Take a moment and Google “SEO trends.” You’ll see article after article, blog after blog, touting a “definitive” list of SEO trends. It’s a lot to sort through, but what you’ll soon realize is that all the expert takes boil down to the same fundamental idea: The only thing we can say for sure about the world of SEO is that it will continue to change.
Given this consistency of change, nailing down a be-all and end-all list probably isn’t possible (there’s so much that goes into SEO). So, I’ve decided to take a different approach: Here are five SEO trends for 2020 that have stood out to me over the past year of working closely with businesses to help them grow through digital marketing.
1. Google is a lot more focused on intent.
Google is getting really good at reading intent based on the ways people search. It can serve up different content if it thinks someone wants to buy a product, find a local store or answer a question. This new layer of intent recognition enriches the search experience and broadens the way that businesses can go about SEO.
Keep this in mind when you’re creating website content. What is an event that starts your target audience down the road to finding your content? Are they trying to solve a problem with one of your products or services? Maybe they need to find the location of a business like yours. With audience intent as your starting point, you can tailor the language and structure of your webpages, blog posts and other content accordingly.
2. Page speed gets overlooked way too often.
Google cares about page speed enough to publicly state that it factors into the way its algorithm ranks websites. Unfortunately, page speed often gets overlooked among the myriad on-page and technical SEO strategies that people tend to focus on. This is a critical mistake, both in terms of SEO and the end-user experience overall (because people will not wait around very long these days).
Here’s where some of your technical SEO chops will come in handy. This might include optimizing your images, taking advantage of caching or cutting down the number of redirects on your site.
3. Paid strategies are still important, but organic search traffic takes the cake.
A lot of businesses could use a shot in the arm when it comes to their organic search strategies. I get it: Paid search ads are sometimes a faster, more immediate way to drive traffic and conversions. Still, today more than 50% of website traffic comes from organic search. And businesses often find that tapping into organic search traffic is more difficult than simply optimizing for a few keywords — it takes a more comprehensive and sustained strategy.
One of the common misconceptions around organic traffic is that you need to publish lots and lots of content in order to rank well and improve organic traffic. Let me fix that for you: You need to publish lots of well-structured and authoritative content that brings value to your audience. Neither Google nor human readers are going to pay much attention to fluffy crap generated by a cut-budget content mill.
4. The era of no-click search results is here.
This might seem counterintuitive, but the majority of search results don’t result in a click. Does that mean people search and then don’t find what they need and abandon the experience? Could be. More likely, it’s that a search engine result gives them all that they need, making a click-through to a website unnecessary. This is the power of rich-featured results in Google, for example. Things like snippets, knowledge graphs and local business listings stitch together a lot of information at once, in a quickly digestible way, giving people everything they need without having to click.
5. Content still runs the show, just in new and urgent ways.
Search algorithms are picky these days. They have a strong preference for content that is well organized, well optimized, authoritative and, above all, valuable to the end user. Things like word count, keyword density and links can help, but they’re rendered less important if the content itself misses the mark. As a result, content mills and black-hat SEO strategies are quickly becoming relics of the past.
The thing is, it’s not just the quality and relevance of the information that’s important, but how it’s structured and optimized on the page, and how that page is structured and optimized within a website’s broader information architecture. All of these aspects of content strategy are signals to the Google algorithm as it decides what information to pull and display in search results.
A great place to start is with a site audit. Take a full inventory of your current sitemap. What pages make up your site structure? How are they organized and interconnected, and what is the purpose of each? How are users finding and moving through this content? Use these as starting points for a potential restructuring of your site.
To future-proof your SEO, put the foundation in place first.
Yes, 2020 is upon us. From where I’m sitting, these five SEO trends will be impossible to ignore not only in 2020, but probably well into the foreseeable future — until Google decides to switch up the algorithm, that is, or some new technology completely disrupts how SEO is done.
That brings me to my final point about SEO trends: Can we optimize for everything, all at once? Well, we can certainly give it our best shot. But the best way to prepare your website (and your business) for 2020 and beyond is to make sure your core SEO framework and strategies are in place, soundly built and regularly maintained.
From there, you can exploit new SEO trends in a way that makes the most sense for your business and, most importantly, your users.