It’s the dawn of a new year and the perfect time to take a look at what 2020 has in store in the world of search engine optimization (SEO). Since search engines became the primary means the average Internet user navigated the World Wide Web, SEO has remained at the center of web-related conversations.
The practice of SEO has never been static. As search engines strive to deliver more relevant results to users while shunning pages that seek to game the system and offer little value, SEO has had to evolve accordingly. 2020 will be no exception and we can already see a number of trends taking root that will play a significant role in determining how pages are ranked in search engine results pages (SERPs).
- The Power of the Brand
The goal of SEO is to increase your website’s prominence on search results. This inadvertently increases your brand’s visibility and recognizability. But search engines aren’t the only place your brand gets known online. Brand performance is also dependent on how engaged you are on Facebook, how much your product or business is talked about on YouTube, whether you are getting coverage in the press and industry journals and if you are doing any offline advertising.
With the proliferation of pay-per-click (PPC) ads in SERPs and the democratization of SEO knowledge, search engine users are not going to necessarily choose the first results they run into but rather the brand they recognize and trust the most.
- Multilingual SEO
Global business is no longer the preserve of multi-billion dollar corporations with tens of thousands of employees. Thanks to the Internet, even a small company with just a dozen employees could sell their product to persons anywhere on the planet as long as the seller and buyer can communicate online. Google has one of the best language translation capacities in the world and can deliver results in multiple languages even when the keywords used in the search query belong to just one language.
However, catering to a multilingual audience is more than just translating web pages. You are going to get better SEO results if you optimize for specific words for each language (and Google Translate won’t always get this right). Also, your focus must extend beyond Google and cater to country-specific search engines such as Baidu (which is the runaway leader in China) and Yandex (which dominates in Russia).
- Intent Matching
In 2019, Google rolled out its AI-powered BERT algorithm. It was a culmination of the search engine giant’s efforts at delivering more accurate results for search queries it had never encountered before (apparently, about 15 percent of all searches Google receives each day are new). Users still expect relevant results when they submit these unprecedented queries.
BERT uses natural language processing (NLP) techniques to not just examine the string of words forming the query but, more importantly, to determine the user’s intention. Websites have to align themselves with this new development in 2020 by not getting overly fixated on inserting the right keywords in their content but rather making sure the content as a whole is coherent, comprehensive and meaningful to their target audience.
It may be a little premature to say so but BERT could very well mark the beginning of the obsolescence of keyword research tools.
Google will place even more emphasis on a website’s expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (EAT). To be fair, this is not really new and has been a hallmark of Google’s SEO algorithm in some shape or form for years. However, 2020 should see a more sophisticated approach toward gauging a site’s EAT score. This is partly due to the concerted efforts to fight against fake news as well as sites that deliberately publish information that is false or misleading.
Gauging EAT will include looking at how well a website does in resolving customer service issues and whether sentiment on Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews and other independent review platforms is positive, negative or neutral.
- User Experience
User experience covers everything from a user’s first interaction with SERPs to when they eventually exit your website. You have to give the user the best possible experience throughout since dropping the ball at any point along the process may render your efforts futile.
One of the most important elements of the user experience is site and page speed. Speed has been a SERP ranking factor from as far back as 2010 but Google renewed its focus on when it included mobile loading speed as a metric at the start of 2018. In 2020, more sites will have to completely redesign their mobile and desktop versions and reengineer how assets are loaded in order to slash page loading speed.
It’s impossible to predict with absolute certainty exactly what will happen in SEO through 2020. So as you pay attention to the 5 trends, keep your ear to the ground so you can quickly catch any market shifts.