Every year brings fresh challenges in the SEO world, preventing any individual or business from resting on its laurels. Your pages might be holding top positions at the moment, but that can change at any time: a competitor can overhaul its strategy and supplant you, or an algorithm update can radically alter how the rankings are determined and leave you in the lurch.
In short, you can’t stop your SEO work, or you’ll slide down the rankings in short order. While you can’t anticipate every update (Google surely doesn’t announce everything), you can pay attention to general SEO trends and use them to steer you in the most sensible direction. That way, even if your rankings dip, they won’t suffer too greatly, and you’ll be in a position to rebuild.
2020 has been a strange year for SEO in so many ways, most notably with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting how businesses operate (and how people search, to some extent). You can dwell on the negatives, or you can look for the opportunities — and we’re going to focus on the latter in this post as we run through five SEO trends you can exploit to bolster your rankings.
1. E-A-T prioritisation
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It bears mentioning here because Google has talked about its relevance, particularly for YMYL pages (Your Money or Your Life: pages that could significantly affect your wellbeing somehow), and it hints at what really matters for pages trying to perform well in the SERPs.
Like social signals, it might not directly impact rankings at the moment, but it certainly plays a part in the process through which results are manually assessed — and it surely has influence over the ranking factors. If you want to shore up your search rankings for the rest of 2020 and beyond, don’t ignore this SEO trend; you should commit some serious time and effort to improve your E-A-T quality.
- Do your pages provide valuable expertise?
- Is your brand considered an authority in its niche?
- Does your content seem trustworthy?
Focus on these things, because even if weak E-A-T performance won’t hamper you too much today, a future algorithm will likely cause you some major problems.
2. Natural language
Back in the early days of the SEO industry, when the stakes were high but there was little awareness of how agencies worked, keyword stuffing was a hugely-effective tactic. By filling the meta keywords field with hundreds or even thousands of keywords, you could get a page to rank for a huge range of things (many of which would have been irrelevant). Google had to act eventually, and it did, removing the meta keywords field as a ranking factor.
Since then, we’ve seen a back-and-forth between Google trying to make its results better and SEO professionals trying to get their pages to rank. Keywords still matter, but the growth of NLP (natural language processing) is steadily changing how they matter. It’s no longer essential to use your primary keyword numerous times, provided the topic is clear from the text overall.
You need to be strongly wary of SERP penalties because site owners have seen their sites lose rankings for keyword stuffing when they never intended to do anything wrong. There are no sneaky ways to conceal keyword overuse: there’s no keyword equivalent of a proxy server to let you take advantage of keywords without having them traced back to you (it makes no sense in the context of SEO, obviously). If you just speak naturally, you shouldn’t run any risk.
3. Non-text searches
Voice search has been overblown when it comes to hype, with people making wild predictions about how it would soon account for a huge portion of searches — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t bring something to the table. This ties into the natural language issue we already addressed, but it also means that you should ensure that your content is simple enough for a voice assistant to read it out.
There’s also image search, which can be done through a desktop computer but is more commonly done through a smartphone user taking a photo of something and searching through their mobile OS. It isn’t a huge traffic driver, but this SEO trend isn’t nothing, and including some high-quality images with suitable metadata is enough to cover your bases.
4. Content marketing
Yes, content marketing is a top priority this year, particularly now that more businesses are trying to operate in the online world. The more high- quality pages you can create, the more chances you’ll have at ranking, and that means maintaining a decent industry blog with content worthy of appearing prominently in the SERPs.
My content marketing suggestion for 2020 boils down to being consistent and trying new types of content. If you haven’t created any video before, give it a try: behind-the-scenes footage is great for getting people to support you, and YouTube is the second-biggest search engine in the world so it can be a fantastic source of traffic if you use it correctly.
5. Featured snippets
When you search for something in Google, you might see a result in position zero (appearing before the first actual result). This is a featured snippet. Google goes through its range of indexed pages, finds an extract it thinks might meet your needs, and presents it to you (with an attribution pointing you to the source page).
Featured snippets aren’t popular with everyone in the SEO world because they take clicks away from deserving sites, but they’re in place, and they’re not going anywhere — so we need to just accept them and make the best of them. If you can get your content to appear in a featured snippet, you can get some decent attention.
Key to this is using the correct structured data markup for all your pages, particularly for FAQs. In addition, structure your content to be maximally digestible. One of the most reliably-effective methods is using questions as subheadings and answering them in single paragraphs. It makes it very easy for Google to extract coherent featured snippets.
Handling an SEO campaign is really tough given how competitive the online search market is today, but following along with the trends will always help you stay ahead of the curve. Consider the SEO trends we’ve looked at here, and determine how you can better take them into account when refining your strategy.