We’re starting the year by highlighting the most important SEO trends for 2020. As expected, 2019 saw techniques and strategies evolve to match emerging technologies, such as AI and machine learning technologies, and it looks like the same is going to be true in 2020. As search engines become smarter - brands and campaigns need to think more about the end-user and what they’re actually searching for.
BERT = User-Focused Optimisation
In 2019, Google released one of the biggest changes to its search algorithms in years, and it was called BERT. The update is an AI, machine learning system which uses a natural language process (NLP), to better understand the intent behind a user’s search query.
Instead of just trying to understand the words within a search query in order – BERT looks at the relationship of the words being used. AI means BERT can apply what it learns to millions of words and phrases. It uses these learnings to provide users with better, more relevant results.
This shift towards context means, in 2020, SEO and content activity should focus on the intent and needs of target audiences, rather than trying to target specific keywords. The more you know about your audience, the better. Site content needs to focus on being the answer to a searcher’s needs – rather than just matching the words or queries they use.
It’s no surprise that mobile SEO is on this list. Mobile usage continues to increase year on year. According to Statista, there are 3.3 billion smartphone users around the world - that’s 43% of the world’s total population.
Sites need to prioritise mobile users in 2020, from responsiveness to page load times. If a user has a bad experience visiting your site on a mobile device, your organic visibility in desktop and mobile search results is likely to decrease.
2020 SEO strategies need to include the continual review of mobile traffic and search results. This insight will show if pages need to be optimised for mobile devices and if there are any opportunities to increase mobile search rankings. One tactic for making sure your site is as optimised as it could be is critically reviewing sites which appear higher than your site in mobile search results. This may reveal tactics you may want to test on your site.
As mobile usage increases – so does the importance of local SEO. Google uses information and data from mobile apps, like Facebook, to identify where a user is searching from. The search engine is then able to show ‘local’ results.
One of the most effective ways of becoming more visible in local search results is having a Google My Business profile. With an optimised Google My Business profile, you are more likely to appear in local search results and featured snippets, such as local packs.
An optimised Google My Business listing can help make you more visible in search results and on Maps – but it can also reduce site traffic from local searches. Google packs show business information such as addresses, reviews and phone numbers in SERPs. Searchers may not need to visit your site to make a call and become a customer.
If you notice organic traffic falling in 2020 – review your Google My Business insights. They may show that some website traffic is being lost to the increase in visibility of your business information in SERPs.
Backlinks Still Matter
Many factors determine where a website ranks in Google – and backlinks are thought to be one of the most important factors. If good quality, high ranking websites link to an exteranl page, it signals that Google needs to consider this content or page as a trusted, quality source which should rank highly in SERPs.
In 2020, sites should focus on publishing high-quality content which can be used to gain links from relevant external sites. This type of content creation and outreach is a good way of killing two birds with one stone – you create quality content which meets the needs of your customers which can then be used to gain valuable backlinks.
In addition to gaining links – it’s also important to assign time to review and managing existing backlinks. Disavowing links which have become toxic is important – as if not, Google may penalise you for having poor quality spam links.
The Rise of Visual Search
Visual search is set to become even more important in 2020. Visual search has improved significantly in recent years – with search engines like Google updating their desktop search interface for users who prefer to search this way.
Other platforms like Pinterest and shopping apps (such as ASOS) now allow their users to search by uploading an image. This type of search makes it easier for those who are searching for a specific item – such as a product or recipe – which might otherwise be hard to describe using traditional text keywords.
To make your site relevant to visual searches, make sure that all images are optimised so Google can crawl images and match it images successfully.
Images on your site should have descriptive, keyword-focused:
- File names
- Alt text
In addition to making sure all existing images are optimised, in 2020, SEOs should focus on making sure images are used effectively across a site.
2020 SEO Strategies
If you want to improve your organic search visibility in 2020 – make sure your SEO strategy takes into account all the most recent developments and best practices. As an SEO agency, we pride ourselves on continually reviewing our client's objectives and digital marketing activity to make sure the effort we put is resulting in commercial returns.
If you would like to discuss how we can support your digital marketing and SEO activity in 2020, don’t hesitate to contact us.