6 SEO Trends for 2020: SEO After BERT
Being an SEO is stressful. It’s an ever-changing branch of digital marketing, and if you can’t keep up, you’ll get ran over.
Every algorithm update means new things to optimize for, and new opportunities to boost your organic rankings.
So, what has happened so far in 2019? How will these events affect SEO in 2020? Let’s see.
What Has Happened So Far?
As an addition to the regular core updates, Google has rolled out a brand new algorithm update named BERT (short from Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers).
This update is the biggest one since Google rolled RankBrain (which was in 2017 by the way).
Needless to say, BERT is a huge deal.
What’s the BERT Algorithm About?
This update is all about natural language processing.
Not like Google employs real people now to do the difference, but, in a nutshell, it works like this: the algorithm takes prepositions into consideration instead of not taking them at all (which was the case before BERT).
Do you know what’s impacted the most from BERT? Top-of-the-funnel keywords.
What Are Top of the Funnel Keywords?
Well, there are three types of keywords, which are generally classified as:
- Awareness keywords
- Consideration keywords
- Conversion keywords
I won’t go into details here, but here’s an example for each:
1. “How can I get more customers in my business” is an awareness keyword.
2. “How to do digital marketing” is also an awareness keyword, but closer to consideration.
3. “How to do Google Ads marketing” is a consideration keyword.
4. “Hire a Google Ads expert” is a consideration and a conversion keyword.
So before BERT, when people typed number 1, 2, or 3, they wouldn’t get all the information they should’ve gotten. For number 1, they’d probably get something very broad as a result for the term “get more customers” that an aged domain ranked for. And the chance of them getting what they want would require going through multiple websites and combining the information.
With BERT, the same queries would give a more specific result, like ideas to grow the customer base, which would include every possible approach. And advertising would be one of those.
How Will This Affect SEO?
Websites that had a dedicated awareness strategy for content marketing didn’t feel the difference. This strategy included both answering “seed keywords”, and “long-tail keywords”.
Websites that did keyword stuffing to get those difficult, high volume keywords need to rework a lot of their content, and will lose a lot of traffic because of the vagueness of their “seed keyword” targeted pages.
In all reality, this update is the last in the long list of punches in black-hat SEOs faces.
BERT will affect 1 out of 10 search queries, so ignoring it and keeping up with shady practices would eventually lead to a disaster.
2020 – SEO Life After BERT
BERT has already started bringing about the end of current SERPs (search results), and the rise of the next level of intent-based searches.
So, here are X SEO tips to focus on in 2020:
1. Optimize for Mobile and Voice Search
If you were even remotely connected with digital marketing for the past couple of years, you know how important it is to have a mobile-friendly website.
To keep up, Google started using mobile-first indexing, prioritizing mobile crawlability of a site over desktop for the first time ever. This happened back on August 31, 2018, so chances are, you’ve had the chance to optimize your website for mobile searches.
I’m not saying that you haven’t optimized for mobile, that’s silly to even think of, isn’t it? But, just for the sake of giving an example, if you don’t have a mobile-ready website, both your website’s mobile AND desktop rankings will suffer.
But, even mobile usability isn’t enough. You need to optimize for voice search.
Voice Search SEO
Today, more and more people use their phones on the go to find something. And, they usually do this using voice search. There’s no denying that voice search will only continue to grow in 2020.
What does this mean?
This means that either you get position 1, or you get nothing out of voice search. Voice search doesn’t include 5 results like normal search does. It would defeat the purpose if Google Assistant started saying all 5 results and the answers out loud, wouldn’t it?
How to Optimize for Voice Search?
Here’s a list of what you need to do:
1. Make your site fast
2. Make your site mobile-friendly
3. Optimize your copy for featured snippets
That’s about it.
Wait, I haven’t told you how to optimize for featured snippets, haven’t I? It’s simple really, you just find related questions to the topic of a post, and you answer them in a short, concise manner.
The caveat: By optimizing for rich featured snippets, you’re indirectly optimizing for BERT too, as you are proving relevant answers to particular searches users do.
2. Optimize for Intent
Long gone are the days of keyword stuffing and writing 10k words of fluff on that massive volume, extremely difficult keyword.
When you’re in the phase of choosing the next keywords to write content for, take a look at what Google chose for the top 10 results in the SERPs for that query. For those with an eye keen to details, you’ll see patterns emerging. These patterns are exactly what users expect to find when they search for that particular keyword. Needless to say, you must oblige to this intent by providing adequate content.
To actually make this happen, you need to use semantic search, instead of focusing keywords. In a nutshell, this concept means giving context for the keywords you are targeting to give the bigger picture. Let’s give an example:
Semantic Search Example
For the term “on-page seo”, Google knows the following:
- It’s a part of digital marketing
- It’s a part of SEM
- SEM is Search Engine Marketing
- It’s a part of SEO
- SEO is Search Engine Optimization
- It’s done by optimizing the page content to be search engine friendly
- There are black-hat SEO practices, gray-hat SEO practices, white-hat SEO practices
- On-page SEO includes optimizing the text copy
- On-page SEO includes optimizing the page code
- On-page SEO includes meta tags
- On-page SEO includes image optimization
- On-page SEO includes mobile friendliness
And the list goes on.
The point is that with BERT, Google got extremely good at understanding search intent. So focusing on a single keyword does not work anymore.
3. Use Influencers for SEO
Yes, you heard that right. Although using influencers is kind of a trademark of social media, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t such marketing for SEO.
In fact, through influencers, you can amplify your content (link), and with that, it gets more reach, shares, and more importantly, backlinks. And I don’t need to mention the importance of backlinks (they are VERY important).
4. Time to Get a Secure Site
If your website still doesn’t have an SSL, turn this post off, go on Let’s Encrypt (link) and get yourself one.
It can’t be stressed enough how important website security is for the user experience. Take it like this – if I were the average user, visited a page, and my browser marks it as “Not Secure, Proceed to Safety”, I would get the heck out of there as fast as I could click that X button.
SSL certificates (that HTTPS in front of the website’s URL) prevents 3rd parties from interfering in the communication between you and your customer. This is done by providing an encrypted secure connection.
Since Google is all about user experience, be sure that if you don’t have an SSL installed, your results will suffer.
This is even more so if you’re trying to collect personal data from your users.
After you install your certificate, make sure to do 301 redirects to all HTTP pages to their HTTPS versions.
5. Leverage the Podcast and Video Formats
Same as voice search, video has been in a steady growth for years now. In fact, more and more people use YouTube instead of a TV for home entertainment.
It’s a no-brainer, really. If you want to have more reach with your content, you must embed Videos and Podcasts in your content marketing strategy.
Optimize your YouTube videos with keywords, and embed both podcasts and videos in your blogs.
6. Write Long Content of Top-Notch Quality
Content remains the king of SEO.
Years and years again this has remained the truth, and not writing lengthy blogs would be like intentionally not giving your best to get ranks.
Combine Short Posts
If you have multiple posts ranging from 400-800 words, you should reassess them, see which are similar, and consider combining all of them together. This will result in huge blogs, that if properly written, will get better results than if they stood separately.
Side note: make sure to map out the redirects for these pages, as having 404 errors on already indexed pages is a big no-no.
To be honest, I knew SEO will go in this direction the moment LSI keywords became a thing. BERT wasn’t a matter of if it will happen, it was a matter of when.
Look at 2020 as a year for opportunities, if you provide the content the user needs before your competitor recovers from the BERT hit, you’ll end up the winner of the update.
Same goes for you who got hit by the algorithm – don’t let your competitors use your momentary weakness to get ahead of you and step up your game.
Welcome 2020, by making sure you maximize your SEO game by applying everything in this post.