State of Search for 2019 & 2020

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is constantly evolving. It has become a science measured by various components given the changing tides of consumer preferences and search engine algorithms. Elements of SEO that worked well in the past have died or simply evolved. Some outdated elements that are still in use have the potential to harm or even kill rankings. Many strategies and tactics have become labeled as short-term trends that are studied and re-evaluated to meet optimal standards. Seamlessly integrating SEO strategy for acquisition and retention of intent-driven users is challenging but necessary as we approach 2020. Therefore, keeping up with current SEO trends and implementing them can effectively boost online visibility and traffic. Get to know some solid SEO strategies identified by Idealgrowth to ensure ample growth and revenue, provide a great user experience, and achieve high search engine ranking.

RankBrain & User Experience (UX) signals

With the advent of RankBrain in 2015, user experience signals have become an important indicator for SEO. RankBrain is Google’s Machine Learning system, which helps provide high quality behavior metrics like organic click through rate, bounce rate, and dwell time. These metrics inform significantly about a user’s experience and enjoyment on a website. According to Google search quality analyst Andrey Lipattsev, Rankbrain is the 3rd most important Google ranking signal. Therefore, RankBrain should be optimized. SEO practices like structuring headers help with readability. Without a header, the crawler won’t be able to take content during indexing. Also, every image on a web page should have a self-descriptive alternative text. Words like “picture” or “image” should be avoided because the screen reader already reads the image as such. This will save your word count and time.

Featured Snippets & Voice Search

In 2018, a study by SEMRush found that about 10% of search results now display featured Snippets. SEMRush also reported that Google bases its featured Snippets upon a combination of HTTPS usage, content length, formatting, and page authority. Featured Snippets can be in the form of Answer Boxes, Ads, Carousels or Alternative Search suggestions. These Featured Snippets steal many clicks and are displayed prominently in organic search result pages. Voice search has also taken SEO by storm as the next big tactic. According to a study by comScore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. Also, according to Microsoft, Voice search algorithms now have an error rate of 5.1%, which is on par with a human. A study by NPR and Edison Research found that 1 in 6 American adults (approximately 39 million Americans) own a smart speaker. Optimizing for Google Assistant, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Amazon Echo, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana should be a top priority for search strategy.

High Quality Content, User-Generated Content, & Video

Content is always key, but the focus is now on “high quality” content. Until 2018, a solid publishing schedule was the most important factor. Domains publishing blog posts every other day won over domains publishing once a week or once a month. The equation has changed today – quality wins over quantity. User-generated content (UGC) has also begun to show promising results. In 2018, traffic dropped substantially for many websites due to content quality issues. It seems user comments or customer reviews on the site help SEO, especially since 88% of buyers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations according to a BrightLocal report. Additionally, Gary Illyes from Google said at the recent State of Search conference that you are better off having comments and reactions to your content directly on your site than on third-party sites, like social networks. If this isn’t possible, embedding reviews and third party user-generating content is a good idea. Video has also increased with popularity throughout the years and will keep gaining traction. According to forecasts by Cisco, 82% of consumer IP traffic will be video by 2021, up from 73% in 2016. YouTube is now the 2nd largest search engine after Google and continues to grow. If you are not planning to leverage with YouTube, there is a good chance of being left behind. Most search results contain videos mostly from YouTube and 82% of these videos are from YouTube, according to Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics also found that 55% of Google search results contain a video. Google also shows snippets of video as the top result over images and text. Embedding video content in blog posts, incorporating keywords in your video title, and including channel keywords to boost your channel’s visibility is recommended.

Mobile-First & Social Media Indexing

Google’s focus in now on the Mobile version of the website as the “determining factor” for search performance. This makes sense as more than 60% of searches are done through mobile devices. Since March 2018, Google has started the process of migrating sites to mobile-first index, although there is a single index for both the mobile and desktop versions. However, Google will take search rankings from the mobile version once the site migrates. Many sites technically work on mobile but are not optimized for mobile. Pop-ups, for example, work for the size of desktops, but cover a disproportionate percentage of the mobile screen and can even hide the entire screen. This feature sends a negative signal to Google, making mobile-friendliness a top priority for optimization. In fact, 85% of online users won’t return to your site if they have a bad experience on mobile. Tips to optimize your sites for Google’s indexing include using responsive themes or website templates, optimizing mobile versions for speed, and maintaining the same content in both desktop and mobile versions on your site. Increased Social Media indexing will also boost organic SEO. Social channels will keep increasing their depth to integrate with search, not that more content is being indexed, but because users can access social media channels as an equivalent to search engines.

Expertise, Authoritativeness, & Trustworthiness (E-A-T)     

E-A-T has been part of the SEO algorithm for years. Since 2018, there has been a growing emphasis on E-A-T by Google. As a result, many sites lost rankings by the middle of 2018, especially Health & Wellness websites. Optimizing around E-A-T factors is a must in order to avoid dire implications in loss of traffic and online visibility for 2019 and 2020. Emphasis on E-A-T strategy will also gain trust with users and ensure a solid relationship with the consumer for future use. In order to boost your E-A-T score, helpful expertise and in-depth content is key. Training your content team to instill your brand’s voice and style is also necessary. Lastly, establishing credibility and citing research from quality sources tightens the grip of a user’s trust toward a web page with greater informed transparency. Other strategies for securing a user’s trust include having the option to contact an actual human through the site and displaying an “About” page with photos and information of staff. Furthermore, using an “https” address, including any certifications for your site, displaying a lock and key in the URL bar, and requesting users to create complex passwords allow users the satisfaction that their financial and personal information is secure. Following these guidelines will gain trust and generate successful business.