Top SEO Trends for 2020

I work for Effective Spend, a digital marketing agency in Austin, Texas, that specializes in SEM, SEO, & Digital PR. I talked with our SEO & Digital PR Director, Greg Barkley, and these are the top 3 trends that he sees as critical to SEO success in 2020. If you want to discuss these trends in more detail or have any other questions related to our approach to SEO, I’m happy to put you directly in touch with Greg.


Top SEO Trends for 2020:

  1. Dramatic Rise in Voice Searches - Some studies suggest 2020 will see 50% of searches being completed via voice. Smart speakers and smartphone virtual assistants are becoming more popular, intelligent, and comprehensive in functionality, so SEO professionals need to be on top of optimizing for both text and voice searches. Voice and text searches have unique cadences, structures, and other traits that require specific strategies to properly address. Voice search queries tend to be longer, frequently target quick/one-off questions, and are great for searches that contain local modifiers like “near me” and “open now.” SEO strategies that do not incorporate optimizations for voice search in 2020 will be left behind in favor of strategies that do.


  1. Featured Snippets and Knowledge Graphs Taking Prominence in the SERP - Traditional organic search results are moving lower and lower down the Google SERP in favor of paid results, featured snippets, map packs, and knowledge graphs. Featured snippets are quick answers to common questions, map packs are the integrated Google Maps functionality found in the search results, and knowledge graphs are the information dumps for popular topics found to the right of the results. Google values these since they improve their users’ experience by providing the information users are looking for without leaving the search results page. Here’s an example of a search result and these features’ placements:

Unlike paid results, the other features are drawn organically, meaning SEO professionals can optimize for them. Google automatically curates these in response to common questions, so by building your content to include a concise and accurate answer to certain queries you can be featured at the top of the page, sometimes above higher ranking links that are not written as clearly. About 20% of queries are answered using rich snippets and this number is only going to grow with the increasing use of smart speakers/assistants which often use them to quickly answer voice searches.


  1. Improved Understanding of Search Intent with BERT Update - As Google continues to improve its algorithm, it is improving its understanding of user search intent. Google’s most recent algorithm update, known as BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), or BERT for short, directly addresses user intent, affecting 1 in 10 search queries. With BERT Google can use the words surrounding a word to better understand what it means in context. This comes into play particularly with longer, more conversational queries (often found with voice search) and with prepositions like “for” or “to.” For example, “parking on a hill with no curb” used to confuse Google. The algorithm would place too much importance on the word “curb,” producing results for parking on a hill with a curb. After BERT, the proper results now show.

What this means for SEO is that content creators should focus on creating experiences for the user, not Google. In the early days of Google, SEO professionals could use tricks to improve rankings, but as Google gets smarter, fewer of these will work. By answering specific questions and creating a positive user experience you will play into what Google is looking for now and what it will be looking for in the future.