The new year is only a few days away. It seems timely, then, to review what we know about SEO at the close of 2019—and take a look at what we can expect in 2020.
1. Voice Search Continues to Rise
First, voice search has continued to grow in popularity. Smart speaker shipments have grown, voice assistants are becoming more popular, and people are starting to use their voice-enabled devices more frequently. Not only are these voice-enabled devices popular at home, they’re also popular at work and on commutes. People seek “screenless” web browsing when they’re on the go, and voice assistants offer access to that kind of lifestyle.
2. Rich and Featured Snippets are Here to Stay
Building on the voice search feature, it’s also important to know what rich and featured snippets are. Rich snippets display images, review star ratings, prices, and other pertinent business data. Featured snippets are the blocks of text that you see at the top of the search results—basically, it’s a quote taken from a website that Google thinks will best answer your query.
These two features are integral to voice search and screenless web browsing. Voice assistants will read the snippets out loud after you search for a query. This makes the snippets all the more important to understand and utilize in the coming year.
3. Machine Learning and Neural Matching are Gaining Influence
We’ve only talked about this briefly in previous articles, and the topic can seem a bit complicated at first. After all, how much does the average person know about machine learning, artificial intelligence, and neural networks? The answer is likely “not much.” But there are ways to comprehend the basics, which is important to business owners if they want to improve their rankings in the search engines.
Neural matching sounds complex, but it’s really a very simple concept: it means that Google’s algorithm attempts to figure out a meaning of a query. For example, people might search using vague language, misspell words, or use incorrect words (particularly if the person searching is writing or speaking in a second language).
Machine learning is similar: It means that the algorithm will adapt as it learns the user intent. So, if one website is garnering the majority of clicks for a certain phrase, the algorithm will see that link as valuable, and continue to promote it in the search results.
See? Not as difficult as it initially seems!
4. Make Your Website Secure
This is a difficult one for many people—it doesn’t really cross your mind unless someone has complained or it’s been pointed out to you.
User safety is always a top priority. While this may seem unrelated to SEO, it’s really not—if people see that your website isn’t secure, they’re likely to leave and not make a purchase. The search engines see this as a bad thing, and, well, they aren’t wrong.
To secure your website, you need to enable HTTPS protocol. To do this, you’ll likely need to work with a web expert (like us!), unless you know more about secure web protocols.
5. Videos Are Still Important!
It seems like a new streaming service comes out every other week. YouTubers are still raking in the dough and people would rather watch online videos than traditional television.
It’s for these reasons that you should aim to create some video content. Your videos should look clean and well done, but you don’t need a huge budget to be effective. Google will display appropriate videos in the search results, especially for “how-to” searches. Use the correct keywords in the description and headline of your video so that the search engines know how to rank it.
6. Mobile-Friendly Designs are Paramount
We’ve been hammering this point home since roughly 2012, but it only grows more and more important as time goes on. If you do not have a mobile-friendly website by now, you’re losing a LOT of traffic. In fact, studies show that 4 out of 5 consumers conduct local searches using mobile devices. Billions of people have access to smartphones, and 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase using their device. As you can see, you’d lose out on profit if you prevented smartphone users from even accessing your site in the first place.
These are a few trends to focus on. There are many other factors that will go into ranking algorithms in the coming year, but you can bet on these 6 strategies being front and center in the next 12 months.
What will you focus on this year? What would you like help with? Let us know!