5 SEO and Content Marketing Trends for 2020
December 13th 2019 | By Sarah McInerney
In our last post we looked to the past, summarising the key things we learnt about search engine optimisation in 2019. In this post, we’re looking to the future, delving into what 2020 has in store as we enter not just a New Year, but a whole new decade.
SEO Trend 1: BERT
It’s something we touched upon in our 2019 SEO round-up blog, and now as promised we’re going to look at it in more detail, because it’s a Google update that’s going to have a significant impact on the search marketing playing field in 2020.
BERT – Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers – has been labelled the biggest change to Google search in the past five years. In a nutshell, Google is using BERT models to better understand search queries, and the update has affected both rankings and featured snippets.
Search intent is now more important than ever. Google is now focusing more on what the user intended to find, rather than exactly matching the search phrase entered. So what does this mean for the SEO content writer?
It means that content will need to be written around user intent, rather than just repeating search phrases. So instead of using keyword research tools, we will be turning to suggested queries such as Google’s ‘People also ask’, because these are what Google knows through its machine learning that users are actually looking for.
Market and audience research is going to become of crucial importance too. We’re going to have to get out there and start asking people what they really want to know, whether that’s through social media platforms, forums, advertising campaigns, surveys… whatever it takes.
Remember, SEO is not just about Google. Senior Program Manager at Bing, Frédéric Dubut, has echoed what everyone else is saying, suggesting that keyword research could well become obsolete.
“There’s no sign of [natural language processing] NLP and deep learning research slowing down anytime soon, and you can expect search engines to shift even further from keywords to intent in 2020,” Dubut said. “Both practitioners and tooling providers will need to shift their efforts towards ‘intent research’ and fulfilling user needs.”
Focusing on intent is good for everyone. It gives the web user what they want, and helps to capture and convert customers.
BERT is a positive update, because it is going to help web users on a far deeper level, and in doing so it’s going to enhance engagement between customer and brand, strengthening relationships and encouraging valuable loyalty. Instead of focusing solely on content that answers questions before a sales transaction, we’re also going to be addressing queries that arise afterwards. Customer care; technical support; relationship building for example. In doing so, trust will build. Customers will view brands as reliable and supportive. And that all-important loyalty will flourish.
SEO Trend 2: Quality content
Yes, we’ve talked about it before, but it’s so important that we can’t possibly leave it off our SEO trends 2020 list. Whilst quality content is nothing new, the level of importance it holds is growing in a big way.
Assistant Editor of Search Engine Journal, Anna Crowe, said there is a single thing that has been and will continue to be the lifeblood of SEO, and that’s content.
“Content affects everything in SEO,” she said. “From your site structure and internal linking strategy to the types of links you build.”
The goal is to have the best possible content out there for your niche subject. You will then compete for long tail searches, which is still important, but you’ll also be building site authority, and encouraging demand for your content.
Jesse McDonald, Global SEO Strategist at IBM and Jessica Levenson, SEO & Content Strategy Consultant, both said that 2020 is the time to move away from the obsession with keywords. “Stop targeting individual keywords, chasing pageviews, and ‘spraying and praying’ with content.”
Jessica Levenson says that SEO content writing should be topic-focused, addressing an entire conversation rather than targeting a single keyword. Her advice is practical and geared towards knowing what answers users need next:
- Understand your audience and how they search
- Understand the intent behind the search query
- Provide solutions in the formats they prefer using authoritative content
Search engines are adapting very quickly to natural language understanding. That means that the most naturally written, high quality content is going to win through, every time.
SEO Trend 3: User experience and technical SEO
Search Engine Journal suggests the biggest trend that SEO professionals should focus on in 2020 is user experience, with technical SEO playing a key role in the discussion.
It’s all about factors that boost the user experience, such as those we highlighted in our post on SEO and user experience:
- Page speed – fast loading sites have been prioritised since Google’s Speed Update of 2018
- Uncluttered pages – easier to navigate and faster to load, minimalist pages tick two important boxes for SEO
- Mobile friendly – almost 60 per cent of searches are mobile, so positive mobile user experience is vital. What’s more, Google indexes mobile-friendly sites first. More on this later.
- Well formatted content – content readability is an important SEO on-page ranking factor. Short paragraphs; summary points; simple vocabulary; images breaking up content blocks; plenty of sub-headings… it’s all vital if you are going to please the user and make the experience a positive one.
SEO Trend 4: Mobile first
It’s a common phrase, but what does mobile first actually mean? In short it’s about putting web design first for mobile user experience, and then make it fit for the desktop user.
It’s nothing new, but it remains incredibly important for SEO trends 2020. And when you combine it with the newly boosted significance of content marketing, the magnitude is greatly enhanced.
So not only do you need to be designing your web pages around mobile, you also need to be thinking about a mobile audience when you are writing those all-important blogs and articles. Here’s what to consider:
- Do your sentences and paragraphs flow well on a mobile screen? Are they broken up enough with plenty of bold sub-headings to guide the user from one section to another?
- Have you spaced out your hyperlinks enough so they can’t be accidentally tapped?
- Have you checked any images aren’t getting in the way of your text?
- Are videos taking time to download and frustrating the user so they click away?
You have to think, how much time do you spend for personal use looking at your desktop computer, compared to your mobile? Now you know why mobile first is crucial not just for web design, but for content publishing too.
SEO Trend 5: Brand building for link building
In our 2019 SEO review we looked at the Google guidance that highlighted content authority as a vital factor. Sharing and back-linking was cited as a hint to Google that content was worthy of ranking, precisely why brand building is going to be a major trend in 2020.
A solid brand that is trusted will compel fans to share content, which will help to build links. So a key driver of search engine marketing in 2020 is brand building.
So now it seems all facets of marketing are important for SEO. The more you build your brand both online and offline, the greater the trust, the more likely you are to see better rankings.
Looking to the future of SEO
These SEO trends 2020 has on the horizon are precisely what the SEO team at Figment are working on right now. If you are ready to take your search engine visibility into the next decade, we are ready to help you. For a personalised search engine optimisation plan that will see your business grow and enjoy boosted sales, talk to Figment.