Search engine optimization (SEO) is constantly evolving and the pace has shown no signs of slowing.
Last year, Google made several significant algorithm updates such as the Core Web Vitals and Page Experience Updates. This year, experts expect search engine optimization updates to focus on accessibility, mobile-friendliness, and improved user experiences. Here are 3 SEO trends to keep an eye on:
1. Google Will Focus On Usability
Google's page experience rollout is expected to be completed this month This will place the same page experience expectations on desktop as there currently are on mobile, namely:
- Core Web Vitals. These are key aspects of how your site performs against metrics that Google considers when determining a good user experience. Specifically, these metrics include largest contentful paint (how long it takes for your page content to load), first input delay (how long until a user can interact with a page element), and cumulative layout shift (the stability of your content as it loads). You can test your site by running a Core Web Vitals Report within your search console.
- Mobile-friendliness. For complex sites with dropdown navigation or pop-up forms, ensuring a mobile-friendly experience can be a headache. However, the shift to mobile has continued at a strong pace – even during a pandemic that resulted in fewer people being away from their computers. And while mobile-friendliness doesn't directly relate to the desktop version of your site, some of the rules still apply where pop-ups and other intrusive elements are concerned.
- Accessibility. Many best practices in SEO intersect with accessibility guidelines. Accessible websites meet criteria referred to as POUR, which stands for:
- Perceivable -removal of any barriers users may encounter when trying to access your content
- Operable - usable for everyone, regardless of device
- Understandable - is your site structure clear and navigable
- Robust - able to be accessed and interpreted by screen readers, etc.
Ensuring your site is accessible by everyone should be standard practice, but the tactics to meet these criteria involve descriptive page titles, CTAs, alt text, and more that will also improve your SEO.
2. Video Optimization
Over the past year or so, every social media platform has signaled a shift to video, but you may have also noticed that an increasing amount of search engine results pages now include video in prominent positions as well.
It's clear that video content needs to be part of your SEO strategy in 2022 and beyond. Here are just a few of the areas you should be optimizing:
- Search intent and relevancy. Before you create your video, search for the topic yourself. What type of content comes up? Is there already a video listed in the results? Google and YouTube build their results pages based on what they believe searchers are looking for based on millions of similar searches. If your video wouldn't fit within the type of results you're seeing, you may have a hard time breaking through.
- Research and leverage the relevant keywords. Use important keywords in your title, description, and within the content itself. The trick is to do so in a way that reads and sounds natural and not like you're trying to stuff every keyword you can think of into the text. Remember, above all else, write and record your video for people, not algorithms.
- Include a transcript. Whether you create one yourself, use an app, or edit the auto-generated one that YouTube provides, having an accurate transcript is important for SEO. While search engines can't watch your video, they can scan the transcript for keywords, content themes, and search relevance.
- Use clip markup. Clip markup enables you to highlight key points of your video so that users can jump directly to those parts. This also informs Google exactly what timestamp and label you want to use for your featured moments, which will show up on Google search and help provide an overview of what your topic covers.
3. The Continued Importance of E-A-T
The past few years have seen a spike in mis- or disinformation and a resulting distrust in online information. This makes Google's concept of E-A-T, or Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, vital to how Google ranks your content. The concept of E-A-T comes from Google's Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines.
To become viewed as an expert, it's important that you are focused on your key audience and are writing content that they are interested in. This may take time, but being viewed as an expert means that your audience thinks of you as a go-to source of information for your particular field or category, so make sure you stay in your lane.
While expertise has a lot to do with your content creation, becoming an authority requires some outside help. However, the more of an authority on a topic you are the more Google will trust you as a quality result shown to searchers. So how do you become an authority in Google's eyes?
- Backlinks: Work on getting links from authoritative resources in your industry (e.g., news sites, Wikipedia, universities) to your site. Google leverages site-to-site connections throughout the internet to understand how content is linked and whether it's trustworthy and relevant to a search query. The more and stronger the links are, the higher value your content will be given.
- Mentions: Links are ideal, but if you can't get a direct link Google still considers mentions of your name or your company by authoritative sites as a sign of your trustworthiness.
- Social Sharing: if your content is shared widely and consistently across social media, Google may interpret this as a signal of your authority on a topic as well.
Lastly, trustworthiness is the more technical of the three and has a lot to do with how your site is structured. Particularly:
- Does your site include a clear way to contact you?
- Does your site include a physical location?
- Do you have a terms & conditions page, privacy page, etc?
- Does your site have an up-to-date SSL certificate?
- If you are an e-commerce site, do you have clear policy pages?
- If you have author bios, do they link out to authoritative sites (e.g., relevant certifications, credentials)?
Keeping up with Google's changes and expectations for your site and content can be a dizzying task, so we recommend prioritizing and focusing on the basics top start.
Ensure your site is not overly complex, easy to navigate, and relevant to your target audience, and that your existing content is as optimized as possible. Ultimately, the more you focus on understanding your target audience and what content they value from you you'll notice the rest of the pieces will begin to fall into place.
After all, as mysterious and complex as SEO may seem, it really boils down to providing helpful, accurate, engaging information to the audience looking for it. And that is a trend that will last beyond this year.