SEO Moves Quickly – Are Your Strategies On-Trend For 2020?
If there’s one rule of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content marketing, it’s that the rules always change. SEO is easily the fastest-changing field in marketing, with companies having to consistently change their strategies to keep up with both buyer trends as well as technical changes to how the search engines operate.
If you go into 2020 using the same SEO techniques you have for the past several years, you will start to fall behind. We’re going to see a lot of new technology hitting the market, as well as increasingly complicated factors influencing how search engines behave, which all point towards a need for smart new content marketing strategies going forward.
At Marketing Metrics, we’re dedicated to bringing our clients the most up-to-date strategies and ideas available. These are some of the trends we’re watching closely in the year ahead – and you should be as well.
The Seven 2020 Online Marketing Trends You Need to Be Following
- Keywords are dead and buried
We’ll just start with an easy one: If you’re still using keyword-based strategies from the mid-2010s, you are going to have a very painful time from here on out. Google has been making its search analysis systems better and smarter every year, including the introduction of a new system called BERT which is focused on interpreting the intent behind searches, beyond merely parsing words and phrases.
Just in our own Google usage, we’ve started noticing it making intelligent recommendations that are predicated on parsing other recent searches and extrapolating. It’s a bit uncanny, to be honest – but it’s undoubtedly only going to become more commonplace in years to come.
At this point, keywords should only be considered a starting point and a way of gathering information about your audience. You can use them to point towards which phrases and customer inquiries you should focus on, but that’s it. Actually, trying to influence SERPs with keyword stuffing is deader than Jimmy Hoffa.
- Strong content is a requirement
This goes hand-in-hand with the increasingly smart search systems and Google’s focus on providing highly relevant results. They’re becoming ever better at identifying good content and recommending it ahead of junk content.
So, if you’re still using cheapo content farm workers or – even worse – machine-generated content, you genuinely need to get better content creators on your side. Google is continuing to de-emphasize low quality content and reward material which is genuinely worth seeing.
There’s no way anyone’s found to game this one. You just need better content.
- You need a strategy for grabbing “zero-click” searches
2019 marked a turning point in SEO. It was the first year where the majority of Google searches resulted in zero clicks. Why? Because Google has gotten so good at interpreting intent that they’re providing users with the information desired as part of the search results themselves. This is primarily done through Rich and Featured snippets, but Google will undoubtedly find new ways of expanding these features in the years to come.
It is critical that you utilize structured data and metadata elements to increase your odds of being part of the displayed snippets.
This also means you need to have a good grasp of your users’ intentions and start looking to predict what searches they will run. Create content – good content – aimed at answering their common questions and inquiries. If it’s good enough, you can be one of the Featured Snippets and help increase brand awareness.
And there’s another reason for this as well…
- Voice searches and Assistant-based searches will only increase
People aren’t necessarily typing their questions into a computer or smartphone anymore. According to Google, 27% of global users are now relying on voice-based searches, and that’s actually on the low end of the numbers we’ve seen. Suffice it to say, use of voice searches – often in conjunction with smart Assistant devices – is growing rapidly, and will undoubtedly continue to grow as the technology continues to mature.
When someone asks a question of Alexa or SIRI, the response is usually being pulled from the top results of the search page. So that’s even more reason that you want to try to grab those top spots because when the user is utilizing voice search, they see nothing except the top-ranked answer.
In these cases, second place really is the first loser.
- Local SEO continues to grow in importance
If you have any sort of physical presence and a desire for walk-in traffic, Local SEO is probably the most important online marketing you can engage in. This goes hand-in-hand with the rise in voice searching because voice searches are most commonly used for local searches. For example, someone is in their car and asks to be directed to a nearby Italian restaurant. They aren’t sitting there comparing reviews; they’re just asking SIRI to point them towards someplace to eat.
In short, this means:
- Maintaining a Google My Business page and ensuring the information is always up to date
- Including plenty of content that mentions your location. Be specific! In larger cities, it may be necessary to even drill down to the neighborhood level. (ie, specifying “Soho” rather than “NYC” or “Manhattan.”) Google heavily weighs users’ locations in local SEO results, so you can’t fake this. You need to specifically target people who will be physically near you.
- Encouraging positive user reviews, 4 stars or higher. Google reviews are, of course, given a high emphasis, but so are the other major review sites. However, don’t ever pay for reviews. If Google discovers you trying to game the review rankings, you’ll be torpedoed.
Of course, the best way to get good reviews is to give good service to customers who are happy to patronize you.
- Focus on brand-building and positioning
So, what is SEO and content marketing for if it’s not as useful for directing search results anymore? Brand-building! Buyers are often painfully aware of how many purchasing options they have in virtually any field, and they’re looking for ways to distinguish between those options. Also, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of “tribal” behavior among buyers at the moment, people preferring to purchase from outlets they perceive as being similar to them in terms of philosophy, politics, etc.
This means one of the biggest benefits you can see from SEO and content marketing is in the realm of public perception. Your blog and your social accounts aren’t merely tools for grabbing clicks. They’re your way to craft an identity for your brand and communicate that identity to buyers who will identify with it. Don’t try to be all things to all buyers, be the best thing for your best buyers.
(This is if you’re keeping track, yet another reason you want good content authors on your team, not overseas hacks.)
- Truthful content will be more important than ever
For years, smart online marketers knew not to stretch the truth too far. When Millennials and Zoomers have grown up online and are entirely confident in their own ability to conduct fact-check searches, misleading content rarely fares well. However, now that #FakeNews has become perceived as a global epidemic, well, the future does not look bright for those who rely on lies or half-truths to promote themselves.
Numerous outlets have already begun implementing more stringent fact-checking, either via humans or robots. This trend will almost certainly continue in the years to come. It will start becoming very hard to lie successfully and getting caught peddling falsehoods will incur massive penalties to your public perception.
There’s always room for some good-natured braggadocio in advertising, of course, but always look to maintain fundamental truthfulness.
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Marketing Metrics Corp are your Wisconsin experts in SEO, content marketing, social media marketing, and other forms of 21st Century outreach. If you want to see your brand grow in 2020, contact us to discuss our services.