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Best Online Learning Platforms 2021 (Free & Paid)

The internet has made learning easier than ever before. With an online learning platform, you can gain the skills that once required getting a college degree—all from the comfort of your home.

If you are interested in using an online learning platform to expand your knowledge, you have plenty of options to choose from.

In this guide, I will show you the 10 best online learning platforms you can use to learn new skills and advance your career.

I will cover platforms across different categories including business, technology, and digital marketing. Towards the end of this post, you can also read some tips on how to choose the best learning platform for you and the criteria used for curating this list.

What is an Online Learning Platform?

An online learning platform is a digital hub of educational resources. Students use a platform’s resources to further their knowledge and learn new skills.

The resources can come in a variety of forms including videos, written guides, interactive lessons, and more. They are commonly presented through a series of courses dedicated to a particular subject.

Online learning platforms typically make their courses available on-demand so that students can learn on their own schedule.

Online learning platforms are usually less expensive when compared to traditional education methods.

Top 10 Online Learning Platforms 2021

Coursera (Best for Online Courses)
Reliablesoft Academy (Best for Digital Marketing)
Codecademy (Best for Developers)
A Cloud Guru (Best for Cloud Training)
LinkedIn Learning (Best for Businesses)
Google SkillShop (Best for Google Products)
MasterClass (Best for Celebrity Training)
Udemy (Best for Python)
PluralSight (Best for Tech)
Udacity (Best for Digital Skills)

1. Coursera

Best Learning Platform for Online Courses

Coursera (Best for Online Courses)

Coursera is undoubtedly one of the best online learning platforms for students looking to expand their knowledge.

The platform partners with over 200 of the world’s top universities and organizations to bring high-quality educational material.

Many of the courses provide you a professional certificate once you complete all the lessons.

What can you learn with Coursera?

Coursera offers thousands of courses spanning dozens of topics. The main categories for the lessons are:

Computer Science
Data Science
Math & Logic
Information Technology
Personal Development
Arts & Humanities
Physical Science

How Coursera Pricing Works?

Approximately 2,000 of the courses on the Coursera online learning platform are available for free.

The rest require you to pay.

There are several payment options available. The first is to pay a one-time fee for an individual course certification. This can range from $29 to $100.

You can also get a Coursera Specialization which consists of a series of courses in the same subject. Specializations cost between $29 and $49 per month.

If you are interested in learning from more than one course, a Coursera Plus plan may be right for you. With the subscription, you get access to over 3,000 paid courses. The plan costs $399 per year.

Coursera offers a 7-day free trial to new students. While this is not bad, there are Coursera alternatives that offer a better money-back guarantee option.

Pros of Coursera

High-quality courses: Coursera features online courses taught from world-renowned universities and companies. The expert instructors are able to give students real-world insights into the field they are studying.
Affordable pricing: Coursera courses and plans are affordable. You can get an individual certification for a small one-time or pursue a specialization for a low monthly payment.
Free resources: Coursera has almost 2,000 courses you can use to learn new skills for free.

Visit Coursera

2. Reliablesoft Academy

Best Learning Platform For Digital Marketing

Reliablesoft Academy (Best for Digital Marketing)

Reliablesoft Academy is a dedicated learning platform for online digital marketing training.

Reliablesoft Academy offers ten online courses covering all digital marketing channels. In particular, these are:

The Complete SEO Course
eCommerce SEO Course
Google Ads Course
Facebook Ads Course
Google Analytics Course
Email Marketing Course
Content Marketing Course
Keyword Research Course
Social Media Marketing Course
Digital Marketing Course

The courses are grouped into two bundles.

The first bundle is the Digital Marketing Full Course Bundle and it includes all ten courses and two certifications. A digital marketing certification and an SEO certification.

The second bundle is the SEO Course Bundle and it includes four courses (SEO Course, Google Analytics Course, eCommerce Course, Keyword Research Course), and an SEO certification.

What can you learn with Reliablesoft Academy?

With Reliablesoft Academy courses you can learn everything there is to know about Digital marketing. You will learn which techniques to use to increase your traffic and sales in the fastest possible way.

All digital marketing courses are comprehensive and they include actionable tips and proven advice to help you apply the theory in practice.

Reliablesoft courses are highly rated by hundreds of students.

How Reliablesoft Academy Pricing Works?

Reliablesoft Academy courses are affordable for everyone with a very simple pricing structure. You pay an on-time fee and you get lifetime access to the courses.

You also get free updates (courses are updated frequently to take into account new techniques and technologies).

In addition, you get a 60-day money-back guarantee which is the best offering in the online learning industry.

Pros of Reliablesoft Academy

Dedicated digital marketing academy: if your goal is to learn digital marketing, reliablesoft is one of the best learning platforms to use. All courses are created by experts with years of hands-on experience in the digital marketing industry.
Complete courses: Reliablesoft courses are complete so you won’t have to pay or go through other courses to build your digital marketing skills.
Accredited certifications: Reliablesoft Academy is a trusted digital marketing institution and you can use the certifications to prove your skills.
Risk-free courses: Reliablesoft academy has more than 4000 students and 5/5 star course reviews. This eliminates your risk of enrolling in a platform that won’t satisfy your needs.

Visit Reliablesoft Academy

3. Codecademy

Best Learning Platform For Developers

Codecademy (Best for Developers)

Codecademy is an online learning platform for people looking to learn about web development.

The courses contain a mix of text lessons and interactive coding tools that allow students to practice what they learn in real-time.

What can you learn with Codecademy?

Codecademy has courses for 14 programming languages including Java, JavaScript, Python, and Ruby. They also offer courses in the 10 following subject areas:

Web Development
Web Design
Computer Science
For Business
Developer Tools
Data Science
Machine Learning
Code Foundations
Mobile Development
Game Development
Data Visualization

If you want to take more than one course, Codecademy offers Career Paths and Skill Paths that combine multiple courses to make a single learning resource for a specific profession.

How does Codecademy Pricing Works?

Codecademy uses a subscription payment model.

There is a free plan available that includes limited interactive lessons and daily practices.

If you want access to all the learning resources, you need a Pro plan. The plan costs $39.99 per month when paid monthly or $239.88 when billed yearly.

Pros of Codecademy

Beginner-friendly courses: The Codecademy courses are easy to follow, giving anyone regardless of experience level, the ability to learn how to code.
Free resources: Codecademy offers free lessons and practice tools you can use to learn without having to pay.
Active community: Codecademy has an active community of coaches, graduates, and current students. You can use this community to answer any questions you may have and connect with others.

Visit Codecademy

4. A Cloud Guru

Best Learning Platform For Cloud Training

A Cloud Guru (Best for Cloud Training)

A Cloud Guru is an online learning platform that helps students learn how to use different cloud-based technologies.

The courses are available on-demand through a series of videos and interactive exercises.

Many of the courses provide a certificate of completion once you finish.

What can you learn with A Cloud Guru?

A Cloud Guru offers over 360 courses and 1,600 hands-on labs. You can find resources to learn about the following subjects:


Many of the courses are specifically designed to help students prepare for the official certification exams for platforms like Linux and AWS.

How a Cloud Guru Pricing Works?

To use A Cloud Guru, you need to have a paid plan. There are two options:

Personal Basic: $35 per month
Personal Plus: $47 per month

You can save 17% off the cost for both plans by enrolling in yearly billing.

A Cloud Guru offers a 7 day free trial for new users to try out the learning platform.

There are also business plans if you need access for your team.

Pros of a Cloud Guru

In-depth training: A Cloud Guru offers in-depth technical training and interactive lessons to help you gain practical knowledge quickly.
Preparation for certifications: A Cloud Guru courses and labs are designed to prepare you for the exams needed to get different professional certifications (such as Microsoft Certifications).

Visit A Gloud Guru

5. LinkedIn Learning

Best Learning Platform For Businesses

LinkedIn Learning (Best for Businesses)

LinkedIn Learning is an online learning platform designed to help business professionals develop new skills.

It features over 16,000 self-paced courses made up primarily of videos and written lessons.

When you complete a course, you get a certificate of completion to add to your LinkedIn profile.

What can you learn with LinkedIn Learning?

LinkedIn Learning offers courses in the Business, Creative, and Technology categories. Below are some popular courses in the platform’s catalog:

Project Management Skills
Social Media Marketing
Data Analysis
Programming Languages
Graphic Design
Web Design
Small Business and Entrepreneurship

How LinkedIn Learning Pricing Works?

LinkedIn Learning lets you buy individual courses or sign up for a recurring membership.

Single courses cost between $20 and $40.

The membership plan requires you to have a LinkedIn Premium account. The cost for a Premium account starts at $29.99 per month or $239.88 when paid annually.

LinkedIn Learning offers a one-month free trial to anyone that hasn’t had a Premium account.

Pros of LinkedIn Learning

Affordable prices: LinkedIn Learning courses are very affordable as you can purchase one from as low as $20.
Certificate of completion: While not a professionally accredited certification, each LinkedIn Learning course gives you a certificate once you are done. You can add this certification to your LinkedIn profile to showcase your skills to your network.

Visit LinkedIn Learning

6. Google SkillShop

Best Learning Platform For Google Products

Google SkillShop (Best for Google Products)

Google Skillshop is an online training platform that teaches people how to use various Google marketing services.

Courses are presented in both video and text format and available for study on-demand.

You can receive an official Google certification after you pass the final knowledge assessment for a course.

What can you learn with Google Skillshop?

With Google Skillshop, you can learn how the different Google marketing platforms work and how you can use them for a business. The main focus areas are:

Google Search ads
Google Display ads
Google Shopping ads
Google Video ads
Google Analytics

The lessons cover beginner and intermediate level concepts for these topic areas.

How Google Skillshop Pricing Works?

Google Skillshop is completely free to use. You can study the courses and take the certification exams as often as you’d like.

Pros of Google Skillshop

Official certifications: The Skillshop certifications are the officially recognized Google certification for digital marketing professionals. Earning a certification validates your proficiency using Google to run marketing campaigns. You can use the certification to showcase your skills to further your career.
Free training: Google Skillshop courses and certifications are free, making them well worth the effort to obtain.

Visit Google Skillshop

7. MasterClass

Best Learning Platform For Celebrity Training

MasterClass (Best for Celebrity Training)

MasterClass is an online learning platform that features lessons taught by celebrity and VIP instructors.

Some of the famous people that have taught through MasterClass include Gordan Ramsay, Stephen Curry, Alicia Keys, and James Cameron.

Each class consists of around 20 lessons that last about 10 minutes each.

What can you learn with MasterClass?

MasterClass offers over 100 classes spanning 11 different categories.

Some of the topics covered in MasterClass lessons include:

Design & Style
Sports & Gaming

How MasterClass Pricing Works?

MasterClass is a paid online learning platform. When you sign up for a membership you get unlimited access to all the courses.

There are three membership plans:

Standard: $15 per month
Plus: $20 per month
Premium: $23 per month

All the plans provide access to the same material. The only difference between the tiers is the number of devices you can use to simultaneously view the material.

That, and the Standard plan does not allow you to download the courses for offline viewing.

Pros of MasterClass

Learn from celebrities: The main selling point of MasterClass is the ability to learn new skills from famous instructors. If there is someone in your profession that you look up to, MasterClass could be the perfect way to learn from them directly.
High production quality: The video lessons for MasterClass courses are well-produced, helping to create an engaging learning experience.

Visit MasterClass

8. Udemy

Best Learning Platform For Python

Udemy (Best for Python)

Udemy is one of the most widely used online education platforms by people that want to learn new skills and further their careers.

You can find over 150,000 courses taught by independent instructors. With over 40 million students there are plenty of Udemy courses that get a lot of attention.

The online learning platform’s most popular courses are its Python courses where students can learn how to use the programming language.

Courses are available on-demand and presented through a variety of videos, lectures, hands-on lessons, and downloadable resources.

What can you learn with Udemy?

Udemy has the most extensive course selection of any of the online learning platforms on our list.

There are thousands of courses available in each of the following categories:

Finance & Accounting
IT & Software
Office Productivity
Personal Development
Photography & Video
Health & Fitness
Teaching & Academics

You can find courses that cover beginner, intermediate, and advanced level concepts in these subject areas.

How does Udemy Pricing Works?

With Udemy, you pay for each course individually. The cost for a course can range all the way from $12.99 up to $199.99. This is the best pricing structure compared to other Udemy alternatives.

Naturally, the courses that are longer or that cover a more advanced topic tend to cost more.

When you pay for a course, you get lifetime access to the material. Many instructors update the material over time to keep it relevant to current best practices.

Pros of Udemy

Selection: Udemy offers more courses than any other online learning platform. While you couldn’t possibly study them all, the depth of selection will help you find the right courses for you.
Buy courses individually: With Udemy, you can choose to only buy the courses you need instead of signing up for a recurring plan with a bunch of resources you may not use.
Affordable options: Udemy offers courses in all price ranges. Even the more expensive courses provide good value relative to the amount of material they cover.

Visit Udemy

9. PluralSight

Best Learning Platform for Tech

PluralSight (Best for Tech)

PluralSight is an online education platform for learning about popular technologies.

The courses are taught by experienced tech professionals through a series of videos.

Like Codecademy, there are hands-on lessons and labs to help you practice in real-time as you learn new skills.

What can you learn with PluralSight?

Pluralsight offers over 7,000 courses that you can use to learn new technology skills: This includes lessons in the following subject areas:

Web Development
Software Development
Manufacturing & Design
IT Ops
Architecture & Construction
Information & Cyber Security

The platform’s most popular courses are web development lessons that teach how to use different programming languages.

The course skill level ranges from beginner to advanced.

How Pluralsight Pricing Works?

Pluralsight uses a subscription pricing model. To access the learning material, you must sign up for one of the following plans:

Standard: $29 per month (or $299 per year)
Premium: $45 per month ($499 per year)

Pluralsight offers a 10-day free trial for both plans. There are also business plans for those looking to train their team.

Pros of Pluralsight

10-day free trial: With Pluralsight, you get a whole 10 days to try out the platform. You can use the trial to quickly see if it is right for you before committing to a subscription.
Certification prep: Pluralsight offers learning paths that you can use to prepare for in-demand professional certifications. By following these paths, you get all the resources to prepare for the certification without the guesswork.

Visit PluralSight

10. Udacity

Best Learning Platform for Digital Skills

Udacity (Best for Digital Skills)

Udacity is an online learning platform that teaches students the digital skills needed for the jobs of the future.

You can use the platform to complete a single course, or you can complete a Nanodegree program consisting of a series of courses.

What can you learn with Udacity?

Udacity offers learning programs across a variety of topics in the business, programming, and data science categories.

Some of the most popular Udacity programs include:

Front End Web Developer
Java Web Developer
Product Manager
Data Scientist
Cloud Developer
Artificial Intelligence

How Udacity Pricing Works?

With Udacity, you must make a recurring payment for each course or Nanodegree program that you want to study.

Nanodegree programs start as low as $279 per month.

All training is self-paced so you will need to keep your membership active for however long it takes you to complete the material.

Udacity provides an estimated duration for each program if you were to study a certain amount of time per week.

Pros of Udacity

Career services: Udacity provides career services in addition to its courses. These can help students land jobs that fit their new skills.
High-quality courses: Udacity partners with major companies like Nvidia and Google to bring students high-quality courses built on insights from top industry professionals.

Visit Udacity

Here is a summary table showing the top online learning platforms and what they are best for.

Best For

Online Courses

Reliablesoft Academy
Digital Marketing Training

Developer Training

A Cloud Guru
Cloud Training

LinkedIn Learning

Google Skillshop
Google Products

Celebrity Training

Python Training

Tech Training

Digital Skills Training

Tip for Choosing the Best Online Learning Platform

There is a lot to consider when choosing an online learning platform. You do not want to invest time and money into an academy to only later find out that it isn’t what you wanted.

When you know what to look for, you can find the best online learning platform for your particular needs.

Here are some tips for how to choose an online learning platform:

Look for experienced instructors: An online course is only as good as its instructor. You want a learning resource taught by an experienced professional in the subject area. This will ensure that you get an accurate perspective on the skill you want to build.

Read user reviews: When choosing an online learning platform, you should read the customer reviews to see what your peers are saying. If others found the platform helpful, it is a good sign that it may work well for you.

Practice material: A good online course involves practice. Good courses involve students in “doing” — not just watching and reading — “doing again” and in applying what they learned.

Fair pricing: You shouldn’t have to break the bank to use an online learning platform. Ideally, you would look for a platform that only charges a reasonable one-time fee.

Look at the community and support: When using an online education platform, you may have questions that are not answered in the course material. In these situations, it is good to have an active community where you can engage with the instructor or other students.

Money-Back Guarantee: Each platform has a different money-back guarantee policy. Before registering make sure that you read and understand how each policy works. Platforms that are confident about their offerings, usually provide better money-back guarantee options.

Specialization: If your goal is to become an expert in a specific area i.e. digital marketing, then you can benefit more by choosing an academy that is specialized in that field.

Criteria used for choosing the best online learning platforms

There are hundreds of sites offering online training, eLearning has become a billion-dollar industry and the competition is intense.

When evaluating learning platforms to include in this list, we’ve used the following criteria.

Quality of online courses
Ease of use
Learning platform software
Online reputation
Pricing structure
Accredited certifications
Number of students
Community and support
Transparent policies

Disclaimer: Some links contained on this page are affiliate links, meaning if you buy a product using our link, we may earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. These are the online learning platforms we trust and fully recommend for learning new skills. You can read our full affiliate disclosure here.

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20210921 SEL Brief

The post 20210921 SEL Brief appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Top 10 Best Austin SEO Companies for 2021

Are you looking for the best Austin SEO companies for 2021? You’re in the right …

Keep Learning >Top 10 Best Austin SEO Companies for 2021

The post Top 10 Best Austin SEO Companies for 2021 first appeared on Gotch SEO.

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Meet our 2021 Yoast Diversity fund recipients!

Meet our 2021 Yoast Diversity fund recipients!

Diversity is an important aspect of every community. It fuels discussion, change, and growth. It brings new voices and ideas into the mix. Diversity opens the door to new possibilities, and keeps that door open for everyone, not just a privileged few. That’s why we made the Yoast Diversity fund: to support underrepresented groups that are making a great impact in the WordPress community around the world.

The Yoast Diversity fund in a nutshell

Our 2021 Diversity fund offers financial sponsorship to people that work on a project that benefits WordPress. Projects could range from teaching a group of people how to work with WordPress to writing patches for Core. It’s simple: anyone could apply, as long as the project benefits WordPress and in some way adds diversity to the WordPress project.

Applications have now closed, and the recipients that will receive sponsorship have been decided. So, without further ado, we’re extremely proud to announce the following individuals and projects which will receive funding from Yoast! Check out the fantastic projects below to see what great things our awardees are working on:

Milana Cap / Documentation focus lead

“There’s been a huge gap between release squad and Documentation team. I want to change that.”

Milana has over a decade of volunteering experience at, and has used the Diversity fund to support her in taking on the Documentation focus lead role for the WordPress 5.8 release.

She has a strong vision for improving release processes and workflows to ensure that the Documentation team get all the information they need. As Documentation focus lead she has been responsible for writing developers notes for changes and new features introduced in 5.8, making sure end user documentation (HelpHub) and developer documentation (DevHub) are up to date with the new release.

We think this is a great project and Milana certainly has us convinced about the importance of good documentation! Would you like to help out with projects like this one? You can get involved over at

Mary Job / Uwani Hub

“We need this coming generation to bring their fresher perspectives to WordPress, including new creative ways to keep democratizing WordPress”

Mary founded Uwani Hub to provide a safe space for teenagers to do tech in her underserved community of the Ijebu-Imusin area of Ogun State. At their village hub, the team introduces teenagers to digital skills, WordPress, technology history, trends, software development, robotics, graphics, arts, and character development.

In short, the Uwani Hub’s goals are to:

Train 5000 teenagers and women in the use of WordPress software & digital skills by the year 2030.Build a community of 500 active contributors to the WordPress software particularly among our teenagers within our hub community by the year 2030.Train linguists in our community on translating WordPress to our major local language(s), building a community of Polyglots, ready to teach others what they have learned.

We’re delighted to be able to support this empowering and impactful project. If you’d like to, you can also make a donation to Uwani Hub.

TC Cazy / Contribute to WordPress Documentation

“When underrepresented people see me contribute, they’ll contribute. I love to share what I learn. I can share, learn and grow with the WordPress community”

TC is an early-career developer with a mission: he wants to make the WordPress ecosystem more attractive to underrepresented groups by making the documentation more accessible.

He is following a training course to become a Certified Professional Technical Communicator and will use the skills he learns to contribute five hours per week teaching, mentor and contributing to WordPress documentation. In particular, he wants to work on making plain-language documentation, as exclusive language can create hurdles for underrepresented groups.

We’re very pleased to be sponsoring TC, and we believe his project will make a great contribution to the global WordPress community.

David Towoju / WordPress BootCamp for Nigerians

“There are a lot of underrepresented people in Africa and this will help many people become rock solid developers in Nigeria”

David is taking the initiative to set up WordPress BootCamps for his fellow Nigerians. He will offer thorough interactive training programs, teaching fellow Nigerians how to code and helping them to become WordPress developers. These BootCamps will include subjects like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, React/Vue, PHP, and WordPress Framework, for instance.

The goals are to:

Teach people to be expert WordPress DevelopersRaise the standard of living of the participants by increasing their chances of getting better employmentIncrease the awareness of WordPress in my community.

We’re really happy to support this project, and we believe it can make a tremendous impact on many lives as well as the WordPress project overall.

Estela Rueda Landeros / Redesign of the HelpHub documentation

“The user documentation needs to be easy to find for new and non-technical users”

Estela is working on a redesign of the HelpHub documentation to make sure help articles are up-to-date and easy to find.

This project will involve Estela reclassifying 170+ articles in the end-user documentation, adding new features, and improving accessibility. In particular, she wants to flag outdated information and links, change article titles from one-word titles to action+object form, and add features like change logs, breadcrumbs. Besides that, she wants to create an entirely different navigation menu, too!

We’re glad to support Estela and her project, and we think her hard work and dedication to improving the documentation will benefit countless users.

Abel Lifaefi Mbula / Kali Academy

“We are Kali Academy, a non-profit dedicated to teaching young people from the DRC how to contribute to open source”

Abel is the founder of Kali Academy, a non-profit organization that aims to get developers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to participate in open source through WordPress and related software.

This new project is for college students and developers from Kisangani and surrounding cities. The project will introduce them to WordPress and open source by providing training and mentorship. Here’s what they plan to achieve:

Goal #1 – Create awareness of WordPress open source contributions among university studentsObjective #1.1 – educate the public from DRCongo about WordPress and related open-source software Objective #1.2 – Run contribution days and/or charity hackathons at universities.Goal #2 – Support folk developers from DRCongo contributing to WordPress Objective #2.1 – Host monthly online live sessions and answer questionsObjective #2.2 – Mentor developers in their journey with WordPress contribution.

It looks like a great project! We’re proud to offer our support to Abel and Kali Academy to work towards these admirable goals.

It doesn’t end here!

It’s great to find out what different people in the WordPress community are doing around the world. We’ve got to admit, we’re feeling pretty awed and inspired after reading about these projects. We wish the best of success to all Yoast Diversity fund 2021 recipients. Stay tuned for updates about our Diversity fund 2021 projects as time goes on!

Finally, there are loads more people out there doing great things and bringing more diversity to the world of WordPress. We can’t offer funding to every project, but they are all amazing and we wish everyone the best of luck with their endeavors. Whether you’re doing something big or something small, every contribution matters when it comes to diversity. So keep up the good work!

Following on, we hope to continue with the next round of the Yoast Diversity fund in 2022. In the meantime, do you know someone who’s making a noteworthy (voluntary) contribution in a Make WordPress team? Nominate them for the Yoast Care fund!

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The Future SEO: Boardroom edition

30-second summary:

SEO’s dynamic nature and Google’s mysterious algorithm specifics keep the industry on its toes
Is it possible to simply spot the inefficiencies of SEO in its infancy and foresee trends?
With over 20 years of leadership roles, SEO pioneer Kris Jones taps into his experience to help SEOs derive more strategic value

Pretty much anytime we speak about something’s future, we’re doing something called extrapolating. By definition, extrapolating involves extending existing data or trends to assume the same procedure will continue in the future. It’s a form of the scientific method that we probably use every day in our own lives, quite reasonably, too: the summers will be hot, the downtown traffic will be bad at 9 AM, and the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

But how can we look into the future of something as complex and ever-changing as SEO? As with all cases of hindsight, we are clear on how SEO began and how it has transformed over time.

We see the inefficiencies of SEO in its infancy and how advancing search engines have altered the playing field.

The catch is this: how can we surmise about the future of SEO without having access to all the mysterious algorithm specifics that Google itself holds?

The answer is simple: we have to extrapolate.

I’ve seen SEO from the boardroom perspective for more than 20 years. I’ve seen the old days of keyword stuffing to the semi-modernization of the late 2000s to the absolute beast that Google has become now, in the 2020s.

Given that, where do I think SEO is going in the not-too-distant future? Here are some thoughts on that.

User intent will remain crucial

One aspect of SEO that is essential right now and will become only more vital as time goes on is user intent in search queries.

It’s an antiquated view to think that Google still cares much about exact-match keywords. Maybe 15 to 20 years ago, getting keywords exactly right in your content was a huge deal. Google matched queries to corresponding word strings in content and then served the best of that content to a user.

Today, trying to optimize for exact-match keywords is a futile effort, as Google now understands the intent behind every query, and it’s only going to get better at it as time goes by.

If you recall Google’s BERT update from late 2019, you’ll remember that this was the change that allowed Google to comprehend the context of each search query, or the meaning behind the words themselves. And the latest Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update adds further depth and dimensions to understanding search intent.

No longer does Google look only at the words “family attractions.” It knows that that query references children’s activities, fun activities, and events that are generally lighthearted and innocent.

And all of that came from two words. How did Google do it? Its consistent algorithm updates have allowed it to think like a human.

All of this is to say that user intent has to be part of your keyword and content strategy going forward when you’re doing SEO.

Produce more evergreen content

Sometimes, over the years, I have heard people mention that devising an effective content marketing strategy is difficult because as soon as a topic’s period of relevance is over, that content will never rank again. Use your data to analyze content performance and strike the right balance between content and formats. 

If you don’t know any more about this subject, you might be tempted to believe that. Maybe, at one time, you got a content piece entitled “Top Furniture Brands of 2019” to rank for the featured snippet. That makes sense. The post was probably a long listicle that described the best brands and linked out to the manufacturers’ websites or retail stores that carried those brands.

But maybe, as spring of 2019 transitioned into fall and winter, that post fell way down the rankings and now can’t be found anywhere anymore.

The reason is obvious: you haven’t made the content evergreen. The best furniture brands of 2019 may not be the best brands of 2020 or 2021 or 2022. So, what do you do? You put the work in to make the blog post evergreen by updating it. Go through and change out the best brands, change the content, change the post’s title, and then republish the post.

You can also just plain focus on subjects that will almost never need any updating at all:

“Top 20 Christmas cookies to bake this year”
“How to train a dog”
“10 Steps for Hanging Heavy Objects on the Wall”

Whether it’s 2021 or 2050 or 2100, there are going to be people who have never hung a thing on a wall before and will need some help online.

Whatever your market niche is, do some topic research in Answer the Public, Semrush, or BuzzSumo to find relevant subjects for you. You can also mine the SERPs to see what kinds of content are ranking already for your desired topics. Just remember to mix in plenty of evergreen content with your more timely content posts. Google will reward you for it.

Mobile will remain first

This final point is about mobile-first indexing, but you likely already know about that. It’s certainly no secret that Google is going to rank your website’s mobile version when it crawls your pages. About 60 percent of all searches are now performed on mobile devices, and so Google now prioritizes a site’s mobile web pages over the desktop versions.

As I said, you knew all that.

What some people still may not know is that Google’s new Core Web Vitals should be a major part of your mobile page optimizations.

The Core Web Vitals are primarily a web-dev task. Overall, the three vitals work together to give users positive, seamless experiences when they access a web page.

The vitals are Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), and First Input Delay (FID).

CLS refers to the amount of moving around that a web page’s content does before it actually loads fully.

If you have a high CLS, that’s bad. It means some elements are appearing before the page loads all the way, which increases the chances of a user clicking on something that then moves elsewhere. That, in turn, means the user will probably click on something unintended.

LCP, meanwhile, is the time it takes for a page’s content to appear. It specifically refers to the amount of time between when you click on a URL and when the majority of that URL’s content appears for you to see.

Finally, FID measures how long it takes users to be able to interact with a web page in any way. These actions could be typing in a field or clicking menu items.

Even if you don’t work in web development, you can see how useful these three measures actually are. They all take user experience into account, which, coincidentally, is why they are part of Google’s larger 2021 Page Experience update.

The Core Web Vitals are essential in and of themselves, but I think my “boardroom” perspective on them is one we can all safely adopt: that they are just examples of more great things to come from Google.

The search engine giant is always thinking of new ways to make users have better, more helpful, and more positive experiences on its platform. As SEOs, we need to be ready to respond so we don’t get left in the dust.

To know the future, look to the past

We know that extrapolation can be taken only so far, but that’s why the past is so vital to understand. It can give us hints at what lies ahead.

What will Google think of next? It’s going to respond to whatever need is out there for improved online search experiences.

Think of 2020, when the pandemic was in its infancy. People needed information, and Google responded. Within months, you could tell whether restaurants were requiring masks indoors, how many virus cases were in your county, and where you could go for more information or help.

What, then, is the future of SEO? It’s going to be whatever the masses need it to become.

Kris Jones is the founder and former CEO of digital marketing and affiliate network Pepperjam, which he sold to eBay Enterprises in 2009. Most recently Kris founded SEO services and software company and has previously invested in numerous successful technology companies. Kris is an experienced public speaker and is the author of one of the best-selling SEO books of all time called, ‘Search-Engine Optimization – Your Visual Blueprint to Effective Internet Marketing’, which has sold nearly 100,000 copies.

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