With the pandemic continuing to rage and affecting the lives of people all over the globe, 2021 looked a lot different than most of us expected. But in the digital marketing and SEO world, it was more or less business as usual. After all, if there’s one thing that’s constant in online marketing, it’s that change is constant!
Like every year, there were some major changes that took place in digital marketing throughout 2021. Search Engine Optimization is always a moving target since the goal of search engines is to provide the most helpful results for searchers and technology keeps improving. Here’s a snapshot of what marketing professionals saw in the world of SEO over the last year.
Core Algorithm Updates
Google is constantly making updates to its core algorithms, and marketers watch these updates carefully in case strategic shifts are needed. The algorithms are responsible for matching search requests with relevant content and Google is constantly assessing the state of the search world and consumer habits to refine these algorithms as needed. For example, the search engine began prioritizing mobile-friendly sites several years ago as people started performing more searches on their phones.
There were several updates in 2021, including the algorithms moving to 100% mobile-first indexing. Because this process started all the way back in 2015, it wasn’t a shock. But there were several other updates that affected the world of SEO in the past year.
Page Experience Updates
We all know how frustrating it is to go to a webpage and have it load slowly or to visit a website and the elements of the page jump around, flash, or crowd the site. Usually, these issues make the experience of visiting a page irritating, frustrating, or even disorienting.
For the page experience update of 2021, Google’s algorithms were programmed to prioritize pages that load quickly and cleaner designs that are friendlier to the user experience. More than ever, marketers need to ensure that their site is functional, fast, and clean.
SEO Titles in SERPs
This has been a controversial update, as it has changed the way page titles show up in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Google’s algorithm has begun displaying SEO titles that are pulled from various areas of the page, including headings and anchor text. While this change was intended to make the title more representative of the page as a whole, it led to some serious consequences, like massive drops in click-through rates for some pages.
Other Core Updates
Google also released an update allowing their AI systems to index and display portions of a webpage instead of the first paragraph. This update, like most core updates, was intended to make it easier for searchers to find relevant information. In February, they released an update that would provide information about different search results so searchers could evaluate how trustworthy a site might be.
In the spring, they released a product review update that was intended to encourage writers to create original content that is more helpful to searchers than just a list of products. They also released a new AI natural language model called MUM that can use context to provide the most helpful answers for complex questions. A new link spam update was also included in the 2021 core updates.
How 2021 Updates Affected Page Rankings
In 2021, the core updates shook things up in SEO, as usual, but the shockwaves weren’t too major in the grand scheme of things, with the possible exception of the SEO title update in August. Some people saw their positioning improve, while others dropped a bit. However, last year’s core updates were relatively minor compared to some of the other updates that have occurred over the years.
The State of Content
Content marketing continues to drive SEO results for businesses. It’s important to note, however, that quality is more important than quality.
Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving to ensure that searchers quickly find the most helpful information that relates to their query. Content should provide value for the searcher, especially now that AI systems are able to process context and complex queries.
Multimedia content was on the rise in 2021, and marketers must continue to focus on creating content that will appeal to and help their ideal audience. Not only will this improve ranking in SERPs, but it will also help to usher searchers along the buyer’s journey. Hubspot reports that 47% of people will engage with 3-5 pieces of content before taking the next step.
Content marketing isn’t going anywhere, but marketers need to understand the specific role it plays in today’s marketing strategies. It is mostly used to create brand awareness and engagement, which can ultimately increase sales and inspire more goodwill and loyalty.
Link Building Updates
At its core, SEO is about trust. Search engines are suggesting the sites they have determined to be the most trustworthy in meeting the searcher’s expectations. That calculation involves many different factors that are increasingly complex, but one important metric continues to be link-building.
Link-building is important because sites that other pages are linking to are generally considered more authoritative the more high-quality links they get. It’s always been one of the biggest SEO challenges to build links ethically and effectively, but it was still one of the best ways to boost SEO authority in 2021.
Since 94% of blogs don’t have any backlinks associated with them, it’s not surprising that Google sees those that do as more authoritative. There are many ways to build links, including creating longer, more informative content and guest posting. Standing out enough to warrant backlinks is an ongoing challenge for marketers but can be one of the best ways to boost SEO rankings.
The World of SEO in 2022 and Beyond
In 2021, organizations had to find their way in a world changed drastically by the pandemic. Although the world of SEO didn’t change dramatically, marketers still had to adapt to changing algorithms, cultural expectations, and shifts in the market. In 2022 and beyond, we can expect technology to continue affecting SEO, meaning that marketers will need to stay agile to succeed.
Surgeon’s Advisor has been staying on top of the changes and trends in SEO for over 17 years. Our clients gain the benefits of our experience, combined with our dedication to adaptive marketing that brings real results for doctors. To learn more about our SEO services, call 305.763.8011 for your personalized digital marketing strategy.