6 SEO Experts and Trends to Follow in 2021

 (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

What SEO trends will be the most important in 2021? This is a collection of ideas from prominent SEO experts about what SEO will look like in 2021. Long gone are the days when SEO was pronounced dead and deemed worthless for digital marketing. Instead, the industry is growing, the demand for SEO is higher than ever, and competition is fiercer too. These SEO experts offer useful guidance to ensure your business stands out in SEO this year. 

Google Passages - Brain Dean

In a blog post published on October 15, 2020, Google announced that it would now be ranking individual sections, phrases, and articles of webpages. The feature is called Passages and is powered by AI and natural language processing. Google would now be able to return precise answers for very specific search queries. 

Since that announcement, SEO leaders like Brian Dean have been educating other professionals on the implications of the new ranking model on SEO. Brain Dean, in fact, predicts that Google Passage Ranking would be among the most significant SEO trends in this year 2020. Brian Dean is the co-founder of the keywords tool Exploding Topics and the founder of the SEO blog Backlinko.

He describes Google Passages as an enhanced version of Featured Snippets. And while Google will still continue to index entire pages, it means that pages have more opportunities to rank. Dean recommends that webmasters should organize content on their web pages into neat sections, each covering a specific subtopic to enable Google to index them properly. He also thinks that Passage Ranking no longer puts long-form content at a disadvantage compared to short-form, focused content. Therefore, marketers should publish more long-form content.

Search Intent - Guy Sheetrit

Sometime last year, Guy Sheetrit tweeted, “Interpreting intent is already important to the #AI that returns search results, but it's also going to become important to rankings.” Search intent (or user intent) is perhaps already a cliche in SEO. Sheetrit predicts a change in the approach to search intent optimization. Guy Sheetrit, who is the Founder and CEO at Over the Top SEO, is a prolific author on Search Engine Watch, Adweek, The Next Web, TechRadar, and other popular marketing and tech blogs. 

Google dedicates its efforts to optimize search indexing and ranking for results that match the intent of users’ queries. Many major updates such as the BERT update and semantic search to Google’s search algorithm have been focused on understanding user intent better to provide better results to queries. Therefore, Guy Sheetrit echoes the words of other experts when he asserts that search intent is more important than search volume, even for commercial investigation queries

Apparently, many SEO professionals wrongly prioritize optimizing their content for Google instead of focusing more on the search intent of users. In essence, the very foundation of your SEO and content marketing strategy is to give users what they want (answers to their query), and while at it, building your brand recognition and selling your products/services.

Automation - Jesse McDonald

According to Jesse McDonald, “one of the biggest trends in SEO for 2021, especially within in-house roles, is the continued focus on creating more scalable solutions for optimization utilizing automation.” Jesse McDonald is the Global SEO Strategist and Organic Optimization Lead at IBM, a company that is big on artificial intelligence. Automation is not a new idea in SEO, but McDonald believes it will gain even more traction this year. 

McDonald himself is not new to SEO automation. His company’s flagship Watson computer system utilizes a combination of natural language processing, machine learning, and intelligent automation. IBM Watson services have been used by companies to improve their SEO performance. For instance, Mushi Labs’ Clearscope software uses IBM Watson to optimize content for customers and drive dramatic increases in organic search traffic. 

For McDonald’s, the main benefit of automation for in-house roles is that it would help implement low-hanging fruit elements while freeing up time to focus more on ‘additional strategic elements for improving site performance.’ 

Podcasting and SEO - Jeff Bullas

Jeff Bullas highlights podcasts among the biggest B2B content marketing trends in 2021. The primary reason is that podcasts require relatively low investment while remaining highly rewarding. The chart below shows the steady rise in the number of podcast listeners. That is enough reason for marketers to take podcasting seriously. 

But the question is how can a company integrate podcasting into their SEO strategy? Jeff Bullas is the CEO of Jeffbullas.com, a digital entrepreneur, and a renowned marketing blogger. To stay on top of SEO and content marketing with podcasts, Bullas says marketers need the following:

  • A website or page for your podcast (so people can link to it)
  • A consistent posting schedule (once a week on the same day)
  • Keywords for content enrichment *(when transcribing)
  • Interesting topics


The experts have spoken. Marketers need to prioritize live streaming and podcasting in their content strategy. Both are low-cost options that can drive your web traffic much higher this year. Analytics intelligence tools can help you automate many of your SEO processes and insight gathering in order to make better decisions. 

Likewise, some significant changes will be coming to the Google search algorithm this year, such as Passage Ranking, Page Experience (Core Web Vitals), and the completion of mobile-first indexing. In terms of strategy, SEO professionals must prioritize search intent and deliver content that caters to their audience’s needs.