Every year, Google makes hundreds of changes to its search algorithms, any of which can have significant effects on how well your website ranks in search. Staying on top isn’t accomplished through guesswork, so knowing what works now and what is likely to work in the future is vital to your success.
Here are trends to be mindful of heading into summer 2020:
When Google launched BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) in 2019, it drew a lot of attention. Google’s first major change to its search algorithm since 2014 found SEO experts immediately set out to learn how to optimize for it. BERT, however, is geared toward helping Google understand natural language. This means that rather than optimizing for BERT in the traditional sense, the focus should be on content.
With BERT’s integration into the ranking and featured snippets algorithm, now more than ever the focus becomes matching user intent, rather than the particular search terms they might enter. For 2020, connecting with your audience to learn more about what they actually want will be more important than relying on pure string matching. Rather than optimizing for BERT itself, optimize for user intent in their queries.
BERT will impact one out of ten queries, meaning that those who apply BERT models will increase the likelihood of ranking in the first page for Google Snippets in SERP.
Featured snippets are quick, easily understood answers to search queries, appearing at the top of the SERP result, above paid and organic ads. While they have been around for a couple of years now, they are growing in importance due to their position and the fact that a study of 2 million featured snippets revealed how the snippets were getting more traffic than the top organic search.
Featured snippets should be a focus, particularly on your informational pages. Create content that includes listable, easily understood information. Focus on question-based search queries, and include bullet points and HTML tables.
Mobile-first is not a new concept, but as of summer 2019, Google now considers the mobile version of your site to be the primary version, and unfortunately, many businesses still have a mobile site that is sub-par.
Review mobile-first tactics to fix your mobile site. Google’s mobile crawler must be able to fully index every page on your site, and all it’s content. Be aware that simply being able to see an entire page in the browser isn’t an indication that Google can do the same. Use the “Mobile Usability” report in the Google Search Console to ensure that 100% of your site can be crawled.
Like Mobile First, voice search has been a point of discussion for a while now, but it continues to grow in popularity. In data collected during March of 2019, it was found that 20% of mobile queries were conducted by voice. Interestingly, as voice search grows in popularity, users are typing search queries in the same manner that they speak. Users are searching with long-tail, specific keywords to receive accurate answers to their questions.
Bullet points will improve your chances of ranking for voice searches. And since most voice searches are local, optimizing your site for local SEO is a wise move.
Video is on the rise, and Google loves it. It is no longer something that is nice to have on your site, but rather an integral part of your SEO strategy and your marketing efforts. Research has shown that video is 50 times more likely to land on the first page of SERP than text-only pages and that 62% of Google universal searches contain video.
By embedding video into your website, you will attract more traffic, but be sure to add copy to the page to help Google understand what the video is about, and be sure your video is properly optimized.
While trends by their very nature come and go, content is a constant for your site. High-quality content remains king, and affects everything in SEO, including your site’s structure and internal linking.
Content should be well-written, informative, and offering value to your site’s visitors. Your goal should be to have the best-written content on the web for the topics you are covering. Google may not yet be able to perfectly assess writing quality, but that day is approaching.
While the video is making a major impact, for the moment, well-written, relevant, high-value content is still king.
In the end, one word sums up what you need to aim for in SEO: quality. Aim for the highest quality writing, video, images, and more to make your site attractive to Google and valuable to your audience.
Christian is a British-born entrepreneur and founder of Marwick. For over 19 years, Christian has successfully helped businesses excel in digital marketing. Founded in 2012, Marwick has grown from a start-up to the 11th Fastest Growing Company in Canada in 2020 and expanded into the UK in 2019.