With SEO trends changing right and left, it’s time to do a round-up of the “must-dos” in 2021. Things are on the move – so even if you’ve read articles like this in the past – it’s a smart idea to brush up on this year’s important search engine evolutions.

These are the questions you need to ask yourself as you charge into the new year and work to improve your organic rankings, as well as your conversions.

1. Have You Added Links to Google Map Directions?

As of today, there are more than 5 million live websites using Google Maps. It’s the easiest way to show website users where your business is and how they can get there. In 2021, not only is it a convenient addition for customers – it’s a factor in your website’s search ranking.

Add Google Map Direction on Website
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When you link to Google Maps in your “contact” page or under your “about us” section, you’re telling Google even more about your business, including its geolocation. With location-based results becoming more and more prominent in Google rankings, it’s crucial that your website has a location-based angle.

2. Where Is Your NAPE Information?

Ever heard of NAP(E)? The acronym stands for the most basic contact information that every business should provide: name, address (physical), phone number, and usually an email address.

You might be thinking that this sounds like obvious information to provide your website users – and you’re right – but it’s also information that plays a critical role in your local organic search result rankings.

Above all else, Google wants to recommend reliable, legitimate businesses and websites to searchers. Therefore, the search engine does quite a bit of cross-referencing to determine if your business is real and if its details are accurate.

Back in 2018, Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors study found that NAP is one of the top SERP signals. The consistency of your citation information is key – both on and off your website.

3. Are Your Phone Numbers Clickable?

Long gone are the days of copying and pasting a phone number from a webpage into your phone – modern sites allow customers to call with the click of a button.

Clickable Phone Number - Local SEO Checklist
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Unsurprisingly, Google rewards websites that have clickable phone numbers and considers them as a positive ranking factor. The search engine openly advises converting your phone numbers into links via code to ensure that the information is correctly anchored and easy to use.

This fits in with the 2021 trend of making your contact information as clear and cohesive as possible, both for real users and search engines. The easier it is to use your NAP(E) information, the better.

4. Are Your Blog Posts Actually High-Quality?

Ah, blog posts. By 2021, you’d think most of us would be finished heralding the importance of blogs to websites in all categories and industries. However, we’re not.

Graph Shows Word Count Vs Average Social Shares
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It’s been discovered that posts over 3,000 words in length tend to receive the most internet traffic, as well as more social shares. Long-form content seems to hold a special place in Google’s heart, but that doesn’t mean that you should be droning on and on to reach a certain word count.

Regardless of its length, a blog post needs to match the following criteria to be relevant and SEO-friendly:

  • Highly relevant
  • Topical
  • Informative
  • Written by an established/public author
  • Wholly original

If Google finds that your content is of “low-quality,” AKA unoriginal or copied/regurgitated content that’s not beneficial to readers, your rankings will likely be negatively impacted. What’s even scarier is that it’s theoretically possible that a few low-quality blog posts could impact the way Google views your entire website.

5. Are You Encouraging and Promoting Reviews?

It’s 2021, and today, online customer reviews are the word-of-mouth recommendations of the 1980s and before. Review sites and honest blog posts from customers are where credibility blossoms, so the question is, are you doing what it takes to encourage and promote quality reviews?

Customers aren’t the only ones who care about reviews – Google and other search engines do, too.

Respond To Reviews To Improve Local SEO Ranking - Google Confirms
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When a search engine like Google is attempting to learn your brand’s reputation and reliability, positive online reviews serve as a big indicator of credibility. Although you might solely be focusing on endless keyword research, Google’s always trying to build an overall picture of your business’s trustworthiness.

Want to do yourself a favour when it comes to SEO?

Prioritize customer review management on Google-licensed platforms – Trustpilot, Yelp, etc. Building up a good review profile on trusted sites will help to send signals of credibility to Google.

Additionally, try to incorporate more reviews onto your webpages.

Add Positive Reviews/Feedback on Your Website
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Implementing this positive feedback will drive trust amongst potential customers as well as with search engines. If you do things right, reviews can serve as a key aspect of your SEO and marketing strategies.

6. Are Your URLs SEO-Friendly?

When was the last time you gave some thought to your URLs?

When you’re creating a new piece of content, the URL should be simple, compelling, relevant, and most importantly, accurate.

When a search engine notices a URL, it quickly tries to understand what it links to and how it will best benefit users and search results. Therefore, a URL that’s not wordy – and is 100 per cent clear – is essential to ranking well. Use numbers and words that people (and search engines) can easily comprehend.

Moreover, your URLs should include important keywords. For example, if you’re talking about a recipe for Instant Pots on your cooking blog, don’t just include the name of the recipe – reference Instant Pot in the URL.

In the same vein, don’t go overboard with words in your URL. Three to five should do it.

7. Are You Maximizing Your Titles and Meta Descriptions?

We’re not talking about creating good headlines – we’re talking about crafting excellent title tags and meta description tags. These work with the actual copy on a page to influence search engine rankings, which means you can’t just slap any tag on there and call it In.

A title tag is found in the top part of your page’s code and is often associated with the metadata, although it’s not actually a meta tag. It gives search engines an idea of what the page is about, and as search engines become more adept at understanding what content a page holds, a clear title tag becomes increasingly crucial.

Crafting and Optimize Excellent Titles and Meta Descriptions For Local SEO Benefit
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Try to keep your title tag between the optimal length of 50 to 60 characters, and think about what words are really important to include. Brand names, strong keywords, and relevant terms are recommended.

Similarly, your descriptions beneath this title tag in the search engine results are important. Each page on your website has a meta description, which should entice searchers to click on your result instead of someone else’s.

Meta Description Should Be Clean and Meaningful

A strong meta description is neat, clean, and enticing. For the most successful optimization, try to get the point of the webpage across clearly in a sentence or two. Although the description can technically be any length, it’s best to keep them between 150 to 160 words.

8. Does Your Website Load Quickly?

No one likes waiting for a webpage to load – including search engine bots! Over the years, it has become increasingly important to improve website loading speeds. Weighty images, complicated widgets, and other things that are slowing your page down might be the death of positive SEO results.

Maile Ohye from Google stated, “Two seconds is the threshold for eCommerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under half a second.”

The search engine giant has confirmed that speed does play a role in ranking results. If your webpage takes too long to load, not only do you seriously risk losing conversions, but you also jeopardize your brand’s place in the SERPs.

Be sure you’re taking time to test your website and pinpoint the weak spots that are slowing it down.

9. Is Your Site CSS and JavaScript Optimized?

Speaking of website performance, let’s talk about a crucial aspect of a successful website in 2021: using JavaScript and CSS to improve how your site loads.

By inlining your CSS and JavaScript, you can ensure that search engines are properly crawling and indexing your site. JavaScript SEO is a popular term nowadays, and for good reason – Google’s bots might not automatically crawl your site if you’ve made some mistakes with your JavaScript framework.

Optimize CSS and JavaScript
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To understand the importance of optimizing your JavaScript and CSS, you must first understand how search engine results are created. Search engine bots crawl websites to find new links, index them for future surfaces, and then figure out how to render them when someone finally clicks on the new links.

If your JavaScript or CSS code is slowing your website down or is poorly written, when search engines go to render your result, they’ll find an unoptimized page that isn’t quick or efficient.

How Crawler Sees Your Optimized Javascript and CSS
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At this point in the digital world, your site must be optimized to load quickly in a gradual, full manner. Therefore, you may need to minify your codes to shrink file sizes and decrease page loading times. You can use tools such as Google Closure Compiler and Microsoft AJAX Minifier to accomplish this.

10. Are Your Internal Links Boosting Traffic?

We’ve all heard that internal linking is important when it comes to SEO, but let’s dig a little deeper to talk about 2021 best practices.

When you link to another video, image, or post on your website within another post, you’re essentially creating a treasure map for Google (and other search engines) to follow. You’re actively demonstrating how your different web pages and resources work together under common themes and topics.

Having said that, you can’t just link any of your pages together arbitrarily. Google wants to see links that are between relevant pages that would actually provide benefits to readers. You can certainly boost your site’s navigability by linking to the right pages, but only if they are appropriate.

This year, we should also talk about something called “crawl depth.” This is the extent to which search engines can index your website’s content. If you have helpful internal linking structures (AKA maps), Google can crawl deeply into the inner workings of your site.

If your content is poorly indexed and has few or no internal links, your crawl depth is likely minimal. This leads to poor organic rankings, as well as low online visibility.

11. Does Your Link Building Center on Consumers?

As we just said, linking internally is only helpful if the content is relevant – and the same goes for the external, inbound links you incorporate. Many SEO experts believe that inbound links are the most important source of ranking power, but only when done well.

Inbound Inter-Linking
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External links are extremely influential when built with a consumer-centric process. In order for the link to add any value to your website’s rankings, it must be something that readers can trust and benefit from. Therefore, Google openly evaluates:

  • The trustworthiness of the site you’re linking to.
  • The popularity of the linking page.
  • What anchor text you use.
  • The number of links to the same page on the source page.
  • The relevancy of the content on the linked pages.

If you want external links to serve as an SEO superpower, you must put the consumer’s benefits first. Consider how your inbound links will help them as they research, learn, and shop. The more relevant they are to the consumer’s journey, the more Google will see your external links as bonus ranking points.

12. Are Your Schemas Improving Your SERP Rankings?

One of the newer changes in SEO – schema markups are a form of optimization that can boost your website’s position in the SERPs. By installing a schema markup code on your website, you provide search engine users with even more relevant information when they stumble upon your link in a search result.

To put it simply, schemas are what explain your data to search engines. It gives meaning to the association of keywords you use.

For example, let’s say you use the word “Cars” in a headline. How does Google know if you’re talking about vehicles, a song by Gary Numan, or the Pixar animated film? Although search engines can use context clues, it’s even more beneficial when HTML tags give them a deeper understanding.

So, the question is, how can you implement a schema markup?

The first step is to go to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.

This is where you can select the type of data that you need to mark up. Then, follow the process to highlight the various elements you want to mark up and create the HTML to add to your website.

Schema - Structured Data Markup - Improving SERP Ranking
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If you want to take control of the information that you’re feeding directly to search engines, using schema markups is essential. Ensure that Google and other engines are understanding your brand in the manner you intended.

In Conclusion

How are you feeling after going through our checklist?

Our hope is that you’ve found a few areas to work on – and learned a few things you didn’t know before. When it comes to SEO, a little bit of improvement can go a long way towards better rankings and more conversions.

  • Vivek is a Local Search Specialist at E2M. He is responsible for researching and analyzing organic & local search tactics and turning innovative ideas into achievable search strategy. You can reach him on twitter @vivekrpatel.