New Developments for SEO in 2021

min read
New Developments for SEO in 2021

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most effective ways to attract potential customers to your website and online platforms. Optimization is the process of improving your site to increase its visibility for relevant searches. In order to rank high, it’s crucial that you pay attention to all the key metrics, including traffic, backlinks, and social shares. 

SEO is a vital component of a strong marketing strategy, so as it evolves, it’s important to be aware of new changes. As a marketer, making a commitment to SEO is like making a long-term investment in your product or service. In this post, we’ll provide the insight you need into the newest and most relevant SEO developments to watch for in 2021. 

“Effective Search Engine Optimization requires a commitment, not a campaign.”James Reynolds, Founder and Head of SEO Sherpa

Core Web Vitals

core web vitals is an important SEO development

On the top of the list of new developments in 2021 is Core Web Vitals. This is a set of specific factors that Google considers important in a webpage's overall user experience. Simply put, it’s a subset of factors that are a part of Google’s “page experience” score. 

Core Web Vitals are made up of three specific page speed and user interaction measurements: 

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a metric that measures the time a website takes to show the user the largest content on the screen.  
  2. First Input Delay (FID) measures the time from when a user first interacts with your site to the time when the browser is able to respond to that interaction.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is the unexpected shifting of web page elements while the page is still downloading. This could be caused by fonts, images, videos, contact forms, or other buttons. 

Looking for tips and tricks? Here’s a great resource for the key steps you can take to improve your Core Web Vitals

Google Passage Ranking

In October of last year, Google announced a new search technology called “Passages” that took off in 2021. This feature allows Google to rank a specific section of a page (a passage) independently. This new ranking factor will affect 7% of all searches. Page-level rankings such as backlinks, on-page SEO, and others will still apply. The biggest difference is that a single page now has more chances to rank if optimized. 

The following tips will help with page optimization: 

  • Organize your content into sections. Each dedicated section on a landing page should cover a clear and specific subtopic.  
  • Increase the amount of long-form content. Google can parse a single piece of long-form content into many unique passages, and each has a good shot of ranking. 
Google Passages
In the "after" image, you can see a passage from the resulting page brought into the SERP.

Visual Search

Visual Search is another new development that is poised to take the stage this year. It uses artificial intelligence technology to help people search through the use of real-world imagery versus through text search. People are conducting more visual searches than ever before--Google Lens has already been used 1 billion times! 

Why is Visual Search so hot? The answer is because it’s proven to be helpful when shopping, when you need directions, and for translation, recipes, nutrition information, and more. 

When it comes to optimization, mobile-friendly pages have a huge edge. This is due to the fact that almost all Google Lens searches are done on mobile devices. Research has also shown that traditional SEO techniques such as optimizing image file names can also help with Google Lens results. The results tend to be pulled from content-rich pages with a large amount of text. 

Video Featured Snippets

Online video is exploding in 2021 and this list would not be complete without it. According to Cisco, online video will make up 82% of all online traffic by 2022. The way this affects SEO is through Video Featured Snippets, which are positioned first pages on search engines. These featured snippets are given a dedicated location near or at the top of a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Video feature snippet

Get your video content in a Featured Snippet by doing the following:

  • Organize your content into discrete sections. When your sections are clear, Google will better understand the content in your video. 
  • Optimize your video for SEO. Google will use your video title, description, and tags to figure out what your video is about. 
  • Upload a transcript. YouTube automatically generates captions, but if you want every word of your video to be understood, you may want to consider uploading a transcript from a service like Rev, Scribie, or Temi

Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will also play a much larger role in SEO this year as it’s changing how people interact with online content. Factors that play a part could include click-through rates to time spent on a page. 

AI is changing the SEO and marketing industry due to the impact of the personalization it provides. And Google utilizes AI to provide searchers with the results they are looking for. SEO experts claim that AI and machine learning can be game-changing when it comes to your marketing strategy. 

The key to optimization is to captivate and engage your readers with useful, well-organized content. Pro Tip: Try using an on-page SEO checker to help you assess page strength based on points like readability and backlinks. 

Voice Search

According to Google, a staggering 27% of the entire global population is using voice search on their mobile phones. Thanks to innovations like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri, voice search optimization is expected to continue trending in 2021. Moreover, the percentage of households predicted to own a smart speaker by 2022 is 55%

To optimize for voice search: 

  • Consider your keywords. Identify phrases that are longer and used in everyday conversation--voice searches do better with more natural-sounding phrases.
  • Focus on local search results. A high percentage of mobile and voice searches are location-based queries. So, you can optimize your local search results just by updating your Google My Business listing. This will help you develop better content that more easily answers location-based questions. 
  • Properly structure your FAQ page. Create FAQs that read conversationally versus more formally. If structured properly, you are more likely to get featured snippets from Google. 


As SEO continues to evolve, it’s becoming more complex. Simple optimization of keywords and meta titles is no longer enough to get the job done. With the onset of new technology and innovation across AI, video, voice, and more, it’s important to take everything into consideration when building your marketing strategy. 

Industry best practices continue to change year after year. By being aware of what’s coming down the pipe, you can better prepare your business plan. 

What’s more, is that Google introduced more than 3600 changes to its algorithm just last year alone! As trends and new developments emerge, be sure to stay up to date, so that you can be at the top of your SEO game.


[Header image by Merakist on Unsplash]

June 14, 2021

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