The dawn of the new year is always a good time to recoup and plan ahead for the next months. And in a field as dynamic and competitive as that of SEO, keeping abreast of new trends is imperative if the future is to hold success in any shape or form.
The post below will attempt to neatly summarize what the hot trends are for 2020 in the field of SEO and digital growth marketing, but before we delve further into this matter it is worth noting that most of them, rather than being new are rather the natural expansion and evolution of last year’s trends. As already showcased last year in our article regarding the hottest digital marketing trends for 2019 voice search, visual search, AI, micro-moments marketing and all the rest are still very much hot topics to keep abreast of and still very much on the agenda.
Another thing to clarify right from the start is also that, though some may argue differently, effective SEO is still the cornerstone of every successful online business endeavor, especially if the overall goal is long term growth and sustained revenue increase. SEO is meticulous, complex, intricate, but also dynamic and multifaceted and it might perhaps take longer to yield tangible results but once it kicks in then others stand little chance. In short, if you are an online entrepreneur of any kind don’t be quick to write off SEO and rest assured that in 2020, more than ever, you can only meet with growth if you effectively SEO your efforts! Besides, as we have already discussed, if you can build it, you can SEO it!
But enough with the intros, let’s cut to the chase and delve right into the deep.
The first hot trend for the new year that merits further exploration, are the so called “zero-click-searches”, where the query of the search engine user, i.e. Google, is actually answered on the search engine results page (SERP) itself, and thus no further clicks are necessary to get to what you are looking for. This falls under the overall effort of Google, as well as other online platforms, to become as much as possible the end destination of their users’ journeys and not divert their traffic elsewhere.
Clearly, remaining effective against this new environment is extremely challenging in terms of your SEO efforts, but careful analysis and clever thinking can help solve the conundrum. Instead of panicking about zero-click searches then, what you need to do instead is understand what kind of searches are those that yield such results. As the said queries are usually quick and easy questions seeking a swift answer, you shouldn’t freak out much about them because chances are they wouldn’t convert anyway.
What you should be focusing on are keywords that actually bring you more clicks and can have an impact on your click through rate (CTR). You can perform a thorough analysis using tools such as your Google Search Console Account and Rank Tracker in order to achieve this.
Zero-click searches are becoming increasingly prevalent, also due to the rise of voice searches, a trend that we have also identified last year and which is set to continue going strong in 2020 and the years to come for that matter. In fact, analysts predict that in 2020 voice searches will account for over 50% of all searches performed online, rendering voice technology the strongest new trend that will increase both its power and adoption in the foreseeable future. This means that all brands need to get their act together and adapt their marketing rapidly to reflect this development.
With this in mind, one could argue that Google is evolving from a mere search engine, to more of an “answer engine” and the prevalence of voice searches renders the SERP Position Zero, i.e. the Featured Snippet, the most coveted spot that all should aim for. Besides, this is the result that Google Home or Alexa will be reading from.
To keep abreast you need to differentiate your existing tactics when it comes to SEO and factor in the fact that voice searches are inherently more conversational in style and tend to contain more words than written searches. Therefore, the best way to attain position zero would be to craft pieces that answer specific questions authoritatively and in depth. And much to the disappointment of SEO critics, using traditional SEO rules, such as ensuring the mobile friendliness of a page, correct use of structured data and the presence of clean and accurate local listings, will prove powerful tools in doing the trick.
And as Google and its algorithms are here to stay, in 2020 you also need to be on the same page as these all powerful machines in order to succeed. More specifically, Google’s latest algorithm named BERT, which is used for analyzing the structure of a search to better understand the context in which keywords are used, requires you to write good, quality content that is also relevant and for which intent can be matched. You need to grasp the rationale and intention behind a user search in order to be able to effectively produce content to match it.
Another trend that is expected to gain more impact in 2020 is the prioritisation of traditional brand building. This need arises from the fact that organic social is fading away, which means that the ROI for paid ads will be decreasing, since everybody would be rushing to do it. Paid ads will thus become more expensive to capitalize on their prevalence. In turn, this new situation will force digital marketers to shift their efforts on brand awareness and brand building, especially since, both Google and Bing admit that linkless mentions are actually used by them as ranking signals.
Building such relevant mentions will be best achieved through the use social listening tools that will allow marketers to effectively engage with clients directly, thus building and boosting brand awareness, and this need should definitely not be overlooked in 2020.
As repeatedly discussed, SEO is never static and every time you think you have nailed it a new challenge or trend might arise that you need to adjust to. That is why you always need to remain alert and not aloof, keeping your hand on the pulse. This being said, keep in mind that you should do be attempting to re-invent the wheel every time as this may prove in vain. Instead build your strategy for 2020 based on what has worked well in 2019 and make adjustments where necessary.
Besides those mentioned above, another trend to look out for in 2020 is the steady increase in terms of the usage of social messaging apps and chatbots. This is mostly due to the fact that most users and clients demand answers fast and have no patience in waiting for them. Thus, it is impossible to cater for this demand only through human power. Instead, and in order to overcome human limitations, chatbots are increasingly relied up to handle customer service. On top of being much more cost effective since they do not require human capital, chatbots are great because, not only are they available on a 24/7 basis, but they can easily handle multiple queries at any one time and also improve their efficiency and results over time.
Another trend that enters the new year strong and building of its 2019 presence, is that of visual search, with image identifying tools such as Pinterest Lens and Google lens, being at its forefront. There are also several big retailers who develop their own visual search tools and this trend is set to continue as consumers show they prefer and appreciate having more ways at their disposal to search for, find, identify and ultimately buy what they are looking for. Thus, optimizing accordingly becomes not only a smart move, but a necessity.
Another recorded trend for 2020 that is also set to last is the increase in the use of social commerce by clients of all demographics. This universal trend is reflected in the increase in the use of such tools such as Instagram Checkout, Shoppable Pins and Snapchat Shoppable Ads. The healthy growth of social media and ecommerce is expected to fuel this trend further in the near future.
It goes without saying that the trends created by the rise in AI automation, neuromarketing and community marketing will continue to grow strong in 2020 as well and require that you adjust accordingly in order to keep pace. We shall not delve much on these matters though because they often get highlighted and you are most probably aware of them.
Instead, and nearing the end of this post, let us highlight another two trends that are perhaps less well known. Surprisingly for many, the first is often overlooked channel of SMS marketing. Unlike email marketing whose impact is railing, SMS is in fact a channel that consumers seem to want more of! In fact, studies have revealed that text message open and response rates are as high as 98% and 45%, respectively, and this alone illustrate how effective SMS can be as a tool, especially since through the use of chatbots the whole process can be seamless and easy.
Which neatly brings, as the two can be tied, to the final trend we want to mention, that of privacy and data protection. As authorities across the globe become stricter on matters of protecting the data and privacy of consumers and in order to avoid complications and hefty fines, as well as bad publicity, should bear in mind that customer attention and customer data and contact info are no longer to be bought but rather earned and obtained through informed consent.
In short, what is needed, in 2020 more than ever before, is returning back to basics, putting the customer at the centre of every effort and understanding not only what kind of messages they would be most responsive to but also how they would like to receive such messages.
In lieu of a conclusion when it comes to the SEO and digital marketing trends that you need to be aware of for 2020 and which should guide your efforts for the new year, let us paraphrase a saying by Maya Angelou:
“Do the best you can until you know better.”
So you have read it all and know better, go do better!.
SEO Expert, Marketer
When I’m asked what I do for a living, I debate in my head how to answer the question. Should I say: "I’m an SEO" and wait for the inevitably confused look? Perhaps I should go with my best friend’s answer, instead: “He looks through and organizes information on the internet to get high rankings on Google.” You have to admit, anyone who can organize the internet is probably pretty cool. Should I keep my answers brief, or should I take a little time and educate them about the awesomeness of SEO?
A good looking website is useless if it doesn’t have the content or optimised website design to make sure it can be found on Google. You Need Someone Who Knows What They Are Doing.