To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.Henri Bergson
If you feel like you're constantly recreating yourself and the way you do SEO, you definitely aren't alone. It felt as though things couldn't get any more tumultuous after 2020 (you know, with a global pandemic and all).
Then came 2021. And Google said, “Hold my beer.”
Hot on the heels of the Passage Ranking launch in February came the Product Reviews update to shake up eCommerce marketing, leaving triumphant winners and unfortunate losers in its wake.
Summer brought a flurry of updates as Google finally rolled out the Page Experience update, slowly rolled out a core update through June and July, and took direct aim at link spam in a late July update.
Based on all these updates and the trend Google is taking with itself, we wrote up this blog after discussing it with many SEO industry experts. Let us know in the comments below what you think about these updates.
1. User Intent One of the most talked-about topics for 2022?
User intent. It's a trend that's here to stay.
Google is taking a user-focused approach to search engine optimization, but what exactly does that mean?
It appears Google is working hard to identify the right intent behind a user's search, irrespective of the type of queries. For example, if you're searching for “best restaurants in Brisbane” you'll be shown relevant information based on your location and previous searches. This is because Google understands that you are in Brisbane and are looking for restaurants in this city.
As a result, it's important not only to create content based on user intent but also to ensure it can be understood by both humans and machines.
That's where SEO professionals need to focus on bringing a holistic approach to your content strategy in 2022.
Be it video, blog, or web content, it must be planned for the keywords, users' intent behind searching and consuming them, your intent behind creating them, and the stage at which your consumers are in the buyer's journey,
Search intent will become ever more important in 2022.
Understanding search intent continues to become more important than ever, particularly with the introduction of Google's Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update.
I think we will see more search marketers rethink their approach to content creation by focusing on understanding search intent more intelligently with keyword research as an important bedrock to organic search strategy.
Even so, we need to be able to look beyond keywords in their raw form and draw meaningful insight from them.
Understanding the relationship between your keywords and knowing how to target them to meet the search intent is already the key difference between an effective and ineffective search strategy, but in 2022 it will become even more vital
In 2022, user intent focused content will take it to a new level. I don't mean merely breaking things down by informational or transactional intents, etc. I mean, considering everything intent encapsulates for the multiple user profiles who might find the same piece of content useful.
It's the ability to adequately empathize with your audience so as to provide a comprehensive experience that addresses their implicit concerns.
One aspect I regularly see for large sites while completing audits is many pages being categorised as ‘Discovered, currently not indexed' in Google Search Console.
Get familiar with this exclusion type within the Coverage report in GSC and pay attention to the patterns Google is trying to highlight.
Google has said in the past that you should be making sure published pages (that are indexable) should be fantastic.
Stick to this as your SEO mantra, and you'll have a future-proof SEO strategy ready for 2022.
But why is this happening?
Many are doing short-term SEO efforts mainly to gain links and awareness from digital PR, adding hundreds of content, or only tackling specific technical SEO fixes. These work well for quick wins, they are not long-term solutions.
This trend also created so much similar content on the web. Considering the MUM update, it is important to publish unique content covering specific topics that are not covered by other websites.
Rather than adding hundreds of generic content to the site, research the overall interests of the target audience, organize those entities by the topic, and prioritize them by the relevance to the business goals.
Focus on the information that is uniquely different from others and highlight your speciality in the topic area.
With recent enhancements to Google's algorithm in the way of BERT and MUM, I think more and more SEO professionals are going to focus on the quality of their content and site structure.
While content has always been a focus of SEO professionals, with these updates, it's going to be easier to speak to the quality of content being something that deserves focus.
To succeed post-paradigm, you need to focus on creating content that is factual and useful. The big winners will be those sites known for their contributions to their targeted subject matter.
3. Localization Of SERPs & SERP Changes
Misinformation is pushing Google to create a fact-oriented SERP.
Search results are powerful. Simply seeing an idea repeated across page titles in a SERP can reinforce a belief.
Google is often experimenting with changes to the mobile layout for local intent specifically, I foresee continued testing and changes in this area, especially for growth in online shopping, reviews, trust signals, and brand awareness.
My recommendation is to focus on reputation on third-party and industry sites as well as wikis, GMB completion, site markup, and knowledge panels.
Google will be focusing a lot more on the localization of content over the next year.
In 2021 we already saw more websites with country-specific content outranking those that used to be top of the SERPs but are more globally focused.
This will only get more obvious in 2022 even for purely online businesses with no brick and mortar offering. For sites that are not just targeting one country, it will be increasingly necessary to create local-focused content.
Look at your key search terms that show some local intent. For instance, ‘[x online service] UK' – if you are seeing search results being served that have obvious keyword targeting for ‘UK' you may be in an industry where Google is showing more localized SERPs.
In that case, you will need to look at creating UK-specific pages where you perhaps had globally-focused ones previously. You will need to show local relevance in your content, as well.
4. Images & Visual Content
Sites with unique images will see a large boost in Image, Product, and normal search. This is also a user behaviour/intent reaction as younger users identify or resonate with unique lifestyle images and can instantly tell if something is real or staged.
By rewarding sites that use original imagery, more will be created. Google Lens then learns more, this incentivizes the growth of original content from creators while learning more about areas, people, products, etc.
Check this latest update in Google for site logos here: Optimize Your Website Logo For SEO With Latest Updates From Google
Bigger image blocks are displayed in the results for some queries. The boon of good image assets isn't limited to SERP. Google Lens will enable shoppers to look for a product using a photo on their device or found on a website – essentially a reverse image search with a solid use case for image optimization.
Google Discover is also leveraging images.
While Discover has been largely overlooked as an SEO opportunity, the inclusion of Discover data into the Search API shows that unified data sources and best practices are going to continue
We can reasonably hypothesize that with the new 4-page scroll of the SERPs on mobile and the increase of images, the normal search will start looking a lot more like Discover.
AI is set to make the search much richer.
Google Images are not going to just be a secondary search engine. AI is going to allow Google to recognize when an image or video might be the best result for a user. Google has already revealed some of the capabilities they have in this area.
And with Google Lens now a primary search action on Android devices, expect direct image search to grow even more.
Automation of SEO practices – whether technical audits, competitor analysis, or search intent analysis – has already started this year and in 2022 will become even more widespread.
As more SEO professionals worldwide become increasingly Python-savvy, we'll see more automation, especially in agencies where more will automate as much of the technical audits, tools for analysis, and other areas of research, as much as possible.
We'll see the automation of technical audits to make use of machine learning to segment technical issues by content type making the automation of technical audits more ‘intelligent.
The pace of change in SEO has continued to increase exponentially, while at the same time enterprise SEO professionals are dealing with ever larger and more complex sites.
The need for better automation to overcome gaps in technology, skills, and resources to be able to scale execution is rapidly passing from a ‘nice to have' to a necessity. Data is abundantly available now and has become a commodity.
The challenge is reducing the time from data acquisition to insights to action. SEO pros (and the tools they use) will need to invest significantly more in developing automation in the year to come.
SEO experts and content creators should be investigating their options for automating content creation.
We can get an assist in competitive research, analyzing existing SERPs, and understanding related entities and concepts from technology like Semrush. But I don't foresee any point in the next decade where automated content creation will satisfy user and search engine requirements without the assistance of the editorial process and human creativity.
The possibility that I might one day soon be able to train my own language model(s) and scale my efforts in that way is exciting.
For SEO professionals who focus on content and on-page, this will be a growing area of opportunity in 2022 and beyond.
6. Natural Language Processing & Machine Learning
There will not be any major changes in 2022 in this area. But there are a lot of more subtle shifts that we're seeing that point to the same two things: natural language generation and data pipelining.
Google's evolution of multi-modal search suggests that there's a bigger focus on search journeys rather than individual queries. This has interesting implications with respect to how we need to judge things such as co-occurrence and named entity recognition when we're doing our own optimization.
Google's shift towards being able to tease out subtopics from broader pages is an indication that more robust content has a better chance to perform in the long tail than it has previously.
Apple and Google will continue to march us towards their data monopolies with the eventual death of cookies. This further indicates a need for the collection of first-party data and pushing that data into a data store like BigQuery so you can capitalize on it for a variety of optimizations.
People who capitalize on this data collection and find ways to combine it with advancements in Natural Language Generation and the understanding of the entity and keyword relationships will be able to scale the creation of robust content that's positioned to rank.
Iterations on machine learning natural language models have continually improved multiple times every year.
Best-in-class models used on the SQuAD dataset exceeded human performance in terms of precision in early 2020. The commoditization of machine learning solutions for generating content (as a means of supporting writers) and categorization is something that inspires many creative writers.
I expect to see federated machine learning where information from your mobile device is uploaded to the cloud once a day, and then data is returned to your device after it has been processed along with search selection and browsing information from many other mobile device users to power a machine-learned model.
Google has blogged about this and has released a patent on it, and Apple Search has also patented federated learning, and how local and network computer information can be combined under that approach.
7. Mobile & User Experience
Last year, Google introduced new tools to support the optimization of mobile as well as page experience. With those pieces maturing, I think mobile page experience as it relates to core web vitals as content will lead the charge.
As SEO experts, we tend to look at pieces, but based on recent tooling, resources, and updates to analytics it's clear that the entirety of the mobile experience from the discovery aspect all the way through to how easily users can interact, engage, and utilize will come together just as content experience has over the past few years.
This will impact not only mobile UX but Core Web Vitals on mobile, mobile usability, mobile-first indexing, and mobile security, as well.
In 2022 SEO professionals should stop trying to chase algorithms and instead lean into long-term, sustainable SEO strategies.
The noise is so endless that to focus on the work, you'll have no choice but to only think of the merits of your site and brand – not the latest industry news or Google update. And that's probably a good thing.
Enterprise e-commerce brands should increase focus for sustainability SEO targeting (as approved by their legal team) to support corporate social responsibility.
Google has already added result enhancements to incentivize sustainable choices in Shopping, Maps, and Nest. Although search demand has not yet peaked, consumer appetite should continue to build throughout 2022 and beyond.
Reducing the carbon footprint of our websites and digital infrastructures is not only a right step forward towards achieving net-zero, but it could even become a defining factor in search user's behaviours.
Google is starting to display carbon emissions of flights and labelling eco-friendly hotels, It's not absurd to believe that Google could even begin showing the eco-impact of webpages.
This could encourage greener attitudes online, especially considering the fact websites and their supporting systems have a similar carbon footprint to the airline industry.
Although creating more sustainable websites involves similar tactics to improving performance (e.g., improving availability, optimizing performance), carbon emission reductions could soon become an important metric worth reporting on.
Microsoft and Yandex are leading the way with IndexNow. This allows websites to easily notify search engines whenever their website content is created, updated, or deleted.
With this API, search engines are notified of updates so they can quickly crawl and reflect website changes in their index and search results.
IndexNow is changing the relationship between SEO professionals and search engines forever.
It's eliminating the frustration from IT teams at how search bots hit websites. No longer will their crawlers put a heavy load on systems.
This is especially impactful to startups that grow quickly – not to mention the many times companies have launched new pages and had to wait for search bots to find them, crawl them and rank them.
This is particularly useful when changes are made to a database that updates millions (sometimes hundreds of millions) of URLs.
With IndexNow, SEO pros can submit a list of only URLs with changes and/or updates through the API. Bing and Yandex immediately know about these updates and changes instantly.
On the other side of this relationship, the search engines themselves can greatly benefit from IndexNow.
Microsoft's Fabrice Canal, Principal Program Manager at BING, is leading the IndexNow charge.
The growing importance of E-A-T will be a trend to consider in 2022.
No matter your approach to SEO, understand how to demonstrate an appropriate level of E-A-T in your on-site content, link building, online PR, and even technical SEO.
This doesn't mean you need a doctorate to be an expert on shoe repair blogs. But being or hiring a subject matter expert that produces, edits, or consults on content is no longer optional. Marketers should hire writers with a passion for the subject matter.
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Authoritativeness can be defined as “the perceived or actual authority in a field, based on a combination of several factors including knowledge, experience and credentials.” This is particularly important in the realm of technical SEO.
Promoting E-A-T is a key component to boosting your rankings in SERPs.
There are many ways to demonstrate E-A-T. For example, you can build trust through online reviews and testimonials.
You can establish expertise by writing helpful content that goes above and beyond what's required for users to complete a task. And you can demonstrate your authority by listing relevant certifications and degrees.
In addition to demonstrating E-A-T on your website, be sure to do so in your online PR efforts as well.
E-A-T can also be called “Content Usefulness”.
The challenge we have always had with E-A-T is that it's not really measurable. So we came up with our own metric, Content Usefulness, which we can measure.
For example, once we see the types of pages/ content ranking for a large set of related queries, we can analyze those pages at scale and compare them to our site's pages.
The difference between the ranking pages and those that don't rank – often a specific type of content (e.g., reviews, phone numbers, videos, topics, etc.) – can illustrate what content searchers, and therefore Google, deem useful.
Figuring this kind of stuff out and how to apply it to your site will likely not only be an SEO trend for 2022, but for the foreseeable future.
With search engines evolving faster than ever, these top 10 trends in SEO are expected to rise in 2022.
I also believe there will be more search options by the end of 2022 with the increase in the share of search engines like DuckDuckGo.
In the coming years, SEO is likely to become even more competitive with SEO professionals battling over keywords and SEO as a potential career will continue to grow in popularity.
It's not expected that SEO experts will disappear any time soon for businesses, but it is predicted that there will inevitably be greater competition for keywords.
If you want to be the most impacting person in the industry, keep up with the trends. It is a jungle out there. Plan your strategies carefully and stand tall.