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Top 4 SEO Trends to Look Out for in the New Year: Part 1

seo trenes and representing Google updates
4 min 30 second read
Learn about Core Web Vitals, mobile-first indexing, AI’s BERT, and entities for SEO trends.

New year, new SEO trends. Google updates its search algorithm constantly. In fact, they update it several thousand times per year, making it the number one search engine consistently outperforming the traffic on Yahoo and Bing. These updates are both large and small, depending on your industry, site, and search intent. Continue reading to learn about four SEO trends to look out for…

Even though algorithm updates happen throughout each year, they follow a common theme. Google’s main goal is to serve the most accurate search content to match the user’s query. These updates, along with Google’s advancements in serving the right content make the search engine hard to manipulate with black hat, or unauthorized, SEO techniques.

I always tell my clients that you should follow the tried and true, white hat SEO techniques for long-term growth. In this article, you’ll learn some of the newer SEO trends to look out for. This way you can stay informed and make the right digital marketing decisions moving forward into the new year.


Top 4 SEO Trends to Look Out for:

  1. User experience impacts ranking more now than in the past

In May 2020, Google presented Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals are a very long set of metrics in relation to speed, responsiveness, and visual stability. This technique relies on three key elements including Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift. These are important because Core Web Vitals can help the user experience on your website. Which in turn, gets your site to improve in the rankings.


Core Web Vitals:

Largest Contentful Paint examines loading performance, page speed, and the anticipation of when the user will believe the page is loaded. Under 2.5 seconds is a “good” score, 2.5 to 4 seconds “needs improvement”, and over 4 seconds is a “poor” score. Some tips to have a better page speed including optimizing media and utilizing the web performance tools offered by Google.

First Input Delay (FID) evaluates the page responsiveness and uses the following benchmarks: loading less than 100 milliseconds is considered “good”, 100 milliseconds to 300 milliseconds “needs improvement” and anything more than 300 milliseconds is a “poor” FID score. This measures how long it takes for a page to react to a user’s first click or action. You can improve this by code splitting and using less JavaScript.

Cumulative Layout Shift is the last important metric of Core Web Vitals and measures visual stability to help with how often users experience unexpected layout shifts. It’s calculated by multiplying the share of the screen that shifted unexpectedly when loading by the distance it traveled. Be sure to include size attributes for media files and never inserting new content above existing content.

You can improve on all three of these metrics by engaging with a professional website developer or agency. If you hope to stay ahead of your competitors, you need to continually keep your site up to date and follow Google’s ever-changing standards.


  1. Mobile-first indexing is mandatory for all websites

If you have read some of my other articles about SEO, then you should already know how important being mobile-compatible is for your website. Google updates started to prioritize mobile-first indexing back in 2016, which means websites are ranked based on mobile rather than their desktop version. While many websites are already mobile-compatible, some are still not fully responsive.

Google announced the mandatory transition for these old-school sites to be transformed by the end of March 2021.They originally had this plan scheduled for September 2020 but during these unforeseen circumstances with COVID effects, they decided to push it to the new year.

If you find yourself in need of making this transition, it’s best to hire an experienced developer who can navigate this change for your website with ease. Google has prepared a series of checklist items to accomplish for these lagging websites. I suggest you pass on the checklist to your developer so they can complete the mobile-first indexing best practices rather than trying to do it yourself.


  1. The rise in AI’s BERT, bidirectional encoder representations from transformers

Do you regularly keep up with AI (artificial intelligence)? If not, then you should be informed about BERT, a transformer-based machine learning technique developed in 2018 by Google for natural language processing pre-training. In other words, BERT allows you to receive the answers you’re looking for on Google in the top-ranking position in a bigger, bolder font. AI is here to stay and will only become more intertwined with our lives as the technology continues to advance. I’ve written a number of articles about AI that you may find helpful.


Here is an example of BERT:

Top 4 SEO Trends to Look Out for


In just one year since BERT, it went from being used in 10% to nearly 100% of all English language queries. For the example above, it pulled a relevant passage from the page to give the searcher exactly what they were looking for.

In order for your website content to accommodate BERT, be sure to have a deep understanding of natural language. Your writing or marketing team can now write for actual users instead of writing purely for SEO purposes. It essentially gives you more freedom to publish content people are searching for without having the pressure to include keyword variations to perform well with SEO standards. Consumers will find this shift refreshing. Also, the articles will make more sense and are easier to read and comprehend.


  1. Google’s entities connecting by relationships

Let’s start this point by defining what an entity is. An entity is a well-known thing or concept that’s singular, unique, and distinguishable. For instance, an entity can be a person, place, item, idea, song, concrete element, or any combination of these items. In other words, if you search for an entity, Google will display its specific content on the right-hand side of the page.


Let’s use the phrase “digital marketing” as an example:


On the search results side (on the left), you’ll see several PPC ads located in the top four positions. On the entity side (on the right), you’ll see the full definition of digital marketing. In addition, you can see its KPI, Cost, Area, Basics, and books about it. Digital marketing is the entity in this example.

The traditional way websites are being connected by Google is by backlinks. However, Google is in the process of offering a network of entities connected by their relationships. This model is similar to the real world which will also inform Google on which companies, authors, and content are truly credible.


Final Thoughts

The biggest takeaway from part one of SEO Trends is that you need to stay well informed about Google’s changes. Plus, you should have an experienced website developer or partner as a part of your team. As a homebuilder or developer, you are wise to focus on your homes and properties. So, work with a professional website firm to keep up with Google and ahead of your competition.

I recommend partnering with a digital marketing agency to manage these updates for you. They can assist you with other online forms of marketing as well. A marketing agency will give you recommendations on Google updates as well as help you with website development techniques to increase the user-experience on your website.

As you know from this article, Google is always updating its algorithm. Stay on top of your game regarding digital marketing strategies by reading my additional resources below:

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Terry Zelen

About Terry Zelen

Creative Director | Consultant | Author | President of Zelen Communications

Terry Zelen is a seasoned Creative Director with more than 35 years of experience in Home Builder advertising and marketing.

He is the founder of The Punch List, which is an online blog to help inform home builders and developers on strategic marketing insights to fuel their firm.


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