Our Bold Predictions for What The Next Year Will Hold For Search Engine Optimization
Each year, our in-house experts put their instincts to the test and guess what’s going to happen next within our industry, specifically when it comes to SEO. We like to think we’ve been pretty accurate throughout our time – and no, it isn’t because we’re supernatural beings or have a direct communication stream with Miss Cleo. We simply keep our ears to the ground, detect some of the tremors that have been bubbling under the surface and use what we know from the past to sound the alarm before things get too crazy for y’all.
So, what’s in store for 2022? In short: accountability, speed and change. Let’s dig in!
Formatting Content Based On Unique User Intent
At ForeFront, we use a handy tool called Crazy Egg (a website heat mapping app) to see how users interact with specific pages. This helps us organize content on the page to answer users’ most pressing questions faster and even gut specific elements of a page that users almost always overlook. We put these numbers to work for a few clients, reshaped pages and watched as leads started to come in at a faster rate. We even found that adding above-the-fold forms could garner strong leads if that’s the element of the page people were looking for in a previous iteration!
But you know what else happened? The rankings started inching upward. This signal is only going to become more aggressive throughout the next year as Google constantly evolves its algorithm to not just reward fast sites, but also fast sites that answer questions quickly.
The move: pay attention to how users interact with your pages and adjust accordingly.
A Little Lesson From Voice Search
A few years ago, people were freaking out about “voice search” and how it was going to destroy the SEO industry. Well, that never happened. People don’t use voice search to find their next doctor or to buy a metal fabrication machine. They use it to figure out how old Gilbert Gottfried is or to see if it is raining outside because windows are so cheugy.
But there are still some elements of voice search optimization that we can latch onto in hopes of landing better rankings. Go ahead and ask Alexa a more sophisticated question, like how to make a roux. The device will dig into its database, find an answer that is easy to read off and walk you through the process, step-by-step. This content structure is what you want to appeal to! The same strategy is great when trying to lock down a Google Snippet; put the quick, 2-sentence answer above the fold, right underneath the question, and then show your math underneath.
Sure, the page that picks up the Snippet most likely isn’t going to bring in a ton of leads (because these questions are usually reserved for how-tos and data-driven answers), but the authority you pick up along the way will empower the pages you link to.
Make More Changes & Make Them More Often
Back in the day, you could game the system a bit by re-uploading your XML sitemap to Google Search Console every day. That technique isn’t necessarily rooted in deceit; after all, if you’re resubmitting your sitemap, it means you have more content for search engines to digest. However, these algorithms are getting smarter. They don’t really need you to tell them when there’s more data to gobble up.
Throughout the next year, the frequency of changes will be a dominating factor in SEO. Change your verbiage. Swap out images. Move stuff around. Add new pages. The more changes you make, the more often the search engine will reindex your site. If you’re getting reindexed often, that means you’re doing something right and that your changes will have a faster impact!
The move: don’t let your site become stagnant. New pages and posts are great, but even small changes will help the cause.
Author Digital Footprints
The Google algorithm will be more “psychology” than “mathematics” in the year of our Lord 2022. It isn’t enough to just have a quick and secure site with the right answers. You’re going to need to be held accountable for the information you push to the public!
How do you do that? By establishing a digital footprint for your company and its authors.
Create standalone author bio pages(with their own URLs) that include
- Professional social media links
- A short bio/why we should care about this person’s insights
- Other articles they’ve published (on the site and off)
Consider adding a quick two-sentence “About the Author” section at the end of each post to help the cause.
This breadcrumb of accountability is something we really started to see pop up in the healthcare realm, but we strongly feel it is going to branch out into other spaces like manufacturing, law, marketing and B2B services. Remember: this may seem like going the extra mile, but if you don’t do it and your competitor does, guess who is going to get the top spots.
The move: publish those author pages and link back often to prove to Google you know what you’re talking about – and that you’re willing to put your reputation on the line for it!
Local Content Will Overpower National Sites
When you search for something on Google, you almost always get a rich snippet or curated answer without having to click to a site. Next time you do, look a little closer at where those answers are coming from. The search engine already prioritizes smaller websites for matters that are not life or death. Legal advice? Dental issues? Who is the father of the computer? It really seems like Google will try to send you an answer from a niche website that specializes in that one thing.
What does this tell us? You better have a hyper-local presence or the person next to you that does is going to outrank you. Your primary site could rank #1 nationally for a piece of specialized furniture, but the shop that does it specifically out of Michigan? They’re likely taking the top spot because they’ve got that geo-specific, backyard factor in their back pocket. We’ve been learning this the hard way with a few industries, namely dental and manufacturing.
The move: Set up local GMB listings if you have ANY sort of physical presence there. You should also consider creating regional microsites that can feed off of each other (this is especially important for hyperlocal services, like medical/healthcare solutions).
It’s Next-Gen or It’s Nothin’
We’ve all seen it: PageSpeed Insights’ big red notice saying that you need to speed up your website by switching to “Next-Gen Image Formats.” Well, that time has come. We finally have to fill that little Next-Gen image section on the sidebar of WordPress with WebP image files. And for good reason! These things load super quick and require way less storage space without compromising quality.
How do you do it? First, you can keep Cloud Convert handy – it’s free and gets the job done. If you have Photoshop, you can actually bulk/batch export a whole slew of images as WebP and then reupload them to the site.
There are also a few plugins that can handle the task, including:
Are you a more tech-savvy marketing specialist or developer? WPMU DEV has you covered with a more advanced, 5-step process.
The move: convert those old, raggedy and hefty JPEGS to slimming WebP images!
Some Things Stay The Same
Backlinks & Offsite “Citations”
Every year, we hear that backlinking is going to die – but that hasn’t happened & it doesn’t seem like it is going to. The principle of what backlinks work just makes sense. Backlinks are citations for a unique phrase and that connection means a lot. And remember: it’s best to show momentum. Two good links a month for five months is better than 10 links in one month and then radio silence for four!
It’s not just about the information on your site, rather how you present it and who you may be leaving out. Google has really put the hammer down on sites that are not ADA compliant while rewarding those that are. Create a more accessible experience for everyone without sacrificing speed or having to dig into code by using the Accessibility by Way plugin.
Image Alt. Text (But To A Lesser Extent)
Image alt. text is one area that SEO pros use to game the system. By filling out image alt. text, you’re doing right by the user – but you can also sneak phrases into the page. Throughout the past year, we saw the U.S. government pass a historic infrastructure bill that includes $65 billion for broadband expansion.
What’s the connection here? Outside of ADA compliance, alt. text is primarily used by folks with terrible internet connections who can’t fully load web pages. Broadband is going to expand into these rural areas, making alt. text less imperative than it once was. It is still important! But I believe there will be less power behind it.
Are You Ready for 2022?
If so, we’re right there with you and want to hear what your ideas for the future may hold! Like, we actually do want to talk about this stuff. It’s fun to us. Scared about these changes and don’t think you have the bandwidth to keep up? We’ve got you covered. From fresh content to image updates, to backlinks and beyond, our digital marketing team is equipped to help you tackle the ever-changing landscape of the metaverse – or whatever the heck we’re calling it these days!