By Brett Farmiloe

Keeping an eye this year on brand, voice, politics, and natural language 

Google’s algorithm is a black box, and not even Googlers fully know what’s inside. That’s part of what makes predicting the future of SEO (search engine optimization) fun. There’s no wrong or right. 

However, there are a few things that are influencing what the future looks like for SEO. Political landscapes, newly secured patents, and technological shifts are just a few things to consider when making a prediction.

So, what’s next with SEO as we look ahead to 2020? Here are five big predictions on the future of SEO in 2020.

Political Antitrust Talks Heat Up

2020 is an election year, and you see many presidential candidates calling for the breakup of Google. The antitrust talks certainly gathered steam with the European Union ruling against Google, fining them $1.7B for being in violation of antitrust rules after imposing unfair terms on companies. Now, nearly every state attorney general is investigating Google over antitrust. 

As these antitrust talks heat up, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped back from their roles in December. The timing of this announcement may or may not have anything to do with antitrust. But, there’s no denying that there’s a lot going on with the search engine giant. 

The fallout from all the antitrust attention is that Google many have to discontinue many operations. This could open up the path for smaller startups to make a dent in search, leading to a variety of new tools entering into SEO.

What does this mean for you, as a company owner or marketer? Likely, not much. If anything, it means that new tools and companies in incubation could be in the works. 

SEO Tip: Be on the lookout for new SEO tools that could help improve performance.

SEO Tip No. 1: Be on the lookout for new SEO tools that could help improve performance.” Click to tweet 

Voice Search Rises To 50% Of All Searches

5G services are coming in 2020. This means faster mobile connections, where everything is on-demand

Including voice search.

In 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai shared that 20% of searches on the Google mobile app and Android devices were voice searches. Flash forward to 2020, and the universal projection is that 50% of searches will be done via voice. 

This trend towards voice search has been driven by Google Home, Alexa, Siri, and more voice search devices. However, 5G speeds help cement the trend towards searching on-demand via voice. 

How does this impact SEO? Mainly, voice impacts an SEO content strategy. There’s more searches around trigger keywords like “how,” “what,” and “best.” Search queries also get more specific and longer. A person may no longer be searching for an “SEO Audit,” but instead, searching for something like “how do I know SEO is working?”

SEO Tip: Create content that targets “long-tail” keywords and “how-to” articles around customer FAQs. 

SEO Tip No. 2: Create content that targets “long-tail” keywords and “how-to” articles around customer FAQs.” Click to tweet

Brand Makes Search Harder For Small Businesses

The hardest thing to manipulate online is brand. SEO experts can manipulate links, which has been at the core of Google since its inception as a hypertextual search engine. Content can be created to target the keywords customers are searching for. A website can be completely search engine friendly.  

But, a business can’t fake “prominence” - or how well-known a business is.

Search engines have always wanted to incorporate prominence, or brand into an algorithm to reduce their dependency on links. The question has always been around “how.” Google+ was created in hopes that the social network could help satisfy the brand problem, but that failed. Patents around social signals have given some insight into how brand could be calculated. And of course, links help paint a picture of online presence. 

My prediction? Bigger brands will have an easier time succeeding in organic search result pages than small businesses in 2020. There’s a limited space behind sponsored results, local results, and organic results. It is safer for a search engine to rank a company like GEICO as an organic result than “Bob’s Insurance,” and to include “Bob’s Insurance” in the local results.  

SEO Tip: Target keywords on the local level to appear in organic search listings. 

SEO Tip No. 3: Target keywords on the local level to appear in organic search listings.” Click to tweet 

Local SEO Picks Up Slack For Small Businesses 

If visibility for organic search listings decline, then Local SEO becomes more important for small businesses. Google will likely devote more space on search engine result pages to local businesses to help balance results with local and national companies. 

Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. Adding complete information on a profile page will help a business match the relevance of a search. Distance is just like it sounds. And then prominence is the gray area of the algorithm. It’s based on items Google has about a business (like links, directory appearances, and brand mentions), as well as other items that factor into how well-known a business may be. 

The bottom line: if you’re a small business looking to succeed in SEO in 2020, local SEO may be one of your best bets. 

SEO Tip: Create a Google My Business profile and complete all of the recommended steps from Google

SEO Tip No. 4: Create a Google My Business profile and complete all of the recommended steps from Google.” Click to tweet

Natural Language Processing Becomes Mainstream

Search engines use natural language processing (NLP) via machine learning to help determine whether content matches search intent.

NLP offers an incredible way to analyze text to determine what the entities, sentiment, syntax, and categories of that text are about. For example, if a search engine were to analyze this text: 

“Thunderbird School of Management, headquartered in downtown Phoenix (400 E. Van Buren Street, Suite 900, Phoenix, AZ 85004), posted an article about SEO predictions on the Knowledge Network. Brett Farmiloe said in his article that SEO will rely on natural language processing via machine learning.”

Then a search engine would use machine learning to analyze the text like this: 

Using natural language processing, we can see this sample text accurately identifies the organization, locations, person, work of art, and other categories. We can also see how search engines use machine learning to identify dependencies on other topics within text.

With that said, search engines using machine learning can identify all the key entities, sentiments, and categories around a search query. When factoring in the top 30 search results, a search engine can pretty accurately identify dependencies within a topic. For example, if an article on “what is SEO” was missing a section about links, then a key dependency is missing from the query. As a result, the syntax of the search engine gets interrupted, and maybe the article suffers in search results.

My SEO prediction is that you’ll see more authors writing to satisfy natural language processing around certain topics. Machine learning is just how search engines work. If writers can’t satisfy the demands of a search engine around a topic, then content won’t rank organically. Writers naturally have to adjust to get results. 

This may sound scary, but there are benefits. Natural language processing can help provide writers with more direction and structure for SEO copywriting. That direction gives writers confidence, allowing them to create the best possible content around areas where they may lack knowledge. And as a result, content improves.  

SEO Tip: Audit top performing content to determine search intent before creating your own content. 

SEO Tip No. 5: Audit top performing content to determine search intent before creating your own content. ” Click to tweet

What else is in store for SEO?  

There are a few other trends happening with search engine optimization that could come to light in 2020: 

  • Standing up for privacy and using a service like DuckDuckGo to ensure personal information and browsing habits remain private.
  • SEO becomes more important in a digital marketing strategy as Google Ad and Facebook Ad costs continue to rise
  • SEO becomes the majority of an online marketing strategy for some industries like credit repair, where Google is beginning to restrict advertising altogether. 
  • Google rolls out a major algorithm update focuses on bad links. Yes, BERT just was rolled out in October 2019 as a major algorithm update. But 2020 feels overdue to address links once more.  

What is next for SEO? How will Google and other search engines evolve? What trends are evident? 

Everything in SEO is an unknown, but one thing is for certain: 2020 will be an interesting year in search. 

About the author
Brett Farmiloe is the CEO of a 
SEO company for small businesses. Google “digital marketing company” and you’ll likely find his company, Markitors, on the first page of search results nationwide. Brett is a published author, and frequently contributes articles to Forbes, Business Journal, and the Knowledge Network. 

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