Partner Post

Connect The Dots: What SEO Actually Looks Like In 2021

Last week, the Inlight Partner Network launched Connect The Dots, a bi-monthly series where the network's partners will take turns to present on a topic close to their heart - but also one they have a specialist perspective on.

Kicking the series off was SEO experts Optimising and in case you missed the webinar, Sam Penny (Senior SEO Lead) and Jim Ferguson (Head of Digital) have summarised and captured some of the key takeaways with a few bonus snippets of video from the session dotted throughout...

It is no secret that the online marketplace is crowded. Following two years of lockdowns, consumers are more reliant on search engines to filter their options than ever before. But, how do you stand out from the crowd and capture your target market? You invest in SEO.

What is SEO and why does it matter?

Search Engine Optimisation is a process that improves the quality and quantity of traffic to a website and its performance in search results.

SEO is a broad sweeping marketing term and includes a range of activities such as:

  • Content creation and improvement
  • PR and other promotional activities
  • Technical improvements, such as decreasing page load time
  • Website structure/hierarchy
  • Improving user experience in a number of contexts
  • Using and optimising
  • Google tools, such as ‘Google My Business’

But, boiled down to its essence, SEO involves creating website improvements and other promotional activities.

“SEO is a combination of website changes and promotional activities that help a website rank on search engines for a number of specific search terms, known as keywords.”
Sam Penny

Senior SEO Lead at Optimising

SEO has wide-ranging benefits

SEO has never been more important. Google’s traffic to advertisers is extremely valuable with the company generating USD$147 billion from their advertising services in 2020 alone. The average return on advertising spending is estimated at 300%, but that is considered low by many in the industry. (We’ve seen clients generate 400% to 1,200% returns on their initial investment). However, these colossal economic benefits are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SEO.

The simple objective of SEO is to improve visibility within the Google Search results (SERPs), but there are also many other side benefits. Investing time and effort in SEO improves user experience, improves the credibility of an organisation or brand, and increases overall visibility.

An evolving challenge

The world of SEO is constantly changing, with search engines becoming more capable of reading and understanding websites. Similar to Google’s algorithms, brands and organisations need to keep adjusting their approach to maintain relevance, and while there are many variables affecting how and why a website ranks - we’re firmly in the camp that a technically superior website is the key.

Here's a quick summary of what Google wants to see.

What are some common misconceptions in SEO?

Online you will find a million SEO articles and guides, all with varying degrees of accuracy. Even some of the more well-known names in SEO post some questionable material so it's easy to go down the wrong path.

Being a growing and evolving industry, techniques change and become outdated quickly so it's important to ensure that you are up to date.

Some really outdated and irrelevant techniques we still commonly see but advise you steer clear of include:

  • Keyword stuffing of content - and just generally content written for Search engines rather than users
  • Overemphasis on getting as many links as possible, rather than only high quality and relevant sources
  • Use of Private Blog Networks
  • Use of doorway pages to boost content targeted at specific keywords or geographic areas
“Any links intended to manipulate...a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered...a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

Google Quality Guidelines

What does good SEO look like?

"Ultimately, good SEO benefits the user"

Search engines now place greater value on websites that are valuable to the user. They want to rank websites that are relevant to the searcher’s query, fast loading and secure, provide a great page experience, and retain user interest in order to rank highly - sounds easy!

Let’s explore some of these points in greater detail.

Valuable content

Strong content is crucial for SEO. Your content needs to be written in a tone that speaks to your prospective audience, understands their pain points, and communicates the value of your offering. Of course, what this content looks like will vary significantly by industry and target audience.

Alongside this, the page needs to be designed well, structured logically, and include relevant trust factors like testimonials and reviews. Unlike keyword-stuffed content, your content should read as if it is written by a human.

Relevant backlinks

Now you've got an understanding on what types of links Google doesn’t like, what types of links work? You should always be aiming for quality over quantity when it comes to your SEO links.

Links in a 2021 SEO strategy should be an extension of your PR strategies. Well-respected and authoritative publications, industry associations, media mentions are all ways you can build links that are natural.

The signs of a good link are that they are highly relevant, and also drive traffic back to your website. This approach to link building is logical and makes the internet a better place.

Page speed

As the SEO industry has evolved, it has become an increasingly technical game. Now that page speed now has a confirmed effect on rankings, you can no longer leave improving a website's speed purely to developers. The term ‘optimising page speed’ means so many things, including things such as removing redundant code, preloading of certain assets, and overall ensuring the site feels fast to a user.

There are many ways you can evaluate your page speed but Google’s Lighthouse tool is highly recommended. Google has stated that it feeds into the algorithm and it will identify issues in your load time.

Remember though - it is not all about the best scores! It’s about solving the issues.


Users are becoming more reliant on their phones than ever before. Because of this cultural shift, search engines utilise the mobile version of a website to index and rank content. Content should be well-optimised for mobile. Content with a clear structure, a fast loading time, and code written with mobile viewports is recommended.

These days, it's not uncommon for mobile sites to be designed first, with the desktop versions being the afterthought!

Got all that?

There are so many aspects to SEO in 2021 - it can seem difficult to know where to start.

To make it simple, the best approach is to do what is best for your user.

By employing best practice techniques such as valuable content, page speed and a solid mobile experience, you’ll create an enjoyable experience for your user, and Google will reward you with rankings.

If you want to learn more from the Optimising team about how to improve your SEO, please contact Co-Founder, James Richardson here.

The next Connect The Dots session will be midday on November 25th when network partner WhyHive will be diving into a topic from the world of data science. To receive the registration details in early November and/or to be kept across any future sessions, follow this link.

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About the author
Tom Webster
Partnerships Lead
Tom Webster | Partnerships Lead

Tom has led business development initiatives across digital, marketing, and creative agencies for over 8 years and leans on this experience to manage the Inlight Partner Network, driving growth and collaboration for its partners, as well as Inlight.