SEO Manager, Ross Stuart, shares what he thinks the industry could see as we push on into 2022.
As another year of COVID comes to a close, home offices across the country have never looked better. Things have certainly been more positive than the train wreck of 2020, but the SEO industry shows no sign of a vaccine to cure poor user experience or a volatile search landscape.
As we enter 2022, there are a few things which marketers need to keep front-and-centre, particularly if you want to compete in the Organic space. These are my top five SEO trends for 2022, this can all be turned upside-down with a single Google blog post, however, for now, I believe we have a good idea on where the industry is headed.
Page title changes
Google is now able to chop and change page titles depending on the customer search query. This means that your beautifully crafted page titles might not always get seen by your target customers, but try not to panic when checking out your own listings in the wild.
Not to worry though, these customer-facing changes will not impact your ability to rank in SERPs. These usual ranking factors are still processed as per the code on the page, so the ranking signals you are passing through your meta page titles will still support your listings.
Putting on my tinfoil hat for a second, I suspect that this may continue with other elements being augmented by search engines in future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google sticking its oar in throughout 2022.
Infinite scroll on SERPs
Infinite scroll, or continuous scroll, provides an endless stream of search results without the added friction which is caused by users needing to manually proceed to the next page of results. Another move towards user-friendly design on Google’s part, but what can we expect to see as SEOs?
Marketers can expect to see shifts in CTR and impressions following the change, particularly for those keywords which were previously on the cusp of page one. Without the barrier to browsing further pages, and with pages still being loaded in batches of 10, your page two keywords are likely to benefit the most.
This is currently being tested in the US, however, if this achieves the intended results, it will likely be rolled out internationally.
Google MUM update
BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) was a previous incarnation of this new update and Google has essentially super-charged BERT and created MUM. MUM stands for Multitask Unified Model and boasts some seriously impressive scope – being 1,000 times more powerful than BERT.
What does this acronym actually mean though? Essentially, Google will be able to help users when there isn’t a simple answer (featured snippets are more than enough here). There are plenty of examples of this in practice, such as a query like [How should I prepare to climb Mt. Fuji after completing Mt. Adams?]. There are many variables to consider here, the elevation of each mountain, average temperature throughout the year, the difficulty, the time it would take, recommended equipment and much more. This is where MUM can help.
In terms of optimising your SEO strategy to make the most of this update, what should you be doing differently?
Authority signals (EAT) are going to be more important than ever, so make sure you are supercharging your content and showcasing why you are experts in this field if you want Google to use your resources.
Don’t be afraid of long-form content. Not only is this great for backlinks, typically driving 77% more than shorter pieces, but passage indexing is also present to support this. Longer content helps bolster your EAT value and Google is now able to pull out relevant segments to customer queries, provided your pieces are structured with sensible headings to keep crawlers informed of the context of your pages.
Focus on user intent
User intent has been on the minds of many SEOs over the years. However, we are now beginning to see the impact of this in SERPs, which can now look drastically different depending on the search query used. We need to consider what the customer actually wants when searching. This can be illustrated by searches for “how to” queries, where users now want videos to help them rather than a lengthy guide. If you are trying to play in this space, it would be worth investing in some optimised video content of your own.
This can be supported by new functionality added to many keyword tracking tools such as Authoritas and SEMRush which gives insight into this subjective data, allowing for more scalable analysis. If you have access to these platforms, it would be well worth your time to see what insights you can surface for your clients.
User experience continues to be measured by search engines
Google’s mission statement illustrates a clear intent to improve user experience when browsing the web. For those who don’t know, Google strive to “organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful”. It should come as no surprise then that they are implementing changes to support this user-first approach.
With the introduction of Core Web Vitals, Google is now better equipped to track and measure user experience, keeping on top of these metrics is essential if you want to pip your competitors at the post. This is illustrated nicely by a study from Screaming Frog which proved P1 listings are 10% more likely to have passed the CWV assessment than those competitors ranking on page one.
This trend isn’t anything new, but it is important to strive and make your site better from a UX perspective. There are a few ways to do this: increasing your Core Web Vitals score, improving page speed, removing intrusive interstitials, introducing mobile-friendly and responsive designs among others.
There is a lot to chew on when building out your roadmap for next year, ultimately, the direction has not drastically changed. Provide a better experience for users, tailor your content for their intent and prove to search engines why you are an expert in your field. A good rule-of-thumb here continues to be “optimise for people, not for bots”.
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To learn what the content marketing industry has planned next year, be sure to read our Content Strategist Adam’s Content Marketing Trends in 2022 article.