An SEO's work is never done. Every year, every SEO worth their salt rushes to write up a blog post for the "Top SEO trends of *enter year*" "Top SEO Tips for *enter year*, and so on and so forth. Ours is a world of never-ending updates, bold claims of a new competitive edge from some smartass, and a ceaseless battle to improve rankings and visibility. All while suffering from the ignominy of constantly sitting below paid ads.
Though it's often thankless work, it can also be very rewarding. For example, nothing beats that winning feeling of beating Britney Muller of MOZ to a featured snippet (sorry Britney).
My name is Tom Crewe and I'm the self-proclaimed smartest SEO in the world. In this blog, I'm going to bless you all with my top 5 SEO stuff to look out for in 2020. Full disclosure, not all of these are 'trends' so to speak, many techniques have been around for some time now. This blog merely serves as a repository for my musings on the SEO world around us, and techniques I'll be endorsing this year.
So buckle up, ignore that e-mail from your boss, and grab a cuppa. It's storytime folks.
Content within website architecture
If I was given £1 for every time we've been told about the importance of 'high-quality content' as algorithm updates have been and gone, then not only would I be the smartest SEO in the world, I'd be the richest too.
For the most part, businesses have tackled these repetitive and stark warnings by churning out troves of the best quality content possible.
This frequently creates a problem. More often then not, businesses have responded to Google's algorithm updates by proceeding to churn out a metaphorical mountain of content.
The problem is, not enough consideration is being given to where that content sits within the overall website architecture.
Website architecture is how a website is structured to meet business goals and deliver a great user experience.
Without categorising your content, and having it link back to other relevant pages, it's simply going to disappear over time. All that time and effort producing content, just to give it a finite shelf life and let it effectively die.
A key point to focus on this year would be to place less impetus on creating high-quality content and instead opt to give more attention to how content fits into the hierarchical structure to best support conversion-focussed pages.
We need to abandon the sporadic and scattergun approach of blogging as and when inspiration hits us. Instead, building blogs to fit into categories that are married to the products or services your business offers.
We are seeing a drastic reduction in CTRs due to rich snippets and the infamous 'people also asked box'. In this new world of low click-through rates, it is the website owners who give due thought to how content fits within the structure of their website that wins the increasingly competitive top SERP spots.
In late October 2019, Google released an algorithm update that actually did blow my mind.
I'm of course referring to the birth of BERT. Google's shiny new toy is a technique for natural language processing, standing for 'Bidirectional Encoder Representations for Transformers', whatever the hell that means.
What I do know though is that BERT is impacting 350,000,000 search queries every day, making it the most significant algorithm update since Rank Brain.
To be clear, BERT is not something you can or should be trying to optimise towards. Instead, awareness of what it actually does and how it may impact search results is what you should be looking to understand.
Alexa, how do i optimise my website for voice search?
The annual cries of 'A voice search revolution is coming!' are greatly exaggerated. But, it is beginning to amount to a tangible change in our daily lives. From Alexa and Google Assistant to Siri and browser voice dictation. A Gartner study predicts that 30% of all browsing sessions will include voice search by the end of 2020. With the increasing prominence of voice search, semantic language has never been more important. The effects of algorithm updates such as ar RankBrain, Hummingbird and BERT are truly coming into their own. But how can we optimise our content towards voice search?
Below, we've handily compiled our top 3 tips for optimising towards voice search.
- Keeping Content Conversational: People don't talk like they type, we're not robots after all. But this difference in tone has a dramatic effect on how queries are phrased. Keep your own content conversational in whatever copy you write, and be mindful of voice search trigger words, such as the ones featured in our top 20 which you can view by clicking here.
- Seeking SERP Success: When you type a search query in Google, the chances are you're going to see a SERP feature before any actual search results. Voice search leans heavily on SERP results, with a study conducted by SEMrush indicating that 70% of voice search answers are sourced from SERP features. Within that 70%, 60% were featured snippets. If you can't muster a SERP placement then you're likely to get left behind within voice search results.
- Concise Content Takes The Crown: The fact of the matter is, Google prefers concise answers for voice search queries. Adding weight to this, another study conducted by SEMrush, and focusing on Google Assistant, found that the text length of returned answers was predominantly identical across all devices at 41 words. With this in mind, presenting content succinctly has to be at the forefront of your thoughts when writing copy for voice search.
Google the u-SERP-er
Fooling around with favicons
Google revels in creating unbridled panic amongst the SEO professional community.
Recently, they've turned their mischievous eye towards all the ways they can change SERP layouts.
Under this pretence, one of the things Google have decided to fiddle with is Favicons.
Generally speaking, the placement of favicons on mobile proved to be hugely popular, the migration to desktop, however, has raised some eyebrows.
It feels a bit like a trick. The 'Ad' icon is not different enough from the other listings. This means that at a glance you can't easily see what is an Ad and what is a genuine listing. I'd imagine it's been done on purpose like this to make people click on Ad listings as they would normal ones.
~ Matt Freeman, UX/UI Designer at Adido
Some members of the SEO community have begun preaching techniques for optimisation of favicons not long after Google introduced the change.
There is, in fact, an increasing amount of evidence being collated by some of the industry's most respected professionals that favicon optimisation does indeed lend itself to improving click-through rates (CTR).
So how do you optimise those little icons for an improved CTR and more traffic? Well, Google has already given us such guidelines for favicons.
- The image should be a visual representation of your brand and its identity.
- The image size should be a multiple of 48 x 48 pixels.
- The favicon file needs to be crawlable.
- Ensure your favicon is consistent and ever-present across all pages on your website.
- When designing your favicon, be mindful of the fact that it will be scaled down to 16 x 16 pixels.
- Less is more when it comes to designing your favicon, keep it clean and don't overcrowd the design.
However, all of this may yet be made redundant with Google claiming to be experimenting with the look and feel of the favicons after the widespread, errrm, unenthusiastic feedback.
Page 1 results snipped away
Another update to the SERPs that have divided SEOs. Google recently announced that they'd be making a change to results appearing on page one, whereby results that win the featured snippet have been stripped of the corresponding page one listing.
In times gone by, managing two first page one listings through winning the featured snippet and an organic result felt like one of the biggest victories in search engine optimisation, now though, Google has stripped the promise of that lofty goal away.
Detractors of the change, myself included, would argue that when creating content that eventually goes into the featured snippet, we are giving Google an advantage through providing superior user experience. Now though, Google has made it so that their gain is our loss as, without a secondary page one listing, their improved user experience will come at the expense of our click-through rates.
Organic product listings
Though you don't know it yet, Google actually intends to overthrow the world's governments, eventually becoming earth's tyrannical overlord, probably.
Another step in the Google masterplan is now rolling out, though it hasn't reached the UK yet.
I am talking about organic product listings. This new feature is currently available in the US but will make it's way over to the UK in due course.
The organic product listings is a continuation of Google's increasing rivalry with Amazon. This rivalry now transcends the Google Assistant vs Alexa debate, moving towards a battle within the e-commerce market.
Needless to say, Google's shopping tab has been with us for some time. 8 years to be exact. Throughout those last 8 years, the Google shopping tab has operated on a pay-to-play basis. A departure to organic product listings is pretty radical.
It's a strong indication of just how desperate Google is to catch-up to Amazon in the E-commerce space.
When organic product listings eventually roles out in the UK, we'll be seeing Google filter listings in three different variations. Best products, popular products, and related products. Google is even giving us a product knowledge panel.
This change will inevitably come with a healthy slice of opportunity for businesses who can optimise towards it.
Though we can't be sure about any of this until it rolls out in the UK, these are the three factors that we believe will pull through to the product knowledge panel.
- Make sure your entire product infantry is uploaded to the Google Merchant centre.
- Ensure your product schema mark-up is all spot on, use the structured data testing tool to double-check everything.
- Upload your own-brand products to the Manufacturer centre, this will prove key in improving visibility.
Tidying up with TF-IDF
From an agency perspective, something we will be spending a lot of time working on within 2020 is TFIDF.
TFIDF, a necessary acronym for the tongue-twisting Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency, is by no means a new trend in the SEO world.
We've used TFIDF frequently for our clients recently. In using it, we've been providing a steady string of results.
TFIDF is an equation, providing analysis of your target page and recommendations based on pages holding a place on page 1.
The free tool, available on SEObility, pulls out all the semantic vocabulary and related words being used frequently on the top-ranking pages. This gives you an idea of how you can adapt your content and push for a page 1 ranking.
So there you have it, our top 5 things to look out for in the world of SEO throughout 2020.
If you want to find out more about how we could help boost your businesses visibility then feel free to get in touch.
Alternatively, to find out more about our work within SEO, check out our 'Smartest SEO in the world' experiment.