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SEO Trends 2022: More Human

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The practice of SEO has been the equivalent of a cat-and-mouse game for years now. SEO experts are basically just trying to keep up with Google’s latest updates, and always trying to figure out how to stay ahead of the algorithm game. 

That was true for 2021, and will continue to be true into 2022. 

But the direction Google has been steering its ship towards for many years now is clear – make search more helpful to humans through AI. Here’s a list of SEO trends that you’ll definitely need to be aware of if you want your business to make the most out of SEO in 2022.

Not an SEO practitioner? Read this first

We’ll be getting into a few technical details throughout the article, so here’s a very short Cliffs Notes version of what you can expect in the rest of this article. If you want to get straight into the nitty-gritty, skip this part.

  1. Familiarise yourself with Google I/O – it’s a yearly event where Google announces changes to the way search works. This year’s edition reinforces what we already know – content that follows EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) will continue to win.
  2. Write content that answers questions, so it has a good chance of appearing on Featured Snippets in search result pages. Quick, snappy, clear answers to common questions.
  3. Look up what Google Shopping is if you sell things online. Thank us later.
  4.  Get in touch with your Web Developers and ask them how your website’s Core Web Vitals are doing and make sure your website works well on mobile.
  5. Create lots and lots of good video content that your audience will find useful, and make sure you clip-mark it.
  6. Wean yourself off of third-party cookies for advertising purposes. Start finding ways to build your own first-party data using SEO.

Trend 1: Google is working on understanding context across data formats

The way someone asks a question and the way they type a query into the Google Search bar have always been a little different. Ever since the introduction of voice assistants though, Google has understood that their definition of a search term needed to broaden. 

Over the past few years, they’ve developed their AI to understand longer and more complex searches that come from voice users. 

They’re now taking that to the next level with something called the Multitask United Model, which they showed off during Google I/O 2021. In more understandable terms, MUM is an AI model that focuses on natural language analysis – it basically tries to understand the meaning and intent of human language beyond face value, and provides contextually accurate results based on that analysis.

It’s also capable of generating responses while drawing information from multiple sources and formats of information, even across different languages. What we’re trying to say here is that Google is attempting to consolidate all the data it already has, and make complex search terms that seem more conversational in nature possible to search.

Imagine asking Google whether your hiking boots are good enough for taking on Mount Fuji by snapping a photo of them and just asking. Google would then take the data from the photo, and give you a definitive yes or no answer, along with information about the best hiking gear for Mount Fuji. That’s the level of helpfulness Google is trying to reach using MUM.

So what does MUM mean for SEO practitioners? 

Will it be a game changer? Not necessarily. The exact way MUM will be drawing information from the internet is yet to be determined, but if it’s anything similar to previous AI models, there will be a continued emphasis on EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). 

So keep creating content that other humans will find genuinely helpful. Use visuals, videos, long-form content if you want to rank well, and make sure your website is technically up to Google’s standards – more on that later.

All this was announced at Google I/O 2021 – a yearly event where the company shows off its latest developments across their products – including Search. Taking a look at the developments that Google announces is essential for any SEO practitioner to stay updated with what’s coming. And it is genuinely insightful.

We’ll be discussing more of what was announced at Google I/O 2021 later in this article.

Here’s a compressed version of the event if you’re interested:

Trend 2: Featured Snippets & Passages

As part of Google’s shift towards answer-based search results, featured snippets and excerpts are being rolled out globally. In Google’s ideal world, every search term has a definitive answer that it can provide with confidence – that’s what the featured snippet tries to accomplish.

As an SEO practitioner, you might find it difficult to rank your page for a highly competitive, broad keyword, but through well-written, answer-based content, an excerpt of your page could be used to answer a long-tail search term – essentially leapfrogging higher ranking and more authoritative pages. 

So make sure that you’re using your titles and headings in a way that allows Google to easily understand the content of your page, and easily lift passages to answer commonly asked questions. 

In the above screenshot, the website that provided information in a clear, simple, step-by-step format that directly answered the question posed by the search term was placed in the featured snippet. The website itself didn’t even rank in the first page of results for the search term!

As a bonus, featured snippets are also the answers that Google Assistant provides users who are using Voice Search.

Google has said that 7% of all search terms will include a featured snippet once it rolls out globally, so this is definitely something to keep in mind when creating your content. 

Trend 3: Google Shopping: Real-time Product Data

The evolution of online shopping was given the equivalent of a can of Popeye’s spinach during the pandemic, and Google has taken note, and adapted. Thanks to their existing infrastructure, Google is capable of drawing data from across the web to provide extremely accurate recommendations based on search terms.

Using partnerships with global eCommerce providers such as Shopify, along with a huge amount of data straight from retailers, Google Shopping offers product results based on a number of different factors such as availability, reviews, loyalty schemes, and prices. They also removed the fees and commissions that previously existed to use their platform to make it more accessible to smaller businesses.

They call the underlying AI model Google Shopping Graph.

Google is in a unique position in terms of eCommerce. If its shopping platform truly takes off, it could even pose a threat to some of the online retail giants that don’t want to play ball with them. If the item you’re searching for on Google shows up on the search results page with the best available deal from across the internet, why would you bother going to Amazon?

If it’s not present already, make sure you’re looking into the Google Shopping platform for your eCommerce site, otherwise you could be seriously missing out in 2022. 

Trend 4: Core Web Vitals & UX Optimisation

As the pool of data and websites has become richer over time, Google Search has become pickier. For example, if your website has excellent content, but loads very slowly on mobile, you’re likely to get shunned by the search engine. 

In order to judge your website from a technical point of view, Google is adding something they call ‘Page Experience’ to the list of factors that can have an impact on whether or not your website ranks well on search result pages.

Google defines ‘Page Experience’ as: 

“a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value.”

What are these signals you ask? Well, there are 4.

Core Web Vitals

The most important is Core Web Vitals, which measures 3 main metrics on your website. These are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This measures loading performance. Google recommends aiming for an LCP under 2.5 seconds after a page starts to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity. Google recommends an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability. Google recommends a CLS score of less than 0.1.

The above may or may not sound like technical jargon to you, but in plain English, Google is measuring:

  • How fast your website loads
  • How quickly it responds to input by the user
  • How stable your website’s visuals are (in other words, it measures whether elements on screen are moving around way more than they should)

If you’re not entirely sure how your website is performing on these fronts, you can follow Google’s own instructions (warning, more technical jargon incoming) or ask your web developer to look into it. The scores you’ll want for each of these metrics are as follows:

If you want a quick idea of your website’s technical health from Google’s perspective, you can also run a quick PageSpeed Insights report

Mobile Friendly

This isn’t exactly 2022-worthy news, but it bears repeating. Your website needs to work well on mobile, otherwise it’s useless to a huge percentage of your potential traffic. Google knows this, and will penalise your website severely in its search rankings if you ignore it.

Not sure whether your website is really mobile friendly or not? Fear not, Google has another test you can run that you can show to your web developer.

HTTPS

The third factor that makes up Google’s Page Experience rating is security. You need to make sure your website has a security certificate. In plain English, just make sure your website has that little security lock next to the URL on Chrome.

This one.

If that little lock isn’t there, you need to give an earful to your web developer, cos this is pretty basic.

Intrusive Interstitials

The last element that affects your website’s Page Experience is ‘No Intrusive Interstitials’. Google loves its jargon doesn’t it?

Don’t you hate it when you load a website that seems to have the exact information you need, but as soon as you enter the site, a bunch of pop-ups and banners appear trying to get you to sign up to their newsletter? 

Well, it turns out that Google doesn’t like that either. So make sure your content isn’t getting hidden behind a bunch of annoying crap as soon as the website loads. This applies for desktop, but especially for mobile, where the lack of screen real estate makes these issues more obvious.

That said, your page won’t be penalised for pop-ups that are legally required, such as cookie usage notices or age verification notices.

Don’t do this.

Trend 5: Suggested Clips & Key Moments

You have most likely noticed recently that video results are turning up more and more often at the top of search results over the past few months. That’s because Google understands that sometimes, the answer people are looking for is best explained visually, using a relevant video.

For example, let’s say I’m an aspiring musician, and I want to quickly get an example of how to pluck a cello. More than likely, I’d take that exact term: ‘how to pluck a cello’ and run it through Google search. Just a few months ago, I would have been given a set of search results, and maybe some video options as well.

Now, though, Google takes it a step further through ‘Clip Suggestions’. Not only does a video appear at the top of my search result page, but a particular clip is selected, showing me exactly what I’m looking for. See for yourself:

If I click on that option, I’m taken to the video itself (not YouTube, just the video), and the suggested clip begins playing.

In the past, this YouTube channel would have likely never really been close to ranking this high up on a search result page. But Google is flexing its video muscles by including more search functionality into its YouTube infrastructure. By analysing the video visuals and audio, Google is able to understand what exactly is happening in the video, and whether it would be valuable to someone who is searching.

A while ago, a feature was added to YouTube videos called ‘Key Moments’, where video creators could essentially bookmark, or segment, their videos. This way, just by mousing over the video, you could get a quick idea of what’s in the video itself.

Extremely useful for those who like to watch YouTube videos, right? Not only. Google is using this extra data gathered from the video creators to provide even more detailed, and specific information on Google Search results.

The screenshot above is from a video review of the latest Apple laptop. Most likely, this video is the absolute best way of getting a quick but in-depth understanding of this product. So if I search for ‘m1 max macbook pro review’ on Google, this is what shows up:

Not only does the video itself show up first, but Google also provides me with a breakdown of exactly what’s in the video, using the Key Moments feature mentioned earlier.

So what’s the lesson for SEO practitioners? Well, thus far, video has mostly been a ‘nice-to-have’ in the SEO world. Now though, with Google giving more value to video results, video is going to be a ‘must-have’ sooner rather than later. Not only should you have videos that accompany your text content, but ideally you’re also creating high-quality, standalone videos that thoroughly answer the questions your audience is asking.

Trend 6: SEO will be essential for first-party data

With the slow, drawn out death of the third-party cookie, you could be forgiven for having a relatively lackadaisical approach to building your own audience database. After all, we’ve been successfully targeting new users through paid formats such as Google Display and Facebook Ads for years now.

The problem is that it’s not sustainable in today’s social climate. People are resisting having their personal data used for advertising purposes, and with good reason. While most advertisers are just trying to sell their products to people they hope might be interested in them, recent events have shown that ultra-targeted advertising can be weaponised for more nefarious purposes. Plus, a lot of people don’t like big tech companies they don’t trust holding so much of their data.

So, in a this-is-why-we-can’t-have-nice-things move, tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. are being forced into giving up some of their ability to sell their users’ data to advertisers.

This means that, as a (hopefully) non-malicious advertiser, you’re going to have to fend for yourself if you want to target new interested users and build conversions. 

SEO is definitely one of the best tools for that job. 

For example, by creating content that is genuinely useful and interesting to your target audience, you can generate a database of interested users through email sign-ups. 

Say you have an excellent piece of content about the Marketing Trends of 2022. You publish it online, but it’s a pretty long, but valuable piece, so you also offer an option to your audience to download a specifically designed PDF so they can read it at their own pace. In exchange for the PDF, you ask for an email address.

If your piece of content is good enough, and you’ve built a solid reputation with your audience, most people would gladly provide their email address because they know they won’t regret it later on as they’re emptying their spam folder. 

That’s the way you can leverage SEO to build a first-party database. But, doing that takes a lot of time and effort. And even though the death of the cookie is still a while away, you need to start building that database. Yesterday.

To Wrap Up

The evolution of Google Search, and by association, the SEO industry, has been slow, but steady. Every update seems to add a little bit more of what humans are looking for, rather than what an algorithm would. 

What’s great about this is that, even though there are less ‘hacks’ and quick wins to be had, it means that it should be easier than ever for genuinely good, human-focused content to rise to the top of search results. The difficulty lies in creating that content, rather than getting it to rank.

We hope these 2022 SEO trends help any practitioner on their way to creating genuinely useful content for their audiences. If you have any questions or would just like to have a chat about SEO, drop us a line.

In the meantime, happy ranking.

Want to read more marketing trends for 2022?

Here are a few more resources we’ve put together, with more on the way:

Web Design Trends 2022

Marketing Trends 2022: The Year of Conflict

Seven Regional Marketing Trends We Want To See More Of

Social Media Trends 2022: The Year of More

B2B Marketing Trends 2022

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