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5 Shifts in SEO Trends in a Post-Pandemic World

Consumers’ immense need for quick and accurate information has showcased the importance of having a solid SEO strategy.

The pandemic has caused economic upheaval and societal change on a scale not seen in over half a century. The COVID-19 brought massive disruption to sectors like travel, hospitality, education, in-store retail, and more, all while illuminating the importance of having a strong digital presence.

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Throughout 2020 consumers used search engines to get information on everything from COVID-19 symptoms to safety precautions and from remote-learning tips to banana bread recipes. Consumers’ immense need for quick and accurate information has showcased the importance of having a solid SEO strategy.

As we transition into a post-pandemic world, consumers will still be hungry for accurate and helpful information, so here we’ll review the five areas of organic search to focus on in 2021 to win the search results. And although Google had initiated many of these trends and changes pre-pandemic, 2020 kicked things into overdrive, especially in areas like combating fake news, rewarding sites with great user experience, and emphasizing consistent and immediate communication.

Expertise is more important than ever

Even before the pandemic, Google had started to take an increasingly active role in suppressing fake and unverified news from the search results. Starting with the Medic update in 2018, Google began promoting websites that demonstrate expertise for medical-related queries.

Amid the pandemic, Google doubled down on this strategy, rewarding sites that had expertly written content from trusted sources cited by authoritative organizations. Just this past March, Google announced it is spending $29 million to form a task force to combat misinformation and educate the public.

Bottom Line: Focus on producing content that is well-researched and cites authoritative sources while avoiding unverifiable claims or embellishing facts.

Empowering customers

In April 2021, Google launched their Product Reviews Update, setting new guidelines for product review sites. This update is focused on rewarding sites with expertly written content, that provide useful and necessary details to empower customers to make informed purchasing decisions.

This includes providing additional information about the product beyond just the generic boilerplate description provided by the manufacturer – such as what it is actually like to use the product, what makes it unique, how it stacks up against competing products and any information that impacts its use after purchase.

Bottom Line: Now is the time to beef up your content with expertly produced copy that best serves your customers.

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Doubling Down on User Experience

In June 2021, Google will officially kick off its Page Experience algorithm update, which will make several components of site speed an official ranking factor. While Google expects the impact to be mild for most sites, it will still be worth improving metrics such as visual stability, interactivity, and load times if your site is struggling in those departments.

These Core Web Vitals can be tracked via Google Search Console and further diagnosed and analyzed using Google PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse.

Bottom Line: Improving website load times will not only allow customers to make purchases quickly and more efficiently but will also give your site’s rankings a boost.

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Keep Customers Up-to-Date

With COVID restrictions changing weekly, local companies needed to update customers on any shifts in hours or shopping procedures on as much as a daily basis.

Google’s answer for this was Google Local Posts, allowing business owners to post updates directly to their Google My Business Account and Map Listings. Even after the pandemic, this feature will be great for notifying customers of temporary sales, in-store events, product displays, or other important messages.

Bottom Line: Keep your customers informed of day-to-day changes.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Google will continue to use NLP to refine its understanding of content on a contextual level. In October 2019, Google officially integrated BERT into its algorithm, which has allowed a better understanding of the content on a contextual level. Just this past January 2021, Google integrated Passage Ranking, the delivery of subsections of content directly in search results. Google has already developed the next generation in SMITH, a more advanced version of BERT that enables an improved understanding of the relationships between passages on a webpage.

Bottom Line: While Google claims there is nothing SEOs can do to optimize for BERT or SMITH, it is clear that they will continue to improve their natural understanding of on-page content.

Nobody knows what the post-pandemic world will look like. However, we do know where Google is heading – a search engine filled with sites that offer great user experience and empower shoppers to make educated decisions in their day-to-day lives as they continue to navigate the impact and changes brought by 2020.

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