Digital marketers have to always keep their fingers on the pulse of search engine algorithms. Although we often think of algorithms as inanimate, fixed sets of rules, some are in constant flux — including Google’s PageRank algorithm, which was most recently updated in 2019.
Capitalizing on new and emerging trends in search engine optimization (SEO) can help give your web properties the boost they need to rank on the first search engine results page (SERP). In fact, I’ve seen it happen firsthand.
As the CEO of two full-service digital creation and marketing agencies, IronMonk Solutions and Little Dragon Media, I’ve helped countless businesses of all sizes rank for competitive search terms simply by mastering the latest SEO trends and strategies. In this article, I’ve listed some of the most crucial emerging trends in SEO for the year ahead that your business can start applying today.
Artificial Intelligence Advancement
In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning development from the engineers at Google. For instance, Google’s RankBrain algorithm was introduced to Google Search in 2015 (subscription required), which helps push more relevant search results to the top of SERPs based on the user’s search intent. RankBrain also uses machine learning to interpret the relationship between words used in a search query to better understand it.
I believe the advancement of Google’s AI, including RankBrain and its new Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT), will revolutionize how search engines work. Soon, there will be no “optimizing” for search using crafty algorithm-satisfying techniques. In the years ahead, the single ranking factor worth focusing on will likely be the quality and relevance of your content as inferior content is weeded out by AI.
Voice Search Is The Future
Voice search has been increasing in the last couple of years, likely due to the rising popularity of Google Assistant smart devices. Therefore, forward-thinking SEOs should optimize search results for how searchers speak in addition to how they type.
Many Google voice searches are long-tail search terms (e.g., “where to get a photorealistic tattoo in Southeast Michigan,” or “where to buy active dry yeast in Yonkers”). Generally, long-tail searchers are beyond the “discovery” or “informational” stages of a user’s buying journey — they are now seriously considering making a purchase. Therefore, optimizing for hyperspecific (and hyperlocal) search content can help you rank for search terms that have a high likelihood of converting.
Master The Featured Snippet
Featured snippets are bite-sized summaries of articles that appear at the top of a Google SERP. They can increase total traffic volume compared to top-ranking content that doesn’t earn a featured snippet.
The key to landing a featured snippet is twofold. First, you have to already rank on the first Google SERP by producing high-quality, value-added content with plenty of high-authority domain backlinks. Second, you need to directly answer the searcher’s query in the first 55-70 words of the article in plain language. Google may then utilize this direct quotation to appear in a featured snippet — however, there’s no way to guarantee that it will be used.
Video Is Here To Stay
Content with embedded videos is more likely to rank on the first SERP than content that consists purely of plain text and image files. Further, videos can drive an increase in organic traffic from SERPs, making them an invaluable tool for building your website’s visibility.
As they say, content is king. However, in the years ahead, video content may be crowned king. Nothing commands attention like an entertaining video, and based on what I’m seeing, Google’s search algorithm is starting to reward websites that offer original and relevant videos on their pages.
Mobile SEO Takes Priority
In September, Google plans to roll out mobile-first indexing across all properties on the web. In other words, Google will soon be analyzing a website’s mobile content to determine its ranking across all device types. Prior to this change, many websites were indexed according to how their content rendered on desktop devices.
As an increasing share of users is accessing the web via mobile devices, Google is doing what it can to optimize the web for mobile users. In fact, the majority of all web traffic (subscription required) now emanates from mobile devices. Therefore, SEOs should prioritize how a website’s mobile content reads, appears and renders in mobile browsers before concerning themselves with desktop rendering.
Take Your SEO Game To The Next Level
The success of your business’s marketing efforts depends on your ability to stay ahead of the curve. Through 2020, your SEO strategy should abide by the following rules: incorporate video content, remain value-oriented (rather than algorithm-oriented), include featured snippets, be hyperlocal and hyperspecific, and optimize for mobile browser rendering. If you can master these elements, chances are high that your SEO performance will skyrocket.