2020 saw a huge shift to online across all areas of our lives, which resulted in an eventful year for search marketers. Below we can see how the impact is set to continue into 2021.
SEO gaining prominence
2020 saw businesses begin to rely more on SEO as a marketing channel. This was largely because marketing budgets were being cut as a result of the pandemic, and SEO is seen as a “free” channel when compared to Adwords, Google Shopping, paid social advertising and so on. This has led to more prominence for SEO as a way of gaining visibility without the use of paid channels.
SEO has been especially embraced by businesses who have had to quickly make the shift to online while wanting to stay as cost effective as possible.
Other businesses have prioritised SEO for ethical reasons. For example, when Vistaprint launched a range of protective face masks, they realised that it could be seen as inappropriate to be openly profiteering off an item of PPE. They swerved paid channels and instead focused on SEO as a more sensitive way of gaining visibility.
With the current economic downturn showing no signs of improving in the near future, it stands to reason that SEO will remain a prominent channel for 2021.
Valuable insights from search data
Search volumes increased rapidly in 2020 due to the fact that so much of our lives shifted online. This search marketing data has become an important window into new and evolving consumer needs, preferences, and habits. There is currently a huge appetite for data that shows exactly what these new consumer behaviours are, and how big the surges or drops in consumer interest are.
On 7th May, Google announced the launch of a new tool to help search marketers understand rising consumer interests. The tool shows how search intent for different product categories has risen over time. Filtering by country, users can view a list of the top trending categories week-by-week, month-by-month or year-by-year. Users can also filter by category to view the top search queries for that particular product category. Back in May 2020, the top-rising product categories in the UK were sneeze guards (up by 600%), party streamers and curtains (up 500%), and cocktail & barware tool sets (up 100%). Some of the top searches within these categories included “Perspex screen”, “1000mm sneeze guard”, and “VE day bunting”. As previously discussed, this data shows that consumers are currently focusing more on health and well being, and their home and garden.
With search data providing such a valuable insight into changing consumer trends, it is important that businesses embrace it and utilise it in their ongoing marketing strategies. Historical data and data sets are no longer a reliable guide: instead companies need to consider current market shifts which may affect their search and digital strategy.
UX working hand in hand with SEO
Last year Google announced that they would be launching a new ‘Page Experience’ update. The update is due to launch in May 2021 and will take into account a number of metrics related to ‘page experience’. This means that 2021 will see a significant shift towards user experience working hand in hand with SEO.
Google’s announcement said that they will also test showing a “visual indicator that highlights pages in search results that have great page experience”. So what makes a great page experience? According to Search Engine Land, Google will evaluate a set of signals to perceive the experience of a web page, including page load speed, whether the page is mobile-friendly, and whether content jumps around as the page loads (amongst others).
All of Google’s most recent major updates have been around the user experience of a website, including how user-friendly a design is, and how easily users can achieve their goals (for example, a smooth and easy checkout process). What this means is if you want your site to perform well in terms of search, you need to understand what users want to achieve on your site and make those things as easy to do as possible.
Google wants a faster and better website experience for users. What this means for 2021 and beyond is that digital marketers will need to focus on getting the user experience right, as UX will now have an important role to play in search rankings.