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Top 10 SEO Trends You Must Watch Out In 2020 And Beyond

SEO evolves every year. So it’s important for all online marketers to stay on top of recent developments in this space.

In 2020, many believe that certain trends will surge in popularity. What trends exactly? That’s what this post is about.

Today, let’s talk about the strategies that will change the SEO landscape. We’ll talk about what they are, why experts think of them, and how you can implement them for your own campaigns.

Ready?

Then let’s not waste any more time and jump right in.

SEO Trend #1: Voice Search

Voice search is the technology that enables users to make search queries through voice commands.

Open your Google app and tap on the mic icon. Now ask Google “What’s the closest burger shop near me?”. Did Google show you a list of burger restaurants? Then congratulations. You just made a voice search.

As more people rely on their smartphones, you can expect the number of voice search queries to rise. As SEMrush points out, two in five adults use voice search. And by 2020, experts believe that users will make half of all online searches using a microphone.

That means you have to prepare content that’s suited for voice searches.

And that’s what Epiphany did for one of its clients. In its case study, Epiphany described how they improved its client’s online visibility by making content tweaks.

“[The client] had three product FAQ areas for conservatories, doors, and windows. All Q&A pages sat on a single page at a single URL; Anglian was answering multiple questions on a single page, which isn’t a great user experience, as not all of the questions were that closely related.”

The one-size-fits-all, single page that tries to answer multiple questions isn’t the best setup for voice search SEO. The solution was to expand each question into its own page. Epiphany also increased the word count from 50 to 300.

That way, whenever a user has a question, Google can find a dedicated page with in-depth answers.

The result?

The client now gets 13 inquiries from voice search queries. A significant increase from the one inquiry per month that they used to get.

So, what should you do? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Look for Long-Tail Keywords — Long-tail keywords are phrases with three or more words in it. Since voice search uses natural language (complete sentences), you have a better shot at ranking if you have pages that target search terms that are full sentences.
  • Build FAQ Pages — Most voice search queries come in the form of a question. So FAQs are great for publishing pages with keywords that won’t fit organically anywhere else on your site like “Where’s the closest [your company name] branch near me?”.
  • Focus on Local SEO Tactics — If you are a local company, you’d want to look into optimizing your site for local searches. Since Google gets queries like “Where’s the best [your niche] in Los Angeles?”, you’d want to optimize your pages and pop up in the top search results.

seo trends - voice search - salon

SEO Trend #2: Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are the brief answers you see on top of search results. Their goal is to answer the question without requiring the user to click on a link.

This feature is nothing new. It’s been around for a while now. And there’s an excellent chance you’ve already seen it in action.

seo trends - featured snippets - jogging

What makes featured snippets coveted is its placement in the search engine results pages or SERPs. Featured snippets always in position zero, the spot just above the first entry in the search results.

The featured snippet comes from one of the top ten results. As a result, the site featured in the snippet appears twice on page one of the results.

But Danny Sullivan of Google confirmed that there will be changes to the featured snippet. Specifically, the entry that’s featured will no longer show up in the top ten results twice.

seo trends - featured snippets - sullivan

What does this mean for SEO?

If your site was visible on the first page of Google search as a featured snippet and within the top 10 results, then expect the latest update to bring down your traffic and CTR.

Only your featured snippet will show on the first page of SERPs and your site will appear on the second page.

This is crucial because you will lose real estate on the first page of organic search. And, historically, position # 1 generates more clicks than position zero.

featured snippet vs position one

This study from Ahrefs shows that the featured snippet “steals” clicks from the page ranking on the top spot. More, it gets fewer clicks than the top result!

However, it’s too early to make a definitive case that ranking on featured snippets will bring your site’s traffic down.

We are still in the first few months of its implementation, and the best we can do right now is track the progress and see if this is in indeed the case.

Nonetheless, below are ways that most websites land position zero:

  • Understand the Types of Snippets — There are three types available. Answers can come in the form of a paragraph, lists, or tables. Paragraphs answer specific questions. Lists give users instructions. Tables are for displaying complicated data. Knowing what type of snippet would help users the most will give you a better idea of how to present your content.
  • Find Your Competitor’s Snippets — Think of it as research. Knowing what snippets work for sites within your niche can help you write posts that could outrank them.
  • Add High-Quality Images — Snippets include images. To increase your chances, add high-quality images to your posts.

In this case, you may try to go against these practices to not rank on position zero. I suggest that everybody monitor any changes that you encounter regarding clicks from position zero.

SEO Trend #3: Mobile-First Indexing

As we noted earlier, more users use their phones when searching online. That means sites that are not optimized for mobile users are not prioritized by Google in the SERPs.

So you really want to have a responsive website. Google itself confirmed that it’s leaning more toward sites with mobile users in mind in their Google Webmaster Blog post back in 2016.

According to Botify, 37% of enterprise websites have yet to switch to mobile-first indexing (MFI). To clarify, MFI will not stop Google from indexing sites even if they’re not mobile-friendly. But Google will index mobile-friendly sites first.

If your site still displays web browser versions on phones and tablets in 2020, it’s time to make the switch.

In this Vorbly case study, a cafe struggled to attract new business. But the owners quickly realized that they weren’t getting the kind of foot traffic they thought they would.

So Vorbly implemented a plan that included revamping the coffee shop’s website to make it responsive. The new site now provides directions, menu, pricing information, contacts, and reviews.

Thanks to these changes and optimizing the site for local SEO, the shop saw a significant increase in sales.

seo trends - mobile-first indexing - vorbly

Here’s how you make your site responsive.

  • Choose a Responsive Theme — WordPress users can simply pick a responsive theme. You can find one on WordPress Themes or look for a third-party solution. The good news is that modern themes are responsive by default. So finding the right one shouldn’t be difficult.
  • Consider Your Layout — Mobile users don’t have the luxury of big screens. That means any information that you’d normally straight away on a desktop computer aren’t visible on phones and tablets. Think about what information you want to put on top of your page.
  • Stop Using Flash — Flash animation slows down your site. And it’s not good on mobile devices either. So it’s time to remove any asset of yours that rely on this technology.
  • Adjust Button Sizes — It’s possible for assets like buttons to not adjust automatically when they load on phones. So make sure that they are big enough to click on.

SEO Trend #4: No-Click Search Results

No-click searches (also known as zero-click searches) is a trend where the SERPs give out the answer without the need for the user to click on a link.

Featured snippets, which we discussed earlier, is one example. But it also comes in different forms including knowledge panels, calculators, and dictionary definitions.

seo trends - no-click - mexican peso

One study found that 50.33% of Google searches are no-click searches. And this number could rise as Google makes it easier for its users to find answers.

This could become a concern for most webmasters as it means fewer clicks which translates to poor site performance. But according to Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro and the person who spearheaded the research, this trend does not mean there’s no opportunity left.

“Rich information appearing in Google’s results may be, like billboard ads or press mentions, harder to track than website traffic, but it’s still exposing your brand name to an audience, building familiarity, and sharing information. In my opinion, the brands that find ways to benefit from that type of SERP exposure, even without a click, will be the ones who win at this new form of on-SERP SEO.” – Source

So what should you do?

Start (or continue) optimizing for zero-click searches. Improve your pages to qualify for featured snippets and voice search.

You can also:

  • Create Video Content — Videos do show up in position zero depending on the topic. Having videos that target specific keywords can land you above your competition.
  • Create Lists — Google likes showing lists, especially for general inquiries.
  • Optimize for Knowledge Graph — Knowledge graphs appear beside the search results. They provide additional information that’s not covered in the SERPs. If you want to show up in the Knowledge Graph when users search for you online, update your Wikipedia page and social media profiles.

seo trends - no-click - dell

SEO Trend #5: Google Discover

Google Discover is an update to Google Feed. This feature is available on mobile devices via the Google app.

It’s a feed—similar to popular social media platforms—that shows you information even if you haven’t searched for anything just yet. It shows you information that Google thinks is relevant to you.

It shows a combination of articles, images, and videos. Regardless of whether the information is new or not, Google will show them if it thinks that you haven’t seen them yet.

seo trends - google discover - feed

What appears on Discover will depend on how a user interacts with Google. So if the user is mainly interested in sports, then the feed will likely show sports news.

It’s a great way to introduce your site to people. If the user expresses an interest in your niche, your posts could show up as the user scrolls through Discover.

So how do you improve your chances of appearing in the feed?

  • Optimize Your Site for Mobile Users — Yet another reason to invest in mobile responsiveness, Google Discover prioritizes mobile-friendly sites. This makes sense. After all, the app is for phones and tablets. So this hardly comes as a surprise.
  • Think of User Intent — Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What information are they looking for? What kind of content should you be pushing? If the user wants newsworthy content, what could you publish to fill the void? These are some of the questions you need to answer to come up with the type of content that gets published on Discover.
  • Publish Evergreen Content — Aside from newsworthy posts, Discover also serves as a platform to promote posts that are evergreen, meaning the information never gets old. For example, if you’re planning on visiting a specific city, an article about the best restaurants in that area might be interesting to you regardless of when it was first published.

SEO Trends #6: Artificial Intelligence

There’s been a lot of talk about AI and the role it will play in the near future. But as early as now, you will find a number of sites implementing AI technology to help with their marketing.

According to Emerj, businesses predict that AI will likely impact the eCommerce industry the most in the next couple of years.

seo trends - ai - emerj

But how will this affect SEO?

In 2020, you’ll need to optimize your content with AI in mind. For starters, AI can collect data from your audience, making it easier to deliver content that’s specific to their taste and needs.

AI is also used in email marketing to send personalized messages.

SEO companies are also implementing AI to improve their tools and services. Instead of having to manually check online mentions, BuzzSumo and HubSpot are now able to send you a notification whenever it detects users who mention you in their posts.

And soon, AI will create better analytics and reporting. This is due to AI having the ability to parse through information more efficiently.

SEO Trend #7: Natural Language Processing (NLP)

We’ve talked about voice search and the need for search terms that sound natural. This is part of natural language processing or NLP.

As search engines get better at processing syntax, they’re able to tell what a sentence is really trying to say.

What does this mean for you as an SEO?

It means search engines can distinguish well-written sentences from those that are not. So you should do what you can to improve your grammar as well as your topics.

NLP can even tell the emotion behind a post. If your article is overwhelmingly negative, search engines will take note of it. Soon, it will monitor social media activity to determine how users feel about certain products and services. That way, you’ll know how to respond to user concerns more efficiently and share a message that your customers can stand behind.

Based on what you write, search engines can also categorize your posts as they can now tell what you’re writing about based on contextual clues.

So what can you do to make your posts compliant with NLP?

  • Refrain From Black Hat Tactics — Black hat tactics refer to shady SEO practices that some practitioners use to boost their rankings. They’re frowned upon in the community because they take advantage of loopholes in Google’s algorithm. And while they do work for a time, Google eventually catches on. NLP is just another way Google is combating black hat tactics. With the emergence of NLP, there’s not much sense in using black hat tactics anymore.
  • Publish Informative Posts — Not only do your posts have to answer specific questions, but they also pack as much information as they can. And try to write them in a conversational manner.
  • Transcribe Video or Audio Content — Because most podcasts and video streams are conversational pieces, they’re great candidates for NLP. If you transcribe these assets, Google will index these pages and show them in the SERPs.
  • Identify Terms to Include in Your Content – Tools like Surfer uses NLP to provide you with words and terms to mention in your article based on your target keyword. Using them in your content lets you build better correlation between your content and search term.

SEO Trend #8: Entities

What are “entities” exactly? These are things or concepts that are unique, defined, and distinguishable.

Your name? That’s an entity. Your address? Yup. The school you went to? That counts too.

Today, search engines look at these entities and connect them to see what ties them together. Google is now smart enough to assess the relationship between words and phrases.

seo trends - entities - henson

Does that mean that link building is dead? No. Links serve a different purpose. They are a vote of confidence. If sites link back to you, then that means you are a credible source of information.

But with the addition of entities, Google can have a good idea of what your page is about. If you have a post about apples, search engines will use entities to determine if you’re referring to the brand or the fruit.

Entities are also used to deliver content for Knowledge Graphs and featured snippets.

Here’s how you can get ahead of the curve.

  • Add Schema Markup — Schema is one way of establishing entities on your posts. Google has a Schema testing tool called Structured Data Testing Tool so you can check if your site has the right Schema. If you don’t, then you can use the Structured Data Markup Helper to add them.
  • Update Your Google My Business Listing — If you’re running a business, you can use Google My Business to enter your business details like store address, phone number, and other information people might need. Google will index this info and display it if people try to look you up.
  • Stick to Your Niche — When you upload new content, you want them to focus on the same topic. That way, Google will be able to figure out what your domain is primarily about. This will increase the chance of Google ranking you for your target keyword and demographic.

SEO Trend #9: BERT

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. And while that sounds complicated, all it really refers to is a change in its algorithm to focus on conversational queries.

And if this sounds familiar, it’s because we already discussed one of the byproducts of this update, featured snippets.

BERT looks at content quality. So if you’re publishing outstanding posts with useful information, you’re all set.

You can also reevaluate the user intent behind your posts to make sure you’re targeting the right people. If unsure, you can check your competitors to see what kind of posts they’re publishing.

While the impact of the BERT update is substantial, Google claims that there’s nothing you can do to prepare for it. Quoting Danny Sullivan again, he says:

“There’s nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged.” – Source

seo trends - bert - danny

However:

The BERT update means you can reduce the keyword density of your posts. Since Google is now looking at the context behind your posts, keyword stuffing is falling by the wayside.

SEO Trend #10: EAT

EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is a new metric system that Google uses to check a site’s content quality. It’s also used to determine how credible a website, blog post, news stories, products, or a company really is.

It was first rolled out for sites in the healthcare/medical niche. EAT aimed to safeguard Google users from sites that have a direct impact on their money and life. Google calls sites that fall under this category as YMYL (Your Money, Your Life). They cover information that affects a user’s happiness, health, and finance.

If left uncontrolled and unmonitored, YMYL sites can ruin lives should they contain information that could hurt users.

By rolling out EAT, Google can check if a site contains facts or if it contains lies or claims that science cannot back up.

According to Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, there are three things it considers when scanning a page for EAT. These are:

  • Expertise — You must show that as an author, you could convey information effectively. You need to have great communication skills. It’s also important that you can attract your target audience to your site. You must be able to address a user’s search intent.
  • Authoritativeness — By no means does this mean that you need to have formal education in your niche though that certainly might help. What this is referring to is having a site that covers the topic at hand. A well-written post about cars won’t make sense if it’s published on a food blog, right? It should be on a blog that’s all about automobiles.
  • Trustworthiness — You must have an audience that trusts you. For e-commerce sites, that could mean getting great reviews from sites like TrustPilot, Better Business Bureau, TripAdvisor, and similar sites. It could mean having the right information listed on business listings. Or you could have an author bio in your posts to establish your credibility.

Gloyns published case studies to show just how EAT benefited some sites. In one instance, a site in the health niche saw its traffic skyrocket after the update.

seo trends - eat - medical niche

Why did it perform so well? There are several factors that contributed to the traffic spike:

  • The site focused on one niche.
  • The author wrote well-researched articles with citations.
  • The site loads fast (just under two seconds).
  • The content is regularly updated (also shows the date when it was last updated).
  • The site does not have ads.

The medical site jumped to the number one position for 10 of the main keywords it wanted to target.

Another site—this time in the education niche—saw the same pattern.

seo trends - eat - education niche

This is evidence that sites that focus on delivering strong content will get pushed in 2020. So you better update your pages to be more focused on a specific niche to get better rankings.

Conclusion

All these 2020 digital marketing trends share a similar trait. And that is this:

If you’re going to write content, write with the user in mind and not the search engine.

Google is now focused on delivering results based on context and less so on keywords. So you’ll need to pivot your strategy to comply with what Google looks for in web pages now.

So you should publish stronger content, optimize your pages for mobile users, and use conversational keywords to rank in 2020. If you don’t, you might find your competitors overtaking you in the results pages.

And you certainly don’t want that.

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Craig Campbell

I am a Glasgow based SEO expert who has been doing SEO for 18 years.

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