Search engine optimisation is a fast-moving field. As Google races ahead to implement new innovations and update its existing algorithms, businesses often find themselves scrambling to keep up.

Below we have laid out the three SEO trends that are going to be most important in 2020, especially in light of Google’s latest algorithm update.

The Decline Of The Keyword

Keywords are so integral to the SEO process that it seems absurd to suggest they might be on their way out. However, while it might be an uncomfortable reality, keywords are a relic from the earliest days of internet searches. Keywords were great when people used the internet as a library – you simply typed a subject of interest into the search bar and the search engine would retrieve content that matched your keyword.

However, we no longer search for vague keywords. Google’s search algorithms have been increasing in sophistication for a couple of decades now and their ability to discern a user’s intent from their search query is one of the most important manifestations of this improvement.

Users are no longer searching for simple keywords, which means that businesses need to start targeting what they are searching for. Whenever you have the opportunity, ask your customers about their journey to purchase. Pay particular attention to the kind of search queries they are using and focus on these instead of traditional keywords.

Zero-Click Searches

Google’s SERPs are much more dynamic than they once were. If you type a relatively straightforward question into Google, it will often return a SERP that contains the answer without the need for the user to click through to another website.

On the surface, this might sound bad for businesses – if a user’s query is answered on the SERP itself then the user has no incentive to visit the business website. However, it is important to be realistic. A user searching for a phone number or other simple information probably wasn’t going to convert anyway. Had they been searching for a product or service that you provided, a zero-click search would not have yielded results.

In fact, you can use zero-click searches to your advantage. Google’s SERPs sometimes contain featured snippets. These are previews of content that are relevant to the user’s search query. Google is very selective about what it includes in these snippets, so you need to ensure that your data is structured properly, and your content is of high quality. If you can land a featured snippet, though, you can expect significant returns.

All Hail BERT!

BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is the latest update to Google’s search algorithm and represents the biggest change to how Google searches work since RankBrain. According to the search giant, BERT will impact around 10% of all search queries made through Google.

BERT is designed to enable Google to better understand the nuances of human language and interpret search queries accordingly. We mentioned the declining importance of individual keywords earlier – BERT is part of the reason for that decline. BERT is also the missing link that will enable businesses to target a user’s intent when they search, not just the string of characters they enter.

Taken together, these three trends are indicative of the direction that SEO is heading in. We are moving away from keywords and towards intents, away from what the user is searching for, to why they are searching for it. The businesses that are able to adapt to this new approach the quickest will have a significant advantage over their competitors.