We asked Jono Alderson, who manages special projects at Yoast, a few questions about how search marketing has changed and his thoughts and predictions for 2020.

How has search marketing changed over the past 3 years?

I don’t think it’s changed much at all, other than it’s got harder to cheat or to be lazy. Many organizations are only just starting to really understand the importance of good user experiences and to invest in them; historically they’ve just thrown money at advertising (agencies) and channel-centric conversion strategies.

They’ve treated acquisition and sales like something they were entitled to, and they’ve assumed that they could just dial up budgets, efforts and volume to reach more people.

But as competition intensifies and as some brands start to provide great experiences to consumers, the expectations of what ‘good enough’ looks like are being raised. Now you have to think omnichannel, you have to put audience needs first, and you have to invest in quality. If you don’t, then consumers won’t choose (or even discover) you, because they’ll already have chosen your competitors. I don’t think that any of that’s new, but brands who haven’t adapted are really starting to suffer.

Do you think Google is killing SEO?

Not at all – I think they’re just evolving it. There’s a lot of fear from the SEO industry as search results continue to get richer and richer – with cards, comparisons, and with tools – and as they look less and less like conventional lists of links.

Those changes mean that consumers are increasingly able to complete their research, tasks and purchases/enquiries from directly in the search results. That’s a great user experience, but it changes how marketers and businesses need to think. Many of them are tied to rankings, clicks and visits; but those metrics don’t make sense in a world where consumers can get everything they want from directly within Google.

We need a different way of thinking (and measuring success) in order to play in this new ecosystem. Of course, there are huge unanswered questions around attribution, motivations to produce content, and the commercial models surrounding this – but we’ll only work out (and survive) the answers of those by working with Google rather than against it.

Should we all be optimising for voice search? (How?)

Yes and no. I think that voice is only a small part of something much bigger, and it’s the wrong thing to focus on. Voice is just one of the ways in which we interact with digital assistants; our Alexas, Google Homes, smart toasters, and mobile phones. We should be focusing on, and optimising for, providing great answers and solutions to people who use those kinds of devices.

By making sure that your content is a good fit for voice results (it’s got to be succinct, accurate, timely, structured, etc), then you also cover a lot of the ground to be relevant and useful for digital assistants.

Remember, Google doesn’t want to make users select a result from a list of links, they want to provide them with the best answer. Voice isn’t a big deal, but it’s a great catalyst for businesses to start getting their ‘problem solving’ into great condition.

What should be the first line in any search marketing strategy for 2020?

Compete to grow reach and audiences by solving audience problems, through content and product/service quality. Build brand recognition and advocacy by providing the best answer(s) to every problem the business has expertise in solving for. Remove friction by executing on a technically perfect, fast, accessible, beautiful website.

You can watch Jono’s session at DigiConf on the 7th of July. View the full agenda here, and get your tickets today.