Status Labs SEO Strategy Manager Jenna Hernandez offers insights on the key SEO trends to keep an eye on in 2022, and how to update your own SEO strategy accordingly.
New year, new SEO best practices. While some things may stay the same, 2022 brings with it new SEO trends, predictions, and factors to consider when it comes to your online strategy.
Earlier this month, Search Engine Journal published a 175 page report of expert opinions on SEO trends in 2022. The report covered the over-growing importance of users, mobile user experience, the role of content in SEO, and much more, as well as what we may be able to leave in 2021.
With such a comprehensive report, it can be difficult to tell which trends are the most important, which should influence your 2022 SEO strategy, and where to start on reformulating your strategy, particularly if you’re new to the world of SEO. Here, we’ll synthesize the main points covered in the Search Engine Journal report with help from Status Labs SEO Strategy Manager Jenna Hernandez, as well as offer our own recommendations and advice on how to update your SEO strategy for 2022.
What is SEO?
We ask (and answer) this question in nearly all of our posts, but if you don’t know where to start, it’s impossible to determine where to go. SEO – or search engine optimization – refers to a combination of strategies implemented to increase the visibility of your website in search results for a particular keyword or search query (or, the term that people will search for in a search engine when looking for something).
Although the overall goal of SEO – to rank better in search results – won’t change, the strategies that can help you will change, depending on SEO best practice.
Why do SEO trends change?
We’re talking a lot about change – but why is SEO always changing? It comes down to two primary factors and the interaction between them:
- User behavior: while early SEO may have prioritized search engines over users, those days are over. As the way users interact with search engines and the results that populate has changed, search engines have reacted accordingly to improve user experience and respond to trends in user behavior. In 2022, your SEO strategy must include a focus on user experience.
- Algorithm updates: debatably, algorithm updates are what determine best practices, but as we just said, many of these updates are guided by user behaviors and preferences. Algorithm updates change how search engines – for most of us, Google – determine what ranks in search results. Google rolls out several updates every year, some small and under the radar while others shake up results significantly. Generally, these algorithm updates aim to provide users with the best results for their search queries and to limit how much people can “game” the ranking system.
Since SEO’s inception in the 1990s, user behavior and algorithm updates have moved us away from search engine-oriented strategies and brought the focus to providing value, information, and relevant insight to the user based on the intent of their search queries.
Why is it important to stay on top of SEO trends?
In 2022, your online presence is one of your greatest assets. With more and more people online every day – estimated to hit over 6 billion this year – and over 90% going online first to learn more about businesses, you need to show up. Only 10% of the billions of web pages out there receive organic traffic, meaning the vast majority of websites aren’t reaching people in search results.
Even if your business is exactly what a user is looking for when they search, you will get buried in search results without an effective SEO strategy. After all, it’s not only about ranking, but ranking well. Less than 1% of users go past the first page of Google search results, and ranking on page 1 may not even be enough with the top three search results earning over 75% of clicks.
So, your SEO strategy needs to be the best, and that means keeping up with the ever-changing SEO best practices. What’s more, as SEO becomes more user-focused, a strong SEO strategy will not only help your site rank better in search results, but can also improve user experience, customer retention, and your overall reputation.
Top SEO Trends to Watch in 2022
- Increasing Impact of User Intent on Content
We’ve talked at length about the influence of users and user behavior when it comes to algorithm updates and SEO best practices, and users will only be more vital in forming an SEO strategy in 2022. Over the years, Google has released several algorithm updates to move away from keyword matching and towards delivering users results relevant not only to their search queries, but also to the intent behind those search queries.
According to Suganthan Mohanadasan, Co-founder and Technical SEO Lead at Snippet Digital, search intent will be more important than ever in 2022, particularly when it comes to content creation: “I think we will see more search marketers rethink their approach to content creation by focussing on understanding search intent more intelligently.”
What You Can Do
While it can seem difficult to determine intention behind particular search queries, it will be a vital element of content creation and marketing in 2022 and beyond. As opposed to writing your content to hit a certain keyword or phrase, don’t take keywords at face value – consider the information, impact, and purpose of your content, and think like a user. Why are users searching for a particular term? What information may be difficult for them to find, or difficult to find in an accessible way? How can you provide users with a valuable and unique explanation, answer, or insight on what they’re trying to find?
- Prioritizing User Experience and Increasing Accessibility
Similar to updates that focus on interpreting user intent, Google is continuing to refine its algorithms and reward sites that prioritize user experience over search engines. This is a broad category for those in SEO, taking into account how quickly a website loads, if it is formatted well for mobile, if it is easily navigable for visitors, and much more.
This focus also brings to the forefront increasing accessibility online for people with different needs, and making sure that websites, media and content, and online information implements a more universally accessible design.
What You Can Do
Similar to search intent, user experience is a factor that, while increasingly important to SEO strategy, may be difficult to pin down. For the more technical side of things, utilize Google’s Page Experience tools on Google Search Console (GSC) and Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. In addition, as stated in the Search Engine Journal report, small shifts can make a significant impact; describing images thoroughly with alt-text, linking to relevant, descriptive anchor text when linking in content, including closed captions and transcripts of audio and video content, and writing descriptive meta descriptions can all help improve accessibility for users.
For other considerations that may be more subjective, keep users in mind. Listen and respond to user feedback as necessary, and pay attention to pages that experience higher-than-average bounce rates. Organize your content in a way that makes sense to readers, not search engines, and ask users for regular feedback to continue to improve the accessibility and experience of your website.
- Quality Content is Still King in SEO
A lot of our content focuses on the importance of high-quality content when it comes to SEO. This trend is only continuing in 2022, with more penalties rolling out for fluffy or spammy content and algorithms rewarding unique, informative content.
What are we talking about when we say high-quality content? High-quality content means content that is informative, factual, useful, and unique, as well as relevant to a particular search query. While informative and factual may be straightforward, useful and unique may take a bit more explaining. Useful content is content that answers the question or intent behind a particular search. Unique content is content that is not covered on other websites, or content with a new or specific perspective. To learn more about quality content, read or guide here (and learn more about the EAT parameters here).
What You Can Do
Put simply: putting active time, resources, and expertise into your content is no longer a suggestion, but a requirement of your SEO strategy. Consider common questions in your industry, around your business, and from your customers. Find the potential pain points or information gaps related to your business and create content to highlight your expertise and thoroughly answer the question.
If you find yourself struggling with content, search for your target keywords and look for what else is ranking. This can give you a sense of where your content may be lacking, or what you need to change or improve in order to see your content perform better online. Quality content can take time to create and to see in search results, but is a foundational element of an effective SEO strategy.
- Unique Images Can Provide a Boost in Rank
Content and pages with images have generally performed better in search results than those without; however, moving forward, sites that utilize unique images – or, not stock images – will see an increase in rankings in Image, Product, and general search. This is due likely in part to the growing popularity of images for younger users, particularly Gen Z and Millennials, and the promise of a ranking reward for unique images will ideally result in more unique images online.
What You Can Do
A bit more straightforward than other trends, this trend will simply require unique photos, illustrations, and infographics on your website. This already generally led to an increase in performance of websites in search results, but the confirmation of the impact of unique images on rankings from Google should lead to more initiative on the part of companies to use unique images in content, on websites, etc.
- Mobile Users Remain a Huge Priority
The importance of catering to mobile users has been vital to SEO strategies following major Google updates like Mobilegeddon and the Mobile-First update, and the importance of considering mobile users in your SEO strategy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Sites that are formatted well for mobile, run well on mobile devices, and avoid pop-ups or other inconveniences are more likely to rank well in search results. Looking at 2022, this will also include continuous scroll and changes to SERP results depending on user behavior, search intent, and what mobile users are more likely to interact with.
What You Can Do
Similar to any user experience consideration, formatting your website for mobile users requires an interactive process with mobile users in mind. Format the mobile version of your site with mobile users in mind, and check it out yourself. Make changes as necessary, and pay attention to user feedback and bounce rates. You can also utilize Google’s Mobile-Friendliness tool to check how well your site runs fo mobile users.
With 2022 just kicking off, it’s hard to say exactly how the landscape of SEO will change. But with more users estimated to be online than ever before, and our world becoming increasingly more digital, establishing an effective SEO strategy is not just important for the success of your business, but vital to establish your business and maintain a positive online reputation.
If you’re new to the SEO space, or if keeping up with the constantly changing best practices is one thing too much for your to do list, consider reaching out to Status Labs for a free consultation to help put your best foot forward online in 2022.