How to Create Content That Ranks for Google in 2021
The December round of core updates from Google was a doozy, creating volatile shifts in rankings and traffic for websites all over the world. For some, organic search traffic plummeted—sometimes by double-digit percentages. Others saw major boosts in the other direction.
That has left many SEO specialists, marketers, and business owners scrambling to catch up.
Meanwhile, another major update is inevitable. On average, Google launches sizeable changes every three months.
The good news: We have some clues on what’s coming next.
How to Write Google-Worthy Content
Here’s how you can write content that ranks well for Google in 2021:
1. Create more localized content
SEO grew more important in 2020 as companies abandoned their advertising budgets in an effort to cut costs. With fewer ads driving traffic, that left the site’s own merits as a primary driver of traffic.
At the same time, the search intent changed. People didn’t just want to know where the nearest pizza shops were. They wanted to know if they were open during COVID-19.
And since people are traveling less, aiming to rank locally is even more important than before.
2. Pay attention to the user experience.
This is a topic that will become more important in 2021, but it’s also a good rule of thumb.
Two questions to ask in 2021:
Are there CLS (cumulative layout shift) issues? Ever go to click on a button but accidentally click something else because the page suddenly finished loading? This is a key focus point for Google in 2021.
How quick is your Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)? It’s a new metric Google wants to focus on in 2021, and it’s essentially a yardstick to see how quickly the biggest, most important section of your webpage loads.
While we’re talking about user experience, it’s a good idea to ensure your website is as user-friendly as possible. Consider:
Is the website clean and free of distractions?
Would a random visitor quickly understand your site’s purpose?
Would that random visitor understand how to navigate your site after a single glance?
3. Pay attention to E-A-T.
In case you don’t know, E-A-T is shorthand for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
If that sounds confusing because those words are synonyms, you’re not alone. Here’s what each word means in this context:
Expertise - Who wrote it and do they have credentials?
Authoritativeness - Are you recognized as an authority?
Trustworthiness - Who is the author? What is the website’s purpose? Where did the content come from?
There are a few ways to boost E-A-T on your own site. A few strategies you can use:
Flesh out your author pages. Your blog authors should be experts in their field. Write detailed author bios and link to their LinkedIn profile and any other evidence that showcases their expertise.
Build up your backlinks. We could create an entire blog series on backlinks, but the important note here is that the more backlinks to your site from reputable websites, the better.
If all of this still sounds overwhelming, here’s a question the Google team asks on their Core Updates page that’s worth remembering: Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia, or book?
That doesn’t mean your writing should be stale and academic, but it does mean you should present your content like the authority you are.
Here’s something else worth thinking about: In the Moz post about the December updates, one commenter pointed out that the biggest winners were HONcode sites. For context, HONcode is a set of rules in the medical community that holds developers to basic ethical standards in how they present information and ensures readers always know the source and purpose of the data they’re reading. Whether or not that is a coincidence or not is unclear, but it’s a worthy note: Be clear with your intentions for the reader and give them the best content possible.
4. Create content people care about.
Here’s another question from the Google team in the core updates document: Is this the sort of page you'd want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
Think about that for a second. Is the content you’re making so illuminating that readers want to bookmark it so they can refer to it later? Is it delightful enough that they want to share it with a friend? Does it move and inform so well, people recommend it to others?
Regardless of whether you’re writing about exciting new rollercoasters or dull enterprise software, create content that strikes an emotional chord while providing a deeper level of meaningful information than your peers.
If all of that sounds like a lot of work—it is. Great content is meticulously researched and carefully written with the reader in mind. If you struggle to create content that resonates, make sure you have a team member who can execute on your behalf.