Creating content with the end goal of ranking higher on the search engine results pages (SERPs) has evolved from merely stuffing keywords into articles to today’s more prevalent theme of evergreen content. And while there are still plenty of experts who believe there is a place for leveraging keywords to improve rankings, Google’s continually evolving algorithm now tends to favor content that’s relevant and valuable to end-users.
Here are 10 trends that can elevate your SEO content strategy for 2020.
Trend #1 Optimize for BERT
Google refers to it as its most important update in five years. Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing pre-training. What this essentially means is that BERT can be used to help Google better understand the context of words in search queries.
What does this mean for SEO content professionals?
Primarily, it means taking action on Google’s increased focus on optimizing search results based on user intent as opposed to merely keyword matching content. Content developers need to focus on customer intent to understand where they fit on that path. And by providing the best answers for questions on that path, they have a better chance of more reliably capturing and converting customers.
For marketers, this means having a deeper understanding of how users talk about their issues and needs at each stage of the buyer’s journey. This includes going beyond the purchase and touching on things like support, opportunities to advocate, and community building.
Trend #2 Optimize for Voice Search
It’s estimated that half of all searches will be done through voice, with users performing at least 30 percent of all searches without using a screen.
Since voice searches tend to be longer than typed searches, you need to identify and use keywords that people use in actual conversations – these are typically seven to nine words, and often contain a question. Content writers, as well as those tasked with on-page SEO work, need to keep this in mind.
Additionally, studies have shown that the average Google voice search is written at a ninth-grade level. This means writers need to keep sentences short. They also need to use easy-to-understand words and get straight to the point.
Trend #3 Use Featured Snippets
To the uninitiated, a featured snippet is a summary of an answer to a user’s query displayed on top of Google search results. This snippet is extracted from a webpage and is shown to include the page’s title and URL.
As pointed out by Inkwell Editorial, a simple way to incorporate these into your content is by using something like a “You will learn in this post” section at the beginning of a post and/or a “We have covered in this post” section at the bottom. This is also where you can incorporate responses to Google’s “People also ask” and “Searches related to…” sections.
It’s important to note that when you perform a test search for keywords and phrases, when you use it in your posts, it doesn’t have to be an exact match. So from the examples above, you can include in your “In this post, we will answer the following questions:”
- The benefits of a featured snippet to SEO
- How to include rich snippets into your content
Trend #4 Mobile Optimization
Google’s mobile-first index ranks pages based on their versions designed for mobile devices. This means that even if you offer a seamless experience on your website’s desktop version, but it’s comparatively buggy on a smartphone, there’s a good chance your SEO rankings will take a hit.
This means that not only do you need to optimize for mobile, but you also need to ensure that it’s responsive – meaning it works well regardless of screen size or device type. The good thing is that there are plenty of WordPress themes and plugins developed with responsive design in mind. But just to make sure everything’s working, don’t forget to perform comprehensive tests on multiple devices.
Trend #5 Write for Local Search
With mobile searches often performed on-the-go, about a third of all mobile Google searches are related to location. So when a user in Calabasas types in “dry cleaning near me,” they’re most likely looking for something much closer than, say, Santa Monica. Here’s how to go about it:
While Google can generally pick up on where the user is, if they don’t type in a city, the result might not be as close as they desire. So when writing for local search, make sure to include in the copy your business’ city location, the cities surrounding it, and perhaps even a zip code.
So a good blog post might be “High and Dry: The Best Dry Cleaners in Calabasas, CA.” Additionally, include a line in the post that mentions a major city close to your business like: “Get your fix of High and Dry unparalleled rates in the Los Angeles County.”
Trend #6 Brand Your Content
There are a couple of reasons why branding your content is essential. First, Google uses online brand mentions in its search algorithm. Second, your brand ultimately helps foster trust. The more customers (or your audience) trust you, the more they’d be willing to not only do business with you but share your content and talk about you.
Trend #7 UX & Technical SEO
Again, while the emphasis on user experience isn’t exactly groundbreaking to focus on, it will take on even greater significance in 2020. This means that stronger consideration must be placed on the overall experience – from the initial interaction in SERPs and the landing page experience to the experience when users leave sites. With regard to the latter, this includes things like remarketing, drip campaigns, and personalization for returning users.
Trend #8 Link Building = Brand Building
This signals an evolution of link building toward becoming more brand-focused. This means a heightened responsibility placed on SEO professionals to build links and media placements that drive traffic and push branding, as opposed to the more traditional approach of building links that just help with search rankings.
Essentially, this means building a brand that people trust and want to do business with using elements of link building. As alluded to earlier, as customers become smarter, they expect more when it comes to marketing. The more trust your brand elicits, the more they’ll be willing to share your content, talk about you, and buy your products.
Trend #9 Zero Click Search
First off, a zero-click search refers to how users can get an answer without clicking on a website. For example, when you want to find out what the current exchange rate is, you can get an answer without clicking on a website.
So how does this help you exactly if users don’t need to click on your link? Basically, the type of content no-click searches return is usually what’s considered top-level content. For example, if you had a paywall on your site where users need to pay to read content, top-level content would be the content used to lure users in. Conversely, high-level content is reserved for paying users. This is where the meat of the content can be found, more detailed, long-form content that answers questions more comprehensively.
Again, this comes back to trust. When you consistently provide zero-click search results, you’re able to establish credibility.
Trend #10 Semantic Search Intent Optimization
As alluded to earlier, Google has strayed away from using the actual string of words that are being typed in the search box, instead of looking at the query context and analyzing possible search intent. Take a look at the example below from Smart Insights:
Basically on the fly, Google was able to surmise that:
- The user lost their cat, but may be interested in pet and animal control centers, and not just cat facilities.
- The cat may have gone missing in the town of Halfmoon, but it also provides answers found in nearby towns – Clifton Park and Rensselaer.
- Google even suggests posting or searching on Craigslist just in case someone already found the cat.
As you can see, Google has become quite adept at understanding searcher intent. This means that traditional content creation focused on a single keyword string won’t work as they used to.
SEO is a constantly evolving game where the job is never quite done. But if you take the above-mentioned trends as you go about your SEO efforts for 2020, you’re putting your brand in a good position to succeed.
About the Author: Naida Alabata is a digital marketer and the editorial-in-chief of Startup Credo. She’s also an entrepreneur who loves to share her expertise and insights on digital marketing, social media, business, SEO, web design and more.