It is interesting reading clickbait articles written by my fellow SEOs predicting the changes and trends that they expect to see over the coming year. It can be more interesting going back and reading their predictions from the previous year to see how accurate they turned out to be.
Can we do any better? Let’s find out.
We can start with an easy one. SEO will be declared “dead” at least once a week. Most of these proclamations will be an attempt at clickbait, an odd one polemical, with perhaps one or two genuinely believing it.
Am I worried that I will be out of a job?
Short answer, no. Longer answer, not at all.
Google is going to continue squeezing the amount of space it gives to the organic results on its results pages. The so-called ten blue lines will appear increasingly lost among the clutter and more eye-catching results as Google looks to maximise revenue from search.
The importance of being on an increasingly competitive first page will make SEO and working with the right agency more important than ever. If you want to earn the click, then you have to ensure you are as high up the first page as possible.
The pandemic has forced many businesses to reevaluate their online strategies. Companies who are new to, or had previously chosen not to focus on online, have had to catch up very quickly. As these companies catch up, the organic results are becoming even more competitive.
Far from being dead, SEO is possibly more competitive than ever.
Apart from this increased competitiveness, how do we expect organic search to evolve in 2022?
How will Google evolve in 2022
For a considerable time now, Google has been moving in one direction, and we don’t expect to see that change this year. A results page is essentially Google saying here are ten high quality sites that we believe best answer your query. These sites should be fast, free of spam and work on your device. With the Page Experience update, often referred to as Core Web Vitals, they added the user’s experience of the page to their algorithm. They want to provide their users with the best pages possible.
If you combine this with their prioritisation of sites that demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, or E-A-T, as spelled out in their Search Quality Rater guidelines you can see clearly how Google is evolving.
SEO is no longer about quick shortcuts or tricks (if it ever was). It is wholly about creating high quality sites developed for users and not algorithms. This will mean working with developers, designers, UX specialists and content creators and utilising the strength of the team.
Just as Google is becoming better at identifying high quality sites, so are users. Users are able to look at a page of search results and determine from the titles and meta descriptions what they can expect from a site if they click on a link. When they see a poorly written, keyword-stuffed title, they are able to make an assessment of the quality of that site and behave accordingly.
Will Google incorporate bounce rates into their algorithm?
All of this you think would make it desirable for Google to start incorporating bounce rates, conversion rates, time on page and exit rates as ranking factors. With the ubiquity of Google Analytics, they have access to this data for the majority of sites.
So why not use it? Well for starters, these metrics are all easily manipulable. Bots could be used to inflate the bounce rate on a competitor site. They already have enough data to be able to determine what is a high-quality site.
With Time-on-Page, a short session could indicate the user was able to easily find the information they were after, or they could have decided after seeing the page to try another site. Analytics is not yet sophisticated enough to determine why the user exited a page, and given the many reasons someone might have, there might not ever be a way to know for certain without them actually telling you….which is unlikely to happen.
The rise of the machines….learning
Google has been experimenting with applying machine learning to the organic results. We do not know how close they are to making this work, or if they have made it work how close they are to rolling it out.
If they manage, instead of a team of search engineers determining what is or is not a ranking factor, an algorithm will constantly evolve determining what sites should rank. Will the factors they use match those that were chosen by the search engineers? Will there be visibility on how it ranks websites? Will the ranking factors chosen by an algorithm be better than those chosen by a team of humans? Would this make a change to how we optimise websites?
This is very likely several years away, at the earliest. It is part of an increasing trend of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, sharing knowledge between the different companies.
Will 2022 be the year of voice search?
The last word is saved for voice search. Will 2022 be the year of voice search? As people have been predicting for the past three years….
It is fairly safe to say that next year we will be asking if 2023 is going to be the year of voice search, as people have been predicting for the past four years. It is going to continue to grow at a steady rate, but it is nowhere close to becoming the dominant method of how people search.
This year search will continue to mature along the same path. Google will continue refining their algorithms in order to ensure they provide the best answers to your search queries. The SERP or results page will become more competitive than ever, making SEO more important.