Across virtually all industries, 2020 has been dramatically different to any other year in recent history. From an SEO perspective, changes in how and why people use search engines has produced some profound SEO trends that are important to analyse.
With 2021 starting with another lockdown in the UK, it’s critical for businesses to utilise all of the tools at their disposal to operate as effectively as possible – and SEO provides a crucial marketing channel heading into this year. The backdrop can be summarised with two key factors that have had a major impact on behaviours.
SEO During Lockdown
Restrictions in the UK have forced people online, working from home has made virtual meetings commonplace but this has naturally led to other business functions moving online too. We naturally think of consumers searching and buying online during these times, and this is represented in projections showing a 34% increase in online sales during last year. However, these behaviours are more widespread as shown in this Google Trends analysis – and B2B industries are also experiencing rises in searches too.
A second, sometimes overlooked aspect, are the activities that are still allowed during lockdown – and the increased emphasis UK restrictions have placed upon related products or services. In our experience, effects have been more noticeable across B2C sectors, especially where businesses are already well positioned to sell products or deliver their services online (in line with the previous factor).
Taking both these components into account, being flexible to changing behaviours has been extremely beneficial to many businesses. In some cases, where we’ve helped client’s adapt to changes, we’ve seen YoY growth of over 600%! Looking ahead, it’s likely that similar proactive measures should be a top priority – with digital marketing channels such as SEO being one of the foremost methods to attract customers.
2020 Core Updates
Google have continued to implement algorithm updates, despite the lockdown. In line with previous years, Google have launched a core update every few months with three major rollouts during 2020.
January 2020 Core Update
A large update affecting a lot of sites and described by Google as a “broad core update”. Guidance about the update was typically vague from Google, where they pointed towards previous recommendations about content quality.
May 2020 Core Update
Many experts in the industry speculated that an update would not be released during the global pandemic. However, Google announced the changes on 4th May 2020 and this core update was considered to be even larger than January’s.
December 2020 Core Update
As recently covered here in a blog post, another core update was launched at the beginning of December. While analysis is still ongoing, many believe that this latest core update was in fact the largest of all the updates during 2020.
Google’s BERT update continued its rollout and now affects almost all English-language search queries. Learn more about BERT in our previous post here.
Passage Ranking was introduced, where Google will soon focus on more specific blocks of content as opposed to an entire page (in relation to a search query). Although announced during 2020, this is expected to be rolled out in 2021.
Page Experience & Core Web Vitals were announced as ranking factors last May. Linked to previous updates regarding mobile friendliness, speed and HTTPS, new technical signals have made their way into Google’s core algorithm. Updates were made to tools such as Google Page Speed Insights to reflect the focus on these new factors. Following on from these announcements, Google have also confirmed a related core algorithm update in May 2021.
SEO planning is an essential component of a successful marketing strategy
Looking ahead, our SEO team are planning for more changes from Google throughout 2021. Building high-quality user experiences containing authoritative, well-optimised content are the repeating themes that indicate how sites should approach SEO going forward. If you’d like to learn more about any of our marketing services, please get in touch.