A new year and a new decade. We’ve reviewed and studied digital trends over the past few years and taken a look at what’s to come in 2020.

As you can imagine, the list of possible topics is endless. We’ve curated our top five picks for SEO and social media trends in 2020. Some of these topics have been well-established for years. Yet, we are expecting a significant uplift in “best practice” for the next calendar year.

Trust-building, not link-building for SEO

Google has made it abundantly clear for years that it is not interested in “link-building”. Instead, it is looking for websites that have a good backlink profile due to trust and authority. We are expecting to see more companies and brands seek to grow earned links through trust campaigns in 2020.

Rather than link-building, we think 2020 will be the year more SEO strategies include digital PR and thought leadership campaigns.

Google will continue to assess the EAT - Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness - of a given company or brand. These EAT factors are one of Google’s most powerful weapons against fake news.

Any system fooled by numbers will fail, so Google and other search engines will have to ensure that trust factors are just that: Based on trust, not links.

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Social media brand conversations

As the world started to embrace social media, many brands treated it like a soapbox. They used websites like Facebook to talk at an audience and expect a positive following.

This approach seems ridiculous for many of us, as we know the not-so-hidden-secret of social media. You have to be prepared for a conversation, not just a broadcast.

The last few years have seen some highly creative brands such as Innocent Drinks, Pop-Tarts and GoPro. Rather than just focusing on their message, these brands create content designed to encourage replies. Instead of a broadcast, these brands have conversations with their audience.

This is also why we are seeing more brands start to run dedicated groups within the social media platforms. These groups are run with the intention of listening to and talking with their audience.

This can be time-consuming. But in 2020 we’re expecting to see brands prioritising user-engagement over post-frequency.

SEO landscape shifts under Google’s BERT

Launched in 2019, Google’s new BERT algorithm is already causing a stir and changing the SEO game.

It stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers - but that doesn’t really help here.

Previously, Google would look at a string of characters, also known as keyword phrase, and aim to create a match for this subject. Now with BERT, Google will look at the entire search as written and use natural-language-processing (NLP) to deduce the real intent. From this, Google will aim to serve the web pages that best match this answer contextually.

BERT doesn’t replace Google’s traditional RankBrain. Instead it is further refining on results that prioritise audience interest.

How can we optimise for this type of SEO in 2020? Well, technically we can’t.

Instead, we can continue to focus on creating great quality content our audience is searching for and would hope to find. This, combined with core technical competencies, should help us stay competitive in a rapidly changing digital landscape.

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Micro-influencer marketing to continue growth

Influencer marketing is no longer a joke or afterthought, it is now a serious and powerful type of campaign in many brands’ marketing toolkit.

Growing year-on-year, influencer marketing is an extension of traditional brand ambassadors. These influencers help promote the brand message and meaning to a loyal and highly motivated audience base.

One of the biggest changes we’re expecting in 2020 is to see the micro-influencers increase in value and popularity as ambassadors. Rather than rely on a single influencer with millions of followers, we can see the smaller-scale influencers becoming highly valuable.

These smaller influencers will be more accessible and more engaged with many brands. They will also each carve their own more specific niche. Within the Agricultural and Countryside sectors we operate in, we have noticed influencers like In The Country, Red Shepherdess and Jake Freestone. These niche influencers have a great and very specific audience.

As brands continue to also promote employee advocacy, we expect to see more micro-influencers appear in-house.

Mobile first SEO and websites

If you had suggested in 2020 we would still be suggesting mobile-first as a priority, we would have laughed!

However, it’s now 2020 and we are still seeing that most brands and businesses focus on desktop first. Whilst more and more sites are mobile-friendly or responsive, they are often an afterthought or lesser priority.

More and more users are starting to default to mobile devices, in business as well as at home. 2019 saw an increase in mobile users of over 6% globally, to a total of 48% internet time on mobile devices (source - We Are Social). We are hoping 2020 is the year that mobile-first becomes the default in many industries.

Whilst the UK is now trialling 5G rollouts, most of the country is limited to average quality 4G reception. This inconsistent and substandard rollout of mobile data bandwidth all-but-ensures that page sizes and speed optimisation will continue to be essential.

There are many other topics we wanted to discuss, but simply ran out of time. If you would like to talk to us about any SEO or social media trends in person and how we might be able to help you work towards your communication goals, please get in touch.