The rise of smartphones, and more recently, voice assistants, have forever changed the ways in which we use search engines. Businesses that ignore up-and-coming search trends could be sacrificing top spots on the search engine results pages (SERPs) of the future.
Here are the top search engine marketing trends that advertisers should pay attention to in 2020:
Voice search is still a hot topic
Alexa, what’s the most important search engine marketing trend of 2020?
That honor probably goes to voice search. According to a recent report by Voicebot.ai and Velocify, over a quarter of Americans now own a smart speaker. And Google recently found that of those smart speaker owners, 52 percent keep them in the living room, and a full 25 percent keep their smart speaker right next to the bed. That means any query—from the best pad thai recipe on the internet to the best Thai restaurant in town—is never more than a few steps away and can easily be asked, hands-free, at any point during a searcher’s day.
And the pervasiveness of voice search, be it in our living rooms via a smart speaker or at our fingertips via smartphone, is changing the ways that we search. For example, searches that are spoken aloud are different from typed searches. The 2018 Internet Trends Report found that 70 percent of English-language voice searches were made in more “conversational” language than queries that are typed. This means that searches are longer, with the average voice search coming in at around 29 words in length.
These searches also generally come in question form. Currently, 20 percent of searches are prompted by a scant 25 keywords, with “how,” “what,” and “best” topping the list. These stats prove that right now, more than ever before, searchers want answers and the businesses adopting search marketing strategies that provide those answers will come out on top of search results.
BERT is a pretty big deal
One of the biggest factors shaping the search engine marketing landscape in the coming year promises to be Google’s BERT algorithm. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, which in layman’s terms means that Google will now use machine learning, along with natural language processing (NLP) in order to better-put search queries in context.
BERT promises better search results for users, especially those using voice search and talk to text. But the change also means that businesses are going to have to make a push to ensure their content is more useful to potential customers than ever before in order to prove their value in a changing search landscape, according to Morgan Hennessey, a search analyst at search engine marketing service Electric Enjin:
“BERT is looking for content that answers one specific question or query, and answers it fully,” explained Hennessy and that Google BERT will challenge the notion that more content is better. “This is going to allow Google to present the absolute best results for search queries.”
Google announced that it started testing BERT at the beginning of 2020, and experts say the change will affect one in ten searches. This is one of the search engine marketing trends you need to keep an eye on.
Featured snippets can set businesses apart
Featured snippets, those short answers to search queries included at the top of many Google searches, have been around for the past couple of years, but as Google begins to optimize for voice search, featured snippets have become an increasingly important part of many SEM search strategies. In fact, a recent study found that Google Snippets get significantly more traffic than even the top-ranking organic search results.
Additionally, a 2018 analysis of 10,000 Google Home search results revealed that 40.7 percent of voice search answers were pulled from a featured snippet. Many smart speakers, like Google Home or Alexa, only provide one answer for search queries, so ranking for these featured snippets is crucial for brand visibility in voice search.
In order to optimize for those increasingly important featured snippets, when developing search marketing strategies for 2020 and beyond, businesses should make sure that content leaves no potential question unanswered. Make sure to pay special attention to the “Frequently Asked Questions” pages.
Make sure you’re thinking about search intent
And while SEO-savvy businesses are paying much closer attention to their own FAQ pages, changes to the way people are searching have also changed search engine results pages.
When writing content with the specific answers to user questions in mind, it helps to examine the first ten results in the SERP of a given keyword in order to make note of the context of that keyword. The context will offer clues as to user intent, which proves incredibly valuable when optimizing for voice-driven search.
Mobile is still king, and video is more important than ever
In 2015, for the first time ever, Google reported that more internet searches were conducted on mobile than desktop. That year represented a sea change in the way potential customers find and interact with businesses online. Today, about 87 percent of internet users are searching via mobile, which means that mobile-first is more important than ever before. And search results are also pivoting to video. According to SearchMetrics, 62 percent of Google universal searches included video.
But including video for video’s sake is a pretty quick way to make sure that searchers click out of a listing. As with most 2020 SEM trends, utility is key. Make sure even video content answers an anticipated search query, providing helpful information for users who are increasingly turning to search for answers along with algorithms that are increasingly prioritizing user intent.
Paid voice is the local search of the future
A recent report by Quora says that 75 percent of smart speaker owners conduct local searches weekly, and a further 53 percent use voice search to find local businesses every single day. Those looking to create a forward-thinking paid search marketing plan should be thinking about optimizing existing content for voice search, as well as thinking about the possibilities for future paid voice search. Those that begin preparing now will be the businesses to beat on SERPs and voice search results of the very near future.
For more information on ways that your business can future-proof your paid search strategy and take advantage of the search engine marketing trends of 2020, take a look at Skai’s options for intelligent search.