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  • 12 SEO Trends for 2020: Latest Forecasts You Should Be Thinking About

12 SEO Trends for 2020: Latest Forecasts You Should Be Thinking About

Category: B2B News

SEO is an evolving industry. As its history and recent SEO trends show, its development, growth, and best practices change over time. Everybody once tried to build a good amount of links on other sites. The future may be of an SEO that is focused elsewhere.

So, what is new in SEO this 2019? In this article, we have compiled and analyze a series of SEO trends likely to disrupt the industry. We will discuss their causes, implications, and what you can do to leverage them.

seo trends main web

Your SEO efforts (including all business processes) should focus on guiding your customers’ journey into your marketing funnel. What is this funnel?

The funnel is made up of five different phases.

First, the awareness phase. This increases the level of awareness of the target audience of your brand’s website. This also makes them more receptive to future interactions.

Second, the consideration phase activates your advocates and social proof to assist customers when they compare you with competitors.

Third, in the conversion phase, you make the buying process as simple for your customers.

Fourth, the loyalty phase is where you create a program like discounts, email interactions, and the use of social media to maintain your customers.

Lastly, in the advocacy phase, you develop relationships with receptive individuals to support future marketing funnels and even evangelize your brand to other prospects.

marketing funnel

Therefore, everything you do for your SEO should, in principle, follow this framework. As a principle in business, this is unlikely to change as much as the SEO landscape does. Thus, having these at the back of your mind for everything SEO and everything business-related should guide you to your success.

Many times, we overdo things because we put undue focus on things that don’t matter much for our business ends.

In the next section, we have compiled some SEO strategies that could pull great amounts of resources to waste considering they are getting outdated in the market. To wit, they are less likely to contribute to the influx of happy customers into your marketing funnel.

Changing SEO Strategies

Let’s face it, we sometimes fall in love so hard with the things that worked for us in the past that even if they don’t work anymore, we remain attached towards them. We keep on doing them with the same intensity and degree of belief that they end up taking too much time and resources from tasks that actually matter. In doing SEO, this can be the case if we spend so much time and focus on dying strategies.

1. Beyond link-building the old ways

Don’t get anything wrong. Link-building is still a very valuable asset in SEO. In fact, it is one of the top three search ranking factors. However, its golden age is over. Today, it has a number of nuances that making it the end-all-be-all of your SEO is a big no-no.

In the golden years of link-building, SEO professionals would just spam their links over random directories and it would work.  This does not cut it today.

According to BACKLINKO, the authority of the page linking to you is what matters most. This means that an article or a webpage would rank more when authoritative sources link to you more. Thus, you’d be better off with a few big-time publications linking to you than a host of small blogs with less authority.

Therefore, you don’t want to spend time in hatching deals with lesser authoritative sites with nothing but a modicum of authority in the topic. Relevancy matters gravely here. The linking site’s theme should be relevant to yours.

Thus, you should go for a few authority websites that matter most when link-building. Quality, not quantity, is the name of the link-building game.

2. Numero uno will no longer translate to best rewards

As core dna rightly emphasizes, ranking at the top does not have a strong correlation with increased website traffic nowadays compared to before. If you take a look at the SERPs (search engine results page), they are ridden with ads, question boxes, and snippets.

While a webpage may rank number one, it still may just be “buried” under these things. So core dna suggests that instead of obsessing this top spot via increasing website traffic, you should focus more on a different metric: your click-through rate (CTR).

You can increase this via testing out different headlines and meta descriptions. Most of all, try out combinations using words from Facebook Ads or Google Adwords. Below is a well-done short video on how to improve your CTR.

3. People take over robots

Before, SEO professionals tend to write for search engine robots alone. Writing for people came in second.  Google caught up and search results are now returning webpages that focus on people. As consumers, this is good. This is very good. However, when you have been in SEO for quite a while, this means that you should catch up as well.

Google, or any veritable search engine at that, aim to provide relevant search results to users. Of course, you should too. That is why when you put up content to rank, they should also be content that helps.

This is why sites that try to answer users’ questions better than anyone else ranks higher than those that do not. Also, you should be wary too of bad fonts or font sizes. You need to be focused on user experience in order to coax them down into your marketing funnel.

Moreover, Google is also particular about the “dwell time” or the time users stay on a specific webpage. When you write useful content for people, this tends to go up and so does your ranking.

So let’s stop writing for search engines alone and start writing for people more. A good balance can be achieved as we can witness many sites do it. It just takes a good amount of effort in writing and testing different combinations of things.

A Focus on Customer Experience: EAT, Design, and Be Mobile

Good business professionals understand that business success is predicated on a healthy connection between sellers and buyers. This is why the marketing funnel framework is a very good model that allows us to visualize how to entice customers into becoming brand evangelists.

This goes the same for every business process including SEO. Also, this involves all aspects of content, design, and some technical aspects to be discussed in other sections.

However, in this section,  we will focus on a great shift towards customer experience.

As alluded to in the previous section, customer experience affects your search rank. It increases dwell time and tells Google’s algorithm that users find your content relevant and useful. Thus, the machine moves you up the rankings to suggest it to other users with the goal of helping them out too.

Therefore, your customer or user experience should be curated in a way to not just increase your rank but to also help your customers proceed to your desired actions. However, a good connection between you and them will only blossom when your desired actions are aligned with their desired outcomes as well.

This is a bit complicated to do and requires a good mix of things to achieve. We will unpack this in large chunks in the hope of giving you a better analytical view of the whole picture.

4. EAT and be content

As mentioned, content plays an integral part in today’s SEO. Search engines match what they “think” is good and useful content to the users that search for them. Thus, having a good content strategy is essential.

It is the backbone of your whole operation. Remember, it is essentially your ticket for Google (and other search engines) to connect you with its users.

Therefore, you first want to create a good content strategy that matches your content with search intent.

Some experts suggest that you should more or less follow the EAT rating guidelines (there are some nuances to be discussed).

In the broadest sense, your content strategy should aim to create the best value for users. Also, experts suggest for your site to have the right Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness—EAT. Furthermore, you should leverage different types of media such as video, audio, and others to keep engagement high.

However, in this framework, it goes that if you are “outdoorsy” type of site and you just start churning out content about unified field theory, you shouldn’t expect to rank high.

You’d likely get more chance at ranking well when you keep within your lane of expertise. If you do create content well, with the right expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, your SEO will likely prosper. But what are these really? This has something to do with what insiders call SQR guidelines.

Search Quality Rater (SQR) Guidelines

Google has contracts with more than 10,000 search quality raters around the world. These “raters” are instructed to conduct searches and rate the quality of pages appearing in the top results. Guidelines are sent every year with the latest one going public.

An SQR guideline has tips about rating sites via the EAT framework. It also suggests that the ones that have the most beneficial content should be ranked as the highest. For sites that do not attempt to help users, or “pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the lowest rating.”

For those with beneficial content, raters should consider EAT—

  • the Expertise of the creator of the Main Content;
  • the Authoritativeness of the creator of the Main Content, the Main Content itself, and the website;
  • the Trustworthiness of the creator of the Main Content, the Main Content itself, and the website.

This goes for medical sites, sites posting scientific topics, financial advice, hobby sites such as photography or guitar, and everything in between. So, be sure to take a good look at yourself and your site if you’d rate yourself high on these metrics yourself. Moreover, as these are guidelines for the raters, these do not necessarily reflect the actual rolling out of the ranking algorithm yet.

Nonetheless, like many systems, there are problems such as having more or less reputable sites taking dives in their rankings. This is why we should be vigilant with changes and check our KPIs from time to time. The takeaway? Keep in your lane of expertise and/or hire legit experts to help you with your content.

5. Design will remain relevant

On-page optimization is really a broad term that engulfs both front-end design-related aspects and back-end technical aspects. In this subsection, we are going to focus on the front-end aspects first. Later, we’ll get to the latter.

Now, design plays a big part in the users’ experience. To wit, it is what the users experience themselves. They don’t really see the beautiful back-end architecture of the site. They only commune with the user interface. Thus, they interface with you using the site experience you design for them.

We already discussed that you need to have relevant and useful content. However, the site’s design is what holds this content. There is really no single answer to how to create a well-designed site but there are easy tools to use.

For example, a good website builder platform would have beautiful templates that you can customize.

Also, the best ones are highly-optimized for different browsers and operating systems. One platform that comes in highly recommended is Wix.com. It is completely cloud-based and easy to use. This is perfect for those that are not code-savvy. Also, it is priced really well especially for beginners.

With such tools, you can create a design that is conducive to customer experience. Dashboards will be intuitive and optimized for mobile interactions. Menus will be neat and simple.

Moreover, conversion buttons like “add to cart,” “subscribe,” and “pay” would be easy to design. Furthermore, if you are successful with your design, you can increase dwell time by engaging your users through a beautiful website.

Thus, you’d improve your SEO. Also, if you have relevant and useful content, it would be a killer combination for today’s SEO landscape.

6. Mobile presses on

Since the 1st of July this year, all new sites have been subjected to mobile-first indexing. This move is to help Google’s primarily mobile users to search the web better. The plan was first announced in 2016.

Also, in December of 2017, Google has rolled this out to a test group of anonymous sites. This roll-out history probably had its origins in 2015 where most of Google Searches were made from mobile devices. Thus, this move really makes sense as most people access the search engine via their phones.

2019 US Mobile Usage

90%

of people prefer to receive texts from businesses over calls

87%

of internet users are on mobile phones

43%

of product research done on mobile phones

40%

of total transactions are on mobile phones

Source: Chattanooga Trend, MILL for Business

Designed by

Also, as you can see from the chart above, people tend to access other websites using their phones as well. This is why in July of 2018, slow-loading content took a hit on their SEO rankings. Today, mobile indexing is looming for every site out there. Therefore, you better move fast in getting your site mobile-ready if you want to connect with more customers in the future.

The Rise of Non-Google Search Engines

Since the start of this article, we have been mostly discussing Google, Google, Google and this is rightly so. It is the most popular search engine today and still has a very strong claim to the throne.

top 7 search engines

However, it is not the only search engine there is. We are not saying that you should invest time and resources to do a great chunk of your SEO for Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo. What experts want us to consider is that people tend to search other sites for useful content such as Amazon, YouTube, and FaceBook.

Thus, your SEO shouldn’t be too Google-centric anymore. Of course, Google should play a big part but you must turn your attention to wider and even more targeted options.

If you run an international operation, you couldn’t ignore sites as big as Amazon and Facebook. This is more so if you run a regional or local operation.

If you are the former, you want these “secondary search engines” to refer to your website which gives you more traffic and more chances for conversion.

If you are the latter, you want to cut through the international SEO bloodbath on Google search rankings and go straight to your local prospects.

Remember, the obsession to go for the number one can be very unhealthy. We all should go back to our marketing funnels and do what’s right for whatever businesses we are in.

7. Supercharge video magnet via SEO

YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world and it is for a good reason. We get to watch videos, interact with other users, and even engage with the creators themselves.

In 2017, YouTube has already banked 1.5 billion views in a month. This stat only includes the users that are logged on to their Google accounts when surfing YouTube content. Thus, there must be millions, if not billions, more people on the site monthly!

Video marketing has been a very popular go-to approach by firms and this helps them acquire more numbers for major KPIs like sessions, views, and engagement. As of November 2018, 56% of businesses have webinars, 52% put out product demos, while 47% have created product videos on the platform.

If you haven’t started creating videos for consumer consumption, you should start now. Also, getting yourself visible to target customers on YouTube is a job that SEO could do. Furthermore, this goes the same with Facebook and Instagram as well.

Top Social Media Platforms for Video Marketing

With 52% of marketers using Facebook Ads Manager

Facebook

%

Instagram

%

YouTube

%

Source: 2018 State of Social Video: Marketer Trends by Animoto

Designed by

For this approach, it’s the same in principle with “normal” SEO where the best practice requires a balance between good content and technical aspects. Therefore, marketers and SEO professionals should think in the same vein when it comes to video marketing and other types of content.

But going at it using just bare social media built-in tools is an uphill climb. We recommend using dedicated social CRM platforms where HubSpot CRM comes highly-recommended by our experts.

You can easily sign up for a Hubspot CRM free trial here and get to know the features firsthand at no cost and without commitment.

8. Get SEO as your customer guide to the jungle that is Amazon

A whopping 66% of shoppers start their search for new products on Amazon. Thus, if you are selling something online or for delivery, Amazon is something you can’t ignore. It’s just as Sellics said: if your ranking gets you slated at the third results page, you are very unlikely to get a sale.

Therefore, if you want to sell more items and convert new prospects, you are better off on the top two pages.

However, unlike Google users, Amazon customers’ only intent for using the site is to buy. On the other hand, Google users may just be searching for specs or just reading about the product with no buying intent. Thus, Amazon’s new algorithm tries to determine what is called the purchase likelihood.

Amazon determines rankings through click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate (CR) of the product page, and sales. These are the most important KPIs for Sellics. But how can you get them up?

It’s a three-step process.

First, you have to optimize your content like getting really beautiful product images and copy on your page.

Second, you have to optimize your keywords for your listings by adding all relevant search terms to your product.

Third, you have to actively maintain your pages by managing reviews and running a good PPC campaign.

This, in principle, is the same with Google “paid search” results, a complex matter which we are not going to discuss further here. The first step is really to start learning more about how Amazon works.

Below are some tips by Marc Schenker published on WordStream. Take a look.

Tips for Amazon SEO

  • Put the most relevant keywords in your product’s title
  • Include main keywords for the product within the seller’s name
  • Include important keywords in the product description and bullet points
  • Keep your price point competitive
  • Have high-quality images for your products

amazon seo facts

Technical SEO, Machine Learning, and Progressive Web Apps

SEO trends and techniques may change but technical SEO is a constant thing of concern. This doesn’t just concern your back-end setup but it also concerns consumer experience.

You don’t want your audience walking into bad webpages and other issues. However, technical SEO is mainly concerned with getting your site crawled by Google and other search engines in the best way possible.

This means that you are visible and processed well by search engines such that you get views, new users, and other KPIs up on your site. As you know, Google Search Console is the best tool for this.

It mainly lets Google know that you exist and that you are there to serve their audiences as well.

9. Do your SEO homework

Firstly, this means that your site loads easily and quickly. You want your site to load faster than three seconds as most users just bounce out when your webpage loads pretty slow. Thus, you have to watch out for files like pictures that could bog down your site.

This is why you should test and preview everything before you put it out. You don’t want your loading time to be too long that users press the “back” button and choose competing webpages.

This just takes a lot out of your conversion rate. Also, you have to manage everything from backlinks to your fonts.

There is no single recipe to get your site customer friendly. And there is no single recipe to rank.

However, there are best practices to get your rankings up. Some of them are totally repeatable like good science experiments.

Of course, we can’t discuss everything here as this is not a tutorial article. However, you can check out this video from SEO savant Brian Dean for more tips.

10. Get comfortable with machine learning

In the world of SEO, Google itself is using machine learning for dealing with spam and in connecting users to good quality useful content. The search engine already deployed this in Gmail with a 99.9 percent success rate. But you too can leverage the power of this relatively new tool.

The power of machine learning is in the relative independence you allow for computers to achieve some objective by just the input of rules.

Their success lies in the rules that you created. Also, as your level of interaction is mainly centered around these rules, you get to have insights at the level of principles.

What this means is that you can work in the level of generalities and apply certain action policies based on the data you get from a machine using tested principles. You’d be training the machine and outsource analytical work to it.

What you’d derive are strategies and tactics to inform how you optimize your SEO as you move forward without diving straight into the deep end of data yourself.

Basing on current machine learning statistical data, this approach is going to be a strong trend moving forward.

Business intelligence tools are becoming more popular every year. More and more businesses need to complement traditional human-based insights with a strong belief that better decisions can be made when the analysis is data-driven.

And it is very hard (if not impossible) to really argue with this. Therefore, as you move forward, you better keep an eye on machine learning and how experts and competition deploy it for SEO.

11. Leverage Progressive Web Apps

There is a certain buzz around progressive web apps (PWA). However, experts and practitioners seem to be murky of what they are and how you can leverage them for better SEO. One thing is clear though.

These PWAs are seen to increase user engagement and dwell time. Thus it affects not just your old ranking but also it seems to siphon users to your marketing funnel way easier. Here is a good introductory video below.

In a nutshell, PWAs are app-like browser-driven webpages that give users the experience of using a standalone application. Also, some experts say that they could be installable as well. However, as stated, they should run like an app even they are on browsers. Examples of PWAs are Housing.com, Starbucks, Airbnb, Yummly, and Twitter. Google Developers define them as user experiences that are:

  • Reliable – loads instantly and don’t slow down even in poor network conditions
  • Fast – quick to respond to user interactions with smooth animations
  • Engaging – has immersive experience and feels like a natural app on a device

Also, importantly, these are worthy of being on the user’s home screen. When technical criteria are met, your browser would prompt you to add it to your home screen.

Thus, it helps by siphoning user traffic without battling it out among other sites on search. The three requirements for being a PWA is (1) it must run under HTTPS, (2) must include a Web App Manifest, and (3) must implement a service worker.

We are not going to cover all of this in this article but you can check out how to register a service worker here. For more exposition on what a PWA is and how you can leverage it for SEO and marketing, check out the Google Developer video below.

Get Ready for Voice Search

Voice search, basing on current statistics, is likely going to rise. It’s quite intuitive really. Why type in your question when you can easily just ask using your own voice? Well, if AI voice recognition is not that good, people rather not. It is quite annoying.

However, AI is getting better. Google’s voice search reached a very high 95% accuracy. Also, voice search usage seems to be spiking as of late.

How U.S. Consumers Used Voice-Enabled Speakers

Play music

%

Weather/news

%

General questions

%

Timer/alarm/reminder

%

Shopping lists

%

Make a purchase

%

Enabling a smart home device

%

Email/calls

%

Credit: eMarketer, 2018

Designed by

12. Local SEO is getting a loud voice search treatment

But what we need to understand regarding voice search is that it uses different keyphrases than that of text searches. People usually use a “conversational” tone when it comes to voice search.

For text searches, we, in a sense, have developed skills to translate our thoughts into more of “computer language” queries. Also, there are three statistics that you can leverage for voice search.

  • 22% of voice questions are looking for local answers provided for by local content
  • 50% of local mobile searches by a consumer leads to a store visit in a day
  • 71% of 18-29 year-olds in the U.S. use mobile personal assistants

Thus, you need to get your local content and SEO up. This means some technical effort like getting your business listing right with Google and other search engines (and apps). Furthermore, you need to up your Google Knowledge Panel game as some features from this greatly impacts local search.

A good 49% of marketers feel that Knowledge Panel features like Google Posts, and Q&A among others impact local rankings. Thus, it is better to get on this trend to get your site and business visible.

Furthermore, global smart speaker shipments have increased this year. Thus, a good deal of voice search is already on the horizon. The leading company when it comes to shipment is Amazon with its Alexa-enabled smart devices. Therefore, it is best to get on the voice search trend now more than later.

Global Smart Speaker Shipments, Q2 of 2019

26.1 Million in Total Shipments

*numbers in % are market shares
Units Shipped in Millions (and companies)

6.6 million (Amazon)

4.5 million (Baidu)

4.3 million (Google)

4.1 million (Alibaba)

2.8 million (Xiaomi)

3.7 million (others)

Source: Canalys

Designed by

Moving forward: what to do about it?

There may be other things being considered to be trending nowadays when it comes to SEO. However, we compiled what we think will be the strongest ones in the coming years. Voice search is poised to do so when you base your prediction on demand for and shipments of smart speaker devices worldwide. Also, technical SEO is not going out of favor anytime soon (or ever will for that matter).

Machine learning much like AI and Analytics is likely to get stronger and stronger as time goes by. Who wouldn’t want data-driven insights? Also, good content including videos and other media will likely continue to be the rage. It’s almost rare to find anybody reading through a full article. Videos are more engaging and concise.

These may all be highly plausible yet in the current state of things, especially when it comes to SEO for local businesses, there is no single recipe for ranking and getting customers from online means. There never was and likely never will.

However, industry trends come in fruition not just because of some numbers dipping and rising. These numbers rise and fall representing behavior because behaviors and actions rest mostly on belief. This is especially true in business settings where being rational is a prized requirement. So, let’s take a quick look into some beliefs that foster behavioral trends in the industry.

SEO vs. Marketing (going local)

Today, it seems that users are learning more about how to get organic SEO traffic. In a 2019 report, 1 in 4 marketers plans to learn more about organic SEO. Also, 11% of marketers are looking into new Google local features.

Furthermore, 12% are trying to learn to code, 11% are researching how to build links better, 11% are studying paid searchers, and 9% are trying to understand the mobile environment better. There isn’t really a consensus about what the best strategy is.

However, just like before, the best action policies are still a mix of different things. This distribution of beliefs of what to learn next may just indicate what marketers are lacking in their current arsenal.

Also, it may point towards a later trend where marketers will be more well-rounded in the future. Technical and strategic minds would meld. This, we believe, will be a strong trend moving forward given the data and our intuitions.

In practice, this will take a good five years to actually fulfill especially when it comes to local businesses. Surely, the giants out there have very well-rounded executives and teams. However, the smaller ones are not that keen on SEO mixed with marketing yet.

For enterprise brands that have more than one thousand employees, only 13% have 6 or more full-time SEO staff. A good 44% have 2 to 5 personnel while a shocking 17% have none at all! It may really take a long time in bridging disciplinary silos especially when formal education does not do well in this regard.

However, many professionals are already enrolled in YouTube University and online learning communities so this might hasten an integrated practice of SEO and marketing.

State of Local SEO Industry

Come on, get over ranking already

A surprising 20% of small businesses feel that ranking is their highest priority. But as we have discussed, they should be focusing on conversion rates instead.

A good 72% of large agencies, large brands, and even small agencies believe that conversion or revenue is their highest priority already. They are out of the unhealthy ranking-obsession phase already.

What this shows is that for many businesses out there, their beliefs may lead them to value bells and whistles more than the lifeblood of their operations. And this is very scary. So if you are a small business, you better look yourself in the mirror and truly ask what you are obsessed with when it comes to SEO.

Maybe, just maybe, you are so caught up in rankings that you forget about whether it really affects your marketing funnel effectively. Remember, correlation is not the same as causation. And when we get more sophisticated about rankings and conversions, the former needs to work for the latter. Always.

A Crucial Reminder

Thus, you should always remember that SEO works for your business and not get your business to just do SEO. SEO helps you convert. It helps you get users to become brand evangelists. It takes more than technical manipulation of keywords and processes to land you a good ranking and to land you a good relationship with your target customers. You must offer content that is both relevant and useful. Also, these contents must be recognized by search engines as relevant and useful so that they’ll connect you with the most promising prospects.

Today’s SEO is in principle just an extension of age-old advertising and marketing. Indeed, they are more complex. Surely, they need new expertise. However, they are a cut of the same cloth and a good marketing head is going to go a long way for your SEO moving forward. It helps you straighten up your act to really get into the real meat of the matter: continuous revenues by providing products and services better than competitors in critical success factors.

Thus, this means a good mix of both online and offline efforts. Surely, SEO is very important. However, you need to balance this with offline work as well. Many marketers would tend to forget that real-world interactions play a good deal when it comes to revenue and conversions.

Of course, the statistics and data extracted from there are considered to be inferior to online data. They are not as complete as you would like it to be. Nonetheless, this is where the real world works and it does matter. Thus, mixing your SEO efforts with highly-recommended business intelligence tools like Sisense is the best approach today.

So, good luck with your SEO and hopefully you can deal with these upcoming trends as gracefully as possible. Also, remember to check back on more Finances Online posts to keep you updated with the goings-on in the intersections between high technology and industry nowadays.

 

By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. No stranger to small business hiccups and drama, having been involved in a few internet startups. Prior to his for-profit ventures, he has had managed corporate communications for a Kansas City-based Children International unit.

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