In 2019, Google launched their new BERT algorithm and of course as an SEO practitioner, my immediate reaction was to learn how to optimise for this change.
The key difference BERT provides is a better match for user intent than purely matching keywords in the query.
The other gradual change that has been occurring over the last two years is the continual evolution of the Google SERP; there are now multiple ways queries can be answered. The traditional organic listings continue to move further down the page. We are now seeing question and answer sections, business and map listings and advertising taking up more real estate at the top.
So with all this in mind, how we conduct SEO becomes clearly more than clean web architecture and quality content delivery, it becomes a major marketing exercise.
Intent vs keywords
What does this shift mean? For SEOs, it means needing to get out from behind the desk and start talking to users and understand the why, how and what searchers are specifically looking for. We should be focusing not only on what users are talking about, but how they talk about their issues, problems and needs at each aspect of the buyer’s journey. So many marketers market their products and services having never spoken one-on-one to their target audiences.
To get ahead of this, keyword research will be replaced by intent research, where we will see tools used to conduct keyword research evolve to conduct more intuitive intentional research.
This kind of research is essentially focusing on customer intent, helping you understand where you fit on the path to their purchasing habits. By providing the best answers to questions on that path, you can more reliably capture and convert customers.
Now more than ever companies have to stop treating SEO as an add-on to their digital strategy, instead making it a key component of their business plan and SEOs will grow their skillsets to better understand the full marketing and digital stack.
In 2020, it's going to be less about fixing and auditing SEO issues and more about fixing marketing and business issues.