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To get ahead in 2020, your SEO strategy will need to rely on content strategies grounded in insightful semantics and organic search.

2020 ‘s Top SEO Shifts

Phillip Reinhardt

Like most, you’ve probably been keeping up with SEO. Since 2017, Google has existed under the moniker of an “AI-first” company—designing and assisting organic search with innovative solutions beyond the conventional link-listing design. Between AdWords, Gmail and Google Assistant, quite a lot has changed.

Where AI is considered, plenty of upcoming trends will presumably spawn from Google’s RankBrain which was announced back in October 2015. Having interpreted roughly 15 percent of searches Google has never been exposed to, it extrapolated new search strategies based upon user-entered phrases. Ever since RankBrain has been run on every search.

But RankBrain—or even AI, for that matter—isn’t the sole innovation likely to meet digital marketers in 2020’s SEO environment. Organic search rank has changed a lot, in recent years, fueled by changes driven by immersive shopping options, paid ads, maps, mobile commerce, social media, and online reviews.

Asking what, when—and, most importantly—how consumers see content is the foundational consideration of every innovative content marketing design. Most marketers agree, too: If you’re focused on today’s leading organic ranking tactics, you’re already well behind the competition.

So, what are the SEO strategies most expected to pull ahead in the new year? Check out our list of 2020’s biggest, boldest SEO trends you’ll need to know about.

Trend One: Semantic Search by Intent

Next year's strongest SEO foundations will rewrite the fundamentals of keyword-based marketing.

Exact-matching keyword optimization was a defining quality of peak strategies, circa 2015 to 2017. Google has moved away from this, however, adapting to ever-changing industries packed with ever-heightening consumer demands.

It isn’t surprising Google doesn’t utilize actual word strings entered into the search box, anymore. Rather, it takes a close look at query context—analyzing the user’s search intent by extrapolating the fine details.

This is most easily seen around SERPs, but it’s also identifiable in Google Suggest results. Thus, a query about dieting and weight loss might not only deliver useful how-to videos, blogs, and infographics—but also local nutrition shop locations. Moreover, Google will dish out local distributors based upon various dietary segments pre-defined by previous logical interpretations of popular searches.

More or less: Google has gotten incredibly good at dissecting searcher intent. Old-school SEO methods focusing on individual keyword strings, in 2020, won’t cut it. Still, you’d be wise to double down on long-tail keywords—as 70 percent of search queries still utilize them.

Trend Two: Highly Specific Map App Search

More than ever, local location matters. In 2020, however, mobile apps will pull ahead of Google map results.

Map-based search has risen in popularity, in recent years. In 2020, however, we can expect a majority of map-based searches to shift into the realm of mobile apps. Consumers are becoming more mobile-savvy every year, and they’re making more location-specific searches as new apps become available. Considering 40 percent of consumers only perform product and service searches on their smartphones, even Google is shifting gears to assist brands attempting to tap into lucrative map apps.

Where an intelligent search is considered, it’ll pay off to prioritize rich, geo-specific information your customers both want and need. Rather than simply listing venue locations, dig deeper into informative tidbits about your brick-and-mortar location’s menus, deals, daily hours and delivery areas.

Of course, it’s also a good idea to prioritize any pictures and videos your brand currently utilizes across social media. If you find yourself targeting consumers via a cross-channel strategy that dives deeply into Google Maps, for example, coordinating your visuals with a strong Instagram and Facebook presence certainly won’t hurt.

Trend Three: Voice Search at Home

Voice search platforms like Google Home and Amazon Echo will become primary drivers of effective SEO strategies. Are you prepared?

By 2020, Google expects over 50 percent of search queries to come from consumer’s voices via smartphones. Not only has consumer behavior rapidly pursued convenience in recent years—but it’s seemingly diverged from keyboards entirely. Google Home and Amazon Echo have only perpetuated the popularity of voice-based product and service search, giving marketers plenty of room to markup their content for ease-of-voice accessibility.

There’s wisdom to be found in the sheer popularity of the above-mentioned “smart vocal hub” devices, too. Globally, smart speaker shipments jumped by about 200 percent in 2018’s third quarter; Amazon landed the most sales, but Google wasn’t too far behind.

By 2022, experts believe, 55 percent of households will have a smart speaker device. This is an astounding 42-percent leap from today’s speaker-per-household measurement—and an estimated 34 percent of those who don’t currently own a voice assistant is considering buying one within the next year or so.

By 2024, global smart speaker sales are expected to surpass $30 billion.

Trend Four: Voice Search on the Go

Household voice search may be popular, but consumers on the move are proving to be more active voice-based researchers of brand locations.

Voice search is expected to impact 2020 so much, in fact, that its estimated trajectory can’t be contained to home-bound hubs like the Amazon Echo. An estimated 76 percent of smart speaker owners don’t stay glued to their couches: They perform voice searches when they’re out and about.

Of these get-up-and-go voice searchers, roughly 46 percent will utilize voice searches to find information about local businesses every day. About half of these voice queries are about restaurants, commonly consisting of location hours, menu options, prices, and daily specials. Following brick-and-mortar retail outlets—tailing closely behind—voice-search runner ups encompass everything from insurance companies, medical offices, and hotels.

About one-fourth of consumers who conduct voice searches in their car, on the sidewalk, in parking lots and on the freeway end up calling the business they’ve searched for—giving brands a particularly strong grasp upon the bunch. Phone calls convert as much as 10 to 15 times more revenue than branded web leads—making them the most valuable conversion tool in the modern digital marketer’s arsenal.

But how, exactly, do voice search and phone calls translate to SEO? While voice-searched query keywords differ from those bound by traditional text, they still follow the same SEO principles. Optimize your 2020 campaign for local search, streamlining your branded website with easily accessible addresses, phone numbers and relevant product and service information.

In doing so, you’ll be able to update your business listing on Google—planting your brand’s roots in its prime “near me” digital real estate. If your meta descriptions, title tags, and anchor texts are well-aligned—voice searches can, and will, direct users to an instantly accessible, fast-paced, link to your brick-and-mortar location’s phone.

Here’s the best part: You can even analyze your phone conversations, estimating your location’s conversion potential in relation to the keywords you’ve utilized to further enhance your voice-search strategy.

Trend Five: Cross-Channel Influencer Marketing

Influencers have always been powerful social media marketing assets, but new innovations have made them invaluable content marketing partners.

The world of professional collaboration has evolved since the start of 2019, too. Already, social media influencers are trusted by millions of customers—and 86 percent of digital marketers team up with them, on average, every year. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn give established and fledgling brands, alike, a great opportunity to boost conversions, website purchases and in-store visits.

They also greatly impact a brand’s SEO success rate—even more so as this year comes to a close. A major reason for the incremental growth spike of influencer marketing stems from the business world’s newest consumer arrival: Generation Z.

Born between 1996 and 2010, a sizable chunk of Generation Z is comprised of teenagers—teenagers which are rapidly pushing influencer marketing into a bigger spotlight. Approximately 70 percent of teenagers even trust influencers more than celebrities. Even younger Millennials who subscribe to YouTube channels, follow notable Instagram accounts and peruse their favorite Facebook personas contribute to this phenomenon: Four out of 10 feel that influencers understand them more than their own friends.

In today’s digital marketing climate, about half of online consumers depend directly on influencer recommendations when deciding which products and services to purchase. A majority of these influencers can be found on Instagram and YouTube, alone, but they’re also quite active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. As Generation Z becomes increasingly well-acquainted with influencers, brands partnered with said influencers experience three times as many social media post views—regardless of content. These posts also receive twice as many actions, such as likes, reposts, and shares, and benefit from 12 times as many comments as mundane, branded posts.

In 2020, revamping the traditional influencer marketing strategy is a must. While pure social media partnership is expected to be as powerful as ever, the content collaboration will be vital to establishing new SEO foundations. Content collaboration is the key that unlocks visible brand benefits—nurturing the invaluable backlinks grounded in the realm of organic search Google is currently pressing.

Several providers are helping digital marketers with co-op content creation, too. BizSwipe is a great example: The app serves as a swipe-and-match platform for B2B marketing, helping brands easily partner with lucrative connections contingent on content co-creation.

Regardless of the platform you use, today’s leading influencer location and partnership tools all have one thing in common: the ability to hone in on your brand’s particular flavor of the partnership via advanced filters and content campaign specification listings.

Reeling in the New Year

To launch a revamped, revitalized SEO campaign, be ready for a big strategy shift before the holidays end.

To kick off an effective, efficient and compelling content strategy in 2020—one infused with potent SEO approaches—it’s wise to take a step back, examine your current campaign’s posted content and identify the underlying roadways which connect your brand with consumers across various channels.

As a rule of thumb: Prioritize voice search over all else—as it’s easily your most lucrative foundation for success this year. Once you’ve crafted an influencer networking strategy, utilize local search to further specify your brand’s physical location by your consumers’ likes, dislikes, preferences and influencer engagement habits.

Over time, this particular approach will surely exemplify the underlying “current” which powers evocative influencer marketing channels—a current which begins with consumer-influencer identification, but which ends in compelling signifiers of product and service preference. Once you’re ready to examine your online buyers with a revitalized lens, relax and refresh over the holiday season: You’ve deserved it.