SEO is harder than it has ever been. Simply put, the barrier for entry for new businesses is getting lower and there are more and more businesses with which to compete. Keeping your finger on the pulse of SEO will help you stand atop the rankings.
Google is always tinkering with their algorithms. The majority of the tweaks aren’t that big, but they could have an impact on your rank in search results.
Here are the SEO trends to be aware of in 2020:
1. Voice search: People search how they speak
With the advancements in virtual assistant AI and in-home devices, people are going to search the same as how they talk.
Think about it. When you talk to Siri or Alexa, you’d say something like, “Hey Siri, where is the nearest sushi place to near me?”
As of March 2019, ⅕ of mobile searches were done by voice. That number will only increase.
It’s important to note that those types of searches are long-tail and hyper-specific. They’re in search of exactly what they’re asking and nothing else.
This indicates that the individual doing the search is already at the consideration stage, where they are highly likely to convert, more so than those that are in the awareness stage.
One actionable thing you can do is to use bullet lists. They’ll help you rank higher for voice searches. Additionally, it’s necessary to make sure your website is optimized with local SEO.
2. Featured snippets will continue to dominate search results
Google is putting an increasing amount of information directly at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). This is known as a featured snippet and they’re what Google considers to be the most relevant information for a search.
In fact, Google is sending less traffic than ever to pages, because they’re finding the information they need directly on the SERP page. The numbers are staggering. Nearly 50 percent of all searches led to no clicks, thanks to the featured snippet providing the answers. Additionally, a study conducted by Ahref found that featured snippets got more traffic than the site that ranked first organically.
To help rank with snippets, try ranking for search queries and keywords that are question-oriented.
3. More marketers will leverage influencers for SEO
They’re the people you hate to love and love to hate, but influencers can have an impact on your SEO. In fact, nearly 20 percent of companies shelled out more than half of their marketing budgets to influencers. Influencer marketing is especially important for businesses in the lifestyle, fashion and beauty industries as well as travel and eCommerce.
The average consumer is inundated with ads. People prefer a trustworthy recommendation. An influencer’s rec is weighted higher than an advertisement.
What does this have to do with SEO? It’s simple. Influencers can help you boost traffic, raise your online profile overall, and help increase the reach of your content.
Companies fail with influencers when they don’t create a proper plan. Marketing cannot succeed when it’s not in tune with what your audience needs.
Make sure that you are paying influencers who already have the ear of your audience. Plus, the backlinks you’re getting from an influencer can help Google’s algorithms see your authority, which in turn should improve your search ranking.
4. BERT is here to stay
Not since Sesame Street have we seen a “BERT” have such a major impact. We’re talking about Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT), of course. It’s the biggest adjustment to Google’s algorithm since RankBrain hit the scene in 2014!
10 percent of all searches will be impacted by BERT. It’s to your advantage to put BERT models to use to assist in improving your ranking for featured snippets.
The searches that are most likely to be impacted by BERT are those with prepositions such as “to” and “for,” which will indicate what the search query means.
It’s important to note that you can’t really optimize for BERT. Google puts BERT to use in an attempt to better understand natural language. However, it is possible to optimize with an eye on the intent of a search. After all, intent matching is essential for creating content that works.
Before you put words on a page, take a gander at what is ranking on the SERP page for the keyword you’re trying to rank. Understand if the results inform, are transactional or navigational. Use that to guide the type of content you put on your page.
5. People will want digital experiences
In an effort to better the customer experience, 44 percent of companies have taken a digital-first approach. Additionally, more than half of CEOs said the move resulted in increased revenue.
Your site needs to be built for the modern age, as the load time of a page is a major factor for ranking. Even the best content doesn’t stand a chance if your user experience is confusing or slow.
Customer loyalty is built on positive user experiences. This is important because happy customers will linger on your website when they enjoy their time there.
Make it simple for website visitors to find what they’re looking for. Make your CTAs clear and easy.
It’s imperative to see your website through a potential visitor’s eyes. You know how your website is built and where everything is, but they don’t. Ask a friend to peruse your site and identify any stumbling points. Avoid jargon and being too clever. Don’t make a visitor have to pause to think about what you mean. Doing this effectively will boost your SEO.
6. Video will be the new king of content
The numbers don’t like. Google prefers video. It’s a very important part of a successful SEO strategy. In fact, a video was 50 times more likely to top a SERP than a site that only had text, according to Forrester Research. Additionally, more than 60 percent of all Google universal searches had video.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel either. Put videos on YouTube to enhance the content you already have on your site. It’s not a lock to put you at the top of SERPs, but it will help boost traffic when Google indexes the videos you create.
To increase your traffic, embed videos on your site. You can adjust the embed code to ensure the video properly fits on your site. Put some copy on the page that indicates to Google what your video is all about.
7. Content length will determine search rankings
In many aspects of life, it’s quality, not quantity. However, in SEO it can be both.
Many have an opinion on the perfect blog post length. The data says that the best results on the first page for a search are generally at least 2,000 words long.
It can’t be all fluff, though. Your content should completely answer the question related to the search as well as any related questions or concerns.
An additional advantage or longer blog posts is an increase in dwell time, which is an indicator to Google that your content is being well received. This will help your SEO.
8. Mobile search will continue to take over
In mid-2019, Google officially switched to mobile-first indexing to benefit the mobile search experience. That’s because almost 90 percent of internet users are using mobile and 40 percent of all transactions are done via mobile.
You won’t do well with your SEO efforts if you’re not mobile optimized. It goes beyond responsive websites too. You need to be thinking in terms of rich snippets.
The good news is, if you’ve been following the tips in this post and have already factored in ranking for voice searches, you’ve done some of the work for mobile as well. Beyond the long-tail keyword strategy, structure your content and code for mobile SEO.
SEO is a moving target thanks to constant algorithm updates.
It’s always important to continuously improve your SEO and your SEO strategy. Plan for the long-term and adjust your plans as necessary.
Jamie FitzHenry is the founder of Grizzly, a digital agency based in Bristol, specializing in Web Design, SEO & PPC.