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SEO Trends & Tips for 2019 & 2020

Last updated on November 7, 2019
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SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of improving your website so that it attracts quality traffic and enjoys prime visibility on the search engine results pages. In other words, it’s all about drawing visitors to your website. (For a full breakdown of SEO terms and best practices, check out our guide to SEO and how it can help your business.)

While there are some core principles that stay the same, SEO is always evolving as search engines get better at understanding how we use them. A stagnant SEO strategy can only benefit your business for so long, which is why it’s important to stay on top of new trends and ensure you’re making the changes needed to keep customers coming to your site. Here are some of the most important trends you should focus on in the coming year.

1. Optimize for intent, not keywords

The best way to understand search intent is to put yourself in the shoes of a searcher. When you type in “the best snorkel tours in Maui,” what do you hope to find? You’re most likely in the research phase of your vacation planning, and you’re not ready to book yet, but you’re hoping to learn about some of the top options on the island. This is your search intent. 

Google has perfected the art of determining the intent of the searcher and serving up results that satisfy that intent. When you type in “the best snorkel tours in Maui,” Google understands that you’re searching for a list, not just one tour, and it will serve up articles with top lists. 

Find out what your searcher wants

The first step to ensuring your page is optimized for search intent is to find out what your searcher wants. Do they want a rundown of the top places to see in D.C.? Are they already in the city and looking to book a tour today? 

Rather than just including the keywords with the highest search volume on your page, you want to make sure you’re aligning the page’s content to the user’s intent when typing in that query. If it’s an informational page, it should answer the question that the searcher is typing in (i.e. “what’s the best place to snorkel in Maui?”). If it’s a transactional page, where a purchase or reservation will be made, it should give the searcher a direct path to completing that transaction. Which brings us to the next point.

Find out what stage of the funnel that query is in

A query like “the best breweries in Denver” points to a user who is not ready to book yet. So if you rank for that keyword, but when they get to your page they are immediately directed to a bookable activity page for a Denver beer tour, the searcher will probably leave your page to keep browsing tours before they decide to purchase. This is why optimizing for search intent is so important. 

To keep users on their platform, search engines like Google need to ensure that the results they give searchers match what they were searching for. If users are bouncing off your page (landing on your page and then immediately navigating away from it), that communicates to the search engine that your page did not match the user’s search intent, hurting your chances of continuing to rank for that keyword. 

A more tour-specific query like “brewery tours in Denver” means that the searcher is ready to book an activity. If you’re optimizing a page for this type of keyword phrase, it should have a direct path to booking a tour. 

Once you understand that search intent is all about serving the searcher exactly what they are looking for when typing in a query, it’s easy to optimize your page accordingly. 

2. Get local with it

If it’s your first morning in Lahaina, Maui, and you’re ready to pick up a surfboard rental and hit the waves, your Google search might look a little something like “surfboard rentals in Lahaina.” You probably don’t want to know about rental spots all the way across the island, and you want your search results to show you reviews, hours of operation, and other important information about the businesses you have to choose from.

Local SEO is all about serving up the best services near the searcher. To ensure your company rises to the top of a local search, it’s important to optimize your site for this specific purpose, and this entails some practices that differ from general SEO. 

Local searches are absolutely crucial for brick-and-mortar businesses that want to be discovered by searchers. Here are some stats from Search Engine Journal to give you an idea of how important local search can be to your business: 

  • 50% of people who did a local search on their phone went to a physical business within one day. 
  • 18% of local mobile searches lead to a sale within one day. 
  • 71% of people surveyed said they search for the location of a business to confirm it exists before visiting for the first time. 

What these stats tell us is that local SEO not only leads to sales, but it also helps establish the legitimacy of your business. If you search for a surf rental shop in Lahaina, you’re probably going to pick the one that has plenty of user reviews and has all the pertinent information like location and phone number right there in the SERP. 

Ideally, you want to be one of the businesses listed in Google’s Local Pack — the local SERP feature that displays the top three businesses for a local search term, showing the business name, address, phone number, reviews, and hours of operation.

Optimize for local SEO

These are some of the elements you need to focus on to ensure your site is optimized to appear in local searches: 

Google My Business profile: Your GMB profile is absolutely the most important part of ensuring your business is optimized for local SEO. It’s so important, in fact, that we have another guide dedicated entirely to GMB. The high-level view: You need to claim your GMB page (which is free) and update it with all the relevant information to your business. Take a deep dive into GMB here.  

Bing Places for Business: Cover all your bases (and search engines) by claiming your Bing Places for Business account as well. 

Keywords: Similar to your general SEO strategy, you want to do your keyword research and make sure you’re targeting local keywords. Some local searches will take the form of questions — like “what’s the best brewery near me?”– so you want to take these into account in your keyword strategy. Voice search is becoming more important when it comes to local search, so think about how these queries might be phrased when doing a voice search. Once you have your local keywords, make sure you’re including them in headings, titles, meta descriptions, and page copy. 

Content: The copy on your activity pages should not only include local keywords but also provide quality information about your tour and the area. Explain clearly where the tour is coming from and going to (this is another chance to add in super specific location keywords, like the name of a neighborhood). Describe what the area is like, what customers might see on a tour — whether its local landmarks or wildlife — and paint a vivid picture that entices your reader to book this tour and discover all the great things your area has to offer. 

Reviews: These days, most people won’t try out a new service or business without reading a few reviews first, which is why review sites are an important factor in your local SEO strategy. Make sure you claim your business and maintain your NAP data (name, address, phone number) up to date on all the major review sites, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Reviews. Maintaining and responding to reviews is also crucial — more on that in this guide

3. Optimize for more than just the search engine results page

To give your site the best chance to rank in search engines, you need to think beyond what’s on your site. Your SEO strategy should include off-page SEO, which relates to the actions happening outside of your site that can have an impact on your rankings.  

To build your off-page SEO, you essentially want other individuals and businesses to put in a good word for you, whether that’s giving you an excellent review or linking to your site. When multiple domains link to your site, this tells the search engines that your business is established and trustworthy. Here are some places you can get started:

Directories: You want your business to appear in all the major online directories with the most up-to-date and relevant information. This ensures that clients know your business is legitimate, no matter where they find it. These directories are often called Citation or NAP (name, address, phone number) sites, and the major ones include Yellowpages, Apple Maps, and Foursquare. This helps your local SEO as well, so it’s really worth the time.

Local directories and other industry-related sites: It’s important to build quality links to your site, meaning links from sites that are in the same category as your business or that get the types of you visitors you want to attract. Local or national newspapers, chamber of commerce sites, and tourism boards are great opportunities to link to your business. Get in touch with them and find ways to build up your links. 

Guest blogging: A great way to build a relationship with a local affiliate site or city site is to ask if you can write a guest blog for them. When looking for guest blog opportunities, make sure you’re both in the same type of industry or niche and would have similar readers. For example, if you offer walking tours in Houston, you might reach out to visithoustontexas.com and ask if they’d be interested in a blog post about the ten best neighborhoods for a walk in the city. This content benefits their site by providing in-depth content, and it benefits you by exposing your business to their site visitors. It’s a match made in heaven! 

Social profiles: Your social media profiles add another layer of legitimacy to your business. It’s another place for people to find you, and as long as the information is consistent with your website and your directory listings, it shows that you’re an established business with a solid online presence. To help your off-page SEO strategy with social media sites: 

  • Make sure you address is up to date and matches the one on your website. You don’t want to confuse potential customers with inconsistent information. Make it easy for them to find you!
  • Keep your phone number updated.
  • Keep your hours of operation up to date. 

Consistency is key when it comes to off-page SEO. Don’t confuse the search engines with disparate information across your social profiles, links from directories, and your website. When the search engines (and their users) can easily find accurate, up-to-date information about your business, it helps your online presence grow. 

4. Create mind-blowing content

Remember that great talk we just had about search intent? It applies here, so keep it top of mind. Creating high-quality content helps your site rank for more keywords, especially those with the right search intent. This is where you can really capitalize on those queries for “top breweries in Denver” or “most beautiful photo spots on Oahu.” 

If you have a ton of knowledge about your industry, it’s probably a good idea to start a blog where you can share your expertise and create content that readers can get excited about. Another option is to create a few pages on your site that are dedicated to informational content about your area or industry, like a guide to the best diving spots in your city. 

Once again, put yourself in your reader’s shoes. If you’re visiting a new city, or you’re looking for a new activity in your hometown, what do you want to know? You can also talk to your co-workers or the tour guides in your company to get an idea of what visitors typically have questions about. Some topic ideas to get you started: 

  • A walking guide to your city
  • How to prepare for a rafting/kayaking/hiking/etc. trip
  • 10 best places you have to see in your city
  • A guide to the wildlife of your area 

You want your post or article to directly address the search query, have in-depth information, be well-written (bonus tip: you can use a free tool like Grammarly to check your writing), and be of value to your reader. Search engines aren’t just looking for a particular word count. They analyze your content to make sure it thoroughly addresses the query. As a tour or activity operator, you are an expert in your industry, so show off that knowledge and write some great content! (For more tips, check out our guide to creating quality content.)

5. EAT 

EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, and it’s an important part of establishing yourself as an expert in your field. EAT is essentially a way in which Google assesses how trustworthy your site is and whether you’re providing valuable information about your topic. It can help set you apart from the competition and boost your ranking.

There is not a lot of information out there yet on how to optimize your site for EAT, but here are a few tips from Google’s Search Quality Guidelines: 

  • Give proof of accreditation and trustworthiness when possible (i.e. reviews, certificates, etc.).
  • Have a clear purpose for each page. Provide specific details using relevant keywords.
  • Publish informative blogs where the author is perceived to be an expert.
  • Provide reviews that are detailed and informative about your company.
  • Illuminate personal experiences — anecdotes can be considered a good source of authority (this mainly applies to blogs and/or reviews).

6. Mobile & User Experience

User experience 

User experience, a.k.a. UX, relates to the way in which a user interacts with and responds to a website. When interacting with your site, a user is typically looking for valuable information that is easy to find, is credible, and will be useful to them. 

While you don’t have to be a UX expert to optimize your SEO strategy, it is helpful to think about your visitor’s experience when they’re on your site. Yet again (perhaps you’re noticing a pattern here), you want to put yourself in the shoes of the searcher. While it might seem like much of what you do for SEO is aimed at pleasing the search engines, search engines in fact learn from what users want, so optimizing for one usually means optimizing for the other as well. 

Keep your visitors at the front of your mind with everything you do on your website. At the end of the day, your website is for them. It’s a way for them to find your company, find the perfect tour or activity for them, and book it. Make sure your site is designed to meet their needs. 

Mobile experience

Mobile search has been on the rise for a few years now, and it in fact exceeds desktop search. According to statcounter, mobile accounts for 51.78% of searches worldwide. Google is on top of this trend and has been experimenting with mobile-first indexing, which goes to show you how important it is to have a site that is accessible on mobile. 

Your site’s mobile experience is especially important for the travel industry specifically. According to Google, 60% of searches for destination information come from mobile devices. It makes sense — if you’re on vacation and you’re trying to find a fun tour or activity in the city you’re visiting, you’re probably going to look it up on your phone. This is why it’s absolutely crucial to have a mobile-friendly site that is quick to load and easy to navigate on your phone. 

Here are some tips to make sure you’re mobile-friendly: 

  • Simplify your menu: You don’t want your customers scrolling endlessly through a long menu to find and book a tour. Make sure your menu has your most popular tours and main categories easily accessible.
  • Try your site out on mobile: This is a quick and easy test that will tell you a lot about your site. Pull out your phone and go to your website right now. Is the CTA front and center? Is the site easy to navigate? Is there a clear path to booking? Getting to know your site on mobile will help you understand what changes you need to make to ensure it’s mobile-friendly. 
  • Minimize pop-ups and offers that frustrate users: If a customer is pulling up your site on mobile, they’re probably ready to book now, and they’ll likely get frustrated by any distractions. Give them a clear path to your activities so they can get to that book button faster. 
  • Make sure your mobile site speed is fast: Connectivity tends to be a bit different on a phone than on a desktop, especially at a vacation destination. This is why you want your site to load quickly and not get bogged down while loading huge images or videos. You can check your site’s load speed using Google Analytics. Some ways to minimize your page speed on mobile include optimizing image size (make sure they’re no bigger than they need to be to render nicely), reducing redirects, and compressing CSS, HTML, and Javascript files.

Getting ready for 2020…

You’ve probably realized by now that SEO trends change rapidly based on updates to search engine algorithms and changes in the way that users interact with search engines. So by the time you have your SEO strategy nailed down, there might be new trends to look out for. This is why it’s important to stay flexible and keep yourself up to date on evolving trends. 

While the trends in this guide are the ones we predict to be most important for 2020, we can’t guarantee this is how next year will shake out. But we can guarantee that this is a great place to start. Now that you’ve learned about some of the important SEO trends here, you have a base of knowledge that will help you understand the ever-changing landscape of SEO. 

Ready for more? Check out the guides below and keep building your SEO skills!

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