2019 is almost over and for many online marketers, it’s been a pretty okay year – especially if you compare it to the beginning of the decade, when Google Panda and Penguin rolled up and wreaked havoc for all of us SEO-ers. That’s not to say there weren’t challenges and changes, there always are. But in 2019, the changes can be seen more as clues to what’s ahead for Google and SEO in 2020. And it looks like we’re in for quite the ride!
To look ahead, it always helps to consider what’s happened. Let’s begin with a recap of the biggest updates from 2019…
This year, you probably heard the most about 3 topics: E-A-T, Voice and BERT.
Let’s start with E-A-T
Google rolled out its E-A-T score at the beginning of the year. This score refers to 3-key factors of your content: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. It is a measurement to determine the quality of your content.
Following the latest trend of smart home systems with voice assistants, Google released a major update to their voice search. This update enables the voice assistant to understand search queries regardless of your pronunciation or accent to provide the right result. There are still many instances where the search result does not match with the search intention, but it’s a start!
In the last quarter of the year, Google announced their most futuristic update yet, BERT. It’s an acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, and it’s a big one.
BERT was born from implementing neuro-linguistic programming into Transformers. Transformers, a sizable project from Google (no, it’s not about the cars and trucks that can turn into robots), is a Neural Network Architecture for understanding language. It helps the algorithm better understand languages to produce a better translation and an understanding for the intention behind the search.
Today, BERT has been implemented in 70 different languages.
To give you a better idea of what it actually means for search results, here’s a BEFORE and AFTER snap of BERT:
Another example of BERT can be seen in different languages.
Note the focus of the answer in English with BERT and in German without BERT for the question: to whom is Barack Obama married.
BERT understands the intention (or focus of the question) through the words `to whom’. Before BERT, the prepositions and even question indications were disregarded, thus, despite the whole sentence “to whom is Barack Obama married”, the result returned is only based on the words “Barack Obama married” which is what you see below in the German version. Whereas with BERT we see the full picture. Exciting stuff!
So what does this all mean for 2020?
Between BERT, Voice and E-A-T, it is clear that Google is busy updating their algorithm for better search results. The focus appears to be on 2 topics:
- Search Intention
- Quality of Content
These will make the search experience better overall for the searcher. However, as marketers, they may make us work a bit harder to see results.
Let’s start with Search intention
There is a huge debate going on over whether or not search volume will remain relevant into 2020. This relates to the way the BERT update is changing the way keywords work overall.
Moving forward, targeting keywords based on their high search volume may mean nothing. When combined with question words and/or prepositions it changes the intention and thus how Google is evaluating the content.
The biggest search intentions on search engines are split into 2 categories: Informative and Purchase.
Considering these factors, search volume may lose the power of propping up your SEO. That said, it’s likely that in 2020 Google will roll out a new algorithm that calculates click potential based on keywords AND intention.
So, all’s to say that when crafting your content you’ll need to pay extra attention to the WHY, WHAT and FOR WHOM you’re writing. In the long run we think this will benefit everyone. It just may require some extra editing and planning on our end in the meantime.
Which leads us to the next key thing to keep in mind: the QUALITY of your content.
To get ahead of this, we recommend mapping out your content before diving into writing. It may even be wise to start splitting content based on the intention despite using the same keyword sets.
The best way to do so, is to go back to the classic long-tailed keywords and start to include questions. This will help BERT understand what your page is actually about.
Another thing this means is a high chance of the end of the “one-page website” era.
For example, let’s say you own a website that sells vegan-leather bags, instead of building a single page with information about your product and listing about the many benefits of vegan leather. You should be splitting it into many pages, one to purchase the product (with technical information such as size of the bags, available colours, what it’s made of and reason why the product is a must have plus Call-to-Action for a purchase) another you can focus about informing the potential buyers about how beneficial vegan leather in promoting protection towards animal, being sustainable by using recycle materials, and if you want, another article focusing on how the quality of vegan leather is on par with real leather and clear differences between vegan leather vs real leather vs synthetic leather.
The result will be a website with more pages but also greater depth. This will make your site not only more usable for your customers but also easier for Google to understand. And as a result, you’ll be able to get a better ranking.
So there you have it. As Google begins to think more and more like we do we have to design our content with this in mind. We’re looking forward to seeing how SEO continues to evolve and grow in this new decade.
Seems like a lot, but don’t you fret, we’ll be keeping an eye on the trends and keeping you up to date on how to use them to your advantage.
We hope you now have a good grasp of what to expect for SEO in 2020 and are as excited as we are about what’s to come!
As always, if you have questions, we’re here to help.
We wish you a very happy holiday season and a sweet start to the New Year!