State of search: Discover how the web changed in 2021

    The pandemic rocked the world of Search… and things may never be the same again. If you’re still relying on pre-pandemic tactics, it’s time to update your understanding of Search, including technical SEO, rank volatility, eCommerce, and market trends.

    At Semrush—the digital marketing platform with more than 50+ tools and reports—we’re in a unique position. We were able to comb through millions of data points to investigate, analyze, and document important changes in the web.

    The State of Search 2022 analyzes some of the world’s leading markets and contains everything you need to plan your post-pandemic growth strategy. You can download the full report to dive deep into the data, or keep reading for a sample of some noteworthy findings.

    State of the web

    During 2020, the amount of new websites shot up as businesses clamored to pivot into online business. Many people also booted up their old laptops again in 2020. But by 2021, the trends were shifting again:

    • 2021 saw significantly fewer newly ranking URLs in the top 100 search results versus 2020
    • The average drop in the number of newly ranking URLs per market was 7.4%
    • Traffic share by device saw an increase for desktop in 2020, which continued into summer 2021 even after many physical establishments had begun to open up again

    State of search

    How does your audience search online? In general:

    • Informational keywords made up 60% of unique search terms
    • Over half of all searches in 2021 were 1-2 words, while almost three quarters of ads shown by Google were 3-5 words

    State of ranking

    Rank volatility can mess with your KPIs if your site is bouncing around, so it’s important to understand the general state of it:

    • Volatility across all niches was higher on average in 2021 than it was in 2020
    • Despite this, the average maximum volatility score actually decreased year-on-year

    The SERP and SERP features

    The design of the SERP and SERP features like Featured Snippets can have a huge impact on your CTR and amount of traffic you get from Search.

    • Search Ads at the top of the SERP were down in 2021 versus 2020 on both desktop and mobile
    • Featured Snippets appeared less frequently year-on-year on both types of device
    • Average display levels of the Knowledge Panel feature increased on desktop, but decreased on mobile
    • FAQ markup was far more common on both desktop and mobile in 2021 than in 2020
    • Google was still ignoring title tags and rewriting the SERP title 62% of the time

    State of eCommerce

    Did 2020’s explosion of online shopping continue? You might be surprised:

    • Organic traffic going to eCommerce sites decreased by 23.2% year-on-year
    • Amazon lost 37.5% of its organic traffic in 2021 versus 2020, and appeared far less frequently in the Search Ads space across devices

    State of local

    How about local listings?

    • The overwhelming majority of local listings shown to users were within two miles of the searcher’s location
    • Only 6% of listings were more than 10 miles away

    State of technical SEO

    We dive deep into technical SEO in the report, with data and analysis on topics like hreflang issues, structured data usage, and Core Web Vitals. Here’s a sneak peak:

    • Larger sites were more likely to suffer from hreflang issues than smaller ones:

    Size of Domains (# of Pages) with Hreflang Issues



    • Usage of different forms of structured data varied across our data set, with larger sites more likely to have implemented it:

    Different Forms of Structured Data Usage by Domain Size (# of Pages)



    • Part of our analysis focused on the abilities of sites to pass the Core Web Vitals (CWVs) tests. The results indicated a great deal of room for improvement as some of the biggest domains in the world look to start growing again after the pandemic:

    Share of URLs with “Good” CWV Scores per Metric



    Download the full report to discover more about the state of search

    How does your site compare to the wider web in 2022? Do these facts and figures fall in line with what you’ve experienced, and are you changing your strategy in 2022?

    Whatever your plans, make sure they’re backed up by data.  Download the free State of Search report now to equip yourself with both global and industry-specific data to help you on your path.


    Latest articles

    Related articles