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The Evolution of SEO and Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is constantly changing and evolving, and it’s critical to stay on top of the latest trends. This will enable your organization to meet all of the necessary requirements set forth by search engines, and it will allow you to develop more effective marketing strategies both now and in the future. 

Every single year, hundreds of changes are made to Google’s search algorithm. Not only that, but the way that consumers use search engines and access information online continues to change and evolve daily. Therefore, it’s critical to your SEO strategy to stay on top of the changes from year to year, as well as all of the minor changes in between. 

Keep reading to find out about the biggest changes for 2020, as well as some other trends to keep an eye on. When you know the state of SEO, you’ll be better able to tweak your strategies for better results. 

Most searches are now ‘zero-click’

Google is revolutionizing the way that users get information, yet again, with its ‘featured snippet’ section. Also known as the answer box, this is often the endpoint for many Internet searches today. Rather than having to click on answers, a user will typically perform their search, gather the information that they need from the featured snippet, and close out of their browser and go back to their life. 

How are you supposed to get website traffic without clicks? This is one of the biggest changes that is disrupting many marketing strategies because people are very confused about how to make a solid SEO or marketing plan around a concept that involves no website traffic from search engines. Thanks to the addition of the featured snippet on Google, less than half of all searches performed result in a click-through. 

New metrics and marketing tools are being developed to help optimize SEO strategies to drive engagement and site visits. These single out the keywords that are most likely to generate an actual interaction with the user, rather than generating a zero-click solution. It’s up to you to stay ahead of the game, and that means staying ahead of what Google is doing. 

In recent times, Google has developed a strong focus on building the featured snippets section, along with automated responses that require no further click-through, creating even more of a chance that users will not navigate away from the site. Google might be a search engine, but it still wants to keep as much traffic to itself as it can because that’s how it makes money and stays on top of the search engine game. Every new way that Google comes up with to prevent click-throughs is going to reduce the volume of actual site visits that you will get from search engine queries. 

If you can’t optimize for click-throughs and conversions like you used to, how are you supposed to drive traffic and convince people to come to your website? People will search for stuff all day long, but when they are serious about it, they need to be offered a solution that will suit their needs. Whether that’s a zero-click answer or a full click-through conversion, you need to be able to facilitate both with your SEO strategy for 2020. 

Voice search

50% of all Internet searches will be voice-based by the end of the year, according to Quoracreative. Voice-to-text technology, combined with smartphones, smart speakers, and other devices, are encouraging more and more users to use this feature for quicker, easier access to the things that they need. The important thing to remember here is that people are now searching in the same way that they speak. 

In 2017, Search Engine Watch reports that 33 million users searched for something with the voice feature. That’s 33 million opportunities to re-optimize SEO to reflect consumer language rather than using keywords that are less natural. Of course, when people are using queries like “Where is the nearest bank?”, it might be a little challenging to incorporate the phrases as keywords. This is where you might need to get creative or rely on the marketing experts to get creative for you. 

Keep in mind that users who are searching for long-tail keywords are actually in a mindset to consider a purchase, which makes them a more likely conversion than someone who is just starting to do research and may have simpler search queries. Since most voice searches are also local, it’s critical to optimize for local SEO to increase your chances of ranking effectively. 

If you’re not sure about the importance of voice search yet, here are some statistics to help you see just how it will change the future of your business. 

  1. 20% of all consumers report making at least one purchase via voice within the past 12 months. 
  2. Consumer spending through voice search is projected to hit 18% by the year 2022. 
  3. In the past year, voice orders made up $1.8 billion in the U.S. retail segment
  4. Most voice-based orders tend to be for low-dollar items, but that is expected to change over time. 
  5. Consumers use voice search for all types of shopping: groceries, electronics, entertainment, and clothing are the top four categories. 
  6. By 2022, voice-based shopping is projected to hit as much as $40 billion in consumer spending. 

Fun Fact: Voice recognition is older than you think. It was created in 1961 by an engineer at IBM. William C. Dersch built the first voice recognition system and dubbed it “Shoebox.” 

You need to get on Google’s featured snippet

If you haven’t yet noticed it, there’s a new feature on Google’s search results page: the featured snippet. You’ll typically see this as the “People also ask” box that’s right under the sponsored results. The idea is to answer the user’s question immediately, which is why these are also sometimes called answer boxes. 

Regardless of what you call it, you need to get your website listed in these snippets. This is an organic content tool, so it’s available to anyone who can properly optimize their content. One of the biggest ways that websites are getting themselves listed on these pages is by creating FAQ sections on their website or blog. 

Provide straightforward, in-depth answers that give people the information that they need without having to click through to your website. Focus on getting the most accurate information and providing the best answer for the end-user, no matter how it impacts your business. By showing that your focus is on giving the reader the answers that they need, and not just selling something, you will gain credibility and garner more trust as an authority in your industry. 

One of the best ways to increase your odds of getting a spot in the featured snippet section is to study up on the information that is listed there. See what other websites are doing to get ranked, including what kind of keywords they are using and how they are capitalizing on the question and answer format of this resource. Don’t copy anything, of course, but feel free to see how others are using this tool. 

Your website should be optimized for mobile

Mobile optimization is no longer just something that is suggested. If your website isn’t mobile-ready, your visitors are going to find somewhere else to look. Optimizing a website for mobile isn’t a difficult task. Those who want the best results should look to companies that are taking the “mobile-first” approach– designing their websites for mobile devices first and then creating an equally user-friendly desktop version. 

When your website is optimized for mobile, it will have improved SEO and search rankings because Google loves mobile accessibility. It also helps build credibility and offer solutions for all customers. Sites that are optimized for mobile will reach more customers and offer faster solutions, showing people that you can be there for them in any format and at any time. 

What does mobile optimization look like? Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Mobile websites often have large buttons and text links to make them easy for fingers to click. 
  • Heavy elements like Flash and other graphics and animation software should be avoided because they weigh down page load speeds. 
  • Larger fonts and easier-to-read styles are a must in all content. 
  • Mobile sites should have simple navigation with an accessible menu, as well as the option to switch to the desktop version if accessibility is needed for certain features. 
  • All images and CSS should be compressed to provide lighter pages that load faster. 
  • Mobile website design includes optimizing video and audio content so that it’s compatible with all devices. If you can, stick to universal apps like YouTube for video content that is cross-compatible on any device. 
  • Paragraphs of text should only be 3-4 sentences or lines long. People don’t want to be bombarded with a page full of text. 
  • Always use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs), which are specifically designed to render quickly and seamlessly on mobile with a lightweight footprint. 

These are just a few of the biggest things to keep in mind about mobile optimization. Another concept, which we’ll discuss more in detail below, is adding local search optimization for mobile. Most of your mobile users are searching for local resources and solutions, and you need to capitalize on this to increase your visibility and provide your visitors with the solutions they seek. 

Other SEO changes you should look into

The changes discussed above are the most important ones for 2020. However, there are dozens of different things happening all around the industry. It’s important to stay on top of what is most relevant to your industry, as well as what changes have the most impact on your competition. Most of the guides and lists published today will have a minimum of 7-10 changes that you need to be mindful of when it comes to SEO, both now and in the future. 

Although every business will have different marketing needs for SEO, there are some definite items that should be on everyone’s list. Here are three more areas where you’ll want to pay attention for 2020 and beyond.

Local Search is King

We discussed this briefly above, but it’s a big part of the SEO strategy. In part, thanks to smartphones and voice search technology, people are searching out local businesses and resources more often than not. If your website is not optimized for local SEO, it’sn’t going to fare well in building a solid customer base and getting the traffic that you deserve. 

The only time local search doesn’t matter is if you run a totally virtual operation with no local presence. However, even then, you might want to target a few areas or make some regional content so that people who are searching locally can still find you. Like with the featured snippets, you can do some research to see how others are incorporating local SEO and long-tail location-based queries. 

Although small businesses are most likely to benefit from local search, it really can help any business that wants to stay relevant and offer more visibility to their audience. Considering that 4 out of 5 consumers rely on local search, you are going to be missing a huge segment of your audience if you don’t optimize for local SEO. 

You can’t just slap location and city names on keywords, though. There is a strategy for local SEO, just as there is to general search engine optimization and marketing. You’ll want to read up on the best practices or make sure that you hire an SEO company that understands how to make local search an effective part of your marketing solution. 

Influencers are Still Influential

Marketers will be leveraging influencers even more for SEO support and marketing assistance. In the past year, as many as 17% of companies surveyed spent more than 50% of their total budget on influencer marketing. Certain industries may fare better here, including those in beauty and fashion, e-commerce, lifestyle, and travel markets. 

Influencers will help generate traffic, increase content reach, and improve your online visibility. They can even add a sense of trust for the user who is being referred since they already have a following and an audience that may be willing to take their suggestion. Influencers can increase your engagement and content reach, and so much more. 

One of the biggest perks of working with influencers is that you will be able to build a diverse link profile on your website and ensure that you have the best connections in the industry. Many people don’t realize that their search ranking is greatly impacted by the quality of their link profile, but it’s actually one of the most important factors for the search engines. Influencer marketing may not work for all brands or all industries, but typically it’s worth a look for anyone who wants a better way to build their brand reputation. 

Video is Becoming the Preferred Content

Forrester Research conducted a study on content strategy regarding digital marketing and SEO efforts. In that study, they discovered that videos are 50 times more likely to be shown on a search engine results page (SERP) than websites with only text content. What’s more, is that video is included in as many as 62% of all Google universal searches. 

How can you incorporate video? For starters, don’t do it just for the sake of doing it. Like any of your strategies, you need to have a plan and a goal. Think about what you can offer to your users through video content. Consider creating helpful videos and how-to content if that fits your niche, or even offer educational content and other resources in video format. As long as you’re adding value for the user, it will make an impression.

Make sure that there is written content to go with the video. The words are what Google’s indexers will search for when they are seeking out quality content. They can use the description and keywords related to your content to help you get a better ranking, but only if you provide them with those words. 

Sites with well-optimized videos are far more likely to show up on the top half of the SERPs or within the featured snippets section. Google prefers the sites that offer answers in video format to those who only have text. Perform any basic search and check out the top results for yourself– usually, at least one of the first featured snippet results will be a video. 

Plus, according to Retail Dive, it was reported that 72% of consumers prefer video content to traditional text. It’s not about whether you should use videos, but how you can incorporate them as a part of your SEO campaign. 

Optimize your SEO for 2020

With our help, you can be prepared for the changes in 2020 and the ongoing evolution of SEO into the future. There is nothing more valuable to a website than a solid SEO strategy, even in a time when it seems like search engine marketing has changed completely. While you will find plenty of information out there to help you understand the process and figure out which tools to capitalize on for your needs, it’s not something that you have to do alone. 

If you want a more seamless experience or just prefer to be more hands-off when it comes to your marketing, you can rely on our team of experts to deliver powerful SEO campaigns that are fully-optimized for the future. Plus, you can incorporate tools and functions that automatically update and keep things fresh, meaning you’ll save even more time and money.

This can be a lot of information to digest, but it’s not something you have to jump into. Take the time to figure out how you want to adapt to the changing SEO landscape, and when you’re ready to get started, give us a call.

Author avatar
Perrin Carrell

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