyword research is over.
Keyword Research Trends in 2021
Keyword research is experiencing a change with the advent of voice search and AI. Soon, AI-powered algorithms will focus more on the semantics of your page and keyword relevancy.
And, voice search works better with long-form keywords rather than general body and head keywords.
Search intent is more important than ever. Developing search personas helps you to rank and bring users to your website. More than that, it can help you create better content.
While keywords are the foundation of an SEO campaign, the content remains the king. All SEO tasks gravitate around content. The success of your SEO campaign, whether in rankings or conversions, depends on the content.
The content is the way you answer search intent. Writing SEO content is all about finding the balance between copywriting and search intent. While you need good copy and content, you want to optimize it for keywords and follow SEO writing guidelines.
SEO copywriting and content writing are a tad different from classic copywriting. Sure, your content needs to touch their pain points and offer them a solution. But, catering to Google guidelines is just as important.
Another thing you want to invest time in is UX. Usability of content and compatibility with mobile devices is an important ranking factor for Google. The basic premise of SEO is that most users search on mobile devices. Write in shorter blocks of text to suit the mobile device screen.
Plan for the links in advance, and think about page layout when you write the content. Also, think of the content format you want to produce. Types of content you can write are:
- SEO landing pages
- Blog posts
- Long-form content
Long-form content is the most popular form due to its high compatibility with SEO guidelines. It pushes you to add more relevant keywords, LSI words, headings, links and create featured snippets.
It helps you to create content users want to read. Also, this type of content may rank for several positions and queries in the search results. Yet, bringing it all together is what makes quality SEO writing so hard to pull off.
SEO Writing Tips
Let’s start with the common misconception about copywriting. Copywriting today has a lot of connotations with buzzwords like storytelling and narratives. Classic copywriting is all about presenting your product as a solution to the problem a user has.
For example, you could present a pair of work boots as a revolutionary product through storytelling. You could also show the average worker how a full-grained leather protects him more than the usual leather. The latter is a more effective form of copywriting.
SEO writing works on the same principle, with the difference in that you need to:
- Present information in a short and understandable manner
- Avoid power-words and storytelling
- Follow Google updates and best practices
- Break content with H2 and H3 headings
- Write for mobile-device users
- Write for search intent
- Provide expert insight
Your priority as an SEO writer is not to appeal to emotion but to appeal to the search intent. Get a list of about 10 keywords you want to use to optimize the page, and use the keywords appropriately.
Avoid keyword cannibalization, and avoid thin content. Google algorithm recognizes thin content, and it treats it as a signal to not index your content. Write genuinely helpful content for your readers.
Whenever you are unsure of how to write or what to add, ask yourself the following. Would this content be helpful if you were to search for a ranking keyword?
Now, let’s focus more on the UX.
Content and UX
When you have SEO content, enhance it with UX. User experience in digital marketing is getting more relevant with Core Web Vitals update and changes to the Google algorithm. For a better UX, work on:
- Page navigation
- Page load speed
- Images and video
Before you start optimizing your content, think about how it is for a user accessing your page. You want to give them a chance to reach content, buttons, links, and CTAs with a single click.
While your initial goal is to make them read through the whole page, give them a chance to complete an action or get information right away.
Headings help a lot to break the content into segments making it easier to read and skim through. Images and videos help to break the page down. Load your content with links from your other pages and posts.
Use a few CTAs on your pages. Give the users a resource they can use to solve their problems.
Finally, you want to write more long-form content in 2021. Long-form content is great for SEO since it pushes you to create:
- In-depth content on a single subject
- Content with more relevant keywords
- Content with more internal links
- Content that ranks for more queries
The problem with long-form content is that you need the expertise to write it. Writing 2,000-5,000 word content requires extensive knowledge of the topic. Now, the Google algorithm can recognize whether you provide useful information or you have thin content.
Long-form content comes in many formats, and some of them are:
- Blog posts
- How-to articles
- Case studies
When writing long-form content, pick a relevant topic and cover it in detail. Later on, you may rank for rich snippets, answer queries, and specific keywords.
Other writers and marketers naturally link toward long-form content since it has so much relevant information.
While it’s relatively hard to make, long-form content pays off in the long run.
SEO Content Trends in 2021
Create topic clusters. Developing SEO content gets hard after you finish writing content about primary topics. Branch your content into topics that rank for similar keywords to extend your reach further.
Spend more time writing resources and FAQ pages. Try to use more long-tail keywords, and create rich content, with video and images as support.
Now that you have excellent content, you have to promote it. Content promotion is highly similar to content marketing. If you are wondering what is content marketing, it’s a practice of creating content to aid the user through a buyer’s journey.
It takes at least a month for Google to index new pages. Sometimes there are a lot of competitors already ranking for your relevant keywords. Then, you want to use strategies and other channels to get your content out there.
A great thing about content promotion is that there are a lot of channels to promote your content. However, you need to know how and when to use them. Also, remember to follow the promotion channel’s best practices when reaching out to your audience.
Email, social media, and blogging still work. Video marketing and influencer marketing are novelties of content promotion. Utilize them in your content promotion strategy.
Content Promotion Channels
You can find a lot of lists with content promotion hacks. However, the core content promotion channels remain the same. They include:
- Social media
- Paid ads
- Video marketing
- Influencer marketing
Blogging is perfect for SEO campaigns. You can take body keywords and long-tail keywords and form blog posts around them. Blogging helps you to rank in the SERPs and attract a lot of traffic. It works even better if you have a regular audience.
You can reach out to them through an email list. Then, your audience can access the new content through email. Email lists are more relevant than ever, especially since you can reach your audience through a few clicks.
Social media is another excellent way to reach out to your audience. Having pages and profiles on social media networks gives you a direct link to your audience. With sharing capabilities and comments, you get instant feedback and traffic.
Paid ads are another channel you want to utilize. They are the fastest way to expose your content to new audiences. Even though your primary focus is to rank pages through SEO, make sure to have a budget for paid ads as well.
Video marketing became a new thing. Video is such a great way to push out your new content. People want to watch it, and you can record shorter materials while leaving the link in the description. Also, video is huge for SEO, so make sure to have a video strategy ready.
Finally, there’s Influencer marketing. Reaching out to influencers and asking them to share your content could give you a boost. You can compile the list of influencers and outreach to them. They could help your content go viral.
Content Promotion Tips
To reach a wider audience and retain your audience, follow content promotion best practices.
First, outreach a lot. Get to know people in your industry. Create a genuine connection with them. Later on, this may help you with your link building and promotion since you know the people. Always network.
Next, follow formats. Each content promotion channel has a specific form of communication. Ensure that communication is crisp and straight to the point.
Try to create a community. Nothing can beat people who wish to engage your brand by their choice. Spend time knowing your users and keep providing value to get results.
Content Promotion Trends in 2021
Invest more time in content repurposing and content marketing. You can create a long-form piece of content, break it down into smaller pieces, and post them on social media. Then, go on and do the same thing on the same topic through a video.
People want more context in the content they consume. When they see a link to a 2500 word piece of content, why should they click it?
Instead, think about how specific pieces of content help them move through the funnel and back to your website. Make the buyer’s journey accessible through your content promotion.
Once the content is ready, it’s time to perform an on-page optimization. On-page optimization is a set of practices that helps the search engine understand what the page is about. Optimize the meta, format the content, and follow the Core Web Vitals for better rankings.
The purpose of keyword research and content development is to satisfy search intent. But, the purpose of on-page optimization is to cater to search engines. Search engines crawl your page to understand what it’s about.
The bots that crawl the page look at how well your page satisfies the search intent, follow guidelines, and page formatting.
On-Page Optimization Best Practices
Let’s start with the on-page optimization best practices. When you are ready to publish the content, use a plug-in like Yoast to optimize the content. There are other plug-ins for SEO, but Yoast is simple to use and beginner-friendly.
Also, it makes it easy to optimize:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Content with keywords
Title tags and meta descriptions are visible in the search engine results. Optimize them for CTR. When the search results appear, grab the user’s attention and make them click on the results. Always include relevant keywords in your title tags and meta descriptions.
Also, meta descriptions are what the bots crawl to understand the page. Write short meta descriptions with concise explanations for higher rankings. Then, move on to optimizing headers and content.
Use keywords naturally in content and headings. Slamming keywords together may even lead to negative ranking. Write naturally, and group your content in logical segments with relevant keywords.
After that, perform internal linking and optimize images. Internal linking is a simple way to increase dwell time on pages and hold the user on your website. Optimizing images can help you to appear for additional queries for people using Google image search.
On-Page Optimization and UX
On-page optimization requires you to work on the UX. Primary metrics for on-page optimization are:
- User experience
- Bounce rate
- Dwell time
- Search intent
- Page loading speed
- CTR (Click-through rate)
Google looks at the experience you provide with your pages and content. For search engines, a better user experience means accessible content with fast page loading speed.
Then, you want to reduce the bounce rate and increase dwell time. To decrease bounce rate, ensure that users get the information they are searching for. Give them navigation through a table of contents and let them access segments of the page through links.
To increase dwell time, give the users rich content. Break the content into headings using H2 and H3 headings. This way, the user can skim through the content to see what the page is about.
Then, they can go to the relevant segment or re-read the entire page if they want.
On-Page Optimization Trends in 2021
There’s no way to express how valuable UX is in 2021. UX can make or break your rankings. Remember to write for the readers but optimize for the search engines.
Another thing you want to avoid is power words. Google seems to think of the content with a lot of power words as clickbait.
Link building is an essential part of an effective SEO strategy. A successful link building strategy revolves around your ability to find opportunities, execute outreach the right way, and deliver valuable content. These are the core elements of link building.
Work on innovative strategies to get more links and raise the authority of your website. In 2021, there are excellent strategies to try out, and you can learn all about them in our link building for SEO guide.
Before you try out the link building strategies, remember to keep up with the link building best practices.
Link Building Best Practices
For effective link building, you need content that follows E-A-T principles and a list of relevant outreach targets. Building a link or links also requires a proper anchor text selection. Take the time to study what is anchor text to improve the quality of your link building campaign.
E-A-T stands for expertise, authority, trustworthiness, and it remains the timeless SEO principle. Another benefit is that if you know how to improve your E-A-T ranking score, you’ll create even better content.
Your content has to provide genuine value to both the website and its users. Once you have that piece of content, it’s time to find the targets for your link building campaign. To separate low-quality from high-quality links, watch out for:
- Page Authority
- Domain Authority
- Website relevancy
- Link position
- Anchor text
- No-Follow vs Do-Follow links
For even better results, do competitor research. If you use tools like Ahrefs, you can analyze your competitor’s backlinks. Look for websites in your niche or in related industries to that of your business.
Link Building Strategies 2021
A great thing about link building is that you can get creative with it. But, before you try any of the strategies, make sure to follow outreach best practices.
For example, you could implement two-step email outreach in any communication you do. Instead of shooting for the link right away, warm up the target first. Share your insight about their piece of content, create a conversation, and then ask for a link. It gets more results.
Then, there is guest blogging. It’s a classic strategy for getting links and reaching new audiences. Find relevant websites in your niche, pitch them your post, and get the link. If you don’t get an answer, follow-up. Prepare the list of targets in advance.
Podcast link building for SEO is already becoming a staple of a link building strategy. It’s fun, helps you to build your brand, and reach a broader audience. Find podcasts in your niche, and reach out to podcast hosts. Share your expertise and ideas, create video content, and get a link.
Resource page link building for SEO is another fantastic strategy. It gets you the link, and it helps other writers and marketers. People need resources and naturally link to their source. This is a long-term strategy and requires a lot of research to develop the content.
Among link building strategies finding unlinked brand mentions is the easiest by far. All you have to do is to find other pieces of content that mention your brand and ask them for a link. In most cases, site owners are going to help you out.
Finally, you can publish stats. Similar to resources, marketers and writers need stats to write content.
Link Building Trends in 2021
Invest more time in podcast link building. Link building is competitive, but appearing in podcasts is going to net you a lot of traffic. Work more on visual content and content with expert insight and a lot of data. Create genuine connections with your targets.
The most neglected part of the SEO campaign is the technical SEO. While you can learn how to optimize content and write meta descriptions, technical SEO requires a different set of skills.
You have to know how to technically modify the website to make it more accessible to both users and search engines.
Failure to comply with technical SEO specifications may leave you out of rankings. The good thing is that there are audit checklists for technical SEO. You need a website with a responsive design, higher page speed loading, and better mobile usability.
Focus on these two key areas:
- Site structure
- Site speed
How to structure your site:
Whether you are building a new website or doing an audit, there are key elements to consider. When you look at the website structure, pay attention to:
- XML sitemaps
- Site architecture
- URL structure
- Structured data
- Thin content
- Duplicate content
- Canonical tags
- 404 pages
- 301 redirects
Start with site architecture. Create primary pages, and focus other pages around them. For example, all pages should be three clicks away. Improve the navigation by allowing the user to spend less time browsing through pages and get the information right away.
Then, focus on the URL and links. URLs should contain a maximum of five words. Always add keywords in URLs, and try to write them to reflect the content of the page. If your website has an audience all over the world, add the Hreflang tag to your website.
Now, set the canonical tags and 301 redirects. A canonical tag is a way to set a specific URL as the master copy of the page. Using canonical tags is the simplest way to avoid duplicate content.
The 301 redirects help you to point out that a page has a new location. Redirects won’t hurt your SEO, but they’ll help Google crawl your page. The same goes for 404 pages.
Finally, work on content. Two things you want to avoid are thin and duplicate content. In practice, these two are highly similar due to the low-level quality they provide to the website.
Duplicate content is content that is highly similar to the content on other pages. Thin content is the type of content with no relevant information and serves to fill out the page. SEO writing is so valuable since it’s the factor that helps you rank your content.
Finally, structure your data. Structuring data refers to the action where you organize the data for a search engine to read. While it won’t increase your ranking, structuring data may help you rank for additional search results. Recipes are an example of structured data.
With your site structure ready, it’s time to increase the speed and accessibility of the website.
How to speed up your site:
Page loading speed is an SEO ranking signal. Even if you have the best web design, you can’t rank properly with slow page loading speed. In 2021, it’s all about simplicity and effectiveness. So to speed up your site, you should:
- Use fast hosting
- Use a fast DNS provider
- Minimize HTTP requests
- Keep the use of scripts and plug-ins to a minimum
- Use one CSS stylesheet
- Ensure your image files are as small as possible
- Compress your web pages
- Minify your site’s code
Always think from the position of user experience. Your users want to solve their problems. SEO is there to help them do just that. Accessing information fast and easy is paramount for your business.
Technical SEO Trends in 2021
You want to focus on FID, LCP, CLS. These are new ranking factors under the Core Web Vitals update. You can measure them and get reports in Google Search Console. FID refers to First Input Delay, and it measures when someone first interacts with the page.
For a good user experience, FID should be less than 100ms. LCP refers to Largest Contentful Paint, and it measures the loading performance of the largest contentful element on the screen.
For a good user experience, it should happen within 2.5 seconds. CLS refers to Cumulative Layout Shift, and it measures the visual stability of elements on the screen. The CLS should be less than .1 seconds.
To Wrap it Up
Even with AI-powered solutions and voice search, the core of the SEO campaign remains the same. Satisfy search intent and cater to the search engines.
If there’s a piece of advice to take from this tutorial, it’s to put your users first. The beauty of SEO is that it helps you design a way for users to reach your business.
Focus on their search experience and help them understand how your products solve their problems. That aspect of a successful SEO campaign will never change.
Which tip or technique from this SEO tutorial do you want to test first?