Being the SEO smart-asses that we are, we thought we’d put our heads together and discuss as a group what we thought the SEO landscape will look like come 2020.
These are educated guesses, and while much of it may seem as though it’s “doom and gloom” in terms of how much harder our jobs are about to get, all these threats are actually all also opportunities to try new things. Our strategies for dealing with these predicted changes are shared at the end of the post.
1. The Continued Invasion of SERPS by Universal Results
The growth of Universal search has been one of the main focuses of 2019, and we expect the challenge presented by universal search results to be a major challenge in 2020.
As you may have noticed, the knowledge panel is becoming more informative – and we expect it to continue to show more and more useful content on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Google has been pulling more info about the business into the SERP, and this will start to include more images from the website in the listing, testimonials, a call button, prices, and more.
We also predict an increase in the importance and visibility of content across all Google-Owned Properties, i.e. YouTube, Google Maps / Google My Business, Google Ads, as these have already begun to show up more prevalently in SERPs.
Content on SERPs from the Google owned properties mentioned above will include more and more features that websites typically would have, such as structured content – i.e. about pages, case studies – further excluding the need for Google’s users to even visit your website.
Currently, Google relies heavily on schema markup to understand what type of content is on a website. This fuels SERP features like image, video and “People Also Ask” results. We expect that the growing use of Google Owned Properties will mean that Google will pull information from properties it owns into the SERPs.
Traditional organic results may not necessarily diminish next year, but they will remain at the bottom of the page which will require longer and longer scrolls down, as Google will still need to incentivise webmasters to use schema on their sites (which fuels universal listings) in the interim while they ramp up GMB features and motivate adoption of GMB and all GOPs.
As we’ve already seen in 2019, in 2020 there will be a growing importance of social signals – reviews especially, both on GOPs and social platforms (Facebook) will inform not only rankings, but the types of Universal results you can appear for.
2. New Types of Universal Results and SERP Features
We believe we’ll start to see forms as a conversion action in SERPs. Currently, users can contact brands via calls and directions OR click to a website to submit a form enquiry. The change would exclude the website from the mix. Google’s latest SERP changes all serve to keep users within the Google ecosystem, as this is where Google can serve people ads and make its revenue.
Forms on SERPs would mean that, along with the Knowledge panel information it already provides, users could complete the most common conversion type all on the SERP, excluding the need for a user to click through to a website to convert. This is in line with the shift towards “zero-click” search that we noticed in 2019, with already more than half of Google searches not resulting in a click.
3. An Increased Focus on UX and Conversion Rate Optimisation
Voice search, mobile searches (with limited visibility on SERPs where you just get served one result via Google Assistant app) and universal search entities are going to continue to change the way we “do SEO”.
As more informational and navigational (searches for “x near me” or “x shop”) get tailored to by featured snippets, “People Also Ask” and local packs, the buying-intent searchers that do still filter through to actual website visitors are going to be far higher value visitors.
This is because the visitors that DO come through to a website are more likely to be those who are looking to enquire / buy / book.
This means we will need to shift our focus from purely increasing rankings (now that position 1 is well below the fold, and a lot of information is already on the SERP) to paying increased attention to getting the most juice out of the visitors that do click through to websites. This will be achieved by improved content, more sophisticated User Journeys, and user experience optimisation.
One type of UX factor to continue focusing on in 2020 is Conversational Marketing. Already a big deal in 2019, many will still not have adopted in 2020. Chatbots will become more accessible and cheaper and in turn, will become more competitive.
If you’re interested in learning more about chatbots and how they can benefit your business, get in touch with us here.
4. Google Ads Adding More Features, i.e. More Ways to Charge for Clicks
Google will release more diverse ad formats, that will make performing PPC wider as a range of services. No longer will agencies simply charge for “PPC Management” and spend that time fiddling with CPC bids… Automated bid strategies changed that years ago already, anyway. The diversity of offerings will mean that PPC will now present more types of opportunities to advertisers.
Google Home voice & audio answers and results in Google Assistant may be a viable advertising channel in the near future, so our prediction here is not just about new types of ads, but new spaces where ads can start to appear which we’ll see in 2020.
What we can do to combat / capitalise on these changes
As we mentioned, while many of these predicted changes are challenges to the way we “do SEO”, these challenges also present new and exciting opportunities to try new techniques and methodologies to stay on top of the Google Game.
To capitalise on our predicted rise of universal search features in SERPs, we’ll be considering what Google-owned properties are right for our clients’ businesses, and how to make the best use of YouTube, Ads, Maps, Images, Videos, and more.
This also means a more “philosophical” shift to how we do marketing for clients. There’s going to be a perception shift from focusing on the website as the focal point of a business’s online presence, but thinking more of the “brand ecosystem”.
This means we will need to consider all touch points (i.e. GMB, social profiles, email databases, online referrers, and of course the website) as they relate to each client’s particular audience.
We, and all digital agencies, are going to need to restructure our strategies to focus more on buyer personas, not channels (i.e. SEO, PPC). This is because, as different results appear for different types of queries, and some buyer personas may benefit from more paid advertising while others may be more easily reached through social media, for example.
All in all, 2020 is shaping up to be another exciting year for us and everyone in the digital marketing game, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds. Whatever it is, we’re ready!
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