First thing’s first - Happy New Year! The start of a new year can be a great time to sit down, reflect, and plan for the year ahead, and if you’re a Shopify merchant then you’ve likely seen experts discussing trends and predictions for the year ahead. Of all the different areas in the ecommerce sphere, we’re most interested in SEO and what trends will affect how merchants seek to develop their marketing strategies in 2021. To help you prepare, we’re focussing on five key trends that we expect will play a big role in your SEO plans this year.
#1 - Page Experience Optimization
We’ve written before on our blog about the importance of user experience, and it would seem that is now becoming an increasingly important factor for Google also. In May 2020, Google introduced Core Web Vitals - three new metrics that will affect the way the search engine measures user experience. These metrics largely focus on page speed; how fast it loads, how long it takes to become interactive, and how stable it is when loading. In practice, this means user experience will be a sort of tie-breaker to decide which pages rank higher when they have equally great content and authority.
They also announced that as of May 2021, these metrics will impact a store’s SEO ranking meaning that this year more than ever user experience should be at the top of your priority list. Getting on top of these early in the year will bode well for your store once these metrics start to mean more to your ranking.
#2 - Mobile SEO
Mobile ecommerce is big business - we see this time and time again during big sales periods like Black Friday/Cyber Monday. This isn’t anything new given that as far back as 2016 Google started rolling out mobile indexing and in 2019 they started mobile-first indexing for all new websites, i.e. looking at a mobile site first as the primary version of that store. What this means for 2021 though is that in March, Google is set to complete their transition to mobile-first indexing across all sites, meaning if your mobile experience isn’t up to scratch then you’ll start to lose out in rankings.
#3 - Artificial Intelligence
Not just the topic of sci-fi movies, Artificial Intelligence is becoming more dominant in the world of Search Engine Optimization. Google’s AI algorithm started with RankBrain back in 2015 and further developed at the end of 2019 with BERT. If you’re not familiar with either, RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm that adjusts results based on the current query and past information. BERT, in the simplest terms, is a different type of AI that looks to understand the nuances of the language used in a search term and interpret longer terms to help find the most relevant results. It can contextualize words in a search term based on the other words around it. What does this mean for your SEO strategy? Merchants will need to develop high quality, well-organized content that engages and informs users as well as paying attention to all the traditional SEO markers such as keywords and metadata.
#4 - User Search Intent
Many of the big changes to SEO lately such as BERT and Core Web Vitals are all geared towards giving the user a better experience. User search intent plays into this experience and whilst it isn’t a new concept by any stretch, it’s expected to be even more important in 2021. The idea is simple - if you better understand what exactly people are searching and why, it helps you to create better content and therefore drive more traffic to your store and improve your SEO ranking. As search engine algorithms and user search intent changes throughout the year, it’s important to keep up with SERP - Search Engine Results Page - analysis to make sure your store is up to date and competitive.
#5 - Local Search
Localized search is something that we all use on a regular basis. Whether you’re looking for the best dentist in your area, a coffee shop in a town you’ve never been to, or a restaurant for while you’re on vacation. Over the last couple of years Google has changed which criteria it uses to determine search results, favoring quality and relevance over proximity. This along with improved Google My Business (GMB) tools and features means businesses have more influence on their local ranking as well as being able to give more information without a user even visiting their site. In fact with the onset of Covid-19, these features became even more important - listing businesses as temporarily closed, if they offer local delivery, etc. With users utilizing My Business listings rather than visiting sites, it will be important in 2021 to make full use of the tools available and optimize your GMB listing.
If there’s one thing that is crystal clear, it’s that those looking to improve their store SEO need to think more about content, intent, and experience. Gone are the days of “black-hat” SEO tactics like keyword stuffing - Google expects stores to create meaningful, valuable content that their users are genuinely looking for. Make 2021 the year you make your Shopify store a useful, engaging experience and resource for your customers.