Key SEO Trends for 2021

Key SEO Trends for 2021

Organic search is a crucial channel for all digital products, and it is constantly evolving, every day Google is getting better at finding truly relevant content. It’s inevitable that in 2021 we will see more updates to Google’s search algorithm. We have identified four key SEO trends for this year, to enable you to grow your organic search volume and revenue.

Core Web Vitals

In May 2020 Google announced that page experience signals would be included in Google Search ranking; but what does this mean? There are three web page experience metrics that Google consider to be essential, these are called Core Web Vitals. These are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Google describes this as “an important, user-centric metric for measuring perceived load speed because it marks the point in the page load timeline when the page’s main content has likely loaded”. This metric reports the render time of the largest image or text block visible; for good user experience, Google suggests this should be within 2.5 seconds.
  • First Input Delay (FID): This metric helps to measure how long it takes for a user to be able to interact with any site elements after the page is loaded (i.e. clicking a button on your page). To provide a good user experience, Google suggests this time should be under 100ms.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Layout shift or Layout instability is when page content suddenly moves, typically because resources are loaded asynchronously. This can be an issue for users and can negatively impact their experience. “CLS measures the sum total of all individual layout shift scores for every unexpected layout shift that occurs during the entire lifespan of the page.” (To find out how layout shift scores are calculated, read more here.) By Google’s standards, for a good user experience, your CLS score should be less than 0.1.

Put simply, these metrics measure: how fast your page loads, how quickly it becomes interactive, and how stable it is when loading.

A screencast from Google illustrating how layout instability can negatively affect users.

These changes are set to roll out in May 2021 and Google has said that they intend to update them annually. These page experience signals will combine these Core Web Vitals with the existing search signals (Mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security and intrusive interstitial guidelines.)

Google Passage Ranking

On the 10th of February, Google announced that Passage Ranking had been released for US-based searches in English, with plans to soon roll it out to all English speaking countries, and then globally at a later date. 

Passage Ranking is an automated feature that allows Google to rank different sections independent of the rest of the page. Google states that this should not affect pages already ranking highly but will be beneficial for users.

“Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right, since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page. We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to better understand the relevancy of specific passages. By understanding passages in addition to the relevancy of the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for. This technology will improve 7 percent of search queries across all languages as we roll it out globally.”


When Page Ranking was first announced in October 2020, the image example released showed similarities to featured snippets; It’s worth noting that Passage Ranking is entirely different to featured snippets (when Google shows an instant answer to a search query.) Whereas Passage Ranking allows pages to rank in the SERPs if a part of their page answers the search query. 

Search Intent

Search intent, or user intent, describes the purpose behind an online search. Search intent tells us the user’s primary objective when typing a query into a search engine. Search intent is not a new concept; it has been a big topic for the past few years; Google’s number 1 priority is user experience and helping users find the content they are looking for, which is why understanding and matching search intent is so important.

To learn more about search intent, you can read our guide to Understanding Search Intent.

Google E-A-T

The concept of Google E-A-T was first published in the 2014 Search Quality Guidelines and has become more and more important every year since; Google’s 2020 Search Quality Guidelines mention it 131 times. E-A-T stands for:

  • Expertise: Having a high level of knowledge, skill and experience of a subject is essential. Google is looking for content written by an expert on the subject. It would help if you established yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Authoritativeness: Authority stems from reputation; if you are well known throughout your industry, well trusted, and have a good reputation, the more authority you will have. Content written by people with high authority will do better on the SERPs.
  • Trustworthiness: Can users trust the information they read on your webpage? Providing accurate content and citing other reliable sources is the best way to prove that your page is trustworthy.

Using E-A-T when writing new content, and using it to update your old content will help you rank in the SERPs, but more importantly, it will help you to create content that is genuinely useful to your readers.

To see how we can help optimise your digital products for organic search, get in touch with us today!