With 2022 fast approaching, it’s time to review the SEO trends and challenges facing your business. By looking at the current and upcoming changes to this field, we can predict what SEO may look like in the near future.
Google and the other search engines update their systems often. When they run those updates, they change how SEO influences our websites and how those websites rank with search engines. When we think ahead and anticipate those changes, we can tailor our strategies to ride those trends and overcome any challenges, ensuring that our websites stay profitable.
Websites thrive or die based on their response to search engine updates. Some sites see an increase in traffic while others are harmed, with most others falling somewhere in between. Today we’re looking at the state of SEO now, where it is going, and how our websites will react to any predicted changes in search result calculations.
You need to spend time, and sometimes a little money, to follow the best SEO practices. With that in mind, we have provided sources for the information contained in today’s guide. Through these, you can be confident you’re getting accurate information, and you can also use them to read more into the field and how SEO works.
The Importance Of Getting SEO Right
Before we can get into the details regarding SEO and how it will change in the future, we should explain why SEO is so important.
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First, what is SEO? Search Engine Optimization is simply the process by which we tailor our websites to work favorably with search engines and the reputation of our website and brand across the Internet at large.
Things you do on-page and in the backend of your site influence how they are displayed online. Strategies used to build an online reputation also pay an enormous role in how search engines assess your website and brand. Assuming relevancy, a site with a good SEO profile will rank higher on search results pages, where more people will click on them. On the other hand, a bad SEO profile will bury your site, where it will go ignored by the masses.
As of this writing, there are five main components to every SEO strategy:
- Keyword Research – This is where you find the best words and phrases to rank for. Then you can tailor your website to those keywords. They must be achievable but also profitable. For many, this involves targeting keywords that bring in enough traffic without being too competitive.
- Targeted Content – This is the main body of your site, made up of useful, relevant text that incorporates your keyword research into the content itself. It needs to appeal to both your human audience and the search algorithms that are ranking your website.
- On-Page SEO – This is how a page is formatted and optimized with title tags, internal links, and a human-friendly design. Naturally, it intersects heavily with the field of user experience.
- Off-Page SEO – A big part of off-page SEO is brand mentions and link building, both of which point visitors towards your site from other places on the Internet. Off-page SEO is tremendously important and requires a great deal of hard work, patience and discipline.
- Local SEO – This is more important for businesses with storefronts, or who serve local clientele, as it tailors your site to appear in local searches. It is primarily concerned with mobile device searches and is necessary for brick-and-mortar businesses to effectively compete.
So, we know what SEO is, but why is it important? When operating a website, you should practice SEO for five reasons:
- Improved Visibility
When browsing the Internet, we are all spoiled for choice. There are so many individuals and businesses trying to get our attention online, and their success is directly tied to how visible they are. People need to see your website to click on it, after all.
Your site becomes more visible by ranking higher on SERPs – Search Engine Results Pages. The closer you are to the top, the more clicks you get from busy browsers who just want to find quick and easy answers. The top of the very first page is where most of the clicking happens. By practicing SEO, you can get eyes on your site and build an audience/customer base.
- Increased Web Traffic
As your site becomes more visible, and so more people click on it, your web traffic increases. People will try your site out and, if they like it, they’ll even come back once in a while. If your SEO is targeting keywords related to niches or specific groups, you can build a dedicated audience who sees value in the content or products that your site offers. When a human being sees your site and clicks on it, that’s called organic traffic. Organic traffic is the best traffic you can get.
If you get enough traffic, your site can rank for special positions assigned by Google. There is a bit of irony to the way search engines work. Higher rankings lead to more visits and more visits will lead to even higher ranking.
One of the most coveted positions is the “featured snippet,” which appears above the very first search result. It’s a small piece of relevant information that answers the search query. This is often informative content that has been viewed by many other people first.
We have more detail on how Google has been pivoting towards expert and authoritative content later in this guide.
- Improved Domain Authority
Every website has a domain authority score. Domain authority is a bit like a credit score in that it informs others, in this case, search engines like Google, that your site is reliable, trustworthy, and authoritative.
Domain authority considers the site’s age, its internal link structure, its backlinks, and how many words it has, among other factors. Assuming two sites are equal in every other respect, the site with a higher domain authority rating should outrank the site with lower authority. This means that domain authority is paramount. Without it, you won’t be able to compete with other sites for those coveted first-page positions.
Third-party services like Moz’s Domain Authority or Ahrefs’ Domain Rating help us gain insight into how authority is calculated. Through scores ranging from 1 to 100, SEO aims to nudge those scores higher so that our sites have a fighting chance.
What’s more, every page also has an authority ranking called page authority. Not every page is equal. There will be pages on your site that gain more traffic and have more useful information on them.
- Better User Experience
As SEO concerns itself with ranking factors and the search engine algorithms that calculate them. It’s easy to forget that you’re making a site for human beings. If your content is bad or your pages are formatted poorly, people will avoid your site and no amount of domain authority will save it.
That’s why you need to keep user experience in mind. By practicing SEO, and specifically on-page SEO, you will also implement changes that improve user experience. If your organic traffic enjoys the site, they are much more likely to come back, and they may even build online communities around it.
By using scroll and heat maps, you can see conversion rates and how long people spend on your pages. This can show you what works and what doesn’t, in terms of format and design. Generally, people like it when a page puts the content/products front and center, it’s all easy to digest, and it isn’t taxing to look at. Your pages should also load fast, so visitors don’t have to wait for the good stuff.
- Your Site is a Representation of Your Brand
Lastly, you should practice SEO because it’s the best you can do for your website. Relying on distant search engine algorithms can be daunting, especially if it’s how you make your paycheck, but SEO can help us find success.
Through SEO, you make sure your site is the best website it can be and you’re showing your customers the quality they can expect from your brand. SEO doesn’t just make your site more appealing to visitors, the practice can also pick up on mistakes made by search algorithms. Even the software used by Google makes mistakes, like indexing websites incorrectly. If there are shortcomings in your own site or the search engine algorithm itself, then SEO can help right those wrongs.
Here are some common things that search engine algorithms struggle with:
- Web page forms.
- Non-text content like video, images, and audio.
- Slang, idioms, and other semantic issues.
- A messy link structure holding your site’s pages together.
- Duplicated pages exist on the same site.
SEO Trends And Challenges For 2022
Now that we know what SEO is and how it’s important for making effective websites, it’s about time we got into the biggest trends and challenges of 2022.
These are predictions, so they can always be incorrect or become outdated in the future. That said, they are informed by current SEO practices and numerous announcements from Google, which detail the technology they’re working on for next year.
If you’re interested in SEO, you probably know by now that a single update from Google can change the game. Fortunately, you can be prepared by considering how SEO will change in the future, in light of new technology.
Longer, High-Quality Content
There has been a noticeable trend in Google’s updates over the past few years. Starting with the August 2018 “Medic” Update and continued by the May 2020 Core Update, Google seems to be focusing more on authority when ranking search results.
After the May 2020 update, relatively small sites that just had informative content were boosted by the search algorithms. Several larger sites full of backlinks and things like product reviews went to the wayside, their content was no longer desirable. Many of those affected were part of “Your Money, Your Life” niches, so they offered products related to medical or financial subjects. Naturally, Google wants to crack down on misinformation and focus on authoritative content for those areas.
This turmoil pushed E-A-T into the limelight. It’s an SEO acronym that means Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness. To follow E-A-T, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What is the article trying to achieve?
- Is the information accurate and are there available sources?
- Does the info come from a trusted source, with info about the authors available?
Then, with the answers to those questions in mind, you need to:
- Make long, high-quality content that’s relevant to the interests of your audience and the subject matter of your website.
- Imagine and keep notes on what the average buyer persona is for your site, so you know what they value and what they are looking for in your content.
- Include facts and figures where you can, to make claims credible and show trustworthy sourcing for your site.
- Include a bio from the author, so visitors can connect with them more and they can show credentials for the topics that you’re covering.
Many website owners get into SEO because they own e-commerce or affiliate marketing sites, and maybe that’s why you’re here. After the events of 2020, online shopping has become the main way that customers get their goods. Naturally, both Amazon and Shopify posted their best-ever results due to this change in how people bought products.
Google’s main role has always been directing people to Amazon, Shopify sites, or other e-commerce pages where these businesses can make money. Their own online shopping tools weren’t that great and it seems that somebody at Google agreed, because now they’re taking steps to make online shopping easier by working directly with merchants.
How do they do that? Through a little thing called the Shopping Graph. Here’s a quick rundown of how it works:
- Uses product and inventory data taken from retailers directly and keeps track of availability.
- Uses AI to constantly change as different brands, sellers, and products become more or less relevant to search queries.
- Also presents reviews related to those brands, sellers, and products.
Google has also partnered with Shopify so that Shopify-based stores can populate this emerging technology.
Here are some other things that Google are planning to launch at the end of 2021:
- Cart Tabs: When you open a new window in Google Chrome, you’ll be shown any carts that you’ve left open on e-commerce websites.
- Loyalty Programs: Google is also looking at allowing brands to link to your account and establish a loyalty program. This means that visitors can reap the rewards of the loyalty program and it’ll be consistent across Google’s services.
- Affordable Picks: With searches related to cheap products, Google may offer a carousel of affordable choices. Getting into those choices will be profitable for e-commerce site owners.
- Event Picks: Similarly, Google has also implemented a suggested picks feature into retail-based events. They tested this in November of 2021 for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Over time, the way we communicate with search technology has changed. Coinciding with the rise of smartphones and tablets, people have started to talk through their searches instead. Thanks to programs like Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa, speaking to A.I. assistants can be a fast and convenient way of getting stuff done. Google offers its own Voice Search technology, too.
As voice search becomes increasingly popular with younger generations, we are already seeing SEO tailored for spoken words, phrases, and ideas. We think it’s going to become more and more relevant to our SEO efforts going forward. When a customer in 2022 or beyond asks for a product or service, it’d be great if your website is the one that gets pulled up.
It’s easy to see why voice searching will become popular. It’s convenient and any teething problems are quickly ironed out by sophisticated deep-learning algorithms that are capable of “learning” human speech patterns. At this year’s Google I/O conference, they revealed one of these machine-learning processes called LaMDA.
LaMDA stands for Language Model for Dialogue Applications. It’s built on a recurrent neural network called Transformer, which is instrumental to all of Google’s services that need to understand and respond to spoken language. The goal of LaMDA is to better understand human dialog so that the role of a search engine and a chatbot can be seamlessly combined.
When that happens, sophisticated dialog-based searches aren’t far behind. This will add another dimension to SEO, if not take over the field entirely, as everybody flocks to use spoken-word searches instead. Right now, you should consider optimizing your site for voice search. It’s cost-effective and may give you a head start over other sites if voice search becomes the norm in the future.
As we said above, voice search follows the proliferation of smartphones and other handheld devices. There’s a search device in most consumers’ pockets, so mobile SEO is becoming more important than ever. In fact, mobile searches have already overtaken desktop searches and accounted for 55% of page views in 2021.
Search engines can tell the difference between mobile and desktop. This means that you need to practice mobile SEO if you want to perform better in people’s smartphone searches. Right now, mobile SEO is heavily oriented around how the site is displayed on a mobile phone screen.
Your site needs to be mobile-friendly, which can be separated into two parts:
- Formatting – There’s a dramatic difference between a site that’s spread across a monitor when compared to a tiny smartphone screen. Nothing will make mobile users run away faster than a site that can’t be displayed on their phones.
- Responsive – The mobile site needs to load fast and react instantly to the swipes and other inputs of the user. This typically requires a faster page speed than on desktop.
Optimizing Video Content
Content is often assumed to be written, but that just isn’t the case with a lot of brands nowadays. While there will always be a place for written copy, audiovisual content has become very popular online, possibly due to the rise of social media.
Many brands diversify the content they offer by creating written and recorded content and then disseminating it through accounts on Facebook and Instagram. People also watch videos for product or service reviews, so creating video content can help affiliate marketers and related websites.
Adding video optimization to your SEO strategy checklist can help if you’re creating audiovisual content. Remember that SEO isn’t just about what happens on your own site. If your website is the center of your business then making good audiovisual content on platforms like YouTube and Instagram can be a great way to get attention.
From there, they will follow your links and get to your website, where they may become a customer. It also builds up your brand and establishes an audience, both of which are important for online-facing businesses.
You can optimize video content by:
- Implement keywords into channel names, titles, and descriptions.
- Use hashtags on video descriptions too.
- Mention targeted keywords within the video.
Along with LaMDA, Google is also working on a major search algorithm update – the Multitask Unified Model.
First, some context. Google has been working with BERT since 2019. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. Transformers, if you remember, are the machine-learning natural language processors that Google uses for understanding and responding to speech in voice search.
For SEO purposes, you need to understand that BERT is all about determining intent. Using BERT, Google wanted to not just understand the words on the screen but also how they relate to one another, to indicate the intent behind the search query.
BERT was implemented over a year, during which the May 2020 Core Update was rolled out. The focus on authoritative content after that update was because of BERT and the way it tried to understand user intent. It found that certain niches were better served by informational content from authoritative voices.
Now, in 2021, Google is advancing its focus on spoken-word searches by replacing BERT with a new model. That’s the Multitask Unified Model, MUM. When it comes to natural language processing, the folks at Google claim MUM is 1,000 times more powerful than BERT.
The implications of the MUM algorithm are yet to be seen. Like the May 2020 Core Update, we can expect a more substantial update that may interfere with a website’s search rankings.
MUM specializes in analyzing images and video more effectively, which can then be used alongside standard copy and other context clues. With these, it can then estimate the intent of the user when they entered certain keywords.
This is possible through something called multimodality. This is where text, image, and audio-based content are processed and used to inform search results. For example, you could take images of products in the future, and Google will process your intent with them and offer related search results on how they can be used.
For now, including more images in your content may lead to better rankings. This is because MUM can scan images better than BERT, so there may be a boost if you include them. As for the future applications of this technology, the sky’s the limit.
As we have covered, many SEO experts want to rank for the very first search result positions, including featured snippets. Now we have passage ranking, yet another way you can get your website to the top of a SERP.
Passage ranking is exactly what it sounds like. It is where Google finds a short passage of text that best answers a search query, then boosts it. It’ll appear before anything else on the results page, so it’ll get a lot of attention from users looking for a quick answer.
If the passage is clicked on, users will be taken to the web page where that ranked passage can be found. This means that you’ll also see a traffic increase to your website if you can score one of these.
So, how do you achieve passage ranking? We don’t really know yet. We do know that they aren’t keywords. Keywords are static and don’t typically require context to perform well. A passage is nothing but context, making it highly volatile and completely dependent on how Google receives the intent of the passage. That’s why Google is rolling out new techs like MUM and LaMDA, to better understand user intent.
It may take some time for passage ranking to change how we approach SEO. Moving into 2022, SEO experts should be alert to those changes in the importance of keywords. While most may stick to conventional keyword ranking, others may try passage ranking instead to circumvent the competition. The best approach is to try ranking for both.
Optimizing For Google’s Page Experience Algorithm
The last identifiable trend on the horizon is Google’s page experience algorithm. Near the start of this guide, we mentioned the relationship between on-page SEO and user experience. The page experience algorithm looks to quantify how visitors are experiencing your web pages, taking out the guesswork.
We already know that user experience is important. When a visitor likes what they see, they’re more likely to continue visiting the website. Creating a good user experience isn’t just good for SEO, it’s good business.
However, user experience can be very subjective. Different people like different things, so how can Google reduce that to an algorithm? It’s quite simple. Google wants to do this by tracking signals that indicate how the user interacts with the page. If those signals can be reliably detected and then processed, Google hopes to make an algorithm that can turn this subjective experience into a science that we can study and learn from.
The latest big update from Google is the Core Web Vitals update, which included these page experience updates. So, what does it track? There are three main factors:
- LCP – Largest Contentful Paint: This is the metric used for measuring perceived page load speed. This is done by timing how long it takes to show the largest piece of content on the screen. The ideal time is 2.5 seconds or less. 4 seconds or more is considered a poor performance.
- FID – First Input Delay: This metric measures load responsiveness and page interactivity. It does this by tracking how fast people interact with the page after it loads, which is measured in milliseconds. They consider less than 100 milliseconds good and over 300 milliseconds as poor.
- CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift: This metric measures the ‘visual stability’ of a page. It does this by tracking on-page elements and measuring the largest layout shifts. A layout shift is where an on-screen element changes position or size, sometimes drastically altering the page’s format. Ads loading into a page often cause some layout shift.
While they can’t tell us what users feel when interacting with web pages, these three metrics can establish a user’s engagement level and whether the page is working as planned. You want a page that loads fast, is responsive to user input, and doesn’t experience a lot of layout shift. Those three things are the core of fundamental UX design and now we can track them, thanks to the Core Web Vitals update.
The page experience algorithm complements on-page SEO, so we don’t expect it to make waves as we move into 2022. It’s not a fundamental change to Google’s search algorithms and how they process web pages. It’s just another useful tool that future SEO experts can use when chasing better page performance.
That brings us to the end of our SEO predictions for 2022. Through the trends that we’ve highlighted and the challenges they pose, you should be better equipped to navigate the next year of SEO. In fact, many of the technologies included here will stick around for several years.
It seems that search engines are moving toward providing accessibility and authority. Now that everybody can execute a Google search from their smartphone, the focus is now on making the act of searching easier. They’re trying to do this by focusing on user intent and making voice search more feasible. As society at large continues to rely on the Internet, ranking content needs to be accurate, informative, and well-sourced to curtail misinformation.
The arrival of these changes will bring teething issues and barriers that need to be overcome, even if the trend itself seems like a positive one for SEO. Fortunately, anticipating these changes allows SEO experts to reap the benefits of these technologies while mitigating the potential adverse side effects.