This is the second of a 3-part blog series. Today, we explore 2020 SEO trends and best practices, including quality content, featured snippets, voice search, and artificial intelligence — among other things.
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Last week, we began a short series on the upcoming trends and best practices for a new year and a new decade in digital marketing, starting with social media and the impact it will continue to have for businesses of all sizes. This week, we will dive into the possibilities for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how your business can tee up for success.
As online competition continues to increase and new websites are being launched in the new decade, it’s time to rethink content marketing strategy and invest in SEO. Websites must meet specific requirements set by search engines like Google, and be prepared for the changes to content creation. Being prepared for proposed updates will ensure your potential clients find you easily and that information doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
To succeed in 2020, high quality content is not only relevant, it’s valuable. Online ads may still work, but they’re expensive with no guarantee of response. Ninety-one percent of total ad spend is viewed for less than a second; this led to a $38 billion in digital ad spend wasted in 2017.
That’s why creating high-quality content is an essential element of effective SEO strategies. Users want content that is relevant, helpful, and timely — and that is what Google tends to reward. People head to search engines with questions, and your web page needs to deliver answers.
Online consumers are quick to detect and ignore web pages or blog articles that are too salesy. According to the Economist Group’s “Missing the Mark” Report, “71 percent of readers say they were turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch.” Jesse McDonald, Global SEO Strategist, IBM, said 2020 is the time to move away from the obsession with keywords and focus more on topics.
“The goal of switching the mentality to more of a topic-focus is to create content that addresses an entire conversation holistically as opposed to just worrying about the single keyword a page should be targeting,” McDonald said.
Make it your goal to present relevant and meaty information for your topic, or at least for an important subset of your topic. By doing so, you will be Google-proofing your business. What people want is educational content delivered to them in easy to digest forms, such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, etc. Make it interesting and make it genuine.
In 2019, the launch of Google’s new BERT algorithm caused quite a stir. BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) enables anyone to train their own question answering system, and is the first major change Google has made to its search algorithm since RankBrain in 2014. BERT will impact one in 10 queries, and marketers who apply BERT models increase their chances of ranking on the first page for featured snippets. BERT will have the most impact on conversational queries where prepositions like “to” and “for” matter to the search query.
With the incorporation of BERT, Google has taken a huge leap forward into making search really about intent matching rather pure string matching, according to Eli Schwartz, Growth Consultant and Advisor.
“Content will truly have to be written to user intent rather than just strings that a user might search,” Schwartz said. “Keyword research tools may even become less relevant with the primary dataset for content creation coming from suggested queries. In 2020, the really smart SEOs will get up from their desks to talk to customers so they can find out what their audience really wants from them.”
It’s not quite so simple to optimize for BERT, since Google uses it to improve understanding of natural language. But you can optimize for the intent behind search queries because intent matching is crucial to creating successful content. Before writing copy, analyze content ranking on the first page of SERP for that specific keyword. Is the result informational, transactional or navigational? Create content that matches the user’s intent and serves what they’re looking for.
Google has worked hard to deliver more effective experiences through featured snippets. A featured snippet is a summary of an answer to a search query. Google displays it at the top of the SERP result, above ads. Almost half of all searches result in no clicks because users get the answers they need directly from SERPs. In fact, an Ahref study of 2 million featured snippets revealed they get more traffic than the first organic search result.
Featured Snippets are evaluated and boosted based on quality. This is no laughing matter, as 54.68% of clicks from Google originate from featured snippets—proving that they drive more than half of search engine clicks.
To take advantage of this feature, you need to provide clear answers to commonly asked questions. Focus on how our users talk about their issues, problems, and needs at each aspect of the buyer’s journey much more. Extend your efforts far beyond the purchase in that journey to include content that addresses needs after the sale – support, opportunities to advocate, community-building and staying relevant for future purchases.
In 2020, Google will continue to look at the overall reputation and E.A.T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) of a company. Companies that struggle with a poor reputation will have a harder time competing.
The offline is coming online, said Jason Barnard, Owner of Kalicube.pro. Every business needs to find its unfair advantage. “With entity-based search, the Knowledge Graph and the rise of E-A-T, our capacity to create an accurate and convincing online representation of our offline world will become a major differentiating factor,” Barnard said. “All those offline events, conferences, awards, partnerships, etc., that Google cannot see suddenly take on enormous importance. Pull them online and push them to Google to feed its need for understanding and credibility.”
There are a few ways to have a digitally-based competitive advantage:
The biggest trend that professionals should focus on in 2020 is user experience. This encompasses the overall experience from the initial interaction in the SERPs, to the overall landing page experience, all the way to the experience after they leave your site like with drip campaigns or return user personalization.
When talking about UX, you also have to consider site speed and page speed. Google has focused efforts around site speed with the new Chrome “slow warning badges,” and the speed reports. This will start conversations with developers and in some cases lead to systems requiring redesigns of page templates to improve how assets are loaded.
There are some practical ways to help optimize your website including:
“Google, can you find an auto mechanic near me?” There were 33 million voice search queries in 2017 alone. Data from March 2019 shows that 20% of mobile queries are voice searches. As voice search increases, more people will type search queries the same way they speak. Users want an accurate answer to the exact question they asked. Users who search long-tail keywords are in the consideration stage and are more likely to convert than someone in the awareness stage. This amazing new technology is completely changing the way we think about keywords and will continue to do so as we become hands-free.
There are a few helpful suggestions for improving your site for voice search.
Just as voice searches are becoming much more popular, videos on the internet are also on the rise. Studies show that 6 out of 10 people would rather watch online videos than television. It’s a crucial part of SEO strategy and digital marketing efforts nowadays and according to a Forrester Research, video is 50 times more likely to show up on the first page of SERP than a web page with plain text. Don’t forget, 62 percent of Google universal searches also include video.
Current internet users prefer to get information through online videos, either for academic purposes or for entertainment. That’s why implementing online video should be on the radar for most businesses.
Create helpful videos that support existing content on your website. It’s not a guarantee for first page results, but you’ll enjoy higher traffic when Google indexes your video. Remember to optimize your video to your blog’s width. Add copy on the page to help Google understand the topic of your video content. To improve your reach with more people, optimize by using appropriate keywords in the description and headline of your video, which will guarantee that the video reaches the largest number of interested viewers.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most important technologies today and is being used in a wide variety of industries to create unique, personalized experiences for consumers. Companies like Google use artificial intelligence to deliver better search results to its users. But how does artificial intelligence work? Without getting too technical, artificial intelligence learns the characteristics of what makes published content valuable or not. Then, AI classifies these web pages and determines their rankings.
Many of the best practice suggestions above will likely ensure that AI is likely to crawl and find your site and content without issue. As goes with nearly everything we say, ensure content is strategic and relevant — quality over quantity.
SEO may seem complicated, but the above trends are designed to ensure your business succeeds and moves forward in the new decade. Notice how many of the best practice suggestions name user intent as a key factor? Businesses need to be more aware of their clients’ needs, now more than ever. Knowing your audience and how they think will be one of the biggest defining factors of this next decade.
Stay tuned as we turn our attention next to trends in email marketing. If you have questions about how to prepare your small business for these 2020 SEO trends and best practices, please contact us today!