SEO trends to watch for in 2020

At our marketing agency we keep track of the SEO changes that take place on a monthly, if not weekly, basis. Our hot take: while some SEO changes can be unexpected, the overall direction of the industry can be predicted by user behaviour.

As you’ll recall, this month our theme is “how do we measure marketing?” to which we want to measure the leading indicators of performance, not the lagging symptoms. In the field of SEO, this means staying ahead of the SEO game by paying attention to the user trends that will shape search engines, that ultimately affect website traffic.

After all, Search Engine Optimization is a field that attempts to optimize websites for a medium (search engine) that ultimately serves the public.

We saw the “rise” of mobile SEO in 2016, that took place as users began to use their phones more than their desktop computers. Shortly after, Google introduced a mobile SEO change affectionately dubbed “mobilegeddon” by SEO’s worldwide.

Did you know that mobile searches first exceeded desktop searches in Summer of 2015? It seems like a no-brainer in 2020, but mobile-first website optimization was a new concept four years ago.

As user needs evolve, so do search engines. We saw widespread use of Featured Snippets introduced by Google around 2017 catering to consumers needs for quick, one-sentence answers to their questions.

Now, SEO’s are working to get hold of the coveted “position 0” as Featured Snippets on their primary keywords.

The million-dollar question, now, is what’s in store for us in 2020 and onwards? Do we have any indicators of changing user behaviour?

The answer is YES!

Here are the SEO trends that we predict will happen within the following year:

1. Voice Search

Alexa, play “I’m Not Surprised” by Rory Gallagher

With Google Home and Alexa makings its way into homes via TV’s and speakers, consumer adoption of voice search is stronger than ever. The infrastructure is there, and popularity is growing for this “search without a screen”

At its current state, though, speech recognition still has its flaws. We haven’t found Alexa to be the be-all-end-all of virtual assistants, and the tool has much to be desired.

But, it’s getting there.

It’s only a matter of time before consumer adoption for hands-free search surpasses that of mobile searches overall.

The scary part is the fact that, currently, there is no such thing as a Search Engine Results page on a voice-activated search. Typically, your virtual assistant will respond with only one or two answers, meaning that “SEO” is going to heavily favour the absolute top result.

Currently, we already see this trend in place. Known as “Position 0,” a featured snippet is a search result that ranks above organic searches, ads and Google Maps.

If and when voice search becomes the top method of online browsing, we expect competition to become even more fierce.

Even if this shift doesn’t happen in 2020, we see this as an eventuality where the top sites start making their preparations in the coming year.

2. Visual Search and VR

Even though voice search exceeding mobile search sounds like a fantastic notion, we expect it to become an eventuality because of the consumer adoption rate of Google Home, Alexa and other voice-activated assistants.

But often, change doesn’t take place in stages. Change happens swiftly, concurrently, all at once with the proper framework in place.

Yes, the next stage in search is already showing signs of relevance. Virtual Reality (VR) is already being used by gamers and enthusiasts worldwide – who’s to say this isn’t going to impact search as well?

We expect voice search to make a splash before VR, but for VR to have a larger impact in its ability to shape the way we live. Think of all the applications of VR to show a visual map, plan a construction piece, provide diagrams of molecules instead of relying on a 2D search.

For everything that voice search cannot provide, VR should be able to compensate and more.

Need an example? We already have precedence on unique ways to search – and it’s likely already on your phone.

Visual Search is accessible via Google Lens, which has already been accessed a billion times this year. Visual search can be used to help with identifying landmarks, accessing business reviews, performing immediate translations, finding nutrition information, shopping, directions and more!

As visual search and VR take off, it’ll be more and more important for SEO’s to properly tag non-written content, such as proprietary images.

But while Voice search, Visual search and VR seem like they take place in a future that’s still uncertain, there’s one trend that we know is almost guaranteed to take place in 2020.

That trend is our #3 prediction:

3. Content Is King…Again

You may have heard the phrase “Content is King” on other marketing articles a few hundred times. Perhaps, you’ve even heard this phrase parodied on marketing blogs. Certainly, we’ve heard variations of this phrase countless times in the past.

But, here’s why we’re bringing this up now as the #1 trend we expect to see:

  • Google Search rolled out BERT in over 70 languages to their algorithm in October 2019

BERT stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers” and is a neural technique that better discerns the context of words in search queries. For example, “a quarter to five” and “nine to five” have completely different meanings that are obvious to us, but not so much to search engines.

Google BERT is able to more easily pick up on the context of words to facilitate these edge scenarios.

  • Google Added Neural Matching In Local Search – November 2019

In addition to their search engine, Google also added neural matching in local search to better understand local search intent, even when a business’s name isn’t indicated on the search.

  • Google Updated Their Search Quality Guidelines – December 2019

One week ago, Google updated their Search Quality Guidelines as a follow-up to their E-A-T implementation in September. The main update in their guidelines, is that personal viewpoints do not weight well in search results. This emphasizes the importance of impartiality in content.

Do you see a trend here?

Not only did these changes happen in quick succession, but they also relate to a very similar idea:

  • Google is evolving to become context-driven, so less “explanation” is needed to surround your content
  • Google wants accurate, impartial and authoritative content

In a nutshell, Google wants “less fluff, more answers” in their search results, which seem strangely aligned for single-answer searches such as those used in Voice search.

What does this mean to you?

According to Google’s public Danny Sullivan, there is “nothing to optimize for” in regards to Google BERT.

Reading between the lines, this means that there are no “tricks” to leverage or “silver bullets” that can hijack the first position on Google – just raw, consumer-driven value.

If you are an authority on a subject matter, the responsibility lies on you to make sure that comes off on your content in an effective manner.

At the end of the day, it’s about having a consistent and coherent marketing strategy that puts your customers first.

Google is a platform that is getting better and better at doing its job of connecting customers with the best brands for their search. So – be the best brand for their search. Know your customer’s problem, add value, and stand above your competitors.

It will take a lot of work to get there. It’s hard enough just to draft strategy, let alone execute it on a consistent basis.

That is where we come in.

Our marketing agency shines by introducing game-changing, unintrusive processes that will help you consolidate all your marketing needs in one place, we can work together to strategically grow your business.

We execute a monthly action plan to ensure that your optimal strategy is backed by action and that everything is recorded and reported properly.

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