Search engine optimization is one of those disciplines you just can’t get bored with.
From its inception, it has been a field of constant evolution. As time passes, and the tech we use keeps improving, the game continues to shift in unpredictable ways. The SEO trends change with each algorithm update – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.
And while the ultimate goal remains the same – escalating your online presence and increasing your reach – the strategies continue to adapt to these changes.
It is why SEO today looks so different than it did just ten, or even five years ago. Moreover, it’s why a select few seem to effortless seize those top ranking spots. They do it by sheer innovation, while others are left behind, iterating on tactics that are either outdated or quickly racing into obsolescence.
2020 is poised to be a huge, transformative year as far as Search Engine Optimization goes. So, today, we are going to take a look at some of the optimization trends and strategies that are bound to make a splash at the end of this decade, and set the tone for the next.
User-oriented & Context Optimization
The introduction of Google’s BERT update has told the industry – in no uncertain terms – where SEO is headed to. And while some worry about change, some of us see it for what it is: A new gold-rush era filled with opportunities to be leveraged.
So far, algorithms have been the end-all-be-all of the game. Learn how they tick, synch your optimization strategies to their pace, profit.
However, as search engines continue to make great strides into implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning into their systems, the game is unequivocally shifting into user-focused optimization.
Meaning that puzzling out target audiences and tailoring your content to meet their demands and expectations will only be more important in 2020.
Content delivery will be a huge part of it. With algorithms getting more accurate at finding the results their users want – and filtering out those that don’t meet the standards – users will have “more” available to them. When that’s the case, competing not so much on just “who does it” but “who does it better” will take more prominence.
Your optimization and content strategies will have to rely more heavily on true user intent, instead of mere keywords. So much so that 2020 might even be the year where keyword research tools begin losing their relevance, and make way to suggested queries and other forms of user-intent gauging.
User Experience Design and Technical SEO
UX is set to skyrocket in relevance in 2020, and you have that “who does it better” mentality to thank for it.
2020 will be the year when users ́ initial first impression on SERPs through featured snippets and their overall experience once they make it into your site will become our top priority. A focus on enhancing and improving not just your content (more on this later), but the way you present it to your audience will become paramount. And, in that sense, technical SEO becomes a key piece of the puzzle.
In the realm of canonical/hreflang corrections and the like, Google will continue to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to compensating a sites’ poor technical foundation. However, having a site with an optimized technical backend will most likely have a bigger impact moving forward.
It is not a coincidence that Martin Splitt has made such a push promoting technical best practices from Google’s perspective. Moreover, already important UX elements – such as page load speeds – will become more of “a thing” in 2020.
In fact, don’t be surprised if you start seeing complete site redesigns and re-engineering from the big players across the board. As the need for such things become an issue, many companies out there will have to accept their current sites, and their technical make-up, just doesn’t measure up to the new standards and requirements.
Content Production and Quality Demands
Content will remain king, but the way the crown and garments get made will become more sophisticated.
Content is at the forefront of everything we do with SEO, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. In 2020, the content your offer visitors will have to remain relevant and valuable to visitors. However, it will take more than just a healthy presence of keywords to make content rank in the BERT era.
The changes won’t come overnight. In fact, we’ll probably start noticing the effects of these SEO trends late into the year. But with AI-powered algorithms getting smarter, magicians are going to be left without tricks to cheat the system. This means that true and better content will start outranking the rest.
This represents a new paradigm that most companies will want to start getting ready for right now – or risk lagging behind when the time comes. I’m talking about moving away from the “immediacy” of keyword-focused strategies, for more “topic-centric” ones. Strategies where you approach content in a more holistic way, trying to build from past works and seeding future pieces across longer periods, instead of just tackling content as individual pieces targeting a given keyword.
Developing strategies like these to improve the intrinsic quality of digital content, and become the go-to site on their niche (or, at least, on a relevant subset of related topics) will start taking priority over other optimization strategies. And, of course, the benefits derived from them will more than justify the effort once the transition is completed.
Online Presence & Authoritativeness
As you can imagine after reading the previous point, the need to build your site’s authority and nurture demand for your content will also be a big part of your strategy as well. Do notice that what we are talking about here is nothing new; in fact, it’s merely the way Google (and companies like it) have always envisioned the work of search engines for a long time now.
The only difference is that they now seem to have access to the tech that will make it a reality.
Online reputation and E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) will not only continue to be a big deal in the eyes of Google but will most likely take an even greater role moving forward.
Companies who are constantly struggling with ORM issues, customer service problems, and an overall negative image will notice they have a harder time competing for exposure. No longer confined just to review sites and feedback aggregators, but maybe even impacting your content rankings, one way or the other.
The public at large is finally catching up to the fallibility of information out there, and a push to counteract fake news is taking place at all levels – consumers and providers alike. There will be more of an effort to showcase (and verify) the reliability of authors and sources, and that of the sites they publish as a whole. Add to that elements like structured data markups to serve as an author’s credentials and any fact-checking-oriented schema, and Google will have an easier time weighing the trustworthiness of pieces and sites.
So, you better prepare to deal with the impact your online presence (or lack thereof) will have on your rankings in 2020, as Google continues to factor it into their system.
While you should pay attention – and start taking measures for – the influence of AI on search engines, it will be a progressive process that will take years. Algorithms aren’t yet capable of flawlessly understanding context.
So, even though content quality will become a more important thing moving forward, you can’t toss data optimization out the window just yet. In 2020, we’ll still need to provide solid directions to search engines to improve our chances of ranking better.
That means structuring data in ways that help search engines understand not only what’s on-page, but how these elements relate to one another within that page, and how that page relates to others on the site!
Your ultimate goal is increasing your exposure and having more people finding you online. So, the more work you can do to ensure that’s the case – to give Google a better idea of your content’s structure – the better your sites will perform across the board.
These SEO Trends Are Just the Start
As stated in the beginning, 2020 is set to bring about several transformations that will impact the SEO world. And while the SEO trends we discussed here are sure to gain importance as the years draw along, they are by no means the only ones!
Mobile SEO will continue to grow in relevance, link and brand building will do as well. Overall, the shift from a technical focus into a more analytical approach is bound to make things interesting for most.
So, if you want to continue to improve your exposure at the start of the new decade, you better start divvying some attention from the way things are done now, and into the ways the show will be run in the next decade.
It’s the only way to stay ahead of the game.