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A Look at 2019 Ranking Changes & How They Will Impact 2020

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We’re already a couple of months into the New Year, and it’s the perfect time to assess current search and SEO trends and speculate the direction the industry will take in 2020.

It’s common knowledge that Google currently uses more than 200 ranking signals, and keeps on refreshing and tweaking its algorithm, changing priorities and adding new ranking signals every year.  In that sense, 2019 was also no different. We saw a host of significant search engine ranking changes that are set to impact the industry not just in 2019, but over the next few years at the very least.

When performing SEO, it’s important to do research and rank tracking.  For only 9 cents per keyword,  Google rank tracker Serpreme.io, provides such capability for you to see complete ranking-history from the moment you add a keyword, to the competitive and geographical analysis of your keyword progress.

Let’s dive into some of the most significant ranking changes in 2019, and how they will impact the industry in 2020.

Growth of Voice Search

Voice search is the latest trend forged by the major search engine platform Google that confers users to use their voice instead of typing to find answers to their query. The voice search is mainly monitored by voice assistants that are widely termed as “digital assistants”. These digital assistants are created to guide you throughout the search process. All you need is a voice-enabled device such as the smartphone, tablet or other similar devices. This has also lead to the development of smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo, Google Home, Apple’s HomePod, all of which promote voice search and making the trend globally popular.

How it’ll Impact 2020

According to the marketing experts all over the world, voice search is going to extend its reach even more in 2020, which means if you have not optimized your site for the trend, you are likely to miss out on half of the searches made by your target audience and lose your position on the SERPs.

Traditional Search vs. Voice Search: The Major Differences

In order to optimize your website for voice search, you will first need to understand the major differences between the earlier traditional search and voice search.

Here are some of the differences that make voice search a thing of the future:

Total Number of Words: When typing a search query, the total number of words varies and is mostly unclear and summarized. However, with voice search, things are pretty different, as it allows users the freedom to utilize as many words as they want to make their search query more specific and clear.

Statements and Questions: The traditional text queries are generally made in short statements comprising of three to five words. While with voice search, on the other hand, you can form your queries in natural questions.

Location Optimization: Perhaps the best part about voice search is that it will be more likely to be geographically specific rather than based on simple text queries that are mostly short in nature.

Search Intent: From running sponsored ads to promoting your content on different platforms, if you get to acknowledge the search intent of your targeted audience, everything will be streamlined for you. This seamless opportunity is provided by the voice search function, which makes its optimization even more important than ever.

Tips for Optimizing Your Site for Voice Search

As Google has made it pretty clear that it is going to hold voice search results into preference when it comes to SERPs and online visibility, it goes without saying that you should drive all your efforts in optimizing your website and make it friendly for voice search. This also means that you will have to craft your content more relevant to search queries and audience-specific along with making it easily decipherable and indexable for the search engines.

Take a look at the various components that you need to work on for optimizing your website for voice search.

Effective Keyword Research: The traditional SEO practice used to deal with targeting the relevant keywords and the voice search optimization for your site is exactly the same but with a distinct approach. Basically, it is all about making the search with your voice and hence, you should also research and target your keywords and get ideas by voice inputs instead of typing the words.  The trick is to going for long-tail keywords and making your keywords sound more like a general conversational tone.

Build a FAQs Page: If you have not done it already, make sure you create this page as users visit this page looking for common questions related to your brand. They expect clear and precise answers to the frequently asked questions, which will ultimately help you in focusing on keyword and long-tail phrases for your voice search optimization.

Mobile Site Optimization: Voice search is more or less exclusive for compact devices that make optimizing your website for mobile devices extremely important. In order to determine whether your site is fully optimized for mobile devices or not, you can avail the Google mobile-friendly test and see the results.

Optimize for Featured Snippets

In 2016, Google revealed that 20% of search queries were coming from voice search. When you consider the growing popularity of Android and other devices which feature Google Assistant, the percentage of voice queries is probably much higher than 20% in 2019. Google and other search engines are obviously aware of this trend.

In 2018, Google increased the number of featured snippets, which it frequently uses to source voice query results. According to a study by Stone Temple Consulting, the number of featured snippets is growing. Out of the 1.4 million tested queries, featured snippets appeared in around 30% of them.

How it’ll Impact 2020

2020 will continue to put emphasis on featured snippets begin to compete with top organic listings as the primary medium to use for getting noticed.

2020 Local SEO Strategy

For brick and mortar businesses, local SEO in 2020 is more important than ever. Think of the last time you went to use your phone to locate a nearby restaurant, gas station, or store. When you did a search, what popped up? Reviews? You may have even clicked further to call or get directions to the establishment.  Pay attention to the following elements to make your local listing more authoritative.

Don’t forget local citations

Posting your business all over the Internet is important, but when doing it for localized optimization, you should also focus on citing your business with localized keywords.  Ex. Philadelphia Barber, Los Angeles Restaurant, etc.  Remember to add localized keywords on business and review listings such as Yelp, Yellowpages, FourSquare, BBB, Angie’s List and other authority websites that link to your website.

Google My Business Listings and other directories

When you do a Google search for a local business and Google Maps comes up, this information is added on to Google through Google My Business Listings.  It is important to you list your business here if you want it to appear within range of a certain geographic area.  The best part is that it is free.

You will be asked to verify your listing and Google will send you a postcard with a pin to confirm that you own the address that you have entered for your business.  Once your business has been verified, accurately enter your business hours, add photos of your business, and manage and respond to reviews to help bring in customers to your business.

Also do the same for Bing Places and Yahoo Business listings.

Create localized webpages and content for your services and local keywords

If you have a website, adding keyword specific pages targeting your products and services combined with local keywords can give you extra web estate and visibility when customers search for your business.  Ex. Philadelphia Barber, Los Angeles Restaurant, etc.

Create web landing pages on your website containing a description of your most popular products and services combined with a local city and zip code.  You may also want to include reviews, videos, testimonials, and anything else that will attract customers to visit your establishment.

When optimizing for keywords, make sure to enter localized keywords and target keywords in your title tag, meta description, H1 tag, content, URL structure, and alt tags.

Utilizing Artificial Intelligence to Power an Increasing Number of Search Aspects

It’s been nearly 3 years since RankBrain first emerged. For those of you who aren’t familiar with RankBrain, it’s Google machine-learning artificial intelligence system that was developed to aid Google in processing search results. In just these 3 years, RankBrain has progressed from managing just 15% of search queries to all of them.

And, Google has no plans to limit its AI interest to just RankBrain. The world’s leading search engine introduced a new AI system, called Cloud Vision API, in 2018. This new system has the capability to recognize a vast number of objects.

You thought Cloud Vision API was it as far as Google’s interest in AI goes? Well, think again. Google is working on AutoML, an artificial intelligence system which can effectively generate its own AIs (and do it better than humans).

How it’ll Impact 2020

As search engines like Google continue to integrate AI in their search algorithms, you can expect search engine results to become less predictable in 2019. This may not always be a positive thing, but nevertheless, it’s something to prepare for.

In terms of long-term SEO strategies, AI doesn’t have too much of an impact. As the purpose of machine-learning algorithms is to imitate how human’s make predictions, optimizing your web content for AI is basically the same as optimizing for humans.

Cracking Down on Manipulative & Misleading Guest Posts

In May of 2018, Google cautioned Webmasters against using article marketing as a tool for wide-scale link building. Since the SEO community was already aware of this, Google’s warning indicates that it’s going to add new signals to its algorithm that will target manipulative guest posting.

But how do you define manipulative guest posting? Well, if you consider Google’s own guidelines, manipulative guest posts are those that are specifically designed to boost search engine rankings but do little in terms of sending referral traffic or boosting brand awareness. What’s ironic is that such tactics rarely improve search engine rankings, and are likely to do more harm than good in the long-term.

How it’ll Impact 2020

Google’s warning is the wake-up call that a lot of people in the industry needed. Hopefully, it’ll lead to content marketers taking a more sustainable approach to guest posting in 2019.

Prioritizing Mobile

It’s been almost 5 years since mobile searches overtook desktop searches on Google. Since then, the gap has only widened in favor of mobile searches. In 2017, BrightEdge revealed that 57% of its traffic came from mobile devices.

Search engines have obviously been keeping track of this change in user behavior. In response to this change, Google launched mobile-first indexing in 2018. This new signal ranks listings on Google’s SERPs based on the content’s mobile version. This even applies to listings that desktop users see.

How it’ll Impact 2020

Expect 2020 to be the year when mobile-friendly sites become a must. Signals that only influenced mobile searches in the past are now impacting all searches, which means that sites that don’t support mobile might soon become redundant.

Be Prepared for 2020

Considering the increased integration of innovative AI systems into search algorithms, and renewed efforts to crack down on manipulative content in 2018, 2019 is shaping up to be a year of change for the SEO and content marketing industry.

In order to stay competitive, content marketers and SEO specialists need to stay up to date with the latest changes in search engine algorithms and ranking signals. Furthermore, they also need to focus on adaptability, long-term strategies, and most importantly, a sustainable approach to content creation.

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