2020 is touted by many sectors as a visionary year for launching new businesses and startups, for reviving shelved marketing campaigns, or for renewing digital marketing efforts launched and initiated during the previous years.
While some sectors are saying that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is dead or has lost its significance, many do think otherwise and firmly believe that this digital marketing tool is evolving into new iterations this year.
In 2020 and in the coming periods, brands and businesses should expect an evolution in digital marketing strategies, moving away from purely text-based campaigns, into a totally different marketing ballgame that includes voice, images, video, semantics and a whole lot of relevant and personalized content.
The following is part of a Two-Part Overview on Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing Trends in 2020. This first part shall focus on SEO and in its general perspective of improving your online real estate for search results supremacy, while the second part on SEM shall focus on paid and external components of search marketing.
1) The Mad Scramble for Position Zero
Position No. 1 on Search Engine Results Pages is not anymore, the most coveted real estate in Google’s search engine landscape. This distinction now goes to Position Zero (P0), Featured Snippet or Rank Zero Snippet.
- The rise of Position Zero to SEO prominence is brought about by the overwhelming popularity of VSEO or Voice Search Engine Optimization, which is practically changing the way SEO works (will talk about this later)
- Zero-Click Search Results is slowly dominating the SEO trend, occupying an overwhelming 62.5% of mobile searches and up to 34.4% of search results from desktops
- A featured snippet of a Rank Zero result is being returned from up to 7% of Voice Search results. This growing prominence of Position Zero is changing the way brands and businesses strategize their plans for dominating as much SERP real estate as possible.
Now considered as the Holy Grail of SEO in 2020 and beyond, Position Zero appears just after Paid Ads (the realm of SEM) and just above organic search results listings. Dominance over the mad scramble for Position Zero will depend largely on how you optimize your content and online real estate for voice, video and visual search prominence.
2) Optimizing Content for Voice Search Rises to Prominence
The use of voice assistants was still a novelty item a few years back and was relegated to only a few branded devices and expensive smartphones. The continued rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies however is now helping people get more relevant and more appropriate search information using audio content.
- It is expected that within the year 2020, more than 30% of online searches will be conducted through voice and will not require a screen, according to eConsultancy. ComScore is giving an even more generous prediction, putting this figure even higher at 50%.
- Up to 57% of users ages 18 to 24 years old will use voice search, while 61% of those aged 25 to 64 years old will use their voice-activated devices to make an online search. These devices include:
- Wearables – increased usage by up to 71%
- Tablet – increased usage by up to 64%
- Speakers – increased usage by up to 63%
- Smartphones – increased usage by up to 48%
Such development is pushing digital marketers to refocus their SEO strategies towards re-optimizing their content towards Voice Search prominence. Now, more and more brands are using a voice search strategy as an integral part of their digital marketing plan.
Optimizing for voice search is aimed at giving an optimized customer experience based on value-based content, fostering better brand-customer relationship that drives brand loyalty.
3) Optimizing Content for Visual Search Will Be More Extensive
Making an online search not by text nor by voice – but by uploading an image – will be used much more extensively in the coming year. This is made more evident among 62% of Millennials who prefer the use of Visual Search above other search technologies.
Digital Marketers should aim to optimize their content strategies to include visual elements not only to generate visual search results relevance on browsers, but on the following visual search tools as well:
- More than 600 million visual searches a month in done on Pinterest
- Pinterest Lens allow a user to search for an item or a similar product by taking a photo of the item and uploading it online
- As much as 2.5 billion objects, mostly related to home and fashion, is recognizable by Pinterest Lens
- Google Lens is a camera app that functions as Google’s visual search engine
- This camera app can recognize objects, items and landmark which can be used for making an online search
- The returned information after making a Google Lens search will vary depending on the type of object or landmark was recognized
- CamFind is a mobile app that allows users to make a visual search using their phone of anything they can snap a picture of
- Information returned varies depending on the time of objects searched, including the capability to search for similar images, get price comparisons, get information on movies or events, or get information on local shopping
- Bing’s Visual Search allow users to make searches across Microsoft’s extensive visual database
- Search can be done on full view, or on “detail view” which allows users to make a visual search based on only a part or a specific element within the full image
4) Optimizing Content for Video Search is Gaining Popularity
The use of video has been a strong element in any Digital Marketing Strategy, and it is now being used as another strong element in search engine optimization.
Optimizing content to include video elements and gain relevance in video search results is a growing trend among digital marketers. The following describes video content options and variations that you can use to improve your online real estate for video SEO.
- Online Video – optimizing for video search results is gaining popularity and importance. This involves the use of online video on YouTube or any other channel, optimized with captions, descriptions, titles, and text overlays
- 1:1 Video – these are personalized video messages used by digital marketers, brands or businesses in lieu of sending emails or making phone calls
- Live Video – streaming video live is a popular visual digital marketing tool used by brands and businesses to events, promotions, product demos or for interviews
- 360˚ Video – the growing trend towards interactive content includes video, more particularly with the use of video captures which people can manually pan left or pan right for a more exciting engagement and experience with targeted customers
5) Greater Focus on Technical SEO and User Experience (UX)
SEO strategies has evolved way beyond merely building a whole gamut of links and keywords but has taken into consideration several other factors including the use of natural language, the relevance and context of other words used during the search phrase, and the user experience as it relates to the site.
These are even made more evident with Google’s recent BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) update to refine its search algorithm. Technical SEO plays a huge part on how digital marketers can improve their sites towards achieving an optimum overall experience – from the moment a user lands to the moment they leave the site. Some of these Technical SEO elements include:
- Website Speed – although this is a basic and most important element, many digital marketers still fail in this area. Website speed can be improved through several methods including: a reliable hosting plan, high-quality but optimally sized images, non-use of auto-play media formats, use of lazy loading, and browser caching.
- Site Optimization for Mobile Use – mobile web experience is a significant element in the UI/UX technical plate, considering the growing number of users accessing the web through mobile devices. Optimization for mobile use include improving site structure and ease of navigation.
- Site Simplicity – A simple, elegant but functional site is still preferred by many users over sites cluttered with lots of irrelevant elements and content
- Elimination of Duplicate Content – Another way to improve site user experience is to eliminate duplicate content. This will make the site less cluttered, less confusing, easier to use and easier to navigate.
6) Site Optimization through the Use of Structured Data
Aside from optimizing the technical elements of the site for SEO, a growing trend towards structuring your site data to gain more search result real estate is a focus many digital marketers are spending more effort in.
Structured Data not only helps search engines get a better understanding of what your pages contain, it also provides insight as to how your site elements are related to other elements within the page and in other locations in your site.
- Google search engines are trying to answer queries directly via the SERPs by providing Zero-Click results, so there will be no need for the search user to click through and move to another location. This is possible with structured data.
- Featured snippets shown on Position Zero results are usually generated from structured data that follow the right schema structure
- Structured data also plays an important role in Voice Search results, by using schema optimized for voice search and how it is also linked to Google Assistant
7) Content Marketing is Still the King of SEO
Despite the emergence of new and innovative forms of content, well-written and highly relevant content is still the king of SEO. It is still a very powerful way to attract targeted customers’ attention, drive them to your websites, and build a stronger online relationship that delivers results.
- Up to 88% of B2B Digital Marketers make use of content marketing to build relevance and credibility among targeted customers. On the other hand, as much as 81% of B2C Digital Marketers make use of content marketing to drive loyalty among their existing clientele.
- The use of natural language for search is an important element to consider when formulating a content strategy for SEO. This is driven by major search algorithm updates included in Google’s new BERT system
- Semantic Keyword Research is likewise an important element to consider when creating content for SEO. The key concept to consider is to keep writing relevant content for people, keeping their intent in mind, and not writing for Google – a strategy still employed by up to 90% of the world’s most successful digital marketers.
- The length of high-quality content is also an important factor considered in search rankings, with long-form content with at least 2000 words gaining more visibility and better chances in garnering inclusion in top 10 search results.
The Take Away
The use of relevant content written with the search user’s intent in mind is still the most relevant strategy Digital Marketers should look forward to in their Search Engine Optimization strategies for 2020.
There are however new and innovative variations expected to gain prominence, like the use of voice, video or images to make a search. Still, it all boils down to giving search users what they want, how they intended their search to be – and in a manner they want their search results delivered to them.
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