Search engines have come along way since they first appeared on the scene in the early 1990s. Since then, companies have realized that working their website up to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) is pretty darn profitable for their business.
Just in case you need a refresher; search engine optimization (for you acronym lovers out there – SEO) is a means by which whoever you hire improves your search engine rankings to reach a wider yet targeted audience. Staying on top and current in the SEO game is one of the foundational building blocks to almost any type of business.
Search Engine Optimization is one of the most important landmarks of effective digital marketing. However, it doesn’t stay the same. Every SEO trend changes often, particularly since Google updates its search algorithm frequently too.
Search engines like Google change their algorithms when sneaky individuals manipulate and/or attempt to manipulate the system.
For some, it can be a nightmare to keep up with the changing trends and tactics. Don’t fret though, we’re here to guide you through it.
You’ve heard it somewhere before; “My site got hit with an Algorithm change.”
Let’s face it. It’s a scary thought – to imagine that after years of building your web presence, paying thousands of dollars, and then all-of-a-sudden “poof.” Just like 2008. But we aren’t here to talk about real estate. And you’re here because you don’t want that to happen.
In order to get and stay ahead in the SEO game, you need to know about the latest SEO trends. As well as understand that algorithm changes are good things.
The whole point of an algorithm change is to filter out the “ugly, non-mobile friendly, boring” websites.
The Top SEO Trends of 2020
Now, it’s time to discover the top rising search engine optimization trends for 2020 and beyond right here. So without further ado, let’s dive into it!
1. Size Matters: Mobile-First Indexing
Mobile browsing first overtook desktop browsing in 2016. This means it’s not just the youngsters on their phones browsing and surfing the internet anymore. It’s most of your parents too. More search engine searches happen on mobile devices than ever before. But, what contributes to this rise in mobile use?
Other than it being convenient, think about this from the perspective of the searcher. When someone clicks on a search result on their mobile device, they expect to land upon precisely what they’re looking for, quickly.
Over the past decade, optimizing web experiences for mobile devices has been pushed heavily.
So, now that we’ve seen almost everyone optimizing for mobile, we automatically believe that we can find what we’re looking for on our devices with ease.
What does this mean for you? If it isn’t already yet, your website needs to be compatible with a mobile screen.
Google and other search engines have already begun using mobile-first indexing in the ranking algorithm.
Your website has to be mobile-friendly to rank well with the search engines. And mobile-friendly does not mean you optimized for a just a cell phone. It means you optimized for all device sizes.
If you aren’t sure your website is compatible with the most popular devices (see the list here), then it’s time you look into it.
If someone lands on your site and it looks all funky, you can bet they aren’t returning.
On top of permanently hurting your brand image and losing a potential customer, your bounce rate goes up.
Search engines take note of that, and your site is no longer seen as a relevant result for the search term the user typed in to find you. Say hello to page two.
2. Prioritizing Mobile UX
By 2025, over 72% of people online will rely solely on their phones to browse and access the Internet. Google anticipated the shift to mobile, which is why the company released the mobile-first algorithm update.
However, one of the rising SEO trends now is to go beyond responsive web design. It’s not simply about designing a UI that looks good on a phone screen. You have to consider UX too.
Dwell time, bounce rates, and mobile responsiveness all affect your page ranking. If people browsing with their phones don’t get a highly-optimized experience on your site, they’ll leave. This reduces credibility and can knock out rank points quickly.
3. Don’t Be Boring: Go Beyond Google
When you think of search engines, your first thought is probably Google. In fact, unless you’re involved in SEO and digital marketing, you probably just say Google.
People search for information across many different platforms.
The people who think they are so important that every corporation, the government, and their friends are always spying on them, you know, conspiracy theorists use duckduckgo. Because, God forbid anyone knows you search for cat memes to share with your friends.
Then there’s Microsoft that forcefully shoves Bing in your face if you own one of their computers.
Hell, I remember a time just a few years ago when Bing would pay me to search on Bing. I literally couldn’t stand it though.
You read that correctly, they literally couldn’t pay me enough to use it. My friend who told me about the whole program and got me on-board seemed to grow more miserable by the day.
Whichever way you look at it, your target audience isn’t only on Google. And they’re maybe still on Facebook?
Anyways, Get active in all corners of the internet if you wish for your business to thrive.
This means you need to be found on Quora, Alignable, and whatever popular platforms which come next.
Especially since people are fleeing Facebook like the plague (and getting paid to do so). If you see an opportunity to slap your logo onto a new platform online, you need to jump on it. Your business and your SEO practices need to be able to keep up.
4. Creating Unique Content
This is one of the most commonly recurring themes in SEO trends year over year which will never go out of style. The content of your website needs to be unique, as well as engaging and free of grammatical and/or spelling errors.
Beyond that, your content needs to be searchable and #relatable. This means you use focus keywords across your website to help gain traffic.
Your content needs to:
- Relate to what your target customers are searching
- Answer their questions
- Address their pain points
- Entertain them
- Get people talking about it
Beyond that, you need to maintain an element of humanness in your content.
You can’t generate a random amalgamation of words from a software (be patient, AI is only maybe a few years away).
And you can’t write essays as you did in college (sorry professors, but you’re the only people who like reading that boring stuff).
You need to have humans write content for humans. This will help you and your brand maintain trust and transparency with your target audience.
Even as technology seems to take over our own lives, each of us still craves that sacred connection.
Do everything right with content, and watch as you earn top organic rankings, and sometimes, you may even earn featured snippets. Check out this research by Authority Hacker on the way Google ranks content in 2019 to better understand what search engines are looking for in your content.
5. Diversification of Content
Gone are the days when SEO was all about having a blog section on your site and filling it with blog posts daily. Gone are the days of link farming and using sites like EzineArticles to increase low-relevant backlinks.
Blogs are still the backbone but you need to diversify. The rest of the world is already on the move to include videos, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and other forms of content into their SEO strategies.
6. Say What?: Prepare for Voice Search
Companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon, have been pushing virtual assistants for quite some time.
Apple first released Siri in 2010.
Amazon’s own version of a personal assistant was first widely available in 2015. Since then, Amazon has pushed to make its virtual assistant more compatible with everyday life and appliances.
What does this mean for SEO and your business? The way people search for information may begin to lean toward voice search.
Businesses and SEO agencies need to start thinking about voice-optimized content. People don’t always speak the way they type. This is one of the largest SEO trends that are largely untapped.
Go back a few years and only SIRI mattered. Nowadays, however, there are other voice search assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant.
These tools opened search opportunities for people who can’t type or access computers in a traditional sense, such as people with vision disabilities or mobility concerns. Even for people without disabilities, voice search continues to grow thanks to devices like Amazon Echo and the Samsung Smart TV.
This affects SEO in 2020 and beyond! Catering to voice search is a big SEO trend you cannot afford to miss out on.
How do you update your SEO strategy for this? It boils back down to BERT. Voice search works, after all, through advanced machine learning to grasp the nuances in actual conversational queries. You need to create content that contains a pack of information but is easy for the average reader — and AI — to understand.
Additionally, people may begin to want voice results back to them. While this may sound simple enough, it isn’t quite so.
Some information may be too difficult to convey this way, such as product comparisons.
There’s still a good long
Oh, and here’s another client of ours we optimized for voice search:
7. Inclusivity Matters
Voice search is only the icing on the cake. Another rising SEO trend is inclusivity. This encompasses all aspects of SEO, from the art of web design to how you curate articles and alt-tags for images.
Your site and its content should present color sliders or visual options for color-blind individuals. There should be text-to-speech options for the blind. If you feature videos, make sure to add subtitles.
All of this helps boost the user experience (UX).
Better UX retains visitors. It keeps them glued to your content and guarantees they’ll return. This builds expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT), three factors that Google’s algorithm factors to rank credibility and relevance.
8. It’s There, But It’s Not. And It’s Not Magic: Linkless Backlinking
Backlinking is considered one of the most important aspects of SEO to build trustworthiness in the eyes of search engines. Backlinking is the practice of using inbound and outbound links within your web content.
High-quality links to and from your site improve your trustworthiness in the eyes of the reader and the search engine.
Some experts think search engine algorithms may become more sophisticated in the way they look for backlinks. They may no longer look for hyperlinks but linkless mentions.
This means a simple mention of a brand or website will be considered a backlink, even if no hyperlink is present.
This form of linkless backlinking may become vital to up-and-coming SEO best practices.
As far as we can tell, Bing was the first search engine to consider linkless mentions seriously. Google was quick to follow.
9. You’ve Been Lied To: Slow and Steady Doesn’t Win the Race (Site Speed Matters)
There was a time in the history of the internet when it took what felt like ages for a page to load. After waiting to dial-up a connection. After waiting 5 minutes for your computer to boot-up.
Today, users expect web pages to load in a matter of seconds. If a page takes just a split second too long to load, the user is more likely to abandon the action.
Therefore; page speed has an impact on both user experience and search engine crawling. If your website loads quickly, the search engine spider can crawl more pages in less time.
If your website doesn’t load in faster than two seconds, do what’s necessary to change that. It may cost money, but a whole hell of a lot less than the money you’re losing to your competition who does load in under 2 seconds.
This would be good news for your competitors’ search engine rankings. But, don’t let it happen.
Google and other search engines out there are starting to give lots more love to websites with fast page load speeds.
They even came out with the Accelerated Mobile Project to help push this agenda.
So, needless to say, this is quickly becoming a crucial ranking factor in reaching the top of the SERP.
So, take extra care of that load time your website has.
10. Google BERT
BERT is one of the latest updates to Google’s algorithm. The acronym means Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers and while that sounds complex, it all boils down to understanding the context within the words used in a search query.
Take the phrase “math practice books for adults.” Prior to the BERT update, you’ll end up with results listing down general math practice tips. With the new update, Google has a better grasp of the nuances in the query and will list down math books for adults.
What does this mean for your SEO efforts?
It means you need to craft content that prioritizes answering “how” and “why” questions. Keyword research remains relevant but now you have to anticipate user intent as well. It’s no longer about curating posts simply to satisfy keyword statistics.
Queries involving “why” or “when” might get pushed into zero-click searches, which we’ll tackle next.
11. Zero Click Searches
Take a moment to type any question on Google. As soon as the results pop up, you’ll immediately notice that above the organic search results is the box for the featured snippet. Ask yourself this: how often do you click the link in the featured snippet if the answers on the SERP page already provide all the details you need?
Yes, you’ll still want to conduct extensive keyword research and create content that can get you into that coveted box but keep in mind fewer people might follow through to visit your page. There are two ways to work around this.
First, ensure you don’t give everything away. Create content in a way that even if Google takes portions of your posts for a featured snippet, readers will still have to click on the link to get the full details.
The other method is to design potential featured snippet data to encourage direct contact. If someone searches for “when” or “where” details, they should discover your business’ address or number and this can urge them to contact you.
12. Influencers Affecting SEO
It’s no secret that people hate ads. Even Google understands this, which is why they offer a Premium membership for YouTube. Now people can simply pay a monthly fee to enjoy videos without ads interrupting their viewing experience.
Fortunately, there is a new method that can heavily affect your SEO efforts: influencer marketing.
Keep in mind that influencers are authorities on a specific niche. Working with them opens up incredible backlinking opportunities and their audience instantly turns into potential leads. Adding their stamp of quality adds credibility to your site too, meaning you benefit from a boost in trustworthiness.
At the very least, you can expect a spike in traffic and page engagement.
13. Videos Powering SEO Strategies
Did you know videos already account for the majority of Internet traffic and consumption? That’s right, people spend the most time online watching videos than they do chatting with friends, browsing blogs, or posting selfies.
Don’t forget that even if Google can’t understand the content of a video, the markup structure and SEO workaround that video can make or break your efforts. Take advantage of every tool you have: hashtags, keywords in the video description, and keywords in the video URL, for example.
Focus on high-quality video content packed with information and an entertaining format. This ensures more people will link to it and share it, again boosting your efforts.
Also, keep in mind that while social media marketing doesn’t directly affect SEO, you can use it to boost engagement and exposure to your videos. The better your videos, the more likely it is to become viral. This can potentially skyrocket your site’s daily traffic volume in an instant.
14. Authoritative Local SEO
Local SEO is still the name of the game for small businesses but the trend now is to go beyond using Google My Business and local keywords. Everything you thought worked solely to build authority now goes into your local SEO formula too.
This means you need to get in touch with other local businesses and websites. Form a network to help build stronger, credible backlinks related to the local scene.
What kind of results should you look for?
If someone searches for “best seafood restaurants in Chicago” then they should find establishments not only addressed in the city but primarily the ones rated highly by local critics, customers, and organizations. The person searching will factor in those local mentions in their decision-making process.
15. Backlinking Still Matters –Significantly.
Speaking of connectivity, backlinking is a trend that won’t go away for a long time. It’s not even a trend anymore but a necessity. Backlinks are among the most important ranking factors in regards to Google’s search algorithm.
Backlinks from respectable sources boost the relevance and credibility of your content. These links also improve exposure, thereby increasing traffic and brand awareness.
That said, backlinking isn’t the same as it was a few years back. This 2020 and beyond, it’s time to update the kind of content people might link to. As mentioned above, diversify your content so that people can choose to add backlinks to your videos, social media pages, forms, and more.
Diversifying your backlinking strategy can help you thrive instead of merely surviving.
Just Keep Swimming: SEO Trends To Keep Up With
SEO is an ever-changing field. It seems as though search engine algorithms change all the time. There isn’t one defining SEO trend that will forever change the landscape. However, put all of these SEO trends together and it’s easier to see how today’s strategies and trends are different from the ones a few years back.
Every day I see SEO agencies and software companies detect ranking changes and publishing them online. It’s a highly competitive game. But that’s what makes it all so fun 🙂
If you have a business, it’ll pay well to be up-to-date on the latest SEO trends. The above list outlines only a few of the trends we see actively dominating the year so far.
However, change is inevitable and unpredictable. So, stay tuned in the coming months for more updates on SEO Trends.
Or, take advantage of the latest knowledge in SEO and get your business to the top so you can focus on actually running your business. Check out our SEO services.