We made it all the way through 2020, and all the SEO bigwigs out there have had a minute to reflect and to offer their predictions for 2021. It’s true that 2020 was a doozy, but SEO experts are optimistic about trends for 2021. While spam reduction was on everyone’s wish list for 2020, the global pandemic had other ideas, and Google had bigger fish to fry.

A Peek Back at Predictions for 2020

BrightLocal shares how some of the top SEO influencers’ predictions fared in 2020, and it amounts to something of a mixed bag. Consider the following:

  • Ben Fisher, VP of Marketing at Steady Demand, reluctantly predicted an increase in spam, and while he wishes he’d been wrong on this count, he was spot on.
  • Andrew Cock-Starkey, Founder of Optimisey, predicted a shift toward monetized Google My Business (GMB), and Google delivered with a rollout of what it termed upgraded profiles for a monthly subscription rate in July.
  • Dan Foland, SEO Director at Postali, met and raised the GMB prediction with his belief that Local Service Ads (LSA) for the professional service industries would also gain traction in 2020, and his prediction proved prophetic.

Heading into the New Year

As 2020 come to a much-anticipated close, Whitespark published its Local Search Ranking Factors survey, and to almost no one’s surprise, GMB was voted the most important factor for local search rankings. Keeping that GMB profile neatly polished – which translates to keeping it active and optimized for your business’s goals – remains paramount, and this fact is reflected in many of the big deal predictions for 2021.

Looking Ahead into 2021

SEO experts have more opportunities to shine in 2021, and several are offering up their best predictions regarding what is to come.

Fine Tuning that GMB Listing

During the lockdowns we experienced as a result of the pandemic, businesses got up close and personal with exactly how important their GMB listings are. With the sudden about-face in the way we do business, many enterprises that hadn’t gotten around to making the most of their GMB profiles got down to business when they realized the importance of getting critical information out there, including their new hours, new protocols, and more. Amy Toman, SEO Analyst at Digital Law Marketing, shares that she’s heartened to see business owners dive into their GMB accounts with greater gusto and that she expects the trend to continue. Ultimately, it behooves all business owners to remain proactive with their GMB accounts.

GMB: Digging Deep

Claire Carlile, Digital Marketing Consultant at Claire Carlile Marketing, predicts businesses will more fully avail themselves of everything that GMB has to offer – beginning with spit polishing those profiles and maximizing their engagement in the GMB process. Staying engaged with that GMB account is key, including monitoring for reviews, updating images, and culling information for Q&As. Carlile recommends that – and expects to see – businesses become more aware of their GMB presence and become more agile at using what GMB has to offer, including features that mirror social platforms, such as messaging and new follower offers.

Cracking Down on Bad Actors

Our old friend Ben Fisher over at Steady Demand weighs in with his prediction that GMB’s discoverability methods for service-based businesses are likely to undergo some major changes in 2021, and the attendant guidelines should become clearer in the fullness of time. Additionally, he’s expecting Google to implement increased suspensions in GMB as it continues to hone its guiding principles and continues to bring the hammer down on those bad actors out there.

Expecting Big Things

Krystal Taing with Solutions & Strategic Partnerships at Uberall has her eye on user-generated content and on continued engagement. She relays that we saw glimmers of this in 2020 – such as the significant role that reviews played in local ranking. She expects 2021 to trend toward even greater convenience and heightened information. Potential customers want to know everything they can – as quickly as they can – before they make that call, and 2021 is happy to oblige. Finally, Taing believes we’ll see the nascent trends of 2020 – like the smorgasbord of ordering, delivery, and payment options – continue to gain momentum in response to consumer expectations (after exposure to the attendant benefits).

Pandemic Driven Changes

Colan Nielsen, VP of Local Search at Sterling Sky, took a peek in his crystal ball and came back with a prediction that GMB will continue to support varying business models, including telehealth, which shattered all 2020 expectations in the wake of COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, Google had a listing requirement that mandated face-to-face contact with one’s customers, but it let this drop in response to the global pandemic and to telehealth’s healthcare initiative. Nielsen expects GMB to continue on the path toward increased inclusivity.

Monetize that GMB

Many SEO types believe there will be an increased focus on for-pay GMB offerings in 2021. This trend is likely to include premium features, such as the Google Guarantee. Further, the old adage – location, location, location – has never been more apt, and many a predictor out there foresees a continued emphasis on local service ads. It must be noted, however, that some predict this trend could descend into spam territory until the rules and restrictions are tightened. Finally, many are hopeful that the push toward a more-monetized GMB will help get rid of some of the riff-raff who play fast and loose with the rules (in a bid for artificial ratings) and will allow earnest contenders to shine bright like a diamond.

Allow Digital Marketing Experts to Help Predict Your SEO Future

SEO continues to ride its own wave, and keeping up can be difficult. Never fear, the digital marketing experts at The Web Guys have their X-ray vision glasses on and are well prepared to help. The web never sleeps, but with our marketing mavens in your corner, you can. Dive into the thick of 2021 by contacting us at (317) 805-4933 today.