As December falls upon us like an avenging god, it's hard to remember the huge changes we've seen over the course of 2019. To reflect, we collated the advice of prominent SEO experts like Neil Patel and Backlinko with data from our clients to show what SEO trends we can expect in 2020.
# 2020 SEO Trends:
# 1. Increase in No-Click Searches
According to Jumpshot in 2019 49% of searches on Google resulted in no click. That means that for half of ALL searches on Google, the searcher doesn't actually click on any of the results on the page!
49% of searches in Google result in no clickthrough. Jumpshot
Why? Neil Patel thinks it's because more people are getting their results directly from the search page, particularly from rich snippet data powered by Schema.org JSON-LD metadata. See more on that below in our recommendations.
# 2. Organic Visitor Numbers Will Continue to Decline
Did your visitor numbers drop this year? You're not alone. Total visits from organic search dropped 6% YoY in Q2 2019. We expect this to continue, largely due to the above mentioned "no-click" results phenomenon. The growing sway of "closed garden" ecosystems will also accelerate this trend. According to Criteo, social media, apps, and direct traffic account for 75% of all web traffic. If you're looking for local events, chance are you're no longer searching Google. Many users go directly to Facebook, Eventbrite, Meetup, LinkedIn, etc. This holds true for many ecommerce products (straight to Amazon), news searches (to a favorite publications' site), and other resources.
Total visits dropped 6% YoY Q2 2019 Search Engine Journal
And unfortunately mobile organic search has declined faster, a trend we think may accelerate. The platform effect is even stronger in mobile due to the intrinsic power of apps; since at least 2018 mobile traffic has exceeded desktop, and as much as 70% of web traffic now happens on a mobile device. With 90% of mobile traffic generated from apps, we're seeing mobile app experiences deliver the majority of online content. Yes, you may have a browser on your phone, but so much of our daily activity finding new content happens within curated app experiences.
Mobile app experiences deliver the majority of online content
# 3. Non-Organic Link Backlinking Continues to Fall in Importance
Over the past several years we've seen "backlinking", the process of curating links back to your content from other websites, grow as a service in the SEO industry. Why? Simply put, backlinks are probably the most important off-site determiner of your rank on Google. Sites in the first position on Google typically have 2.2 times more backlinks than those in the second position.
If backlinks are so great, shouldn't we get as many of them as possible? In the early days of SEO, fly-by-night operators of "blog networks" could create thousands of self-hosted sites and pepper them with backlinks back to your content to boost SERPs. Google quickly caught on to these tactics and is usually able to detect the "domain authority" of websites backlinking. Employing blog networks or other low quality backlinks is now, in the best case, a waste of money.
Google hates PBNs and intentionally tries to penalize people who use them. Neil Patel
More recently, backlink providers like The Hoth have provided better quality backlinks, finding higher quality domains with content relevant to yours to place backlinks. While not cheap, these services are relatively inexpensive and still can work, particularly if you're trying to capture a relatively uncontested regional market. We've had clients capture lucrative local search placements by spending less than $10K/year.
However, in 2020 backlinking will become even more competitive as more of your competitors start using backlinking services like The Hoth. It's safe to assume that Google will continue to refine how it assesses backlink quality. We believe site owners will need to strengthen their backlinking strategy with even more attention to their inhouse "organic" backlinking efforts and being more strategic in what pages they try to boost. Buying backlinks is expensive; as GotchSEO points out, for the price of a single high-quality backlink placement on Inc.com, you could get 4 new articles written or reach 200,000 people on Facebook by boosting your content.
# How to Improve Your SEO in 2020
# 1. Target Intent Indicating Keywords
Have you ever searched to compare two major competitors? "Shopify vs. WooCommerce". "Advantages of Mautic over Salesforce". Keywords like "vs", "comparison", "advantages", and other indicate that someone is trying to compare services/products in the process of deciding what to buy. In other words, these keywords indicate an intent to buy. These are the keywords that are worth optimizing SEO for!
Become a master at uncovering search intent. Neil Patel
# 2. Optimize for Rich Snippets
This means making sure the Schema Markup on your site is up-to-snuff. We love the JSON-LD powered Schema Markup; it's a huge improvement over the competing metadata standards that existed in the beginning of the 2010s. However, many site owners don't realize how Google uses the Schema Markup standards to create "Rich Snippets".
The FAQ Schema Markup is one successful metadata type you can use to create Rich Snippet results for your articles in Google. That metadata produces the lists of frequently asked questions you might see below certain search results in Google. For example, here's an example from a current search for "examples of faq schema markup":
Look how this enriches the search result, providing more real estate and more clickable options for your hard won result! For a more broad overview of what Rich Snippets are and their advantages, see this guide with some Rich Snippet examples from Mangools.
# 3. Build an In-house Backlink Strategy
If you're not already conducting outreach to relevant influencers, now is the time to cultivate relationships with people who want to backlink to your content. Tools like BuzzStream can help you find and manage these relationships en masse, which is vital if you're going to scale efforts. But don't be too artificial! Find influencers who genuinely need your content, and make it as easy as possible for them to extract value from it. Think of what would benefit their audience first, then draw the line back to your content. Dedicate real time, ideally a few hours each week, to cultivating these relationships, strategizing on content, and conducting outreach to new influencers.