3 things you need to know about SEO in 2021

You could really say 2020… was a year.

But despite all the challenges we faced as humans this year, 2020 was not all bad.

We’ve learned a lot about our SEO industry and we should all look closely at what happened in 2020 and use that information to be a better, more prepared search engine optimizer.

And now, without further self-reflection, the three things you need to know about SEO in 2021.

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1. search intention and demand are fluid

It’s important to realize that search intent and demand are fluid – much more so than we previously thought.

Gaining an understanding of search intent is a crucial part of a successful SEO strategy, as you need to have a basic understanding of the actual intent behind a search query. This is the only way to create a page that fulfills this intention.

If your page delivers the best match to the search intent, Google will rank it accordingly in the search results – it’s as simple as that (although in practice it’s a little more complicated to create a best match page).

But what happens if a global pandemic changes the search intent for a search query?

Well, you either adapt or lose rankings.

In one example we’d like to show you, Lily Ray from Path Interactive shared a study. There she realized that searches such as “Alcoholics Anonymous” and “Alcoholics Anonymous meetings” led to websites such as “AA Intergroup” and “In the Rooms”. These are websites that offer virtual recovery meetings and resources.

It shows how quickly Google can adapt its results to fulfill the search intent of people in quarantine situations – without including “virtual” or “online” in the search query.

And changes in search intent are not the only ways in which users ‘ search behavior can change.

There is always the possibility that the search volume and interest in a particular search query can explode, only to almost disappear again overnight.

We have already experienced this in various sectors in the early phase of the pandemic.

If you look at the chart for the keyword “toilet paper” or “sourdough bread” on Google Trends, you will notice how significant the differences are compared to previous years in relation to these keywords.

Even though the likelihood of there being another pandemic like COVID-19 is (hopefully) low, these charts show how important diversifying your keywords can be.

In fact, these charts are proof that you should diversify your overall marketing strategy instead of betting everything on the “Google Basket”.

They therefore emphasize the importance of being flexible and taking advantage of opportunities or at least reorienting oneself if the opportunity arises elsewhere.

So how do you protect yourself from the potential change in search intentions or a massive drop in search volume?

You can’t control the searchers’ behavior, but you can monitor it instead and adapt.

To identify the potential changes in search intent, you should monitor your target SERPs and keep an eye on how they change accordingly.

For example, if you see that more and more pages are starting to rank that have a different intent than your site, then it’s very likely that Google is testing offering a different search intent. You may therefore need to change your page or risk losing rankings.

To track search interest, you can choose from a variety of tools that measure monthly search volume. Among them: SEMrush, Moz or Ahrefs.

Google Trends will also give you an indication of the direction in which search interest is developing. You should definitely not get too comfortable in 2021.

Being flexible and having the ability to adapt is crucial for online success.

SEO briefing

2. local companies and local SEO experts must be agile

Speaking of which, nowhere is the need to adapt quickly greater than in local search – especially this year.

This is because local businesses were one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic.

The lockdown measures and the restriction of social contacts forced many business owners to get creative and find new ways to stay in touch with their customers. Measures of this kind include contactless collection or virtual consultations.

For many businesses, letting your customers know whether you are open or not can make a huge difference.

You have to give Google credit for acting well by offering different options in Google My Business for local businesses to communicate with their customers.

In an impressive presentation by GMB expert Joy Hawkins, she explained all the options available within the Google platform. Some of the recently added are:

  • an LGBTQ-friendly attribute
  • Call buttons on local info panels
  • an attribute for online operating times
  • an attribute for online appointments

If you want to keep up to date with all the new attributes that have been and will be added to GMB, then we recommend you read this information on Hawkins’ website.

Although most local businesses are brick-and-mortar locations, you need to consider search as a legitimate channel for communicating with customers.

The most agile businesses and local SEO experts should also be able to take advantage of the new local search opportunities by fully utilizing the tools provided by Google and other search engines. Because new functions are constantly being added to these tools, agile companies and SEO experts can continue to be successful even during the pandemic.

SEO team meeting

3. Dhe SEO community is getting stronger and stronger

Even in the face of adversity, the SEO community will remain as open, supportive and innovative as ever.

We have always been proud to be a part of this vibrant community of search professionals, but never more so than this past year.

It was one of the most difficult years – not only in Germany, but also in the USA. Nevertheless, we have seen SEO experts helping each other time and time again.

We’ve seen SEO experts supporting other experts as they’ve been unable to find the right content due to the pandemic. were dismissed. CVs were shared on Twitter and people were helped to find new roles in the SEO industry.

We have also seen numerous search professionals and agencies sharing their advice and information for free to help businesses through these difficult times.

This is actually nothing new and has always been a practice in the SEO industry, but in 2020 it was more evident than ever.

SEO experts have even used their non-SEO skills to raise money for people affected by COVID or to support positive mental health.

For example, Lily Ray showed off her DJ skills on Twitter with a free concert and even gave an “after party” concert for the SEJ eSummit earlier this year!

We’re always impressed by how open and collaborative the SEO industry is, but this year somehow felt different. Especially because we all supported each other in the unusual and challenging situations.

We are proud to be part of such a wonderful community and in 2021 it will be even stronger!


2020 has shown that change can happen very quickly and that you as an SEO expert need to be agile. It is important that you can quickly adapt your strategy to new search behavior, new customer environments and new possible restrictions.

Fortunately, the search is an area that makes it possible to switch and change relatively quickly – as long as you are prepared for it.

So in 2021, make sure you regularly check the SERPs so you can ensure your pages – or future websites – still match search intent and search interest.

Also remember that you are not alone and there is a whole community supporting you and helping you to grow.

To do this, network on social media and leave comments on your favorite blogs or get involved, for example. in the fantastic “Friday Focus” series from SEJ’s. There are numerous options available to you.

We know that it has been a difficult year for many of us, but we also know that the future is bright and better times lie ahead.

So thanks for reading, cheer up and let’s keep pushing the search industry forward into 2021 and beyond!

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