Top 10 SEO Trends 2020 that you should know!

Top 10 SEO Trends 2020 that you should know!

Here are my SEO predictions for 2020. In a nutshell: we need to re-think content marketing from the ground up and we – as tool makers – really need to design features that help you cope with an ever changing search landscape; organic opportunities on mobile shrunk by 9% in 2019 (according to Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report) and in 2020, competition will be even fiercer

The success of our company depends on our vision and here is what we are truly betting on.

What are the top trends for SEO in 2020?

The trends for SEO in 2020, one way or another, are related to Google becoming more and more a digital walled garden: a closed ecosystem with full control over all the applications. Here are the top 10 trends you need to watch in 2020:

    1. Google’s SERP gets richer
    2. Voice search  and  Voice apps
    3. Intent-focused content optimization 
    4. Video
    5. Branding and reputation
    6. Queryless search
    7. Structured data 
    8. Cutting-edge language models
    9. Page Load Time
    10. New search engines
A Giant Panda just walked into our office ?

A Giant Panda just walked into our office ?(courtesy of Google 3D and Augmented Reality results)

1. Google’s SERP gets richer

With Cameos on Google, mini-apps, 3D images and AR within search we expect the SERP to become a true multimedia hub. We also learned that each new element of this media-rich SERP is driven by its one specific ranking algorithm (see what Jason Barnard calls  Darwinism in Search to learn more about it)  and that the core algorithm combines all of these rankings into one holistic overview. Following Google I/O, the support for 3D object and mini-apps have been announced; this will further expand in 2020. There are already many apps supporting AR and enabling consumers to see how 3D objects look in your home or how a new pair of shoes will look on you will become more popular (have a look at our snowman 3D example to get a taste of it). This is a complete new perspective – that yet it requires a savvy use of structured data (3D object use the so called 3D Markup). We will also see even more interactivity with Mini Apps – these are custom built applications that you can build within Google Search. We’re developing a first prototype and yes – this is also a game changer for SEO.

Google Mini Apps

Hijacking Google SERP with Mini Apps

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Forget about being 1° on the SERP; keep on innovating with high quality content that can appeal your audience across different search channels (from images to videos, from tweets to news articles). Use structured data to improve your SERP visibility and get ready to experiment with Mini-Apps and Google’s new ways of engaging with users.

2. Voice search and Voice apps are here to stay

Voice is no longer a new trend: voice-enabled device interaction is becoming part of consumer day-to-day information diet.

Voice Search Stats 2019 by PwC

Voice Search Stats by PwC (link to the report )

While the vast majority of users are still using voice primarily for basic tasks (i.e. “call my mum”) we’ve seen concrete opportunities in two areas that we believe will keep on growing also in 2020: 

  1. Long tail informational queries. We call it Voice Search SEO, and it is about optimizing content for long-tail queries likely to be spoken aloud, providing answers using FAQ markup and creating content like recipes and news articles that the Google Assistant can interact with. Once you see traffic coming in for these long-tail queries on your website, you might want to consider creating your own skill on Alexa or application for the Google Assistant. See a practical example below ?A long tail query on the Google Assistant (Salzburgerland attractions)
  2. Voice interactions linked to Local Search. Voice has a tremendous impact on local searches and drives valuable phone calls. Just to give you an idea 28% of consumers go on to call the business they voice searched for (source: BrightLocal).        
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Start by analyzing long tail queries that matter for your business, make sure (if you have a local business) to optimize your presence on Google My Business (GMB) and improve the interplay with your website. Focus on calls and direct messages and always improve consistency. Remember your offline presence is strategic for your online visibility.

3. Intent-focused content optimization is the new mantra

Long tail queries will keep gaining momentum as voice search becomes more pervasive and Google gets better at understanding the intent behind each query. The game here is to create content that  works for your audience by leveraging on intent-focused content optimization, entity-centric content modeling and in-depth analysis of user personas. On-point and authoritative content that respond to specific information need will win. This leads – in SEO terms – to a clear understanding of your target audience (for this you might want to use our Web Analytics Dashboard) and massive restructuring of already existing content to ensure that only your best articles, for a given topic, survive. Get to work – analyze your strengths, spent time understanding your readers and prune anything that doesn’t fit their need. 

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Spend time analyzing your readers, their behaviour and their journey. SEO is about creating an engaging experience that fits the need of the users. Make sure you only keep the best for them, consolidate content and spend time on improving your content model. Want to learn more about our entity-based content model? Book a call with us, we’re here to help you grow your business.

4. Video keeps growing 

Video will grow and YouTube, besides being the second largest search engine after Google, has become your new TV (6 out of 10 people in 2019 prefer YouTube over TV). Current internet users (especially from younger generations) tend to prefer getting information from on-line videos. In pure SEO terms video is a terrific channel and whether you use YouTube or your own video platform getting videos on Google Search, Google Images and Google Discover is strategic. Using structured data here is a must and opens the door to an engaging user experience. 

Video on Google

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

It’s time to setup your killer video studio and start filming. You don’t need to break your bank, things can be done on budget and with . high quality. Use structured data to promote your content on the website and define a healthy strategy to engage with new users on YouTube.

5. Branding and reputation are essential

Branding and reputation are essential in modern SEO; earning your presence in the knowledge graph has a tremendous impact across multiple platforms (from Google Search to Google Images, from Google Discover to Bing Search) – and requires consistency, strategy, some understanding of linked data publishing and content quality (for all your E-A-T challenges and SEO questions Lily Ray is the right person to engage with).

Creating your digital brand means cultivating, nurturing and optimizing your presence in Google and Bing Knowledge Graph. Verifying, claiming the entity, using structured data and helping the gatekeepers (Google, Bing, Facebook etc.) let you interact with your audience. It also means monitoring the changes and to this regard you might want to read the recent study Jason Barnard did while tracking changes in the Google Knowledge Graph

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Get on the Google’s Knowledge Graph and Bing’s Graph, curate your entity on your own websites using structured linked data and remember, SEO is about branding as much as it is about disseminating high quality content. Define a clear KPI to make sure you keep on improving your brand visibility. Need help? Give us call, take the time to visit us in Rome ? and start improving your branding.

6. Queryless search goes mainstream

We saw publishers traffic skyrocketing in 2019 because of Google Discover, we expect these peaks to be normalized and trimmed as more sites gets into Google’s massive content recommendation machine. Remember here the prophetic tweet from @methode (Google’s Gary Illyes) on this topic and the SEO debate that followed it.

The basic idea is that things will change very quickly on this front. We have seen websites that in less than 10 months have accumulated a staggering amount of clicks and sites that got no clicks at all. I do expect this to change and the traffic to be distributed across a larger spectrum of websites in 2020.         

Google Discover Report

Google Discover Report

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Once again here it is all about proper structured data implementation, AMP support and hi-res images. Here is my updated checklist to optimize your content for Google Discover: read it all up and get ready for a completely new stream of traffic. 

7. Structured data is your new sitemap and…a lot more

Using schema is not only vital to let search engines present your content via featured snippets but has also become a way to help Google understand how the content on your site is connected. Learn schema markup and start thinking like a crawler (or let WordLift do the work for you ?) translates whatever content you think is important in a structured linked graph. We’ve seen literally magic happening this year with sites using our SEO-designed knowledge graphs (i.e. a 68% organic growth on the Salzburgerland website in an ultra-competitive landscape such as traveling and with a growing number of queries ending up in zero clicks). I also expect to see more concrete use-cases where structured data is not only used for SEO but becomes a building block of the content strategy (our Semantic Web Analytics Dashboard has been a success and we expect more people using on-page structured data to improve analytics, to improve user experience, to train new recommendation systems and to structure content).

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Do what Google does: build your own knowledge graph and automate structured data markup with WordLift. Structured data is no longer about rich results, it is an essential building block of your content strategyContact us to learn more 

8. Cutting-edge language models boost your writing creativity and provide further help with SEO ?

Programming is no longer the same, machine learning and natural language processing are a natural fit with creativity, content writing and content optimization in general. 2019 will be remembered as the year when NLP literally exploded, we witnessed one innovation after the other (from GPT-2 to BERT, from DistilledBERT to ALBERT) and an unprecedented level of improvements across the most daring NLP tasks such as content understanding, QAs answering, content generation and more. Unlike simpler language generation approaches like the good ol’ Markov chains, which only work with a limited vocabulary, ML models using the transformer architecture can learn larger patterns of grammar and semantics and re-apply them in completely different contexts.    

The improvements of transfer learning from large-scale language models in 2019

The improvements of transfer learning from large-scale language models in 2019

Smaller, faster, cheaper and improved language models have revolutionized the world of NLP in 2019 (read this article here from one of the team driving this revolution of large scale language models).

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Needless to say, I see this trend evolving in 2020 and we’re doing our very best to bring these innovations to WordLift (have a look at how we’re planning to help you summarize blog posts using BERT). This is by far the area where I see most of the  opportunities in 2020, not only in terms of SEO automation but also in terms of content creation and optimization. Stay tuned, follow me on Twitter and get ready to improve your publishing workflow with the help of AI.  

9. Page Load Time continues to rule your world

The speed of websites and the different tasks that concur to the loading of a webpage will remain a key factor in SEO. Google has imposed – in the summer of 2018 – to improve the loading speed of websites and will continue to do so in 2020. The more we interact with our content using Google Search, Google Discover, Google Images and Google Assistant and the more our website need to be top performing. From improving Time To First Byte to skimming down complexity from HTML files we will continue to spend a lot of energy to make our websites blazing fast. Nothing new really – this was exactly the same target we had last year – it remains highly important but we have now more technology and more metrics to keep on improving (GSC, introduced a brand new speed report in 2019).       

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Always remember: Google will see and evaluate your website as a user with an average mobile phone connected on a 3G network. Do your best to reduce complexity, optimize content delivery and improve loading performances (from compressing images, to shrinking CSS, from web fonts loading to server response time). Start by analyzing your website with tools like GTMetrix and Web.dev and make sure to use plugins like WP Rocket. It’s a technical investment, it requires effort but it really pays off. 

10. New search engines emerge

As Google plays more and more the Walled Garden strategy to increase its market share by literally devouring the user experience across multiple verticals (from flights to hotels, from cooking to jobs etc.) the need for an unbiased and possibly privacy-safe search experience keeps growing and paves the way to new search engines. Not only DuckDuckGo kept growing in 2019 and will continue to do so in 2020 but also Ahrefs (a well known SEO tool) announced the launch of a new search engine to encourage innovation (and to leverage on the raising complaints against Google from publishers). I also expect more SEO-related techniques to improve content visibility across the Amazon platform for anyone selling products online.        

WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?

Do your best inside and outside Google Walled Garden. It’s pure fun, Google is still bringing a tremendous amount of value to web publishers and, with most of our clients in 2019, we have seen a double digit growth on organic. So, are you ready to innovate on SEO in 2020? Still have a question? Book a call with us and join our list of happy customers!

The image used in this article comes from a project called Visualizing I-Ching by Yvette Shen.
Cameos on Google in a Nutshell

Cameos on Google in a Nutshell

What is Cameos on Google?

Google Cameos is a new – invite-only – Google Search experiment to let people (that already appear in Google Knowledge Graph) record videos for answering simple questions related to their work and/or life experience.

Video-answers appear in Google Search right below the knowledge panel; the same answers are also presented on Google Discover and can pop up on the Google Assistant when a user asks something about that person.

Cameos on Google lets you be the authority on you. This is how Google explains it.

Here is how Google Cameos work

Quite simply, here is how it worked for me:

  1. I received an invitation by email
  2. I downloaded the Google Cameos APP on my phone (you can find it for both Android and iOS)
  3. Upon starting the app (and here is where the fun begins), it will start generating questions by looking at the information Google has in its Knowledge Graph; these questions are divided into two categories:
    For the fans (things that are more closely related to the information Google has about you)
    Trending topics (most frequent questions on topics that relates to you)
  4. Simply by choosing a question you can start recording and, if you like the preview, you can send the video and
  5. The video gets published in an hour or so on Google Search below the knowledge panel
  6. You get from the app a quick overview in terms of “Total Impressions” and “Watches”
Cameos on Google

Cameos on Google

What do you need to use Google Cameos?

Right now the experiment is limited and you will need to get an invite to partecipate but, here is what I did before getting the invitation.

  1. Get your name/entity in Google’s Knowledge Graph (not trivial but these days not so difficult either)
  2. Get your entity verified – if your name appears with a Knowledge panel you can get started with the verification process from there – alternatively you can you start from Posts on Google
  3. Make sure the content about you is always fresh and up to date (you can suggest edits on the information available on the Knowledge Panel)
From Cameos to Google Discover

From Cameos to Google Discover

Is Google trying again to become a Social Network?

Well, yes in a way the medium is similar, the user is entice to invest on his own personal branding and to engage with his/her audience on Google‘s channels. While we only see it happening for people in the Knowledge Graphit is easy to expect that anyone is already in Google’s Knowledge Graph one way or another. Try to ask Google to call a friend from Twitter and you will find yourself in the awkward position of accessing a phone number of a person that, yes you know, but who is not in your phone’s contact list, and all of this displayed with a nice-looking material card containing a photo of that person taken from…well, the web.

The 3 things I learnt from the Google Cameos experiment

  1. The SERP is getting richer and richer to let people interact with each others in all sort of ways;
  2. Google‘s interactions and activation channels are built on top of its ever-growing knowledge graph; the more data you provide the easier it gets for Google to let you connect with your audience – this is valid for a small business, an individual and a brand. In this particular case the most exciting piece of technology is the machinery used to generate the questions by looking at the data in the Knowledge Graph. Let me give you an example, since Google knows that I have co-founded several companies and I am currently holding a CEO position – my questions are all gravitating about being a CEO, starting up a company and acting as a founder. Generating novel questions from Knowledge Graph is one of these tech challenges the ML/DL community is very excited about; as a marketer this means that the more I expand the data related to my entities the more occasions I get of interacting with my audience;
  3. Google’s heavily investing on its own Walled Garden by providing an AI-driven communication platform where everyone can also buy ads – it’s interesting to see as these experiments on the “organic” front tend to have their own “paid” counterpart (think for instance of the lead generation that has been recently introduced on Google Ads) – this means that a lot is changing in the way that organic search work and the stronger your brand is the more chances you have in capturing users attention.

Now, it’s really time to get famous and start playing with Cameos ?

Keywords vs Entities: a Paradigm Shift in SEO

Keywords vs Entities: a Paradigm Shift in SEO

Old vs. New SEO

Once upon a time, SEO was done through a means of finding the right keywords and placing them throughout website content with every synonym known to mankind. Being #1 was the goal and there was not a rich snippet in sight. But one day, Google launched its knowledge graph, spreading entities and rich snippets far and wide on the SERP. Things might not have changed all at once, but over time, entities became all the new rage while keywords became much less relevant. The #1 spot was never the same with knowledge cards and People Also Asked boxes. In short, SEO is not what it used to be.

Whether we like it or not, the nature of SEO has drastically changed thanks, in part, to the emergence of entities. While keywords are far from extinct, their importance has drastically diminished in favor of entities. In a sense, keywords and entities are interconnected as they both utilize each others functions to better serve knowledge graphs. As such, it’s important to understand their functions, their differences, and how they have changed SEO. 

Keywords

Cat keywords

Keywords are somewhat self-explanatory and easy to understand. Keywords are words that are a focal point of content and are what users type in queries in order to find the answers or content that they’re looking for. Keywords can be picked out from a question or long-form query or used entirely on their own.

If you are looking for cat videos online, common keywords may include things like: cat, kitty, cute, playing, videos, clips, compilation, etc. You might search for a long-tail query like, “cute cats playing with each other video compilation” or even something as short as, “cute kitten video.”

Entities

Cat Entity

Entities are concepts or ideas that have distinct attributes and characteristics which can be shared with others of its kind. They are connected within a knowledge graph, such as the one provided by Google and can be accessed by anyone. While each entity is independent, it has direct and indirect relations with other entities based on common attributes. They are also not required to conform to a specific language.

Going back to our example on cat videos, we can find an entity on cats. The entity can describe things about cats, such as they are an animal, carnivorous, their taxonomy, names in other languages like Japanese or Latin; and many other facts and characteristics about cats. 

The important thing to know about how entities work is that entities share heavy connections with each other. Think of them as people, places, things or concepts that have attributes and relations with other people, places, things or concepts.

Similarly, cats as an entity are connected to other entities based on its relationship with them. Such as that it is a mammal, like whales, tigers, and bats; or that it has different breeds, like Scottish Fold, Siamese, or Egyptian Mau.

How Entities Changed SEO

Entities have made conducting SEO both more useful and complicated. In the past, conducting SEO required proper utilization of keywords whereas now, SEO is focused on developing connections with entities and providing answers in the knowledge graph. While there are many minute changes to SERP function, there are three major takeaways in how entities have changed the SEO game:

  • Increased mobile capabilities: thanks to entities, SEO has expanded to mobile results, as it is now easier to search for and find answers provided by entities using mobile search. It has also paved the way for mobile-first indexing, where mobile results have taken priority over desktop search. So now, you can learn all about cats in a fun, mobile-friendly manner.
  • No need for a thesaurus or translator: since entities know what synonyms and translations exist for that word, there’s no need to have to use translations or utilize every possible synonym on your webpage. Now, you can utilize an entity for every available language and every varying name possible. You can use “cat” along with “gato” and “kitty.” 
  • Rich snippets & structured data: with entities as the new key focus of SEO, rich snippets are now the new priority over getting the #1 ranking. Using structured data in your article, you can contribute to entities on search engine knowledge graphs and get your content featured in a rich snippet. For instance, answering a common question about cats in a PAA rich snippet.

Are Keywords Still Relevant?

Although entities may have taken the center stage of the SEO show, keywords still have a major role to play. Keywords are still used to help find and connect your content to entities (whether on the Google Knowledge Graph or an internal knowledge graph). Utilizing keywords can help Google identify the content of your webpage and understand it using entities. This is a particularly useful off-page tactic to get others to view your content.

For an on-page tactic, you can develop entities for an internal knowledge graph for your organization, company or website. We use our own at WordLift and you have seen some of our keywords linked to different pages in this very article. Context cards have provided some information on these different entities listed. You can scroll around and find plenty of context cards linked to our entities in our article.

The Magical Kingdom of SEO

So while it seems that the changes in SEO may be beyond your control, this might not be the case. Although entities have taken over, keywords still have their place. In addition, the changes made because of the development of entities have brought welcome changes to the SEO landscape from mobile results and rich snippets. It turns out they weren’t so scary after all.

So while some SEO specialists may some things to learn, these new changes can bring about a greater user experience and a whole new means of bringing traffic to websites. So the SEO specialists went to sleep that night, knowing that all was more than just well in the magical kingdom of SEO, and they all lived happily ever after.

If you’d like to learn more about how SEO has changed and the significance of entities, check out our webinar with Cindy Krum in the WordLift Academy.

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