Like all things tech, the world of search engine optimisation (SEO) is never static. The industry is constantly transforming in line with changing market dynamics. This includes search engine algorithm adjustments, new types of consumer devices, emerging web design techniques and new data security and privacy regulations. SEO tactics that worked 5 years ago may be ineffective today.
For example, spammy backlinks and keyword stuffing may have been acceptable a decade ago but such methods are heavily penalised today (read more on anchor text best practices). At the forefront of SEO is search engine companies led by Google that are in a relentless quest to deliver the most relevant, current and factual results to their users.
2020 won’t be different from preceding years in the sense that businesses that want to soar or remain at the top of search results will have to adapt to new SEO trends. We look at 5 of these.
1. Voice Search
The science of ranking a website at the top of a given keyword search query is founded on sending the right signals to search engine bots. Nevertheless, it’s important to never lose sight of the end goal of SEO—user engagement and user conversion. Search engines themselves tailor their algorithms to suit the needs and preferences of Internet users. It’s in this respect that voice search is rapidly gaining traction.
Launched into the mainstream by Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and the Google Assistant, Internet users now see voice assistants as part of their everyday routine.
Voice search has one major distinction from traditional text-based search queries. Text-based search relies on short phrases because people have the time to type out an entire sentences. With voice search, this isn’t an issue. Since the user verbally conveys their request, voice search queries are more natural sounding and sentence-like.
2. Mobile-First Indexing
Mobile browsing has been with use for several years now. Still, thanks to the proliferation of the smartphone, it now has a greater stature today than it did a decade ago. Mobile internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic in 2016 for the first time. So it wasn’t really surprising when Google launched mobile-first indexing approach. Or when they announced it would be the default for new websites indexed by the search giant.
What does this mean for SEO? Having a mobile-optimised website is critical. The first encounter many people will have with your website is via a mobile device. If your site doesn’t have a version that meets the screen as well as navigability requirements of mobile devices, Google’s algorithm will deprioritise it in search results. Google has a free mobile-friendly test tool that helps you check how easy it is for users to navigate your website.
3. High Quality Content
Google has rolled out a number of landmark updates to its search results ranking algorithm over the years. The goal of these updates has been to push down spammy, low quality pages while elevating high quality ones. If your website is not consistently publishing high quality content, you can kiss goodbye to your pages constantly appearing among the first set of results for your chosen keyword phrase.
SEO has always been about balancing your need to cater to the preferences of search bots. Its also about the need to deliver tangible value to your readers. In 2020 onwards, high-quality content is going to take on greater importance compared to the more technical aspects of SEO.
There are certain basic characteristics of high quality content—logical, engaging, well researched, consistent and grammatically correct. Beyond that, the quality of content depends on how well you customise it to your audience. For instance, Millennials may be more open to a more humorous, laidback tone when compared to Baby Boomers.
4. User Experience
It’s one thing to have high quality content—it’s entirely another to make it easier for users to navigate your website. You could have unrivaled content but your website still fail in attracting Internet users. This is because it’s so difficult for them to find their way around it.
How easily can users find what they are looking for? How quickly can a visitor access a contact form or a live chat window? Do pages that lie within the same general theme fall under the same high-level menu?
Make your site intuitive. Avoid designs that are a radical departure from the norm. For example, users expect to find the ‘Contact Us’ menu at the top right section of the page and ‘About Us’ at the top left. Moving these to an unusual location could make it unnecessarily difficult for people to navigate the site.
Search engines pay attention to your site’s navigability. I then uses metrics such as the frequency of social shares to determine whether users like what they see.
5. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) was once thought of as something whose application to the everyday routine was still decades away. That assumption has however fallen flat as AI’s spread accelerates much faster than envisaged. SEO has not been immune to the AI wave.
For example, Google has been working on a machine learning search algorithm for years that evaluates and ranks search queries that have never been done before (these account for about 15 percent of query volume). While such algorithms will slowly erode the place of humans in defining how search engines work, the goal of AI in this respect will be to prioritise the highest quality content. So making sure your web pages are high quality should see you successfully ride the wave of AI search algorithms.
By understanding and adjusting to these trends early, you’ll have a greater shot at making sure your SEO strategy wins.