It has always been hard for me to digest articles focused on predicting future trends, especially if they talk about something as intangible and volatile as Google’s capricious designs. In fact, trying to “ guess ” what the key SEO position factors will be for 2021 is an exercise that has more to do with the oracle than with disclosure, and therefore, like any assumption, has a high percentage of chances of being wrong. .
Therefore, my focus for this article on how to position yourself in Google today, which I have the honor of writing in Citizen 2.0, could not be to try to guess what will happen to Google and its uncontrollable algorithm.
So if I had to risk a dinner and tell you what SEO factors are going to influence in 2021, I would definitely go “ all in ” for:
- Google will no longer be 10 blue links.
- The core web vitals will mark the future of the www.
- The mobile first index will catch us in March.
- EAT, YMYL and trust signals .
- Search intent, redes neuronales, GPT-3 y Google Bert.
- Core updates and mini “surrogates” .
Waiting! Before we start getting into the subject… You probably think that I have forgotten about voice searches …
It does not fail, I have been reading that voice searches are going to change SEO position for years, and really, I think they are not at all (so) relevant, and more so with the effort that Google is making to better ” understand ” the user.
I will talk about this, so let’s get down to business.
You might be interested in SEO Writing: How to write content that positions
You might be interested in The Best SEO Agency & SEO Services in Karachi, Pakistan by Shaz
Web SEO Position in 2022: Google will not be 10 blue links again
If you have seen how SEO position and Google have changed when trying to position your website in recent years, I think this is something that is clear to us, at least superficially.
Gone are the years in which the search engine would throw you a list of 10 “snippets” (search results) with their title in blue . So raw and without artifice.
Today we find some ” SERPS ” (Search Engine Results Page, that is, the results page that Google returns to a query) much more complete, but also more complex.
And this is a trend that we have been able to verify in recent years, the so-called ” enriched results ” together with the integration of ads or shopping modules (which, being strict, are still enriched modules) have modified the way in which the search engine classifies and displays the information.
You might be interested in What is it and how to do an SEO competition analysis
Therefore, it is not crazy to say that:
The SEO position of the future must keep in mind how the information will be displayed before the searches for which we are going to optimize a website.
At the moment, as for rich modules , we know that they come into play depending on the type of query .
For example, if the query (the search carried out by the user on Google) has a clear “How to” approach , it is likely that we will find a carousel of videos, or a list step by step.
For its part, if the query has a local focus, Google will show us a local pack with its map, or a Google Shopping module if the search intention is clearly to make a purchase.
As a summary, to try to summarize this point, we have to think of Google , not as a search engine, but as a real-time assistant .
You might be interested in What is page rank“? Understanding how Google works
And what modules are going to show the SERPS?
Well, for now, we are clear that it has a series of formats, which it can show or not, depending on the query and whether Google understands that it solves the query better by showing the content in one format or another.
So we can find cases in which for a search it returns a module and for another of a similar cut it does not, or vice versa.
This implies that it will try to understand not only what the user is looking for , but also the best way to satisfy that search (and I’m not just talking about content).
So instead of classifying websites and the user solving their question by entering them, it will try to ” assist ” them and resolve their need , which may be, for example, to learn something (and Google will find you a video that explains what you need). you want to know, marking the exact minute where your doubt is resolved)…
Do you get the idea? We are going to see the different modules that Google keeps in its arsenal.
There are different versions , but by reviewing the most common ones and comparing with what the search engine was before the implementation of these enriched modules, we can get an idea of ??how relevant it is going to be to optimize our content for this type of response:
Google’s direct answers or short answers
What is a diphthong? How much does Messi earn? What is the weather like in Casablanca?
Yes, there was a time when to know this type of information you had to enter a website. Today, it is the search engine itself that answers you .
So, if you want to improve your ranking on Google and you don’t take this fact into account, you may be tripping over the same stone over and over again. For example, we find Google and its dictionary function:
Or the result for weather, visual and full queries:
And the quintessential short answer ‘How much do you earn…?’ in this case Ronaldo:
But be careful, Google is a search engine, it doesn’t always have this information, so it can only get it from a website…
Sometimes they even ‘forget ‘ to cite the source, as happened with Genius.
Ok, I think you understand the approach that Google is taking with what queries, right? In order not to leave this section limping, I am going to make a brief review of other rich results modules:
El Knowledge Panel de Google
It is undoubtedly one of the most frequent, it is used to show general information on a specific topic when the answer cannot be made with just one piece of information.
For example, when making a query about movies with a very defined aesthetic, Google returns a list of movie covers that belong to a specific genre.
But this type of panel adapts to the user’s question, for example, if you have just landed on earth and you don’t know ‘ what or who ‘ Tintin is…
Just type it in the search engine and it will give us a knowledge panel with a lot of relevant data such as the author, characters, titles of works, history…
Google Local Pack
The operation of this module is simple. It takes into account two terms:
- What the user is looking for.
- Where are you looking for it or where do you want to find it.
So the results are going to be sites (often companies) that are located near the location of the person doing the search .
Therefore, the result returned by Google not only varies according to the user, but the same user will receive two different results if they make the query at different points in their city.
For example, here I am looking for an Italian restaurant from Madrid, and from Toledo… The results are adapted to the user’s geolocation.
Featured news on Google
Google in real time. That would be the easiest way to define it.
They are featured modules oriented to current news , they usually appear in a carousel format and the user’s location is also relevant.
Search results carousel
A visually pleasing and increasingly common format, Google can use it to recommend series or to give you recipes.
For example, in this screenshot, we see that you use it in two different ways:
People Also Asked
Translated in the Spanish versions as “ Other questions from users ” Google shows an accordion with frequently asked questions about a topic .
The good thing is that by displaying one of the questions, we not only find an answer, but also access more related questions.
This is very powerful in order to understand the search intention of users and how Google is relating some issues to others. Diving well into this question module will allow us to understand our user and focus the content correctly.
Google Shopping search results
They are card-like product blocks , usually appearing above the results list or to the side (or both). They usually contain an image, the price and the name of the product along with the brand or store that sells it.
Other formats: Tweets, videos, events, images…
There are many, from image or video packs, information about an event, carousel tweets, podcast information or even apps.
In fact, Google usually creates a special module for specific moments of great relevance, as we have seen during the pandemic or in the case of the US presidential elections.
We have already seen the modules that Google can use to display different answers to different questions.
This, far from being a tutorial on rich formats, I consider it perfect to illustrate how the search engine is evolving, from being an index of results to, as I said, a kind of virtual assistant.
Now we are going to go into the matter, facts and not theories that we know that Google is going to implement in the core of its algorithm directly or indirectly and that are going to be relevant, not only for SEO professionals in particular, but also for webmasters. and web content creators in general and of course, for users.
The core web vitals, if you are slow you lose
It takes a long time giving the rattle with the subject of the WPO (Web Performance Optimization, “web performance optimization” in Spanish) and the fast websites as lightning. And up to a certain point it is fine, if your website is slow, it is uncomfortable to use, and more so today that we live in the world of the immediate.
We don’t like to wait when we wait for a table in a restaurant, especially when we click on a link.
But until now “ the speed ” of a website was not a ranking factor as such. Taking this with tweezers of course, because it is common knowledge that if a website is slow and creates rejection in the user when they visit it, Google will not give it visibility due to low usability issues . Logical right?
But now a change is coming, and it looks like it’s going to be one of the big ones (although well, then you never know, it was also going to be ” the purge ” when a few years ago it was said that you had to have websites with an https header and still there are many websites that are there with their http so cool)
Well, if it is true that in recent years we have seen initiatives by Google that aimed to make the ‘web ‘ much faster (Pagespeed, AMP, Lighthouse…)
With this scenario , the Core Web Vitals arrive , there are three of them and I am going to explain what they consist of and why you should start preparing your website for this new era.
In fact, according to Google, they are going to be implemented as a ranking factor in May 2021 . But do not panic, there is a lot of information to be able to adapt your site and with these things you always have to be cautious.
What are the 3 Core Web Vitals?
Let’s say that there are three fundamental aspects that a website must optimally fulfill in terms of performance and speed.
They are LCP, FID and CLS… And of course, so by acronyms you stay a bit the same, I know. Let’s break down what each of them intends to evaluate:
LCP o Largest Content Paint
They are the acronym in English for Largest Content Paint and it measures the loading time of the content of your web , the interesting thing that you should know here is that it takes as a reference the element that later loads in the “ above the fold ” , the part of the web that users see first without having to scroll with the mouse.
So your website will be as fast as the slowest element that loads on the part of the screen that is seen without scrolling.
And what LCP does my website have to have? Well, in theory, everything that loads below 2.5 seconds is correct.
FID o First Input Delay
The First Input Delay measures the response to user interaction , that is, if you click on a button, how long does it take for your website to fully respond to that action (display the content, for example).
Its optimal value has to be below 0.1 seconds.
CLS o Cumulative Layout Shift
I think this is my favorite, it is the one that I see as the most relevant in terms of improving the user experience.
It measures how stable the layout of your website is . That is, the frequency with which the loading of the different elements of your website affects the location on the screen of the adjoining elements.
I know, your head just exploded, but the use of CLS is much simpler and I’m sure you’ve suffered it more than once, I’ll give you an example:
When you load an article, there are many items that load in the background, or even don’t show up until they need to be seen on screen. Many times, these elements affect the layout because they crowd out the rest of the content.
What this behavior implies, in addition to wrong clicks, is that browsing the web, especially from mobile devices, is quite inconvenient.
The CLS measures how many times these design changes occur on your website and returns a value based on the frequency and severity of the changes for user comfort. Well, a CLS in good condition has to have a rating of less than 0.1.
By combining the score of the Core Web Vitals signals, plus other signals that were already measured in terms of performance, your page will have a rating in terms of ” user experience “, so you can start optimizing now because you can see the reports of these scores from your Search Console.
Finally, tell you that there is official documentation to do all this in web.dev, yes, it is something technical and if it is not your profile, you are going to need a professional to review it.
Mobile First Index
The first thing you need to know about this is that an official implementation date has been announced: March 2021.
The second is that those sites that are only available for desktop viewing will be excluded from the index.
And what does this Mobile First Index mean?
Well, it’s something really simple, and not surprising if we see how Google has been betting more and more on mobile traffic.
What the mobile first index means is a logical movement by the search engine, which will take into account the version that the sites show for mobile devices when indexing , instead of the desktop version, which is the one that had priority. up to now.
According to Google, 80% of its users access the Internet through their phone at least once a day. And half of all searches globally are done from a mobile phone.
And although it may seem quite radical and definitive to remove sites that only have a desktop version from their index, they have been showing that this would be the case since 2016. So, if your site is a digital fossil, it is time to update it .
EAT, YMYL… Experience, Authority and Trust
Well, this is not something new. In fact, we have been hearing the EAT and YMYL acronyms since 2018… But the essence of these two concepts I think are fundamental to understand one of the biggest changes that the Google algorithm made in its core with the so-called ‘medical update’ and which will continue to be relevant and present for 2021.
But before explaining what the EAT is, its relationship with the YMYL and why it is so important, I am going to present you with a situation:
Suppose that the anti-vaccine groups had great knowledge of the Google algorithm and dedicated their efforts for years to position content to the detriment of vaccines.
And if, in addition, they spread content on the network that supports ” remedies ” to cure diseases such as drinking water with bleach and similar crazy things.
What would happen? How would this end up influencing the global population?
Any user looking for information about diseases and/or vaccines would receive negative information about vaccination, which will have a significant influence on vaccination campaigns and therefore on the number of people who will not vaccinate their children, etc.
A dangerous snowball, right?
Well, this is where the EAT comes in and all the changes that Google is making in its algorithm to be able to evaluate the real authority of the person or entity that supports sensitive content , whether it has to do with money (Your Money) or health (Your Life). Hence the relationship between Expertise (expertise) , Authoritativeness (authority) and Trustworthiness (reliability or veracity), the acronym for EAT, and YMYL.
Defining a little more the YMYL, all those pages whose content, and I quote literally ” affects the happiness, health, financial stability or future security of a person ” will fall into the YMYL category.
And the fact is that there are many, many, many sites that can be classified under this category. To give you an idea, any site that deals with issues more or less directly related to health, tax and judicial issues or even current news and politics. Middle Internet, wow.
Schrödinger’s EAT or how it influences the rankings and does not influence at the same time
It is an experiment in which there is a cat in a box, and inside that box is a vial of poison, which is just as likely to open as not to (to make a long story short).
Well, according to this paradox, the cat is alive and dead at the same time. How crazy, right? tidbits of quantum physics…
Well, the same thing happens with the influence on the EAT rankings, which influences and does not influence at the same time. Google tells us that EAT is not a ranking factor. Okay Google.
But it has a relationship, the so-called Quality Raters (people who work all over the world analyzing and evaluating different websites ” by hand ” to know if the algorithm is working correctly in their classification).
In other words, one of the analysis segments that a Google Quality Rater will take into account is the trust and authority of a website that is ranking for a sensitive result. And this in essence is a way of applying the EAT to the rankings. Come on, clearer than water.
Search intent, neural networks and Google Bert
Without a doubt the “ Search Intent ” is one of the most important ranking factors . It is, from my point of view, one of the things that every self-respecting SEO should be very clear about as soon as possible: learn to understand and interpret the Search Intent behind each keyword.
I am convinced of this, since I have seen many cases in which correctly solving the search intent or fixing problems related to it, has a relevant impact on the positioning.
What is the “Search Intent” or “Search Intent” ?
Let’s say it’s the background that has a query. In other words, a user types a query in the search engine… what do they expect to find?
We can classify into different types of search intentions that are clearly identifiable, let’s see them:
Informational search intent
Simple, a user searches for information on a specific topic . For example “ Bob Dylan ”, “ What is hosting ”, “ Hyaluronic acid tensor thread ”.
Be careful, because many times, after an informative consultation, there may be a state of early purchase intention.
Purchase or transactional intent
When a user already knows a product (they may have made previous informative queries), they will carry out this type of transactional search with a clear purchase intention.
For example: “ buy HD TV ”, “ web design price ”.
Do you remember that I told you that there are informative queries that have a transactional background? they are a hybrid between the first and second categories . Well, these are the intentions that we define as “ purchase or commercial research ”.
For example: “ the best blenders ”, “ iPad PRO review ”
Intention to go to a website
Yes, normal people do not type in the browser bar an https://…. Simply put “ Facebook ” and the search engine takes you to a list of results related to Facebook, in which the first result is the access page.
With this brief explanation I think you can get an idea of ??where the shots are going, but the concept of search intent and its relationship with keywords in SEO has much more crumb than it may seem at first glance, that’s why , I also strongly recommend this specific reading on this topic:
Neural Networks and Google Bert
The future that Isaac Asimov imagined may already be here, at least Google is investing heavily in artificial intelligence and self-learning.
Neural networks, NPL, Artificial Intelligence … Google is developing and contributing a lot to this field (a field that is going to bring in a lot of money in the medium term), and this commitment to AI does not only apply to the search engine. But for our part, we are interested in knowing how they are taking advantage of artificial intelligence and self-learning to improve the search engine: here comes BERT
What is Google Bert?
Simplifying, it is a neural network that is trained to be able to process the language more accurately . That is, make the algorithm capable of ” understanding ” the context and thus respond in a much more specific way.
Perhaps the main difference is this, the context. Google will know how to identify a phrase and process its global intent instead of analyzing it word by word.
There is an example that everyone is using to explain why Google BERT is going to be so important and will improve the answers that the search engine returns in complex queries and that it was now unable to understand.
When faced with this query: “ Brazil tourist visa to the US ” Google ignores the preposition a, which is vital to understand the context of the sentence. With what he interpreted that the intention was that of a US citizen who wanted a visa to go to Brazil, just the opposite.
Well, with BERT the algorithm will be able to understand that this “ a ” makes the difference and will be able to produce an optimal result.
Perhaps this will not have a direct relationship with SEO in 2021, but it will have an indirect relationship in one way or another. At least, I think I should make a little note about this technology so that you are aware of it because it seems brutal to me.
GPT3 is a language model, based on artificial intelligence that has one of those scary results. It is so powerful that it can even be dangerous.
Without going into much detail about its technical definition, GPT3 is an artificial intelligence based on machine learning trained to recognize patterns and data with which to “ learn ” .
With this set of technicalities and parameters (about 175 million parameters) it is able to use the language in a natural way. Analyze data and texts and, for example, answer questions or generate articles. Yes, articles. GPT3 is capable of writing new content.
For example, one of the applications that has had to demonstrate its potential is the development of an autoresponder in a forum that used GPT3 that was giving well-developed and well-argued answers to users.
None of them realized that behind there was not a person, but a bot developing those answers. The only “ failure ” that he made is that there were only a few thousandths of a second between one response and another, something impossible for a human to do.
Core Updates and mini substitutes
This is already a trend, something that in a certain way we SEOs have assumed. Gone are the days when Google made an important update every x amount of time.
Now, we find more frequent mini updates, of greater or lesser relevance, and surprisingly many of them are notified as such by official Google sources.
This means that although we may find ourselves facing major updates such as Panda or Penguin, it is more logical to think that Google continues to make these ” small adjustments ” more frequently . And assume that they can always roll back and undo the changes.
In short, and to close the article, if we know how to read the patterns of previous years and the novelties that Google itself reveals in a biased way sometimes, and clearly and directly others; we will understand, or at least we will be able to make a mental picture of where the shots are going to go.
I hope that you have shed some light on what is coming and especially in the way that the www is evolving and the relationship that the user has with Google as well as the search engine itself.