5 SEO Trends for 2020: How is Search Engine Optimisation Changing?

Did you know that Google makes thousands of changes to its search algorithms every year?

In June 2019, for example, the search engine giant revealed that it had made over 3,200 algorithm alterations in the previous twelve months. This equates to around 9 changes a day.

While it’s often said that the world of SEO is constantly evolving, figures like this make the extent of these changes clear. Given these developments, it’s vital that every business has an up-to-date SEO strategy that recognises the latest trends.

If you’re looking for future-proof optimisation that keeps you ahead of the curve, check out our predictions for the SEO trends that will dominate 2020.

What are the top SEO trends for 2020?

1. Snippets and On-SERP SEO

Rich and featured snippets have been around for a while now, and both have resulted in considerable changes to Google’s SERP (that’s Search Engine Results Page).

In short, snippets are a type of Google search result that displays additional information about a page. When we refer to On-SERP SEO, it means providing content that is optimised for the changing layouts of a search engine’s results page.

While a standard Google search result will only include a page title, a meta description, and a URL, rich snippets provide greater detail. For example, a rich snippet for a recipe might also include the calorie count and the cooking time; for music, it might include the genre and release date; and for products, it might include a price or star rating.

Unlike rich snippets, which are simply search results with extra context, featured snippets appear at the top of the results page above the number one organic search result. Because of this, featured snippets are particularly useful for mobile users, who often need quick answers and aren’t always willing to scroll through results. They’re also the result that is most often relayed to voice searchers, with voice software usually providing just a single response to voice queries.

Google’s emphasis on snippets stems from its desire to provide searchers with what it calls ‘zero-click results’, which is when a user receives an immediate answer to their query rather than needing to click on a link. Given that featured snippets automatically take the top spot on Google’s SERP, they’re often highly competitive when it comes to rankings. Perhaps more pressingly for SEOs, however, the rise of featured snippets is pushing organic results further down the page.

While not strictly part of SEO, pay-per-click advertising (or PPC) is another marketing technique that needs to be factored into On-SERP SEO. As with snippets, PPC results appear at the top of the page above organic search results. You can distinguish them from organic results by the small ‘Ad’ label that appears to the left of the page’s URL.

With PPC results and featured snippets often appearing together above organic search, it’s clear that position one on Google isn’t necessarily as valuable as it used to be. After all, it’s possible that you could achieve position one only for your website to still appear over halfway down Google’s SERP.

While one way to combat this is to begin your own PPC campaign, this is by no means the only route towards sustaining high ranking positions. Luckily, SEO still has an important role to play!

When fine-tuning for the SEO trends of 2020, you’ll need to optimise content for snippets alongside using more traditional strategies to attract organic traffic. One way of doing this is by creating content that focuses less on including keyword phrases and more on answering a user’s queries. Try using a tool like AnswerThePublic to identify question-related keywords to target in headings and subheadings.

Using AnswerThePublic to find question-related keywords.

By producing content that offers concise answers to common questions, you’ll have a chance of taking those coveted featured snippet positions and gaining a significant number of clicks.

2. Mobile-First Indexing

Mobile optimisation has been an important Google search trend for years, but it’s now reached the stage where it’s an absolute necessity. Earlier this year, Google announced that all pages will be indexed using its ‘Mobile-First Index’, which means that it will access the mobile version of a page first when determining rankings.

Gone are the days when a mobile version was considered as a secondary alternative to a primary desktop page. To put it simply, Google is deprioritising desktop sites and considering mobile versions as the main pages of websites.

Because of this, it’s vital that mobile sites contain the same or equivalent content as their desktop counterparts. In the past, mobile sites sometimes contained reduced content to eliminate material that wasn’t optimised for mobile. With the advent of Mobile-First Indexing, omitting content is no longer the way to go.

If you don’t have a mobile site or if your mobile site is broken or incomplete, the desktop version will likely receive a ranking penalty. By the same token, if your mobile version is fully functional and engaging for users, your desktop version may receive a rankings push!

There are a few basic rules of thumb for mobile optimisation. For mobile-ready content, remember to limit paragraphs to two or three sentences, organise content with headings and subheadings, and use bullet points or lists where appropriate. For a mobile-ready user experience, creating clear navigation and ensuring rapid loading speeds are key.

If you’re already optimising for mobile, there’s a good chance that mobile-first indexing won’t have a significant effect on your SEO strategy. Nevertheless, it’s always worth using Google’s free checker to determine whether your site is optimised for mobile.

Previously considered an emerging technology, visual search has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Within one year of launch, Pinterest Lens was already receiving more than 600 million visual search requests every month. By September 2019, Lens was able to identify more than 2.5 billion objects within the fashion and home industries.

It’s not just Pinterest that have got on board; services such as Google Lens and Bing Visual Search also allow users to upload an image to a search engine and receive a page of results.

By extending searches beyond the limitations of the written or spoken word, visual search opens up new possibilities for searchers. For example, a user could upload a photo of an item of clothing to receive styling tips, or a photo of an ingredient to explore recipe ideas. Most commonly, visual search is a way of allowing customers to find similar products based on something they already like. This makes it particularly useful for users searching for a very specific item, eliminating the difficulties of describing a unique version of a product using conventional text-based search.

An image-based approach to search creates new challenges and opportunities for SEOs. To make your site accessible to visual searchers, you need to take great care with your image SEO. Be sure to use descriptive, keyword-focused filenames, alt-text, captions, and tags, since SEO-friendly metadata will ensure Google can crawl your images successfully.

As well as including SEO-friendly metadata, it’s important to make effective use of images themselves. Always use relevant images that help contextualise your content, which is key to creating an engaging user experience. Aside from this, using unique images rather than stock photos will always give you an edge. Finally, there’s an important balancing act to consider in terms of image quality. Images need to be of sufficiently high quality to be read by visual search AI, but not so large as to impact on your site’s load times (using an image compressor is key!).

Visual search looks set to be one of the biggest SEO trends for 2020. By optimising your content with an eye for visual search, you’ll help your website gain a share of this new and rapidly expanding source of clicks.

4. Videos

Video marketing is an essential tool in any business’s arsenal. Cisco estimate that video will account for 82% of all web traffic by 2022, and when used correctly, videos can be an effective way to spread brand awareness and drive conversions.

With the increased pace of online browsing, some users don’t have time to consume lengthy blog posts. In this climate, incorporating video into your content is a great way to increase engagement.

A woman preparing an educational video for her business.

While the main benefit of video is an enhanced user experience, videos also provide a direct ranking boost by increasing the amount of time a user spends on your page. Given the culture of sharing videos online, creating informative or educational videos within your niche can also be a way to encourage natural backlinks; even with the wealth of changes to SEO, these remain an essential ranking factor.

There are a few things to consider when optimising for video. Although Google’s AI can crawl a video file and extract data from its audio and video, it only gets a partial picture. This means that as with visual search, it’s important to optimise metadata using keyword-orientated titles and descriptions. Additionally, providing a transcription of a video will ensure you’re covering all the bases, allowing users to view content as traditional text if they prefer while guaranteeing content will be crawlable for search engines.

Take a look at Google’s Search Console for more advice on best practice, SEO-ready video.

Our final SEO trend for 2020 is something that’s been discussed frequently over recent years: voice search.

In 2016, Google revealed that 20% of mobile search queries were made using voice search. Other estimates suggest that 50% of all searches will be voice-based by 2020. With technology like Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Siri increasingly a fixture in homes worldwide, talking now sits alongside typing as a viable way of conducting an online search.

A user performing a voice search using Siri.

Moving forward, voice search will become even more powerful because of its integration with things like snippets and mobile search. We talked above about optimising content for featured snippets by targeting common questions. Adapting for voice search is a key part of this, since voice searches are themselves predominantly question based.

By targeting long tail keywords made up of natural phrases that closely correspond with our everyday speech patterns, you’ll ensure your content mirrors the kind of language that forms a voice search. More specifically, creating a detailed FAQs page that is structured around long tail questions is a great way to target voice search and featured snippets simultaneously.

As the landscape continues to change, it’s likely that optimising for voice search will come to underpin every aspect of SEO strategy.

Adapting to SEO Trends for 2020

When looking to the future, one thing is clear: search engine optimisation remains in a constant state of flux.

If you’re feeling flummoxed by the latest SEO trends for 2020, or you need advice on any aspect of search engine optimisation, the experts at Bigfoot Digital are here to help.

We’re well versed in the SEO techniques required to climb Google’s rankings.

Get in touch today by calling 01226 720 755, or email us on enquiries@bigfootdigital.co.uk.

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