The Future of SEO 2020 and Beyond
If you know a thing or two about the digital marketing industry, you should know why Google implements several algorithm updates regularly.
Last year alone, there have been four core updates that got SEO professionals scrambling to keep their strategies up to date.
A particular trend is the constant rise of no-click searches that threatens to eat away the organic traffic of diligent content creators who truly deserve them. This shakes the resolve of SEO pros — making them wonder if they will still have a job in a year or two.
Most people might think that the future of SEO is a dying industry, but with a valuation of $80 Billion in 2020, it’s safe to assume that it’s far from slowing down.
So how can you survive this relentless barrage of updates? And for beginners, is it still possible to gain a foothold in the industry?
Don’t worry, this guide will help you survive the future of SEO in 2020 and beyond.
Here are some insights on what to expect for years to come.
SEO Trends in 2020 and Beyond and How to Nail Them
1. AI continues to play a significant role
We’ve seen Artificial Intelligence (AI) play a crucial part in the development of SEO in recent years.
Exhibit A: RankBRain, which Google introduced as part of its search algorithm in 2015.
This machine-learning AI made it easier for Google users to find more relevant results for their queries. And AI’s disruption won’t end here.
In October 2019, Google unveiled what it deems its biggest change in search yet. The new future of SEO in AI.
Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing.
This AI works by understanding the context and nuances of words, helping computers comprehend language a little more like humans. With this enhanced understanding, BERT can give better matches for users’ queries.
But here’s the catch: Optimizing for this AI through technical means is unlikely. The only trick you can use for BERT is writing a solid piece of content every single time.
2. Mind your Voice Search strategy
Voice Search is one of the most significant changes in the future of SEO evolution. Looking at these statistics alone will help you see this clearly:
- 20% of users search Google through voice
- 50% of all online queries will be voice searches by 2020
- Over half of households are seen to use voice search products by 2022
Given these figures, it makes sense to optimize your voice search from this year forward. Let me give you a few tips to do just that:
- Speak your users’ language. People commonly ask virtual assistants the same way they would ask humans — through spoken questions. So, it’s wise to include question words like “why” and “how” in your web copies and content.
- Ensure fast load times. Forty-percent of mobile users opt-out if the site takes longer than three seconds to load. Seek help from IT and web design gurus to improve your page load speed — or use a tool like PageSpeed Insights for actionable tips.
- Optimize your web images. This one seems like a daunting task, but it’s a useful trick to make your site more voice search-friendly. Do this by giving your images appropriate titles, captions, and tags.
When optimizing for voice search, keep in mind that none of these will work without killer content.
Remember, it’s better to write a 2,500-word juicy article than five 500-word posts that barely scratch a topic’s surface.
3. Topic wins over keywords
Keywords are among Google’s least priorities, so it’s time to shift gears. From 2020 and beyond, topic modeling will take a more dominant spot.
The search engine grew even more capable of interpreting user intent with just a few words. And this only means one thing for SEOs and content creators: information structure.
Let’s say your site is selling lunch boxes. You could write full-length informative blog posts about hearty meals to pack for lunch, or healthy lifestyle changes.
Then, you can cluster these blog posts into various topics. This topic clustering will make it easier not just for your users but also for crawlers to navigate and grasp your content.
4. Brand building and link building are still key components in SEO
Many people downplay brand building as a future SEO strategy when, in reality, it’s crucial.
What these people miss is the fact that branding gives you two things critical for ranking — trust and authority.
Brand queries also weigh in Google’s algorithms. Here are a few things you can do to strengthen your brand:
- Leverage your brand story. People are hooked by stories they can relate to. Brand stories filled to the brim with personality and resonate with the audience often perform exceedingly well.
- Consider user experience. Your website is the digital touchpoint of your brand; delivering outstanding user experiences is non-negotiable. To ensure this, your site needs to be responsive, speedy, and easy-to-navigate.
- Maximize social media. Today, people also use social sites like Facebook and Twitter to look for brands. So, it makes sense to work on making your social profile meaningful and optimizing your posts as well.
This goes without saying: taking advantage of link building to generate more traffic is a time-tested strategy.
While building ties with potential customers is essential, don’t forget to reach out to experts in your niche, too. If they share your content, your chances of earning natural, quality backlinks will multiply.
5. Mobile SEO will continue to grow over time
Statistics show that over 4.7 billion people are mobile phone users. This growth also translates to an ever-increasing share of mobile traffic in the search market.
If your results aren’t ready for mobile, how much traffic do you think you’ll miss out on?
Aligned with the rise of mobile, Google has rolled out mobile-first indexing as their primary model for crawling and indexing websites in 2020 and beyond. This is a clear indication of where the Search Engine is headed in the future.
Luckily, there are several DIY things you can do to make your websites more searchable on mobile phones.
If you want to do it on your own, though, begin by making your website responsive. Then, keep these practical hacks in mind:
- Write short paragraphs. Keep it to a maximum of two to three sentences.
- Use headers to break up paragraphs for easier reading.
- Bullets and numbers do away with chunky paragraphs, so use them for listicles, too.
- Create button sizes that are large enough for mobile.
- Perform mobile-testing regularly to make sure your mobile user experience is excellent.
For more tips, I suggest running your site over at Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. It’s a simple tool that will essentially give you a checklist of things to optimize on your website to improve the mobile experience.
Alternatively, you can outsource professional developers to make your website more mobile-friendly from the inside out — the investment is definitely worth it.
Even if things seem perfectly fine today, the way mobile phones work may change and affect your future SEO. So, keep testing and making the necessary changes to give your users an outstanding experience.
6. Organic Searches still get the lion’s share of traffic.
In spite of Google trying to shove more ads into SERPs, organic results still get the majority of traffic.
People are getting better and better at recognizing these ads despite Google’s efforts to make them as discreet as possible. So — don’t empty your future SEO pockets into a paid ads campaign just yet.
7. Instead of trying to fight the SERP features, work with them.
Let’s face it. SERP features are here to stay.
It’s part of Google’s strategy to deliver the best experience possible for their users. So instead of trying to swim against the tide, why not ride it?
There are several types of SERP features that can make your content more visible to users. Some examples are:
- Knowledge Card
- Image Pack
- Local Pack
- Knowledge Panel
- Related Questions
To learn more about these SERP features as well as how to optimize for them, you can read this in-depth article by Moz.
SEO is an ever-changing industry.
With hundreds of updates made every year, things can surely get confusing for the average digital marketer.
But that’s the beauty of it.
These updates will separate the wheat from the chaff. That should shrink the competition in favor of SEOs who are prepared to adapt.
Keep grinding on because SEO is here to stay. It’s up to you if you can keep up.
John is a coffee-loving link building expert and founder of Search Forge. He spends most of his time testing different link building strategies and in his spare time, argues his findings with his dog. Zeus. You can follow him @J_PMarquez.