We’ll admit it: we’re SEO nerds. We love to follow best practices, play with optimization, and test out content that will hit the mark for your brand. And because we keep our finger on the industry pulse, we also love to follow the latest SEO trends that can get your brand noticed and notable. As we approach the last few months of the year, we’ve seen some 2020 SEO trends that we think are worth diving into and applying to your brand.
SEO crash course –– why it matters
We won’t bore you with the details, but it’s always worth brushing up on what exactly SEO is, how it works for your brand, and why it matters overall. In its most basic function, you probably know that SEO helps you refine your website to rank higher in search engines’ (read: Google’s) search results pages. Onsite factors like website content work with offsite factors like optimization on other websites to build your overall ranking.
But you probably already have a decent idea of that, right? SEO’s importance comes down to brand exposure. The higher you rank in search results, the more exposure your brand gets. And the more potential for sales and conversions. Recent statistics show that “60 percent of traffic from Google searches go to websites that appear in the first three search results.” So your goal is to not only rank on the first page of Google but to rank at the top.
Onsite best practices like metadata, links, and accessibility and offsite factors like backlinks, social mentions, and reviews are key players in the SEO game. These are the evergreen rules of SEO, which we don’t see going anywhere any time soon.
But, like a lot of things in marketing, other SEO trends come and go. And if your brand isn’t keeping up and applying at least a few, it runs the risk of becoming obsolete––especially in the digital age.
Trend 1: UX & technical SEO
You might have your brand’s onsite copy buttoned-up and exactly the way you want it. You may even have a killer keyword strategy that you’ve worked into the main navigation pages. (And, if you don’t, you should). But that’s only half the story these days. User experience (UX) and technical SEO are SEO trends that have only grown. When building or improving your UX, you need to consider “overall landing page experience, and even the experience after they leave your site (think remarketing, drip campaigns, personalization for returning users).”
Trent 2: Topics over keywords
This is not to say that you should drop keywords altogether. In fact, definitely don’t do that as a keyword strategy is still an essential part of a great SEO strategy. But know that recent SEO trends indicate Google prioritizing topic modeling and semantics.
Topic modeling is an A-I powered text analysis “that’s capable of scanning a set of documents, detecting word and phrase patterns within them, and automatically clustering word groups and similar expressions that best characterize a set of documents.” Basically, it’s another way that Google understands what users are searching for and prioritizes brands that capitalize on these topics. When it comes to building content on your site, you can take advantage of this trend by clustering your articles by relevant topics. This “semantic grouping” is as easy as creating a searchable, topic-forward blog page that both users and Google can crawl for a better understanding of your brand.
Trend 3: Voice search
With AI a “Hey Siri” away, it’s no wonder that voice search has become so popular. What’s easier than yelling at your phone to Google something? In terms of SEO trends, voice search is one of the more interesting because it’s changing how people search for information. March 2019 data “shows that 20% of mobile queries are voice searches” and that this increased popularity is causing people to type how they speak. The pattern? Longer-tail keywords and specific verbiage. To rank higher in voice queries, created bulleted lists and make sure your local SEO is up to par.
Google has met the growing voice search demand with things like Speakable, which “is used by Google Assistant to answer people’s questions about specific topics.” The assistant then crawls through relevant articles and returns up to three to the searcher. Which could boost your brand’s exposure if you’re creating content with voice search in mind.
Trend 4: Mobile SEO
Mobile sites are frequently seen as an afterthought to a well-built website. As of July 2019, Google “moved to mobile-first indexing” following the 87% of internet users on their phones. It might seem counterintuitive, but build your sites for mobile first. By doing this and then working on desktop compatibility, you don’t have to reinvent the mobile SEO wheel. Be sure to build your site with mobile search results in mind, which often come back to voice search trends. And test it out. If you don’t like accessing your brand from your phone, why would your customers?
Trend 5: Evolution of SERPs
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are the backbone of SEO. They’re what get your brand noticed and why you spend painstaking hours researching keywords, writing metadata, and looking up SEO trends. They’re also constantly evolving, which means if you’re not paying attention your brand will get left behind. Things like voice search, knowledge panels, and Google My Business have restructured SERPs. So much so that past best SEO practices will probably not get you the ranking you’d expect.
What this means is that your brand should stay on top of SERP changes and be flexible. A good rule of thumb is to be in touch with the “seasonality of searches” by using tools like Google Trends to inform your content. Also, be ready to experiment. If one tool, keyword, or link isn’t working, try five more until you hit the mark.
Trend 6: Increased digital experiences and video use
We realize this might be a “duh” trend, but is your brand fully taking advantage of it? Digital experiences are users’ go-to now. And 44% of companies “have moved to a digital-first approach to improve customer experience.” In a big way, this comes back to the first trend we talked about: UX. Your users are searching for, and expecting, a rich digital experience. If your brand doesn’t deliver, you’ll get high bounce rates and low conversions. Keep the experience seamless with a fast site, approachable language, and clear messaging.
Another component of a digital experience is the use of video on your site. Since we just talked about it, stats show that “video is 50 times more likely to show up on the first page of SERP than a web page with plain text.” Do this with YouTube video explainers, video blogs, and embedded video content that helps to move your brand messaging forward. But please don’t forget about site speed.
Optimize your content, build your brand
They say awareness is the first step to progress. If that’s the case, being aware of SEO trends and understanding when to use them can only help your brand. Whether you’re planning on implementing some or all of these trends yourself or hiring a professional to help, SEO is one component of branding you don’t want to table. Just keep a few golden rules in mind: trends change, research is always relevant, and unique content matters.