This is a guest post by Linda Cartwright. Linda is an author and a freelance writer with a background in education. She lives in Seattle, teaches creative writing classes online and supports e-learning initiatives. Her darkest secret is that writing is only her second favorite thing to do… after reading. You can follow Linda on Twitter.
Since its arrival, Google has gradually changed from the search engine to a lean, mean answering machine. The results page shows answer cards, a carousel of videos, and snippets, offering whatever user was looking for on a plate.
This is great for Google but not so great for website owners because even top results may now receive zero organic clicks – everything is there, on Google’s page! This means that SEO will get tougher in 2020. These are the rules if you want to stay in the game.
Featured snippets are short summaries of the answer to the query that are shown above paid and organic results.
They have been around for a while and they are the major reason for those clicks you aren’t getting. A study has found that a featured snippet gets more traffic than the first organic result, while Getstat says that 70 percent of snippets come from sites that aren’t in the top-ranking position. That means that the snippet spot is sweet and can be your golden chance. You should definitely compete for it. How?
Use question-based search queries and keywords (How to start your blog? How do you become a singer?), make step-by-step instructions, definitions, lists (best, worst, most anticipated), comparison (Apple vs. Android).
The quality of your content is paramount, true. However, its quantity will still have a big impact on your ranking. Empirical data show that pages from the top 10 results are most often quality articles, which are at least 2,000 words long. This is not because you can stuff more keywords in a longer blog post! That is because users stay longer to read it and because it actually answers the questions they were looking for and some related things along the way.
The time users spend on this page is called “dwell time” and Google looooves this metric. It is a clear sign that the search engine did a good job and matched the user with the perfect result. Therefore, getting writing help from a copywriter or a fellow guest blogger pays off – as long as your long-form masterpiece answers the user’s question.
Video becomes exponentially more popular. This trend started with the Millennials but the GenZ crowd loves videos even more. They watch videos for entertainment, to learn stuff, for DIY hobbies, for lifehacks and recipes – everything. Google being Google delivers to keep them happy: video is fifty times more likely to show up in search results than a sheet of plain text.
What does it mean for you? It makes sense to create YouTube videos to accompany your content or instead of it. Embed it on your page to drive traffic and enjoy all the attention. Only make sure to add a comprehensible title and a detailed description to let the search engine know what your video is about.
Search intent (user experience)
Although Google doesn’t state it openly, it keeps tabs on your engagement metrics as a way of assessing the quality of your content. If people stay on the page and have fun – Google loves you. If people bounce back all the time – that’s a sign that you are the wrong thing to show on the SERP. That’s why defining the search intent of your potential visitors is paramount in 2020. What you should look at is bounce rates, time on page, return visitors, comments on your content, and social shares.
Ultimately, your success always depends on the customer experience. SEO is no exception. So if you want to be seen in 2020, make sure your visitors are happy: they don’t have to wait for ages for your awesome colorful page to load, understand intuitively which button to click, etc.
Influencer marketing can be leveraged for SEO as well.
Backlinks from influencer sites boost your authority, yes, but that’s not the whole picture. You should look for influencers and nano-influencers (between 1,000 and 10,000 followers) that engage with your target audience. Nano-influencers have stronger relationships with their audience and enjoy their trust. They are the next good thing you can have to an actual word of the mouth and in this day and age, when people are overwhelmed with ads and only trust authentic advice, that’s a heck of an asset.
Influencers will drive traffic to your site and help you boost those engagement metrics we were just talking about in the previous paragraph.
According to Statista, by 2023 the number of digital voice assistants will reach 8 billion units, which is more than the world’s population.
An estimated 30 percent of searches will be screenless in 2020. What does it mean for you? That it’s not good enough to appear on the first page – you have to be the first result. Yeah, I told you that SEO will become tougher. Luckily, you don’t have to revamp your website entirely to adapt. For example, bullet lists will increase your chances of ranking for voice queries.
Moreover, voice search will influence how people search via text as well. People will write as they speak – asking very specific questions and expecting a precise answer. For example: “Find ATM machines near me” or “Where can I eat at this time of night?” That means the rise of longtails and location-specific ones at that.
On the first of July 2019, Google has moved to mobile-first indexing, so it’s not a prognosis, it’s a reality. Also, in 2019, 56 percent of all website traffic was generated and about 40 percent of all transactions worldwide happened through mobile phones. An estimated 72.6 percent of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025. You have to optimize for mobile or you will be out of sight and out of mind.
Luckily, if you optimize for voice search, you are ready for mobile as well, so at least you can kill two birds with one stone.
Alternative search engines
Although Google seems monopolistic, it isn’t entirely true. Apart from alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo and Bing, there are in-house search systems on Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, and the likes. If you put your content out there, don’t disregard those and try to optimize everything according to the standards of the search-enabled platform.
Every new algorithm that Google rolls out hits those who tried to exploit loopholes in the previous ones – and algorithms are getting more accurate. If you optimized your content for users, you will be fine. SEO is only a way of letting the robots know that you are trying to keep up with the changing demands of your user – and that your user is topping your list of priorities. Think of it as PR for robots and algorithms. That way it even sounds fun.