Search engine optimization (SEO) has gone through a lot of changes over the years, and we’re only going to see more throughout the new year. From creating content for the user to bracing for Google’s big algorithm updates, Real Estate Agents and Brokers have had to adapt in many ways to account for the evolution of SEO, and will always need to do this.

The only constant about SEO is that it is always not constant! Evolving and adapting to changes is very important if you want to stay ahead of the game. It’s not always possible to stay ahead, but sometimes the big guys at search engines like Google will give us little tidbits and clues about things to come. It’s our responsibility to listen to the right sources, come up with game plans, and execute in order to stay up to date (or at least not far behind)

In addition to any unknown changes to come, the following are three of the most important known factors that are worth watching for in 2021 and beyond.


1. More Focus on User Intent


You might remember the days when ranking was as easy as stuffing content with relevant keywords and phrases that Google seemed to love. However, practicing the same strategy today will likely land you in trouble with the search giant, especially since the Hummingbird update in 2013.

At the same time, ranking was actually somewhat harder back in the old days, as marketers needed to use exact-match phrases that made content more awkward and unreadable. For instance, you might use the keyword “best real estate agent TX” multiple times throughout a single piece of content, a term that wouldn’t make much sense at all when used verbatim in any context.

Regardless of how easy or difficult it was to rank back in the old days of SEO, today it’s all about pleasing the user, not Google. One of the biggest recent changes came in 2019 when Google rolled out the BERT algorithm’s National Language Processing (NLP) capability. The innovative NLP used contextual clues to provide users with relevant content based on even the vaguest search queries.

If you can become the authority around a topic or multiple topics, you’ll appeal to both users and Google.

Keywords are still important in content and will continue to be so throughout 2021, but marketers need to create content that users actually find helpful, which entails using keywords and relevant phrases that are naturally incorporated throughout the content. Maintaining a conversational voice is also ideal if you want to connect with both people and search engines.

If you want to create high-quality content that ranks well in 2021, your best bet is to learn about the questions your audience is asking and try to answer them.

If you can become the authority around a topic or multiple topics, you’ll appeal to both users and Google. Creating content that addresses every stage of the sales funnel will also help you cover every topic from the research phase to the decision stage.

One free way to find these searches and questions being asked online so that you can use them for content topics (among other more elaborate paid tools) is to use the free Keyword Planner Tool from Google Ads. Using this tool, you can enter a search phrase such as “buying a home in Florida” and be shown other popular search terms on related topics. You will also be able to see:

  • The keyword’s search volumes (how many times a keyword is searched each month)
  • The competition of these keyword’s (how hard it would be to rank on Google for this keyword)
  • The CPC or “Cost-per-click” of running an Ad on Google for that keyword

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

Use this strategy to find some less competitive and highly targeted searches that you are an expert on. After you choose your list of topics and create some awesome, in-depth, unique new content for your website that will provide helpful info and answers for searchers that search engines will love as well.


2. The Ranking of Stronger Brands


Google really likes brands that stand apart from competitors and remain favorites among consumers. You can create great content to boost brand awareness and connect with wide audiences, but it won’t count for much if you can’t establish your brand as well as the big guys like Zillow, Realtor, Trulia, etc.

Google’s recent Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (EAT) guidelines have made it clear that brands are more trustworthy in people’s minds if they have more resources and brand recognition behind them. You might interpret this as Google essentially favoring giant corporations over small businesses just starting out, but the fact is that small brands still have a chance to shine.

Small businesses like Real Estate agents and investment property managers can do well if they develop a good understanding of their audiences and niche. With effective branding campaigns and increased brand awareness using proven strategies like these, you will connect with more people through your content, which could lead to a significant increase in rankings.

As your business and content gains more online mentions, Google will see how far your brand is reaching

If your content really is good, you should share it with people.

You should share it within your own network and also reach out to other websites and writers who write about similar topics.

For example, if you wrote an in-depth article and checklist about preparing to buy a home, you might go to Google and search “what you need to know before buying a home” in order to find popular, authority articles from writers who already created content about this. Reach out to those writers and make a connection, share your awesome resource with them, and find a way to work together and get your content published or used as a resource.

Not only will these opportunities get more eyes on your content, they will serve as a mention of your brand/website and improve your brands trust and authority in the eyes of search engine algorithms.

As your business and content gains more online mentions, Google will see how far your brand is reaching, and you’ll likely get better long-term results from your SEO and content marketing efforts.


3. The Google Core Web Vitals Algorithm Update


One of Google’s main goals is to make things even easier for its users. All major and minor updates to the Google algorithm have been in an attempt to optimize the user experience, from the Caffeine update in 2009 to the most recent announcement of the Web Vitals update in May 2020.

According to Google, the Web Vitals initiative would provide developers, marketers, and business owners with specific metrics to help measure the user experience on their websites. Web Vitals would replace a lot of the less efficient and confusing metrics and tools that businesses used to rely on for gauging the user experience.

The update would bring in three main benchmarks to be included in Google’s Core Web Vitals:

  • First Input Delay (FID) — This metric would measure interactivity on your website, with an ideal score sitting somewhere below 100 milliseconds.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) — This would measure a website’s overall loading performance based on the time it takes for a page to load, which should always be less than 2.5 seconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shifts (CLS) — The CLS would measure visual stability, with a target score being less than 0.1.

Keeping an eye on each of these metrics using the unified Web Vitals tools will help create the perfect user experience for every visitor on your website. You can access this tool right inside of your Google Search Console account and should be checking on it frequently to make sure all of your website pages are fully optimized.

Core Web Vitals will ultimately be a huge ranking factor in 2021 that real estate businesses should use to their advantage.