A recent article written for The Pen is Mightier Content Creators, a client services group producing a collection of technology trend articles for 2020.
Your New Year’s resolution for 2020? Zeroing in on a fresh SEO strategy. Even if your site is already optimized for SEO, it’s a myth that you can plug in your SEO plan and walk away. The SEO landscape is ever-changing, as ranking factors used by Google and other browsers are updated in step with new technologies and trends.
So, what are the SEO trends to watch for in 2020? Let’s delve in to five SEO trends that can boost your recognition in search, and connect you with more relevant customers and readers.
Artificial Intelligence Is Here
Artificial intelligence is already used by Google and its competitors to optimize search results and, as a result, search engines are learning to think for themselves. AI is learning the myriad factors that make a webpage relevant, and ranking pages accordingly.
As AI increasingly infiltrates search engine technologies, SEO optimization becomes even more complex and mysterious. However, as this happens, tools that take advantage of AI are becoming more abundant. These can help not only with keyword updates, they can help form a comprehensive SEO strategy, from page optimization, to personalized messaging, to email marketing, to social media planning.
For example, as Google provides increasingly more precise results using AI, SEO strategists can also utilize AI-enabled tools, such as WordLift, which provides optimization recommendations tailored to your site, whether they’re suggestions for meaningful context, semantic markup, or content organization.
Using AI to analyze customer data, such as transactions, can help you identify customers’ core interests, enabling you to create personalized messaging and targeted content. Perhaps you’re creating a focused landing page for customers, or perhaps you’re sending emails and social media missives targeting a specific demographic. This creates a virtuous cycle of optimizing your SEO as you garner more click-throughs and customers spend more time on your pages.
Which brings us to….
New Content Tools
Considering the shift to AI, and its impact on optimization, it’s more important than ever to create focused, quality content that speaks to your community. Dwell time, the amount of time a visitor spends on a webpage, will continue to be a factor in rankings.
By the same token, sophisticated content tools are coming onto the market to help businesses and content providers elevate their rankings. One AI tool that focuses on SEO content optimization, Atomic AI by Atomic Reach, will not only help with word choice and sentence structure suggestions, it will, on a broader level, make recommendations for readability and even the emotional tone preferred by your audience segments.
To level the playing field, there will be increased pressure to leverage the new fleet of sophisticated SEO tools. And when you’re creating large amounts of content to scale, these can go a long way to help with consistent quality standards.
But what was true in the beginning is also true now. No matter the recommendations you receive, remember SEO is, at its core, about people. Be true to your customers and readers. Be true to your community and be true to your vision. Your visitors will recognize authenticity, and you — and your SEO — will be rewarded for it.
Even if you’re not in the number one ranked position on Google, you can still score placement at the top of search results — what’s commonly referred to “Position 0” — when your content is featured in a snippet. A featured snippet is a block of information extracted from a website that answers commonly asked questions, such as how to’s. According to Google, the content featured is chosen programmatically based on quality.
One of the factors that makes your content attractive for snippets is having quality SEO, and ranking high in the SERPs. Being featured in a snippet, in turn, adds measurable clicks to your site, which improves your SEO — it’s another virtuous SEO cycle.
So, how do you optimize content for snippets?
Without delving into technical details, you can increase your odds of being featured in snippets by doing your research, and keeping things simple. Research keywords related to targeted questions you wish to feature on your site. Include rich, factual information, such as dates, names, and locations. Include unique information, and keep your content fresh.
To keep it simple, answer questions succinctly and remove redundancies, simplify headers, and possibly even structure your content in a question and answer form.
In short, think about its usefulness and digestibility for your readers.
You already know it’s important to have a mobile presence for SEO rankings. But now, as smart phones increasingly become users’ primary tool for search and browsing, it’s crucial to have not only a mobile presence, but a quality mobile experience.
Mobile devices now account for 60 percent of organic search engine visits. And Google announced in 2019 that mobile-first indexing — Google’s crawling of the web using a smartphone Googlebot— would be enabled by default for all new sites previously unknown to the search engine.
2020 is the year to invest in a more in-depth mobile strategy. Load time is already an important ranking factor for SEO, and you should also ensure your mobile site is secure, indexable, has a clear organizational structure, and a responsive design. Also, if you want your content to be featured in a snippet, it will need to be mobile-friendly and optimized for mobile search.
And the more attractive your mobile site is to visitors, the lower your bounce rate will be, which is another win for SEO.
If you have not yet considered optimizing your site for voice search, 2020 is the year for you. While voice search is not yet as accurate as a traditional search, users appreciate it for its ease and speed. Statista estimates that the number of worldwide digital voice assistants in use will rise from 3.25 billion in 2019, to 8 billion in 2023. That’s higher than the world population.
So what can you do to optimize for voice search?
Actually, we’ve already mentioned two key strategies: improving your mobile speed and optimizing for featured snippets. Given the prevalence of voice search on mobile devices, it’s important to reduce hang time to avoid bounce backs, which can harm your rankings. Google will also use featured snippet information in voice search responses to provide users with quick, clear answers.
And an easy thing you can do? Make sure your Google My Business Page is clean and updated. Users are often searching for “near me” queries, looking for basic information such as address, contact information, and hours.
Also take into account the conversational nature of voice search and consider using similar natural language and related answers in your content. And think about incorporating long-tail keyword phrases — those longer keyword phrases specific to your niche, which are often used in voice search.
An Holistic Approach
The fact that SEO tactics are interconnected speaks to the fact that 2020 is not the year to cherry pick your strategies. It’s important to take a broad, holistic look at your SEO macrocosm. People are complex, but as AI adapts to their searches and content tools take advantage of AI, as mobile speeds increase and mobile voice search leverages snippets, technologies become more intertwined. With a comprehensive strategy in play, your SEO wins will be exponential.