Everyone wants to stay ahead of the algorithm to keep their website ranking as high as possible. So, it’s critical to be abreast of the expected SEO trends in 2022 as well as what we’ve overcome in 2021. If you’re keen to explore how key elements like long-form content, AI, search intent and more is going to dominate 2022, read on:
What SEO changes have we seen in 2021?
The biggest change was arguably to Google’s handling of titles. They actually started rewriting them in search results. Yoast explains, “… these rewritten titles can lead to some weird results and even wrong information. This is a massive issue when it comes to reliability, reputation and even legal aspects. Which, logically, led to quite some commotion around this in the SEO world. To give some perspective, the reason Google is rewriting these title tags is that there are still a lot of pages out there without proper title tags. Homepages that show up with the title ‘Home’ in the search results, or page titles that are stuffed with keywords in the hope that they will rank better. With this new update, Google wants to make sure that page titles describe what the page is about and give enough context.” Now, this is all part of their push to serve better results to searches and you’ll see that continue in 2022.
Big drops for weak and YMYL sites
According to SearchMetrics, “Losers from the Core Update rolled out June 2021 were often sites with thin content or those that focus on what Google calls YMYL (Your Money or Your Life), i.e., websites offering advice on sensitive topics relating to finance, law, purchase recommendations and reviews, education, and health. Both YMYL websites and those with thin content have been typically negatively affected by this Core Update.” But older sites with lots of content and backlinks were given a boost during the summer update as Google softened some of the 2019 changes that had damaged their rankings. This includes popular review websites and media publications that had lost out in November 2019. Overall, we’re seeing that Google is learning from changes it has made in the past and rolling back anything they felt was unhelpful to the search user. And if you’re worried you might have lost rank because of these updates, let’s talk.
How will SEO change in 2022?
In 2022, SEO will continue to focus solely on the search user experience. We expect the range of updates to increase priority on:
- User search intent – Google wants to move away from verbatim keywords to deploy an algorithm that really understands what the user is actually looking for. In 2002, expect user search intent to feature highly with results optimised for position zero and voice assistants to take centre stage.
- AI – According to Bright Edge, “Artificial intelligence (AI) has permanently changed search. Users are getting custom search results based on their past [behaviours], their devices, their locations, and hundreds of other factors. The search engines increasingly know what users want. This technology shift is driving momentous change in search engine optimization (SEO) as well. AI technology is capable of building customized optimization strategies.” So, not only is AI touching the traffic, it’s useful for planning your content strategy from backend analysis as well. Possible other deployments include traffic & conversion modelling, journey routing automation and republishing automation.
- Long-form & evergreen content – Since a major part of SEO trends in 2022 will be focused on usefulness to the searcher, long-form and evergreen content will provide even more SEO juice in 2022. It’s assumed (by marketers) that longer content automatically provides more value to the reader and Google. But Neil Patel disagrees; he states, “The data suggests that your content needs to have three characteristics: The content should be deep. The content should have comprehensive coverage. [And the] content should be focused on the topic (keyword) you want to rank for.” It just so happens that when you write a really detailed and comprehensive piece, it tends to be longer. So, website operators would be wise to identify ways to add to, expand on and repurpose old content into detailed pieces that really go in-depth to provide the help that the bots and users want to see.
- Mobile-friendliness – WooRank makes it clear: “[Mobile-friendliness] does matter for SEO. In fact, it’s a ranking signal in both Google and Bing’s algorithms when it detects a user is searching on a mobile device. Websites that are [mobile-friendly], in general, will outrank [non-mobile-friendly] sites in mobile search results.” If you still think the desktop is the primary web traffic device, think again. Back in 2016, mobile traffic overtook desktops. That’s led many SEO professionals and web designers to adopt a mobile-first strategy and capitalise on those conversions.
- EAT Principle – While it’s been in place since 2014, EAT is still the rubric by which all sites are measured. And it’s getting down to the nitty-gritty now. Forbes explains, “Again, establishing a strong E-A-T on your website is not achievable by simply using targeted keywords, having a quick technical platform, and building a few links from reputable websites. You need to follow the guidelines across each page and build out the strongest content possible to feed all Google’s E-A-T demands.” The full guidelines are here, but the core goal is to create content that is accurate, easy to navigate and trusted by other legit sources. And this needs to be reviewed on a page by page basis in 2022.
- Page speed – There’s no need to beat around the bush here. If your website is not fast, it is broken. In 2022, your pages must hit all speed thresholds – not just for SEO but because your customers won’t wait around. Moz – the undisputed leader in this space – reports, “Google has indicated that site speed (and as a result, page speed) is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. And research has shown that Google might be specifically measuring time to first byte as when it considers page speed. In addition, a slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, and this could negatively affect your indexation.” So, for your sales and your rankings, if you’ve got a slow website, now is the time to fix it.
- Awesome user experience – Lastly, in 2022, you want to provide a great user experience overall for your visitors so they stick around. If you’re seeing traffic bounce from a specific page more than others, perhaps you’re not providing enough info to really help them. If you’re seeing a device, region or referrer jump ship quickly; maybe you’re not catering to their needs with your design or content. Now is the time to have a look at how each page is performing and make those optimisations for the year ahead.