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Doing search engine optimization (SEO) right is hard. I mean, really hard. It’s probably the most competitive area of marketing there is today. A lot of companies say they’re doing SEO, but from what I can see, most of them are only scratching the surface of SEO’s potential.

The thing with SEO is that you can’t just “set it and forget it.” SEO success requires a long-term commitment and regular, ongoing maintenance, or “grunt work.” You might — check that, you probably won’t — see results right away so you can’t get discouraged. You have to stick with it.

Not My Bailiwick

Patience isn’t one of my virtues so I definitely wouldn’t excel as an SEO professional. I can write SEO copy, but handling the numerous tasks involved in running a successful SEO campaign and staying on top of all the details would probably push me over the edge!

All of this is why I admire true SEO pros who really get it, like Jenny Munn. I met Jenny over a decade ago at a Freelance Forum meeting when we were both just starting out as full-time freelancers. She went down the SEO path while I stuck with copywriting. I think we both made good choices!

In her January newsletter, Jenny outlined a few essential 2021 SEO trends to keep an eye on. The info was so good I asked her if I could share it in my newsletter, so here you go.

Trend #1: Core Web Vitals and UX

Translation: How good is your website’s user experience, or UX in techno-speak? We’re talking about things like page load times, mobile-friendliness, lack of malware and minimizing pop-up ads. Core Web Vitals are a set of specific factors that Google considers to be most important in a website’s overall user experience. Read more about Google Core Web Vitals here.

One of, if not the most, important factors in user experience is how fast your website pages load. As Jenny put it, if your pages don’t render and stabilize fast, “you’ve got some work to do.”

According to Jenny, Google will be rolling out a new Core Web Vitals update this spring. She calls out Pinterest as a site with so many popup ads that you can’t click out fast enough. “You can bet websites like this won’t be anywhere near the top of Google after the new update,” she said.

Trend #2: Keyword Research and Content Creation for Trending Terms

2020 upended a lot of things, including how keyword research is performed. Most keyword research tools show search volume based on historical data, but with everything changing so fast in light of the pandemic and social unrest, there often is no relevant historical data. “In unprecedented times where user behavior changes so significantly, we needed to throw our keyword research tools out the window,” Jenny said.

In this kind of environment, keyword research should focus on both evergreen (or not time-sensitive) content and up-to-the-minute content. “What you’re looking for are all the potential ways your content, product and services can be discoverable based on how people are looking, what challenges they’re facing, what sentiment they’re expressing and what language they’re using,” Jenny said. “That is gold.”

Trend #3: Optimize and Update Your Messaging

This one really grabbed my attention because it’s something that I’m seeing a lot of myself lately. What this means is that instead of spending all your time creating new content, you should also spend some time going back and updating old content.

Three of my regular blog-writing clients have recently had me also spend time updating old articles. They have identified old content that’s still relevant but just needs a fresh and timely new angle and updated stats and data. I think this is really smart because it’s obviously less expensive to hire a writer to update content than create brand new content from scratch.

“Spending time refreshing content, and telling people you’ve refreshed content, is time well spent,” Jenny said. “Updating content is important to increase relevance, improve SEO chances, signal freshness and build trust with your audience.”

One easy way to update content is simply to add the 2021 date where applicable to your title tags and headings. Date updates result in increased click-thru rates, which is one of the essential indirect SEO metrics. Here are a few more suggestions from Jenny for easy content updating:

  • Update headlines to make them more engaging.
  • Update and optimize images and add internal links to and from that page.
  • Beef up the copy and remove outdated information.
  • Add a call to action.

“And don’t forget to tell readers that your content has been updated,” Jenny adds.