One expert described the update as a "quantum leap."
But it's only the first major update in a series of updates we can expect to see from Google, in what we're guessing will be over the course of one to five years. Businesses who want to "win" at search engine optimization in 2020 will need to realize that the way we rank is changing.
Here are some of the key SEO trends in 2020 that every team should be watching.
BERT Will Show Us That the Narrative of SEO Has ChangedIt seems like it is engrained into the nature of SEO professionals to want to "hack" Google's algorithm every time there is an update. A lot of the time this perspective creates a narrow view and limits the abilities of teams to adapt and evolve their solutions.
What we mean by this, is that SEO has evolved from being only a formulaic marketing strategy, to also have some more abstract characteristics. There will always be a certain je ne sais quoi to the mechanics of Google's algorithm. Understanding the bigger concepts at play can be just as beneficial to SEO strategies.
So instead of trying to figure out Google's search formula, teams will start allocating their time and effort into things they can control, like how the customer experiences their brand, like through messaging and content. Because as Google's AI evolves, getting preferred rankings will be less about finding shortcuts to make yourself seem like an authority, and actually putting in the work to be one.
Your Audience Is Officially EverythingThere's no more guessing and hoping for the best when it comes to your audience. In 2020 winning SEO strategies will consist of keywords focused on intent. The only way to understand the search intent of a user you want to target is to have a clearly developed idea of who your audience is.
A more focused audience also translates to a more industry-specific SEO strategy. The days of generalized marketing are gone. This means that generalized best practices need to start being viewed as starting places rather than outlines.
The keyword styles and strategies for one audience might not work for another type of business. Which makes understanding how audiences behave within your unique industry essential.
This perceived narrowing of the customer pool also puts more pressure on user experience. You want the people visiting your site to come back, right? Not only because you want to drive traffic, but because a loyal follower is your biggest asset in building a community and expanding reach.
You'll want to shift your focus to search metrics that impact user experiences like page load time along with on-page optimization, technical SEO and content. Think beyond the desktop experience too and align your SEO strategy with mobile personalization.
Visuals Will Be a Priority in Your SEO StrategyThe influence of original visual content on SERPs will continue to expand in 2020. The more high-quality, shareable and original your visuals, the better. Emphasis on "original." It really doesn't need to be that hard.
One way to start making original visuals without having to blow-up your marketing department is to just repurpose existing content into visual formats. A lot of companies invested a lot of time and money into creating a backlog of blog posts that aren't being used. A project like this is a great way to maximize the value of previous marketing projects.
Check to see what topics your site is ranking for and the pages and posts generating the most traffic. First, make sure those keywords are relevant and that the pages people are visiting are updated and provide the best user experience possible. Remove old posts that aren't doing your brand any favors.
Read: The Race to First Page: How to Boost your Google Keyword Ranking
Voice Search State-of-MindThe rise of smart home technology and the integration of the Internet of Things (IoT) into the way we live and work means that the importance of voice search is something that is only going to become more important.
It's likely that every device we search on will become optimized for voice search. Even though this might sound very futuristic, the changes to support this are happening how.
A study by PWC found that 71% of people would prefer to use voice search over traditional search methods. This same report also found that the majority of voice search users access it through their mobile devices. Industries will experience this change differently. For example, a voice search is three times more likely to be for something local.
For search, this means including long-tail keywords that are optimized for smart devices and written as the user speaks them. Also considering how users search for places while they're on the go and in their cars.
SERPs Display Results will Dominate SEO TrendsYou're going to hear a lot about Featured Snippets this year. This is because featured snippets have shown to be valuable to users by often providing the answers the user is looking for in SERPs. Schema mark-ups will also continue to have a strong influence on SERPs.
It's believed that Google Home devices predominantly pull responses to user search queries from the features snippets of SERPs. There's also reports that featured snippets can actually drive more traffic to a site than getting ranked number one.
There are ways to structure featured snippets that appear to have more favorable rankings from Google. For example, carousel snippets that are designed for SERPs instead of sidebars are believed to rank better.
Ready to Dominate SEO In 2020?It's nearly impossible to execute a high-level SEO strategy and the SEO trends for this year without a dedicated, skilled team. For SEO to be successful, it needs to be at the core of your digital marketing strategy. Most businesses just don't have the bandwidth to support it in-house, but don't let that stop you!
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