New year. New you. New SEO? Kind of.
2020 probably won’t be a year of fundamental changes to everything that you already know about SEO – this year looks to be more about the rise of trends that already exist. But does that mean you don’t need to do anything? Of course not!
Our comprehensive guide explores all the upcoming trends for the year, including what you need to do to safeguard your site against important changes to Google’s algorithm.
Zero click searches: zeroes no more
In June 2019 we saw zero-click searches outperform traditional searches in terms of volume for the first time – a trend that looks only to rise.
Zero-click searches are when the answer to a user’s query is found on the SERP itself, not on the page of the subsequent search result. They can look like this:
These are called featured snippets. They appear at the top of the search engine result page, above the more traditionally optimised organic results – this is commonly known as position zero.
The simplest way to earn a featured snippet is to focus on a few specific questions that do not already have dedicated snippets. Answer these questions with succinct paragraphs on pages optimised for the topic. Google pulls results from webpages programmatically so it’s important to make your answers are as clear as possible. You can also take advantage of Google’s fondness for lists, as illustrated above. Make sure to frame your content accordingly for your best chance of usage as a featured snippet.
The rise and rise of voice search
Let’s be honest, speech recognition as a search tool didn’t have the smoothest start when it arrived all those years ago. Half the time it didn’t understand you, and when it did, the results were often less than useful.
Major strides have been made in intervening years, not just in understanding the words that we are say, but the contextual intent of the queries that we ask, all thanks to machine learning in search engines.
Since then our voice searches have become more conversational, where you and your device can have a quick back and forth. This means that our searches are becoming less keyword-focussed and more like natural speech.
But how do you optimise your content for voice search?
The first part is in the words. Writing for voice search optimisation is similar to writing content for a rich snippet. Write simple paragraphs that answer dedicated queries on a page optimised for that topic so Google knows what it’s looking for. Be sure to write in a conversational tone, so that the resulting answer makes sense when spoken from a smart device.
The second part’s quite different. It’s in relation to structured data, and more specifically; Schema.
Structured data pairs information with data values to help search engines categorise and better understand your content. These can classify your content into different types, such as recipes, events, or articles.
Since the widespread adoption of voice search, Google and partners launched a variant of Schema that was more relevant to voice searches. This is called Speakable Schema . It ”identifies sections within an article or webpage that are best suited for audio playback using text-to-speech (TTS)”.
Learn more about optimising your page for voice search and Schema.
User experience is king
User experience should be a top priority. And from an SEO perspective that means one thing: speed.
Superfast broadband is the norm and nationwide 5G is just around the corner – a telling indication of our obsession with connection times.
It’s no surprise that research by Google revealed 53% of mobile visitors leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load.
‘This is nothing new,’ you might think – and you would be right! As far back as 2010 Google advised us of their fascination with speed. What’s changed now though is that it has taken priority over older ranking factors, such as meta tagging.
Below we’ve outlined a few key ways that you can speed up the load times of your website.
Try Loading background images via external CSS
To improve load times, consider using external CSS stylesheets to load non-background images first. This allows text to load first and images to load after, improving user experience.
Eliminate unnecessary plugins
Each plug-in added to a website consumes resources and delays response times. That’s why it’s important to take stock of which plug-ins add value to your users’ experience and which could be removed.
Minimise unnecessary wasted whitespaces
White space, text, line returns and comment tags can add up and increase your page size by 10 to 20%. Be mindful of this and be sure to take into consideration what is useful and what isn’t on your page.
Remove unnecessary meta tags and meta content
Gone are the days when SEO professionals could stuff keywords into page titles and other meta tags to top search listings. Now to rank well, you should focus on the E-A-T guidelines. This means losing needless meta tags and content and providing original trusted content.
Keep images as small as necessary
While images and graphics are very important for grabbing the attention of users, it is important to remember that images usually constitute the biggest share of your website size.
Try to keep your images as small as necessary by cropping or resizing them to an acceptable size relative to your page. You can also use editing tools to reduce colour depth to bring the size of the file down further.
Video is the source of truth
Have you noticed that more of your search queries are being answered in the form of a video? Around 6.3% of our queries are being answered in video form – a trend that looks to continue with a predicted 82% of all internet traffic to come from video by 2022.
Luckily, optimising videos for search has never been easier.
New functionality in apps like YouTube Studio allow for videos to be divided into clear sections so that different parts of a video can be optimised to reflect different topics and queries. That’s why a lot of search queries are now answered with a timestamped video, like this:
You should also add a video transcript. Google still can’t interpret sounds or images in the same way humans can. A transcript allows Google’s search bots to scrape the recorded text in the same way that they would with copy on a page.
And don’t neglect the tried and tested methods that have gone before them. Remember to adjust your video title, description and tags so they are relevant to the search query your video is looking to address – these are still integral to the successful indexing of your content.
Did you know? Including a video in your blog post can give it up to a 53 times higher chance of landing on the front page of Google.
Mobile will continue to reign supreme
2019 was the tipping point in favour of mobile searches over desktop ones – a trend that shows no sign of stopping.
This was cemented in July, when Google’s method of indexing changed exclusively to mobile-first. Google no longer alternates between using both mobile and desktop versions of a website to evaluate the relevance of a page to a user’s query.
But what does that mean for you?
While this might not mean you have to do anything to any new pages that you create, that is not necessarily the case for your existing pages. Make sure that all your site’s pages are align with Google’s best practices so that they do not fall by the wayside in mobile’s continued dominance.
In summary, or synopsizontas..
To paraphrase the philosophy of a great thinker, change is the only constant – something especially true in SEO.
Sometimes these changes are incremental and might mean little to you, like in the case of the recent optimisation update. However, other times the changes are greater and have a substantial effect on how we use search engines or create content – like in the case with videos.
The most important thing to be mindful of is to keep your finger on the SEO pulse so that if any changes are made, you are in a position to keep your site’s SEO health in a positive state and keep ahead of your competitors.
If you would like to learn more about SEO or are interesting in getting in touch with Storm, you can do so here.