SEO for the New Year: Search Trends to Be on the Lookout for in 2022
Why do search engine optimization (SEO) trends change each year? As trite as it may sound, SEO trends change because people change. Search engine algorithms are updated in accordance with how human behavior transforms over the years. Search engines, such as Google, want to improve the experience for users — and with that comes new algorithms, new tools, and new best practices.
Prepare for 2022 by reading this guide on SEO for the new year:
Out with the Berts and in with the Mums. The first, and potentially most important search trend of 2022, is Google’s latest algorithm. The Multitask United Model, affectionately referred to as MUM, is a language model 1000x more powerful than its predecessor, BERT.
Perhaps the biggest difference between MUM and BERT is in the name itself: MUM can multitask. Instead of completing one task after another, this breakthrough technology can handle multiple tasks simultaneously. To paint a picture of MUM, Google fellow and vice president, Pandu Nayak, considered a hiking trip up Mt. Fuji:
“...you’d have to search for the elevation of each mountain, the average temperature in the fall, difficulty of the hiking trails, the right gear to use, and more. After a number of searches, you’d eventually be able to get the answer you need.”
Nayak goes on to suggest that, if you were to speak to a mountain guide, however, you could ask one question — “what should I do differently to prepare?” — and receive a nuanced answer. While MUM won’t give you as sophisticated a response as a mountain guide may, the technology can reduce the number of searches you need to make to satisfy your complex queries.
2. Passage Ranking
This past February, Google enabled passage indexing, which gives sites the opportunity to rank a passage instead of an entire page. Like a needle-in-a-haystack, this update means that the search engine can now understand the relevancy of very specific questions — and answer them too.
A senior vice president at Google, Prabhakar Raghavan stated that passage indexing “will improve 7 percent of search queries across all languages as we roll it out globally.” The good news is, site owners, don’t need to be too concerned about this update, and instead, should see it as an opportunity.
In order to stand a stronger chance of ranking specific passages, site owners should put an effort into creating more long-form content. You’ll also want to pay close attention to on-page SEO, such as titles, headers, and anchor text. Passage ranking definitely caters to well-optimized long-form posts.
3. Video Content
With TikTok reaching about 65.9 million U.S. users in 2020, Google is realizing and reacting to the impact of video content. If you have yet to include video content as part of your site’s SEO strategy, now is the time to do so.
Site owners can create optimized video content by adding a few useful keywords and hashtags to each video created, as well as relevant descriptions. You can now also add timestamps and labels to video content, highlighting any key moments in need of standing out.
4. Google Shopping
There couldn’t be a better time for Google Shopping to be picking up speed than right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a consumer shift to online shopping. From laptops to iPhones to iPads, we’re buying items left and right all from the tap of a finger. For pickup, for delivery, sometimes even same-day delivery — who but Google knows how to best capitalize on our behavior.
Google Shopping has welcomed a variety of new tools and features that are expected to be all the rage in the upcoming year. Both shoppers and SEO specialists should stay on top of the trends.
In 2021, Google announced the release of their Shopping Graph, an AI-powered tool designed to show consumers a constantly changing inventory of product listings and information in real-time. This enhanced technology allows consumers to shop for billions of products, from millions of merchants, that are available right now. To make matters easier for merchants, Google has also eliminated commission fees and made the platform free to those selling products.
Shopping Graph essentially benefits both shoppers and merchants alike. Shoppers receive a seamless, comparative experience, while merchants obtain more room to get discovered at no cost to them.
Google also expanded its partnership with Shopify, a multinational e-commerce company. Shopify merchants are now able to have their products listed across Google, making them more discoverable to consumers — and this includes not only Shopping, but also Search, Image Search, and YouTube.
Just this December, Google also announced an update to their product reviews algorithm. This update comes after an uprising of fake product reviews, elevating the reputations of brands and companies that are, for the most part, not selling quality products.
Google Search Central announced the update through a Tweet:
“Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete.”
Google Developer Advocate, Alan Kent later clarified in a tweet that sites posting articles reviewing products will be those predominantly affected by the update, such as articles like “best winter coats.”
Content creators can adjust to this update by ensuring that all product review pages show expert knowledge, provide quantitative measurements, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a product, and what sets a product apart from competitors.
User experience, or UX, is one trend that Google is dedicating more and more attention to every year. In May of 2020, the search engine company announced that page experience will serve as a new ranking factor. This past May, the update officially rolled out.
Essentially, the UX update asks for four things: core web vitals, mobile-friendliness, run on HTTPS, and have no intrusive interstitials (I.e., pop-up ads). We’ll explore core web vitals and mobile-friendliness more below, the two aspects of the UX update that are just a bit more important for SEO.
As for HTTPS, don’t fret. Google has been pushing sites to switch from HTTP to HTTPS for years, without docking them for not doing so. As for intrusive interstitials, this matters most for the mobile version of a site. We’ll touch upon that below too.
Core Web Vitals
Google’s Core Web Vitals is a report detailing the experience a webpage delivers overall, based on real-world usage data. There are three essential metrics to the report, measuring the speed, responsiveness, and visual stability of a page, respectively. These metrics can be thought of as “vital” to a site’s ability to rank in the SERPs.
The three essential metrics are:
- LCP (Largest Contentful Paint): LCP, or Largest Contentful Paint, measures the loading speed of a page. Site pages are generally considered good when they take less than 2.5 seconds to load.
- FID (First Input Delay): FID, or First Input Delay, measures the time in which a user first interacts with a page to the time in which it takes for the page to respond to that interaction.
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): CLS, or Cumulative Layout Shift, measures the visual stability of a page. In other words, it measures how often the UX is interrupted, often by means of pop-up ads.
In addition to the Core Web Vitals, we’ll also discuss mobile search, another aspect of Google’s latest UX update, and voice search, an up-and-coming development you won’t want to miss out on.
Each year mobile search becomes more popular than the year before. Steadily rising since its inception, mobile search accounted for 61% of all global site traffic in the second quarter of 2021. If you have a website, optimizing for mobile search should be one of your top priorities.
Mobile-friendly sites offer much to admire. For one, this is the dominant form of search. With a 61% chance customers are searching for your content via mobile devices, optimizing your site for mobile means not just preparing it for the future of search, but for the present.
A second benefit is its ability to offer a better user experience. Why do more people use mobile search than any other method? It’s quick and convenient. You can find exactly what you’re looking for simply through your handheld device. Computers and laptops may be more often used for intensive searches, but for your everyday search, you can bet customers are using their mobile phones.
Lastly, Google enabled mobile-first indexing in 2019, which essentially means that the search engine predominantly crawls and indexes mobile pages. Optimizing for mobile search is not just a recommendation for creating a better user experience, but an essential component of a successful SEO strategy.
“Alexa.” “Hey, Google.” “OK, Siri.” Sound familiar? According to a 2017 Pew Research study, 46% of Americans use voice-controlled digital assistants. The research also finds that 42% rely on their smartphone to reach their voice assistant, 14% on a computer or tablet, and 8% on a stand-alone device, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home. So, how do you best optimize your site for voice search?
The key to voice search is to focus more on conversation content, and less on format and structure. In other words, write the same way you would talk, similar to featured snippets. These brief excerpts contribute to over 40% of all voice assistant responses.
Long-tail queries are your best friends when it comes to this form of search. Optimize for keywords that include answers to “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how” questions. You can find relevant long-tail keyword questions in the “People also ask” section of Google search. Simply perform a Google search of your keywords and see what pops up.