Google is aim­ing to be the end des­ti­na­tion of their users’ jour­neys. This, more than any­thing, defines major SEO trends for 2020.

The SEO land­scape is very dynam­ic. Sure, some things stay the same: put rel­e­vant key­words in your titles, make it a pri­or­i­ty to opti­mize for mobile users, etc.

But oth­er things con­tin­ue chang­ing in a nev­er-end­ing spi­ral. This year, Google, along with oth­er huge plat­forms, is try­ing more and more to be the end des­ti­na­tion of their users’ jour­neys.

This, more than any­thing, defines major SEO trends for 2020, since now we need to find the best ways to stay effec­tive with­in the frame­work cre­at­ed by Google.

1. Zero-click searches are the new normal

Thanks to such SERP fea­tures as fea­tured snip­pets, Google’s Local Packs, Knowl­edge graphs, and so on, more than half of all search­es are now “zero-click search­es.” That means that the user’s query is answered on the SERP itself, with­out them hav­ing to click away any­where.

What do we do?

  • Don’t pan­ic. Con­sid­er what kind of search­es these are: those are peo­ple look­ing for your address and phone num­ber. Or peo­ple look­ing for an answer to a quick and easy ques­tion. Those par­tic­u­lar clicks prob­a­bly wouldn’t con­vert any­way, and so shouldn’t be fret­ted over.
  • Iden­ti­fy what key­words can actu­al­ly bring you clicks. Using Rank Track­er in con­junc­tion with your Google Search Con­sole account, you can ana­lyze what key­words of the ones you’re opti­miz­ing for actu­al­ly bring you clicks. That way, you save your­self a whole lot of time and effort opti­miz­ing for queries with key­words such as “when,” “how many,” “what year,” and so on.

Those are vital for con­tent, of course, but shouldn’t be the focal point of your SEO efforts.

2. Do your best to optimize for Rich and Featured snippets

In the sit­u­a­tion where zero-click search­es are so preva­lent, the infor­ma­tion shown on the SERP itself is now more impor­tant than ever. Two great ways to stand out is to get Rich or Fea­tured snip­pets.

Rich snip­pets — those that, in addi­tion to title and descrip­tion, show images, stars for reviews, prices for prod­ucts, etc. — are eas­i­er to get, but they will also bring low­er CTR improve­ments com­pared to a Fea­tured snip­pet. Your result will be more notice­able, though, even if your posi­tion in a SERP will remain the same.

Fea­tured snip­pets — an entire block of infor­ma­tion that is shown at the top of a SERP — bring great increas­es in CTR. But get­ting one is quite a bit more tricky.

What do we do?

  • Get­ting both of these types of snip­pets requires, most of all, that your data be struc­tured. Turn to Web­Site Audi­tor and check if the data on your site is already struc­tured.
  • If it isn’t, check out this guide on how to use struc­tured data.
  • Use Rank Track­er to find oppor­tu­ni­ties for Fea­tured snip­pets. Don’t just research the key­words you’re rank­ing for. Look out specif­i­cal­ly for key­words for which your com­peti­tors already have a Fea­tured snip­pet.

Always keep in mind that noth­ing, includ­ing rank­ing first, actu­al­ly guar­an­tees you get­ting Rich or Fea­tured snip­pets. At the same time, the poten­tial gains are absolute­ly worth opti­miz­ing for them.

3. Local SEO is changing

A huge num­ber of the afore­men­tioned zero-click search­es are local search­es for which the results are shown on the SERP itself, in so-called Local Packs. For mobile devices, a sin­gle Local Pack might take up as much space as an entire SERP shown to a user.

What do we do?

You can cov­er a vast num­ber of search­es, most­ly those con­tain­ing key­words such as “near me” or “address” and “phone num­ber” in one fell swoop, by cre­at­ing a Google My Busi­ness page for your com­pa­ny.

But that should only be the begin­ning of your efforts. A large num­ber of search­es will not end on Local packs. Peo­ple who want to com­pare prod­ucts, look up more detailed infor­ma­tion, etc. will still go on your web­site, and that’s where the tra­di­tion­al SEO prac­tices become impor­tant.

So, hav­ing a sol­id back­link pro­file is para­mount. Look up what kind of back­links your com­peti­tors get, and try to get those for your­self.

A spe­cif­ic fea­ture of local SEO is that you need to have not just any back­links, but the ones that Google deems local­ly author­i­ta­tive.

And of course, remem­ber to track your local rank­ing per­for­mance. Keep in mind that the least change in loca­tion will influ­ence the kind of results that the user will get. To look up rank­ings for key­words down to a street and a house, you should use a key­word research tool like Rank Track­er.

For more in-depth instruc­tion, check out this local SEO guide.

Local SEO is changing 

4.  The machines are here to stay

For years now Google’s been using learn­ing algo­rithms to improve their users’ expe­ri­ence with search and help avoid key­word-stuffed web­pages. In 2020, this will be more impor­tant than ever with Google’s lat­est algo­rithm named BERT.

Now, as far as we know, Google uses three mech­a­nisms: first is Neur­al Match­ing, which fig­ures out the mean­ing of the query. Sec­ond is RankBrain, which adjusts the SERP’s rely­ing on the col­lect­ed data about users’ behav­ior. The third, the new­ly-imple­ment­ed BERT, is the algo­rithm that is used for ana­lyz­ing the struc­ture of a search to bet­ter under­stand the con­text in which key­words are used.

What do we do?

As far as Neur­al match­ing or BERT go, there isn’t much we can do about those algo­rithms — Neur­al match­ing is real­ly Google’s inner kitchen, and BERT real­ly requires you to write good con­tent.

But RankBrain real­ly should be account­ed for very care­ful­ly. The goal here is not sim­ply to rank for what­ev­er key­word. Now, and more and more in the future, intent match­ing is para­mount for cre­at­ing suc­cess­ful con­tent.

Because right now, sim­ply rank­ing with­out match­ing intent will cut you off from a huge num­ber of SERPs.

To under­stand the cor­rect search intent, you need to keep your hand on the pulse of what’s rank­ing right now. Using Rank Track­er soft­ware, mon­i­tor the results to see what con­tent exact­ly Google con­sid­ers rel­e­vant for the search­es you want to rank for.

After prop­er­ly deter­min­ing the intent behind the search queries you want to rank for, cre­ate the con­tent to match your users’ intent in their search.

5. Brand building should be a priority

One notice­able trend for any mar­keter work­ing today is that organ­ic social is pret­ty much dead. While paid adver­tis­ing still works bril­liant­ly for social, the fact that more and more com­pa­nies are doing it cre­ates a real trend where ROI for paid ads will be decreas­ing.

It’s obvi­ous at this point that paid ads will become more preva­lent and expen­sive for every­body who wants to grow through that avenue. In these con­di­tions, brand aware­ness and brand build­ing come to the fore­front of dig­i­tal mar­keters’ efforts. On the oth­er hand, lin­k­less men­tions are becom­ing more and more impor­tant, with Google and Bing con­firm­ing those are used as rank­ing sig­nals.

What do we do?

First and fore­most we need to go and build rel­e­vant men­tions. And for 2020, we need to pay as much atten­tion to build­ing qual­i­ty link pro­files, as han­dling and man­ag­ing lin­k­less brand men­tions.

Uti­liz­ing what is called social media lis­ten­ing, for exam­ple, will allow you to mon­i­tor every men­tion of not just your brand, but even the type of service/product you pro­vide.

That allows you to, first of all, engage with your clien­tele direct­ly. Sec­ond of all, it’s giv­ing you an oppor­tu­ni­ty to build brand aware­ness through pub­licly pro­vid­ing cus­tomer care.

It’s help­ing inform the peo­ple who are actu­al­ly inter­est­ed in your prod­uct about any cam­paigns or pro­mo­tions you might have going on, etc. Also you can look up where your main com­peti­tors are men­tioned and start a cam­paign to get men­tioned there as well.

By uti­liz­ing social lis­ten­ing tools mar­keters are able to build brand aware­ness through direct inter­ac­tion with their cus­tomer base, so that should not be thrown out of any dig­i­tal mar­keter’s agen­da.

Conclusion

Every time mar­keters think we got this SEO thing down, the rules start to shift and change. A great exam­ple is how local SEO changed. Today, hav­ing Google My Busi­ness is becom­ing more impor­tant for some local busi­ness­es than hav­ing a web­site, and this is just a symp­tom of a larg­er trend.

We need to always keep our hand on the pulse, then, and adjust our work to the new chal­lenges we’re fac­ing, to pro­vide the best results pos­si­ble for our clients.

SOURCE: Search Engine Land