When we talk about SEO trends, we aren’t equating it to fashion trends that seesaw according to the season and TikTok influencers. SEO trends are less erratic and are influenced both by major algorithm updates from Google and user search behaviour. They aren’t meant to be followed simply because they are popular. Instead, they are meant to influence your SEO and digital strategy, coexisting with past trends.
Older SEO trends don’t become outdated and safe to ignore; they either shift in importance for a period or become foundational aspects of your SEO and digital strategy. By way of example, mobile-first was a critical SEO trend for a few years starting in 2016 but isn’t mentioned as frequently now. This is because it is now a core principle of search engine optimisation and web development, not an obsolete approach.
Which brings us to the SEO trends you should focus on in 2022. There are more than the five we discuss below, but they are concerned with the more technical aspects of SEO, which your developer should be following.
Core Web Vitals
In May 2020, Google announced that page experience would become a search ranking factor in a future update. And early in 2021 they confirmed that the page experience update would begin rolling out in June 2021.
The new page experience update combines existing page experience signals with a new signal, Core Web Vitals. And while Core Web Vitals is a technical component of SEO, it is vital that you know a bit more of what they involve.
As the name–and existing signals–implies, this update is concerned with the experience of any visitor to your site, regardless of the device they are using. The existing signals emphasise security, accessibility of your site on mobile devices, and whether the user experience is degraded by annoying pop-ups and overlays that have to be closed. Core Web Vitals take this a step further by measuring the loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability of your site. In more detail, these are:
Largest Contentful Paint
Largest contentful paint (LCP) is a measure of the amount of time it takes the largest content element on the page to load but limited to elements above the fold. This would usually be a featured image, text using the <H1> tag, or even a video at the top of the webpage. Less than 2.5 seconds is great, and anything that takes longer than 4 seconds would be poor.
First Input Delay
First input delay (FID) is a measure of how long it takes for your site to respond to a user’s first interaction with the webpage. This could be anything from clicking or tapping on a link, typing information into an entry field, or even pressing play on a video. Ideally this should be less than 100 milliseconds, with anything longer than 300 milliseconds being poor, especially on your conversion pages.
Cumulative Layout Shift
Cumulative layout shift (CLS) looks at any unexpected layout shifts that occur on the page while–and after–loading. Think of any site you have visited where, as you are reading through the copy, it suddenly shifts substantially, and you have to scroll up or down to find your place again. Or, right as you are about to click on the Login link, it shifts to the left and you end up clicking on the Signup or Forgot My Password link. The goal should be under 100 milliseconds, and anything longer is going to frustrate visitors to your site.
You, your developer, and your SEO manager or agency can access your website’s Core Web Vitals through Google Search Console.
Given the importance of mobile-friendliness, focus first on the URLs labelled as Poor on the Mobile report. Some fixes might be as simple as optimising–or even resizing–images, while others might require changes to be made to your site layout or code. And in doing this, you could see some of the URLs reported as Need Improvement shift over to Good.
Depending on the size of your site, fixing your Core Web Vitals could take some time, but it is important to work on, and to keep monitoring. Core Web Vitals is not something you just look at once; it requires ongoing monitoring. More for your users own experience than simply wanting to rank better in Search, and never at the expense of the quality of your content:
Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.
Like Page Experience, Passage Ranking was first mentioned by Google in 2020, but only introduced early in 2021. Although it is still only officially for queries in English in the US, you might have already come across it when using Google in other countries. And it will roll out to other countries and for queries in other languages. It is also something you can start optimising for now, and it doesn’t require any technical skill, since it involves the content and copy on your website.
With Passage Ranking, Google’s Search Algorithm now includes whole webpages and individual passages that answer specific queries in search results. Nothing changes visually on SERPs, all the Google search results still look as they always have. But when clicking on some results you are taken directly to the passage in the content that answers your search query. The relevant section is also temporarily highlighted, making it more visible. The whole page loads as normal, so you are still able to read through the entire piece of content if you want. Passage Ranking is great for finding quick answers, and when your content is structured properly it can also increase your visibility in SERPs.
And structured content is the key thing you need to focus on when producing new content and optimising existing content. Try to ensure that all content is broken into individual sections that cover subtopics of the primary subject. Ideally, each section or subtopic will also have an H3 subheading. Long-form content lends itself well to Passage Ranking, but any content with logically structured copy and clearly identified subtopic sections or passages should work too. Ultimately, Google sees Passage Ranking improving seven percent of all search queries as it rolls out globally and in more languages.
User Search Intent
There has always been a purpose or objective to every search query, but until recently it wasn’t always easy to identify each user’s intent. But the inclusion of BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) and Multitask Unified Model (MUM) in Google’s Search Algorithm is slowly changing this. Both of these technologies relate to natural language processing and understanding. Meaning they help improve the Google Search Algorithm’s ability to better understand each search query. And this applies both to understanding long, complex queries and interpreting the intent of the search query.
User search intent is broken down into four categories:
- Informational intent–as inferred by the name, these are queries where the user is looking for more information. This could be on a product; a service; how to do or build something; current and historical events; and even places and people. Often these are search terms where the how, why, what, when, and where are implied or explicitly included.
- Navigational intent–these are search queries where the user is looking for a specific website or webpage of a stated website. They might simply be a brand name, such as Harry’s Plumbing or Coffee Beans Café, on its own or with “website” included in the query. For a specific page it might be Harry’s Plumbing prices, Coffee Beans Café menu, or Sole Shoes address. And it is essential for your site to appear in the top results for any navigational queries that include your brand. And if you’re the owner of Coffee Beans Café and are seeing lots of navigational queries involving your menu, you need to ensure you get your café menu online.
- Transactional intent–these are queries where the intent is to complete a transaction. Search terms usually include words such as buy; for sale; price; coupon; discount; cheap; or subscribe. Transactional intent queries are not limited to users wanting to make an online purchase.
- Commercial investigation–the user intent here is closely linked to transactional. They are planning on making a purchase in the near future, but for now they are still doing research. The type of results they want are product or company reviews, comparison articles, and sometimes pages offering samples and discounts.
When researching keywords for new webpages and articles for your website, start thinking about what the user’s intent might be when using particular keywords in their queries. Then you will be able to write copy or content that is more likely to satisfy that intent and be seen by Google’s algorithm as being more relevant.
But like with Passage Ranking, you shouldn’t ignore your existing copy and content. Look at the type of queries that are driving search traffic through to individual webpages on your website and try to infer what the user intent is, and then examine the actual content on each page to see whether it satisfies the intent. Semrush has already updated their SEO tools to include intent markers and values.
Original Images & Video Segments
Visual search is a growing trend and is particularly useful for shopping. Using Google Lens, you can simply take a photo of the product you are looking for and have Google return various results for it. By early 2021, Google Lens was being used more than three billion times a month.
One way to benefit from this would be to move away from using stock images or supplied images, particularly for products shown on your website and catalogued in your e-commerce platform. This is because unique images will stand out more when everyone else is still using stock or supplied images. Additionally, during the Search On 2021 event it was revealed that Google is working towards making organic search more visually browsable and intuitive. This would see SERPs starting to include bigger image blocks for some results and queries.
For video, you would have noticed that any Google search results that include video results at the top of the page, the video is already set for the segment or key moment that matches your query. This has previously been limited to video’s hosted on YouTube, but new schema markup makes it possible to achieve the same with videos you host on your own server. Some technical skill is required to add this structured data to your self-hosted videos, but your developer would be able to assist. If your video content is on YouTube, you can specify exact timestamps and labels for segments and key moments in the video description. Make sure your YouTube channel and video descriptions also make it easy for users to navigate straight from the video to your website.
It’s easy to forget that Google isn’t the only search engine. And although other search engines such as Bing have a significantly smaller market share, people do still use them.
So, while Google Search doesn’t currently support IndexNow, it doesn’t mean you can completely ignore this technology. The goal of IndexNow is to reduce the crawl load on websites by telling search engines which pages or URLs have changed. This might be the addition of new URLs or the removal (deletion) of certain pages, or it might simply be you making a few changes to existing pages or adding and removing products from your e-commerce platform.
It doesn’t sound like much, but by reducing crawl load, you limit any negative impact on your website’s performance for users while also ensuring that new content is indexed faster.
At the moment, IndexNow is only supported by Bing and Yandex, but will likely be adopted by more search engines, including Google, in the near future. Implementing IndexNow is technical, but your developer should be able to take care of it quite easily.
Staying up to date with all the latest SEO developments and trends can be challenging for smaller businesses. Conversion Digital can help, whether it is fixing disruptive content layout shifts on your website or creating informative content that is structured for passage ranking and matches user intent. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with all aspects of your digital journey.