What You Will Want To Know For Your 2021 SEO Plan
Taking SEO advice is about trust.
There are thousands of articles about SEO, written by people trying to rank up on SEO. Neither you nor I will ever see the vast majority of that content created by supposed experts.
That is why it was so exciting when we got the chance to chat with Matthew Santos of NPAccel, a real expert.
How can you trust this? NPAccel is Neil Patel’s agency, and if you don’t know who Neil is: Try Googling any number of marketing-related keywords like ‘affiliate marketing’ (ranks number 1) or ‘SEO’ (ranks 6 for me) and you’ll find him. They’ve proven their ability to do SEO effectively for their own brand, so you can trust that they know some strategies worth learning from.
You can see our full conversation here where Matt breaks down SEO clearly and eloquently:
We’ve put together our main takeaways - many of which we’ve adopted into our own marketing efforts.
Checklist of actions to take before launching SEO initiatives:
- Start with the right infrastructure. Make sure that your website pages load quickly and are fully mobile friendly. Both of these are critical for your ability to rank up on SEO.
Note: Matt suggested Shopify as the best starting platform for eCommerce brands (and conveniently there is an Everflow Shopify app for easy integration). He noted that Shopify has revolutionized the eCommerce space by providing a quick loading mobile-friendly infrastructure for online stores.
- Make sure your website has been set up to be able to be properly indexed by search engines.
- Remove any broken pages or redirect loops as these will hurt your ability to rank up through SEO.
Crafting the right content for SEO ranking in 2021
Content will always be at the forefront of Google's algorithm for how they rank websites in search results. Google made big algorithm improvements in 2020 toward intent matching, and has gotten much better at ranking results based on how actual users digest information. They’ve significantly improved their ability to understand what is good content for each keyword, including synonyms, acronyms, and a wide variety of media types.
What this means for you: You don't need to produce a lengthy article to rank or even specifically mention every keyword that you want to rank on. Google wants to rank the highest engagement content for each keyword, so make sure to choose the right format of content that your audience will be eager to engage with. You can reach a #1 search result through videos, white papers, comparison sheets, PDFs, etc.
For example, if your audience really loves listening to podcasts, then a high-engagement podcast episode can actually rank at the top of a Google search. Matt mentioned that Neil Patel has several keywords where an episode of his podcast has risen up to rank #1.
Bottom line: Google has gotten much better at ranking all forms of content, and their algorithm actively tries to determine the best piece of content for each keyword topic.
Finding this content as valuable as we did? Check out NPAccel and see if they are the right Search Engine Optimization Agency for helping you grow faster or as a strategic partner for offering SEO services. (We work with them as a partner. Also, we included this part as an example of how to structure additional SEO links throughout a piece of content and because we appreciate them!)
Traditional SEO advice that no longer matters
- Meta Keywords have been devalued over the past couple of years. You can skip this one, and focus on emphasizing your keyword through your headers, site content and blog posts.
- Keyword density - Google says that they don’t consider it a positive factor for ranking, and you can actively hurt your rankability by excessively repeating the same keyword throughout the same page.
Make sure to include these in your 2021 SEO strategy
Design for Mobile Web - Google updated their algorithm for a mobile-only ranking for SEO in 2020. This means: They don’t evaluate your website on the desktop experience. If your website isn’t designed to load smoothly and quickly in a mobile environment, it will seriously hinder your ability to rank up in SEO. Make sure to update your website to be mobile friendly first.
Headers matter - Make sure you are structuring your website's content around the way Google will be reading your content for indexing. This means always having your most relevant/important headlines using H1 in your HTML, sub-headlines using H2, and then using H3 - H5 for the major sections of your website. Google uses this header structure to determine what audience you're trying to reach, and it will try to rank you on related keywords.
Matt pointed out that you don’t need to sacrifice your visual identity for this. You can structure your content using this header format, and then freely modify your CSS styling to a design that best reflects your brand and website.
Create content pillars - This was one of the most important takeaways from our conversation:
Create pillar pages for the content that is most important / engaging for your audience. Take inspiration from the Wikipedia format: They don’t create a massive number of pages on the same topic, but instead keep updating and refreshing the same pillar page for that topic. This updating of content proves your intent to Google’s algorithms, and they highly value your continued refreshing and polishing of content.
There is an excess of content out there, which is why ranking up on new keywords is hard. You can build your advantage instead by continually improving your ranking on high-valued older content to support it ranking higher. One of the best ways to do this is using a multimedia content approach by creating videos, infographics, or podcasts, and then updating your existing pillar articles with those newly created assets.
Practicing what they preach: Neil Patel's team regularly does this approach whenever they create new media content. Then, they will review their pillar content articles to see where they can incorporate the new asset.
Go back to the content you’ve created that best reflects your brand and keep it up-to-date and relevant. Google treats this as more authoritative and it will help your ability to rank.
Create good user-friendly content - For content ranking, it boils down to focusing on creating good writing, and Google’s algorithm has improved towards rewarding good writing processes. Structure your writing for readability by using regular headers to split up paragraphs of body content, and use shorter, spaced-out paragraphs. He also recommended making sure to mix in images and video to add visual breakup to your content.
Don’t let your content be a dead end - Internal linking is a huge part of refreshing pillar content. Your newer and older articles should be regularly linking to other relevant parts of your website or blogs. This internal linking helps share some of the ranking authority of your website with your newer content - helping it rank up faster.
It’s also a good practice to make sure that linking isn’t only about your own content. If you’re linking to external relevant and authoritative sources, these outbound links help you rank up faster - Google will be able to start treating your content as a more important resource page.
What to focus on for link building in 2021
Ranking up in SEO has always involved building up organic links to your content. Google treats links to your articles as votes of confidence for the authority of your content.
The more relevant the source, the better - Google now highly values the relevancy of the backlink source. If you’re receiving links from websites directly focused on the niche that your content is about, Google will treat that link as a high authority vote that your content provides real relevant value. In fact, they are likely to treat a smaller niche website as a higher value vote than a big news organization that covers a broad range of topics.
Spread your link juice - Most websites make the mistake of having most links go to their home page. When you’re receiving links, try to have them link to your most relevant page for their linking topic.
Better keyword phrases in anchor text - A link with ‘Search Engine Optimization Agency’ that is hyper relevant for your SEO service page provides a lot more value than a link going to ‘NPAccel’ that goes to their homepage (see earlier in this article for an example of how this can look ; )
However, it’s often unrealistic for the first link to your website on an article to be a specific keyword phrase. A good way to handle this when receiving links from your partners: Have them include multiple links in their content. First one goes to the main domain, second to a relevant service, and then finally one to a niche service. There can be multiple links to your brand inside of their content, and if those links are naturally going to relevant content, it will help Google with your keyword ranking.
Structuring the backlink:
Link 1: Your Website
Link 2: Your service offering
Link 3: A specific relevant blog for their audience.
Diversify the backlink text - Find surrounding terms to your main keyword that are conversationally natural and use some variety! Google keeps getting better at intent matching and understanding acronyms.
Linking with clear relevant text helps the user know exactly what they are clicking on, and that provides them with a better experience, which Google rewards.
If you want to learn more on this topic - check out Neil Patel’s article on the basics of building SEO backlinks. (And with this, we’re done with our example of how to link to them inside an article!)
The Major SEO Changes Coming in 2021
Google is releasing a major update to their algorithm in Q1 2021/Q2 that prioritizes user experience. Usually they don’t announce their algorithm updates in advance, but they provided a heads up for this one as it may cause a massive shift in results.
User experience will now be at the forefront of content ranking, and it’s influenced by Core Web Vitals.
Core Web Vitals - Key ranking questions to ask yourself:
- Time to first image/content - How quickly is this information being displayed on their screen?
- How quickly can they interact with your website?
- Does the website continually load more content without ever fully loading?
With all of these questions, make sure that you are addressing them in your mobile experience. Your mobile user experience has to be fast and clean if you want to have the best shot at achieving those sweet rank #1 keywords in 2021.
We want to thank Matt Santos again for taking the time to join us for this fireside chat and sharing so much actionable advice. It has genuinely impacted how we’ve been planning out our own SEO strategy, and I hope some of these takeaways help your business grow faster as well.
If you’re interested in checking out more of our fireside chats, follow us on LinkedIn and register for our future broadcasts.