As the CEO of a digital marketing agency specializing in search engine optimization services, I’m convinced of its effectiveness for getting top positions in organic ranking and getting targeted traffic to a website. However, SEO isn’t a one-time investment; it’s an ongoing process of improving content based on the updates in Google algorithms.
Google improves its search function by organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible. In the last five years since its explosive growth, SEO has undergone many changes. Some of the game-changing updates Google has rolled out in the past decade are RankBrain, Hummingbird and the Exact Match Domain update. These algorithms make the search engine smarter than ever. Although these updates make life easier for end-users, SEO specialists and brands are forced to stay on their toes to quickly integrate these new techniques into their digital marketing strategy.
Below, I have identified three crucial trends you should adopt to stay on top of search in 2020.
1. BERT: Understanding Queries Better Than Ever
Late last year, Google announced its most compelling algorithm update in five years: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT for short. BERT improves how the search engine understands language and breaks down queries. The goal is to take the query as a whole — context and nuances included — instead of nitpicking each word. BERT allows Google to match queries with more accurate and relevant results.
As voice searсh is becoming more popular, it’s safe to assume that BERT is here to stay. Since they’re verbalized, users commonly phrase their voice queries in the most natural way possible. The algorithm is particularly helpful for breaking down the conversational language queries because of its ability to understand the nuances of the questions.
How do you optimize for BERT?
The answer is: you don’t. Many industry leaders warned the search community about the inevitable spread of BERT optimization articles. BERT has nothing to do with technical SEO, backlinking or keyword insertion. It’s one of Google’s steps to reward relevant, accurate content. My advice is to focus on crafting better content. Cover timely topics that your target market will find useful, increasing your authority as an industry expert.
BERT’s advanced language processing capability improves featured snippets, making sure that position zero is occupied by the result that directly answers the query. These snippets, as they grow more and more accurate, gave rise to another trend this 2020: zero-click searches.
2. Zero-Click Searches: Quick Answers For Impatient Consumers
In June 2019, almost 55% of all Google searches yielded zero clicks. This means that most users found the answers they needed on the results page, so they didn’t have to visit different websites. Google takes snippets from ranked pages that provide the most satisfying answer to the query.
For web users, the prevalence of zero-click searches means that Google is doing a good job of making the world’s information useful. And because consumers have grown more impatient over the years, the convenience of not having to scroll through several webpages greatly improves their browsing experience. But for businesses, this means that SEO strategy has to be strengthened. In my experience, even if your website ranks high on searches, there’s no guarantee that they’ll visit your pages.
Although this trend opposes your goal of driving more website traffic, your brand can still benefit from zero-click search optimization.
How do you win zero-click searches?
The best way to optimize for zero-click searches is to win featured snippets. Do this by implementing structured data on your website. It’s a standardized format used to label and organize the information in your webpages.
I’d like to point out that structured data doesn’t directly improve your search rankings, but it does have SEO benefits. It makes your website more readable for search engines, helping the crawlers break it down faster.
Occupying position zero also boosts your online presence, even if not all users click on your website. Remember to include your business name in your meta tags, especially in on-page blogs, to boost brand recall. Featured snippets also drive the greatest number of clicks, attracting about 50% of the traffic. Schema markup is the primary tool in structured SEO. It uses three formats: Microdata, RDFa and JSON-LD. Google recommends using JSON-LD for structured data because its scripts are relatively easier to add, update and remove compared to the other two.
Apart from zero-click searches, another trend shows the growing user demand for quick but engaging content. More and more brands have been producing videos as part of their content strategy.
3. Video For SEO: Fast, Engaging, Impactful Content
Google loves videos, and so do users. And with YouTube being the second biggest search engine, not using videos for your content strategy could lead to lost sales opportunities.
Apart from improving your content marketing strategy, videos also have SEO value. Any form of rich media is shareable. When people share your videos, it helps you create more backlinks, which can boost your ranking. Videos get featured in SERP snippets as well. You can use them to win position zero and drive more traffic.
How do you optimize your videos for search?
Our agency does this through social listening, keyword research and monitoring and checking out the “People Also Ask” section in SERPs to find out what people are talking about online.
Apart from having well-directed, engaging videos, don’t forget about the SEO aspect of your media content. YouTube automatically adds closed captions for all videos, but they’re not always accurate. Check the transcript of your video for any typos and grammatical errors, and insert some of the keywords you’re targeting. Web crawlers are still text-based, so you have to leverage the caption feature as much as you can.
These three trends — video SEO, zero-click searches and BERT — all aim to improve your content because today’s consumers demand easy-to-find, snackable and valuable content.