SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is one of the crucial ways to promote your business online – unless your website shows up in searches on Google and other search engines, you will not be able to compete with other more digitally aware businesses in your market. SEO is the primary way to make sure that when a potential customer is searching online for a business in your market, yours is the one they find on the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).
But SEO is not a single skill or strategy – is involves a whole raft of techniques dedicated to making your website maintain a high profile online, and these techniques are changing all the time as the algorithms used by search engines to determine page ranking change and evolve. This guide to the latest SEO trends will keep your digital marketing strategy fresh, and make sure that the time and money you spend on SEO is not wasted.
Our SEO Trends 2020 guide will explain why yesterday’s SEO techniques will not necessarily work today or tomorrow, and how you can use tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console to find the right keywords for search in your market, improve your search engine rank and domain authority, and reach your target audience.
If you’re a user of the free version of Google Analytics, and if you have a free Google Analytics property collecting hits exclusively from the Google Analytics Services SDK (Android or iOS), bear in mind that Google is starting the process of deprecating the “legacy” Google Analytics for Mobile Apps, and will be replacing it with Firebase Analytics as the new paradigm for Google’s mobile app analytics.
Voice search is on the rise with the increasing popularity of devices such as Alexa and Siri. It’s quicker to search by voice than by text, and it’s cool too – so one of the top SEO trends for 2020 is to make your digital marketing plan voice search compatible.
There’s no downside to making your traditional SEO campaign compatible with voice search – you are certain to gain rather than lose. Both types of search rely on keywords, the only difference is that voice search tends to use longer, more conversational phrases to compile its search results. Voice search also tends to evolve quicker – so you have to be on top of current trends and make sure that you are always adding new voice search keywords.
The key to voice search is the well-known ‘5W1H’ formula – most voices searches start with the words ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’ ‘where’ ‘why’ or ‘how.’ Many voice searches are for local businesses, so they often end with a phrase such as ‘near me’, or near a specific location in their search results.
Keyword suggestions tools such as AnswerThePublic, Wordstream and Google’s People Also Ask are now becoming more clued-in to voice search, so they will suggest closely related questions when you look for popular voice search phrases.
Voice search will be particularly important in local SEO. Around 46 percent of searches on Google already have local intent, and by 2020, the figure will be around 50 percent. The increase in voice search will make long-tail keywords more important in local SEO, which will become tougher as more businesses try to make it to the top of the ranking in search results. Positive reviews and user engagement will become key in local SEO, and hyperlocal searches will also become a more important part of local SEO.
If you have a local business, it will become essential to register with Google My Business, claim your Google My Business page, and make sure that your business is registered in the correct category (as well as in the invisible categories allowed on Google My Business).
The next in our list of the latest SEO trends 2020 is omni-channel marketing, a term describing the principle Adobe calls “getting your channels in sync”.
Adobe Campaign offers a single, easy-to-use interface for campaign orchestration, so your online channels, such as email, web, mobile and social, match your off-line channels, including direct mail, call centres, the in-store experience and so on. The idea is to give your customers a consistent experience in both digital and traditional channels, so everything from YouTube videos to podcasts to marketing emails adds to the customer experience.
Aaron Agius on Hubspot explains: “All omni-channel experiences will use multiple channels, but not all multi-channel experiences are omni-channel. Remember that. You can have amazing mobile marketing, engaging social media campaigns, and a well-designed website. But if they don’t work together, it’s not omni-channel. An omni-channel experience… accounts for each platform and device a customer will use to interact with the company. That knowledge is then used to deliver them an integrated experience. Companies using this technique align their messaging, goals, objectives, and design across each channel and device.”
The end aim of omni-channel marketing is to deliver a better customer experience – to do that you will need to co-ordinate your product, marketing, sales and customer support departments.
User Experience, known as UX, is defined as the overall experience of a person using a digital product such as a website or computer application, particularly in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use. The terms is said to have been coined by Don Norman of Apple, who argued that everything from how well a product package fits into your car to how good your in-store service is can be part of a user experience which can be profitably improved.
UX is not the website or product itself, it is how the user experiences it; and that has a direct connection with SEO. Stoney deGuyter writes on Search Engine Journal: “I’m ashamed to admit it, but in my very earliest days, my optimization practices constituted getting the keyword on the page as many times as possible without ruining the visitor’s on-page experience. It’s heartening to know that I, and the industry at large, have come a long, long way since then.
“The typical SEO professional doesn’t have to be a full-fledged UX expert. However, they should have an understanding of many of the basic website UX principles. UX optimization is nothing more than focusing on the visitor. Everything we do in the sphere of web marketing has to have the visitor in mind. Yes, we do certain things for search engines, but search engines (almost always) require those things because they have learned it’s what their users (searchers) want.”
deGuyter cites the following as some of the essentials of UX:
- Language – keywords give us valuable insight into how searchers think about products and services – sometimes they don’t use the language of professionals, so we must be aware of user intent, and understand the problems and solutions they are looking for.
- Clickthroughs – your website doesn’t have to be top of the SERPS if you capture the visitor’s attention with enticing language and title tags
- URLS, Breadcrumbs and Meta Descriptions – these follow your title tag, and should give additional information to the searcher regarding the relevance of the result
- Keep the scent – once the searcher has clicked through to your website, you have to keep them on the scent by quickly confirming that you have what they came looking for, and encouraging them to continue engaging with your site until they get a resolution
- Site ID – identifications such as a company logo should be big, obvious and uncluttered, and header tags should confirm the information the user is there for
- Navigation – if you have many products or services, don’t hide them all under one menu entry – group them into relevant headings in your navigation
- Content optimisation – this is the real meat of your website and must fulfil the user’s requirements. Each page should be focused on a single topic and have a single goal expressed in a call to action
- Page load speed – nothing puts off potential customers more than a site which responds slowly. Google Page Speed Insights is an essential tool in analysing problems. Page load speed can be improved by technical SEO, and is likely to become a more important aspect of site ranking, particularly for mobile applications. If your page load speed is longer for mobile than it is or desktop, you need to pay particular attention as Google is starting to rank websites on a ‘mobile first’ basis.
- WordPress plug-ins such as Yoast can be very helpful in optimising the user experience of your website. Yoast can automatically optimise just about every aspect of a website, going far beyond checking relevant keywords, to testing every aspect from meta description, title tag, URLs, site structure and many other elements. Yoast is free and very powerful, but you may well need the help of a digital marketing agency to manage the fine points of UX, as it requires a grip on web design, content creation and distribution channels which are often beyond the resources of a small or medium business.
One of the most significant SEO Trends 2020 will be AI – Artificial Intelligence. While AI is becoming more familiar through its use in smart assistants, self-driving vehicles, navigation, smart home security and other applications, it also has many functions in the worlds of marketing and SEO.
So far as digital marketing is concerned, the main impact of AI is that it is used to determine how Google’s search algorithms decide how to rank pages. Search engines use AI to detect tricks such as keyword stuffing and irrelevant backlinks, so it’s necessary to know how these machine learning system work to keep up with the way the affect page ranking. AI can also be used to analyse customer data, for instance in matching brands to relevant influencers, and in personalisation of marketing messages. A good example is the way Starbucks collected information from loyalty cards and mobile apps, and used it to push menu recommendations to smartphones as customers approach stores.
AI also has a role to play in voice search, and Google is constantly refining Google Assistant to understand natural conversation better.
Aim To Rank In Google’s Featured Snippet
Though everyone would like their website to rank number one on SERPS, that can be very difficult to achieve, particularly if your competitors have a big budget. But one of the latest SEO trends is a way to leap-frog to victory, and that is to rank as Google’s featured snippet. This isn’t easy either, but it can be done without a huge budget.
The ‘featured snippet’ shows up in ‘position zero’ right above the first organic search results, as a block containing the exact answer to the user’s query. Most of the time it also contains an image.
There are three main types of featured snippet which could appear in position zero – paragraphs of text, bullet-pointed lists and tables. But how do you optimise for featured snippets?
Keyword research is the first basic technique. In your keyword research, aim for question-type searches, and make sure that your website answers questions that most of your target audience will ask.
You should still try to rank on the first page of Google results, as nearly all featured snippets in position zero are found on the first page. Improving your organic search rankings remains valuable.
Think about user intent in searching, rather than just keywords. User intent, the goal or intention a user has when entering a search term into a search engine, is now regarded as more important than individual keywords as a ranking factor. User intent is normally categorised in one of three ways: informational, where the user intent is to find out more about a subject; transactional, where the aim is to buy something; or navigational, where the user intent is to be led to a certain site.
Write content in the ‘inverted pyramid’ style taught to journalists; make sure the essential information is in the opening line, then expand with more details in the remainder of your content. Use words that are likely to generate featured snippets in position zero, such as ‘when’, ‘mean’, ‘define’ and ‘become’ – avoid those that don’t, such as ‘best’, ‘free’, ‘diagram’ and ‘guide’.
Format your content to suit the sort of featured snippet you would like to see – for instance as a paragraph, a table or a series of bullet points.
Q&A pages often show up in snippets, so it’s worth including one on your website, but remember that most featured snippets are between 40 and 58 words in length.
If you need help researching keywords, there are many free and paid-for keyword tools to help you. Brian Dean of Backlinko recommends these keyword tools, among others:
Scrapes suggested keywords from Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon and more
Suggests thousands of keywords in seconds, together with data on competition, search volume and potential traffic
Provides very in-depth information on each keyword such as a breakdown of first page competition and how many searchers actually click on a result
Very powerful keyword research tool with in-depth data on search trends, organic competition and traffic estimates
Not the most feature-heavy keyword tool, but benefits from coming straight from Google’s database
PPC (Pay Per Click) marketing never stands still, and John Bowman on TheeDigital blog suggests among others these developments:
- PPC Automation
Although PPC automation isn’t perfect and an effective PPC campaign still requires some hands-on management, if you set up accurate and effective conversion tracking and write good ad copy with properly identified target audiences and keywords, you can pass a lot of work to Google’s algorithms.
- Smart Bidding
Use a machine learning-controlled automated bidding system which optimises conversions and conversion values in auctions. Some examples include Enhanced Cost-Per-Click (CPC), Target Cost-Per-Aquisition (CPA), and Target Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS).
- Amazon PPC
Amazon is beginning to compete with Google and Facebook in the PPC market, and displays ads both on and off of Amazon, which has improved its popularity with online retailers. It also has advantages over Google and Facebook in terms of buyer intent.
- Social Media PPC
Around 70 percent of people no check at least one social media platform a month, so the growing use pf PPC in social media shouldn’t be ignored.
Focus On Building a Brand
Digital marketing guru Neil Patel says that SEO should be at the heart of building your brand – “Because SEO is all about improving user experience — that’s why Google cares about a site’s speed, web design, high quality content marketing, mobile-friendliness and so on.”
Your brand image, Patel explains, is a reflection of how your users feel about you, and is the sum of their experiences of your website and other marketing tools. For that reason, your brand should focus on being:
- Credible: Your brand must prompt trust and show signs of authority.
- Findable: Your content should be easy to find and search
- Useable: Your website should be easy to navigate
- Desirable: The design of your website should be appealing
- Useful: The content of your website should be useful, relevant and of high quality
- Accessible: Your site should be useable by people with disabilities
All these attributes, Patel says, should be built into your brand awareness, and add up to an ideal user experience. He argues that as part of your policy for building SEO into your branding, you should pay attention to the following tips:
- First offer value
Google’s search algorithms penalise sites that have marketing material above the fold, so make sure the value material is presented first and your users don’t have to scroll down to find it.
- Keep keywords in text
Text embedded in images can’t be read by search engines, so it doesn’t add anything to your SEO. Make sure your keyword-rich content is kept in text, not hidden in images.
- Build your sitemap
There are many tools you can use to build your sitemap, and as this helps both your users and search engines, you should do it as soon as you start developing your brand.
Create High Quality Content
It’s become clear that Google’s search algorithm is concentrating more and more on the quality, depth and breadth of a website’s content, so it’s increasingly important to make sure that the content of your site is of a high standard. Simply posting repetitive or low-value content is no longer sufficient to keep Google happy – if it isn’t good enough to acquire links, it won’t enhance your rank on SERPS.
The issue with low quality content, says digital marketing consultant Alexandra Tachalova, “is that it isn’t good enough to acquire links, so there’s a slim chance that it’ll rank on Google. Think twice about publishing such posts, since they won’t pay off. It’s better to do one post that is properly distributed every few months than doing several per month that will only receive a few visits.”
So you should ask yourself when you create a post whether it will answer a question for your customers, make a sale, generate a lead or improve your domain authority or reputation.
Remember the mantra E-A-T – for Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness.
Analysis of the way that Google’s algorithms decide page rank seems to indicate that websites containing content on health, nutrition, medicine, law, finance, government and safety are particularly affected by changes made in 2018.
If you are in this area, Lola Michaels of State of Digital makes the following suggestions to improve your EAT status:
- Check website security
Make sure you have the correct SSL certificate, use complex passwords and invest in security solutions
- Emphasis user engagement
Invite user reviews to build your popularity and authority
- Consult experts
Ask in-house and external experts and journalists to contribute to your blog and resources and give them each their own bio page to position them as thought leaders
- Display your credentials
Include any industry awards, certificates and memberships in your web design to win your visitors’ trust
- Conduct research
User survey results, anonymised customer data and qualitative research to present authoritative data. Make sure any use of customer data is GDPR compliant.
- Provide contacts
Make sure there’s an easy way for your customers to contact a human service assistant
Podcasts are likely to become more important in SEO in 2020. Google started displaying podcasts in search results in 2019, and Google certainly has the technology to transcribe podcasts, so in 2020 it will probably start returning podcast audio clips in search results.
Create Video Content
While text remains the most common form of content on websites, one of the top SEO trends 2020 is a growing use of video. According to Wordstream, video drives a 157 percent increase in organic traffic from SERPs.
Wordstream’s analysis also suggests that a third of online activity consists of watching video, and that marketers who use video grow revenue 49 percent faster than those who don’t – not surprising as 54 percent of users say they want to see video, and regard it as the most interesting and engaging form of brand content.
YouTube, for instance, has over 1b users and draws more of the 18-49 audience than any TV network. People watch over 1b hours of video on YouTube every day, and 90 percent of users say they have learned about a new brand or company on YouTube.
So what do you have to do to make your video SEO friendly? The main requirement is to add a description of your video content with SEO keywords. Then make sure you have an accompanying text post for your video. Finally, but a call to action directing users to your video content, and watch the engagements pile up.
Actually making engaging video content isn’t as difficult as it used to be; you can use a studio, presenters, lights, video and sound recording equipment, an editing suite and so on; but you can also use readymade templates from websites such as Biteable, just inserting your own images and product details where required.
Optimise Your Website For Conversions
One of the latest SEO trends, Conversion Optimization (or Conversion Rate Optimisation, CRO) is about getting a user to perform a desired action on a website, usually buying a product, clicking a link or signing up for something such as a newsletter.
While conversion optimisation can be very data-driven, it can be valuable to think of it from the point of view of the user – ask yourself what drives them to you website, what can make them leave before converting, and how you can hook them to convert.
Typical conversion optimisation rate, calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the total number of visitors to the site and multiplying the result by 100 to get a percentage, can be depressingly low – maybe around 1 to 4 percent. But as everyone’s conversion goals are different, it doesn’t do to worry too much about whether your conversion rate matches up.
There are some time-worn best practices for conversion optimisation – such as placing CTAs above the fold, using strong colours for CTA buttons, reducing the number of fields on forms, making time-limited offers, and so on – but you can pretty much assume that your competitors are all doing this.
Hotjar says that one of the best SEO trends 2020 is to take a more customer-centric view of CRO, emphasizing the following points:
- Listen to what your users have to say about your product/service
- Immerse yourself in the market
- Watch how people use your service
- Talk to whoever designed and built the product
- Speak to the staff that sell and support it
- Draw connections between different sources of feedback
Quantitative tools such as Google Analytics, website heat maps, sales funnel tools and form analysis tools will help you to track website traffic and measure customer satisfaction, and A/B testing tools will help you to test different variations of a page to find the best performers.
But as Ben Jesson, CEO of Conversion Rate Experts puts it: ”People are always asking us about best practices for conversion. You know the kind of thing: magic buttons that convert, “killer” copywriting words, winning layouts, etc. Unfortunately, that little box of tricks doesn’t take you very far. In fact, it sometimes takes you nowhere. The real best practice isn’t a particular type of page element at all. It’s a well-defined, systematic approach to CRO… when it comes to improving your website, don’t guess what the blockages are. Find out. The key question is ‘Why aren’t visitors converting?’ The answer typically comes from research in the following core areas: understanding different visitor types and intentions, identifying user-experience problems, and gathering and understanding visitors’ objections.”
One area in which Moz claims to be expert is on-page optimisation. On-page optimisation is the practice of optimising individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. On-page optimisation refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals.
Invest In Technical SEO
Investing in technical SEO is one area where you will almost certainly need the help of a digital marketing agency. A comprehensive SEO strategy will incorporate both on-page optimization and the behind-the-scenes technical SEO which makes your website web crawler-friendly. The easier you make it for search engine web spiders to index site, the better your SERP ranking will be. This isn’t one of the latest SEO trends – it’s always been good practice – but it will become more important as fine degrees of website performance become crucial.
The technical tricks of SEO change all the time as Google algorithms evolve, so simple tricks are no longer necessarily effective. But here are some of the basic requirements of technical SEO.
- Speed Up Your Website
By optimising image sizes, enabling browser caching and compression, reducing server response time and using a content delivery system, you can increase your site’s page response speed and avoid being penalised by Google
- Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
You’ll be severely penalised by Google is your website is not adaptable to mobile devices. Use tools such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, HubSpot’s Website Grader and Bing’s Mobile Friendliness Test Tool to check. Use Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), which get highlighted in SERPs.
- Optimise your internal links
Though internal links don’t have the same impact on rankings as external links, it’s still worth checking, for instance, that you use descriptive keywords in anchor text so you give a sense of the keywords he source page is targeting.
- Choose your URL
Having a single canonical URL can avoid duplicate content issues
- Check your certificates
Make sure your site’s SSL certificates are up to date
- Use Google Search Console
You can check and fix crawl errors by analysing your site using Google Search Console
- Use structured data markup
Many websites are generated from data stored in databases and formatted into HTML code. This can be difficult for web crawlers to interpret. Use structured data markup to enable search engines to better understand the information on your business’s web page, and your search results will improve. For instance, structured data markup makes it easier for web crawlers to determine company basics, such as NAP (name, address, place) data. Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper is a useful free tool to help with this task.
Backlinks will continue to be an important factor in SEO in 2020; before about 2012, backlinks may have played a role of about 45 to 60 percent in site ranking. That has dropped now to more like 50 percent, but backlinks still represent the third biggest factor behind content and user experience.
2020 may also see questions raised about Moz and the way it ranks Domain Authority. Julie Joyce says on Search Engine Journal: “Domain Authority (DA) is Moz’s way of telling us how well a website should rank, using a 0 to 100 scale. The higher the Domain Authority, the better chance it has to rank, theoretically… please please please don’t confuse it as being an actual Google metric… Moz even specifically states that Domain Authority is not used by Google… You simply cannot judge a site by its Domain Authority, or by its Domain Rating, or by its anything else that’s just one metric…Domain Authority is not a metric used by Google in determining search rankings and has no effect on the SERPs.”
Our SEO Trends 2020 guide will give you a taste of the exciting new developments in the field, but get in touch with a digital marketing agency for all the latest on the latest SEO trends.
TRON Media can help with all your digital marketing and SEO requirements. TRON Media has a highly qualified team of trained specialists in SEO, digital marketing, PPC, website design services, website security, email marketing, WordPress, HTML coding, CMS, paid search marketing, Google Ads, content marketing, digital strategy and social media, and can work with you to develop your ideas and build a digital marketing campaign perfect for your business.
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