15 Biggest SEO Trends to Look for in 2022 (UPDATED LIST)
By: Dileep Thekkethil
September 6, 2022
Table of Contents
The SEO industry is unpredictable just like algorithm updates that Google launches from time to time.
The industry is so volatile that if an SEO goes into hibernation and wakes up after a year, the person may start sensing a generation gap.
So, much is happening around the world of SEO and you want to be on top of all these to make sure things (rankings) are under your control.
In this blog, I’ll discuss a few hot trends in SEO and also make some speculations about how things can pan out in 2022.
If you are wondering why read someone’s speculations, then the answer is so simple. Until, Google reveals all the ranking factors, which they will not, SEO is half speculation half data-driven.
I’ll be sharing some of the best practices that we follow here in Stan Ventures, and these practices take our clients to the next level. With just a few changes, you can be ready for whatever 2022 throws your way, at least based on what Google has been testing lately.
Of course, you may find some of the SEO trends of 2021 repeating in 2022. This is because some things are here to stay as long as the SEO industry exists.
We removed Voice Search from this list as the pandemic has done major damage to the growth prospect of Voice Search. This may be because of the wide use of masks. We aren’t sure but the truth is people aren’t talking to the computers and smartphones as much as they used to and the only instance they use voice search is while driving.
Google Trends also shows the keyword trend coming down for Voice Search.
1. IndexNow (or Something Similar)
Recent reports indicate that Google is the next one on the list of search engines using the IndexNow protocol.
For those of you who don’t know what IndexNow is, it is an open-source engine used by search engines for discovering new content. Instead of the conventional pull approach, it involves using the push method.
So, when a website integrated with IndexNow API updates its content, deletes a post, or publishes a new one, the API pushes this information to the search engines.
IndexNow API was developed in October 2021 by Microsoft.
Search engines Bing and Yandex already support IndexNow. Thanks to the faster indexing offered by IndexNow, the search engines can avoid excess crawl load, making the whole process more energy efficient.
This report of Google participating in the IndexNow movement has been confirmed by a Google spokesperson. Currently, they are testing the protocol’s efficiency to check if it improves Google’s sustainability efforts.
Google’s target is to become a 100% renewable energy-based company by 2030. The Carbon Neutral initiative of IndexNow means that the chances of Google adopting it are high. Getting the pages indexed by the search engine giant will become easier when this happens.
Garry Illyes, Search Advocate at Google, confirmed in one of the Search Off The Record episodes that Google in 2022 will make its crawling and indexing process sustainable.
He noted that the current indexing process is leaving quite a lot of carbon footprint and there are ways to reduce it further. One of the ways that he mentioned is IndexNow.
He was seconded by search advocates John Mueller and Martin Splitt. However, Illyes said, even though Google is testing IndexNow, it may choose to go ahead with something similar in form, but the functionality may change.
He also added that in most instances, the crawler (Google bots) just doesn’t have to spend time recrawling pages (refresh crawl) that aren’t updated. But that isn’t happening now effectively. If there is a way Google crawls just updated pages, Illyes says, it can save a lot of energy used up by the servers.
He also gave the example of news publishers like CNN and NYT, who often update the homepage content but not the about us page. If the bots can be trained not to do the refresh crawl of such pages, Illyes says it can save a lot of energy.
Any website owner who wants to enable the IndexNow API can do so in three simple steps:
- Create and download the API key from Bing.
- Next, the downloaded text file needs to be uploaded to the root of your server.
- Submit bulk or individual URLs to individual search engines with the following URL parameters:
Recently, both Microsoft and Yandex announced that they would be using IndexNow to share the submitted URLs. So, if you submit the URL to Microsoft, it will be shared with Yandex immediately and vice-versa. Bing has also automated the whole process by launching a WordPress plugin for IndexNow.
According to the data provided by Bing, about 80,000 websites have joined the IndexNow project. Out of these, 60,000 websites are using Cloudflare, which also supports IndexNow. Needless to say, if Google joins the initiative, more websites will follow.
2. Take Note of MUM to Improve Your Rankings
Google has been putting commendable efforts into improving the quality of search results using advanced Artificial Intelligence.
The biggest ever leap in that from first happened with the introduction of RankBrain and then later with BERT in 2019 and now the search engine giant is making yet another epoch by introducing Multitask United Model or MUM.
According to the announcement made by Prabhakar Raghavan during the Google I/O 2021, its new Natural Language Processing Model MUM is 1000 times more powerful than BERT and it’s capable of multitasking which enables it to analyze video, images, and text within 75 languages to give users the answers to complex search queries.
What this means is MUM will combine different aspects of the search query and try to understand the sentiments, context, entities, and most importantly the intent of the user to provide answers that are really close to what the user expected.
Raghavan demonstrated the power of MUM by doing a complex search query “I’ve hiked Mt. Adams and now want to hike Mt. Fuji next fall, what should I do differently to prepare?”
Check out this video of how MUM performed the search and provided a result that’s far superior to the ones that we are accustomed to.
According to Raghavan, MUM can acquire deep knowledge of the word and it can understand language, generate it, and train across 75 languages simultaneously unlike the other models that work only one language at a time.
Google is still testing MUM but it’s soon expected to be out of the lab and become part of the Google Search ecosystem. The search engine giant should be keeping us informed about its integration like how it announced the rollout of BERT.
But before that, as Webmasters, you must understand how it can impact the search. We too are clueless but the community has come up with a few possibilities.
- You may start seeing a new type of results, an improved form of Google Answers that combines all the information out there to get users the specific answers they are seeking.
- This could mean more 0 click results on the search, which is something we are already witnessing.
- Make use of structured data. Google is taking all this data from what it calls the Knowledge Graph and it’s being fed by the markups within each site.
- Longform content is going to make a huge cut because if one source can provide a large share of the information that the users are seeking, such pages will make it to the top.
- Forget about keyword stuffing. Focus more on natural content that touches the pain points of the audience.
- We still don’t know how powerful the MUM will be. However, it’s better to make the content simple and highly readable. If the content is marred with jargon, there are chances that MUM may not find relevance in it.
Along with this, as SEOs you must also understand how LaMDA another Language Model introduced in 2021 Google I/) works. Even though it is a Language Model for Dialogue Applications, it’s going to have a great impact on search, especially the search that happens via Google Assistants.
LaMDA stands for Language Model for Dialogue Applications and it’s setting new benchmarks for natural AI conversations. It’s able to make conversations natural by fetching information from Google’s Knowledge Graph.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google previewed LaMDA, or “Language Model for Dialogue Applications,” at the company’s I/O event. He said LaMDA is designed to carry on an open-ended conversation with users without repeating the same information.
LaMDA is a transformer-based model, like BERT and MUM. It can be trained to read words, understand the relationship between words in a sentence and predict what word might come next.
Google has put an emphasis on training it to produce sensible and specific responses, instead of more generic replies.
3. Passage Indexing
Have you heard about the latest announcement from Google about a new algorithm called Passage Indexing?
So, if you are someone who regrets writing long-form content that fails to drive traction, Passage Indexing may be a game-changer for you.
According to Google, it will now use the natural language processing feature while indexing web pages and try to understand the meaning of each passage within the page.
What this means is if a particular section (passages) covered inside your article will now show up on search results for relevant search queries even if it’s buried inside the vastness of the primary topic.
Cathay Edwards of Google, in the Search On video released by the search giant, says Passage Indexing will impact 7% of the search queries in all languages by the end of 2020.
If you remember, a similar announcement was made in 2018 for BERT. It said BERT will impact 10% of search queries.
In the same video, Prabhakar Raghavan confirmed that BERT is now used in delivering results for almost every search query users enter.
So, the Passage Indexing is more of an internal ranking system and it will have a bigger impact on the results you see in the SERP.
It’s more or less confirmed that web pages with highly structured content will benefit from the Passage Indexing Ranking Algorithm.
What this also means is that Google in 2022 will focus more on improving the ranking of holistic content.
A holistic content strategy usually takes an in-depth look at a topic and tries to address the pressing questions that are asked by the target users.
Adding to this, Passage Indexing will have a lot of bearing on search results for long-tailed and question-based search queries.
This is natural because a pinpointed question requires a needle in a haystack approach to finding the right answer.
This is exactly what Google is trying to achieve with Passage Indexing.
How does it work?
Remember Google said daily they find 15% new search queries that were never searched before? It’s largely believed that a majority of these are long-tailed and question-based queries.
With Passage Indexing, the results of such queries will present people with the best answers from a wide variety of legitimate sources.
As you can see in the example above, Google is trying to display the best answer to a given query from a forum page rather than displaying a result that points the user to a broader page.
So, the current indexing pattern takes the context and relevance of the whole page but with Passage Indexing, Google tries to find context and relevance within individual passages of a page to find more appropriate answers.
However, Passage Indexing will not be a separate indexing process. Thanks to Google’s Advance Natural Language Processing algorithms, the process of understanding individual passages will happen as and when Google crawls and indexes the pages.
Google about Passage Indexing:
“So, for example, let’s say you search for something pretty niche like ‘how can I determine if my house windows are UV glass.’ This is a pretty tricky query, and we get lots of web pages that talk about UV glass and how you need a special film, but none of this really helps the layperson take action. Our new algorithm can zoom right into this one passage on a DIY forum that answers the question. Apparently, you can use the reflection of a flame to tell and ignores the rest of the posts on the page that aren’t quite as helpful.”
Importance of Structuring Your Content
The structure of your content is going to become as important as the quality of it when Passage Indexing is live.
It’s important to divide the content into multiple sections and each section must discuss a sub-topic.
This way you give Google a heads up about the depth of your content and how it will satiate the search intent of the users.
So, what I would recommend at this point is to make good use of Heading tags to organize your content.
Also, if you are writing a short article, the benefit of Passage Indexing may not be as evident. Google says the benefit of Passage Indexing will be felt by sites that have valuable content buried inside.
However, if you are writing short content, the chances of covering sub-topics and smaller passages are less, which means Google will of course rank you for the core topic, but not for queries that require granular answers.
If you check the top-ranking pages on Google for highly competitive search queries, 9 out of 10 are long-form content that exceeds 2000 words.
Also, considering the user experience angle of long-form content, make sure that you have a table of content right on the top or sticky.
Because users don’t link to wait and you cannot force them to read the entire content. Users abandon login-form pages with poor navigation as locating the information itself is painful and time-consuming.
To know more, check out our in-depth article on Passage Indexing.
4. Core Web Vitals
Before we heard about the Passage Indexing, the SEO community was in a frenzy about Core Web Vitals.
As you may already be aware, Google has been pushing webmasters to provide a better page experience to the users.
This was basically to ensure that any user who visits a page from Google search results shouldn’t exit the page due to poor page experience.
Page Experience Algorithm has been there for some time now and core web vitals will become a new addition to it starting May 2021.
This means it will join the existing Page Experience signals such as HTTPs, Intrusive Interstitial, Safe Browsing, and Mobile Friendliness to determine the rankings of pages.
Core Web Vitals is a set of three key page experience metrics that provide Google data about the user experience offered by individual pages on the web.
The Three Core Web Vital Factors are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CIS)
Google has confirmed that Core Web Vitals will be a determinant to rank pages starting May 2021. But in a later announcement in December via an FAQ about Core Web Vitals, Google said that the impact will be limited to mobile search results.
Adding to this, Google has also confirmed that websites that have activated AMP may not have to worry about Core Web Vitals compliance as AMP-enabled pages usually fulfill the requirement.
AMP pages are rendered from Google’s server and they have minimum elements that otherwise may take more time to load.
However, Google cautions webmasters against using heavy images and other external elements within AMP as it could affect the web vitals score.
It has to be noted that Core Web Vitals will not be a primary signal to rank pages on SERP. Google says that it will continue to rank web pages with high-quality content and links even if the site doesn’t comply with Web Vitals standards.
So, if you’ve activated AMP, that means you have saved the time and money to optimize the site for Web Vitals.
5. User + Search Intent = Helpful Content
2022 is the year when you’ll prioritize the search intent of the query and user behavior over everything else.
People’s search intent and behavior are ever-changing. They go to Google or other search engines to find answers to their queries or to learn about a topic in general.
When businesses understand what users are searching for and provide them with content that answers their questions, then the business also benefits from it along with the users.
According to Britney Muller of Britney Muller LLC, SEO experts need to move away from traditional SEO practices that hold little to no value today as the algorithms keep getting stronger.
They should rather pay more attention to search intent. Paying close attention to search queries will allow businesses to create competitive content that the online audience wishes to consume.
Mary Hynes, CEO of Marie Haynes Consulting Inc., admits that in order to ace SEO in 2022, you’ll need to be excellent in providing the right information to users.
The latest Google Helpful Content Update is a significant move from Google to ensure that only quality and useful content makes it to the top positions of Google. Announced in August 2022, the update is aimed at taking down the sites that offer surface-level content from the top of the search results. Additionally, the new signal will classify websites based on the helpfulness of the content. This means Google can now flag a website as unhelpful if a considerable number of articles are found to be less reliable.
Websites that use AI to autogenerated content, may also feel the heat of the Helpful Content update. Google recommends websites to use real people to write content for real users.
What we also know is that Google is going to get better at understanding when users are looking for expert advice and will rank the content pieces that followed the E.A.T guidelines above others. SEO experts can dominate search in 2022 only when they truly understand what users are searching for.
Brands will need to cater to audience requirements more than promoting their brand or their products and services. This means not forcing users to sign up on your site or showing them unnecessary pop-ups on your site or redirecting them to registration forms.
Steven van Vessum, VP of Community, ContentKing, believes that besides understanding what the users are looking for, they should also take note of the preferred content type (videos, podcasts, articles, etc.) and deliver accordingly.
Alexander Kesler, CEO, INFUSEmedia, gave some additional advice on search intent. According to him, businesses should analyze the on-site journey and search data of their organic leads. This will not only help them to understand the search term they used to find your content, but also on-site search keywords for all the pages they have visited within your website. This data aggregation will help brands map it to the content journey.
6. Localization of SEO
We believe local businesses are going to see more traction from Google as there is a definite push towards highly localized search results.
This means it’s time to focus on generating quality reviews on Google My Business and even on other review platforms that are authentic.
Over the past few months, we have seen country-specific content and businesses benefit from search results instead of global entities.
This means that Google wants to showcase results that will be beneficial to the users. For example, the results I get for the keyword “solar panels for home use” in the US are different from those shown in India.
That’s because the sites ranking in the US are not serving the people in India, at least directly. But, despite it having higher authority when compared to the Indian counterparts, it fails to rank.
Even though this is a macro example, Google is doing the same in the micro-level, wherein the search results (not only the Map pack) change based on the user’s location.
Moving forward, websites that want to target local audiences should include the name of the city, state, or country so that Google doesn’t miss ranking your website higher.
7. Video SEO Gets Two Dedicated Structured Data
If you are into Video SEO, 2021 Google I/O has a lot in the offering. The search engine giant announced the launch of two new structured data – Seek Markup and Clip Markup to help video content show up on the search results with the key moments.
Currently, the Key Moments feature is available for videos uploaded on YouTube. Moving forward, any platform that hosts video can benefit from using any of the two new structured data markups.
While the Clip Markup manually tells Google about your timestamps in your videos, the Seek markup is an automated way to communicate the same to Google Search.
If you are looking to increase the click-through rate to your video content via the search results page, these two markups are a boon.
Here is how you can add Clip and Seek MarkUp in your video content to benefit Key Moments to feature on search results.
Clip Video Markup
For Clip Markup to function, you must manually tell Google what timestamp and label to use when displaying the key moments. This information must be embedded to the Video Object element of the structured data by including these required properties.
Seek Video Markup
Unlike its sibling, Seek Video markup is more straightforward.
It tells Google how a URL structure works so that Google can automatically display key moments identified for your video, using the following properties in your VideoObject.
While SeekToAction properties aren’t required, you must add the following properties if you want Google to understand how your URL structure works so that Google can link users to a point within the video. It’s still in beta and we can expect more feature additions to this markup soon.
8. Customer Analytics, Retention & Lifetime Value
SEO has evolved a lot over the years. In 2022, brands need to work harder to bridge the gap between web traffic and SEO ROI. This year, data on behavioral analytics will become one of the major areas of focus.
With Google evolving at a fast rate, conversions and revenues have become more important than ever. Keyword volume will take a backseat this year and it will be more about behavioral analytics.
Brands have to focus on what their customers are doing, how they are doing, and what could be done to make them take action on your site even faster. You have to reverse engineer that to the content you produce.
COVID-19 has proved that keyword research isn’t always useful when the world is in constant reflux. Behavioral analytics will unlock hidden content opportunities that keyword research otherwise fails to detect.
Businesses will need to focus more on customer retention and increasing customer lifetime value (LTV). It will be all about understanding your customer best and providing them with possible solutions through content or risk losing them to some other business that understands your customer better.
Izzi Smith, Technical SEO Analyst, Ryte, encourages companies to provide improved customer services online. Brands need to establish a process with their sales and support staff to ensure that they are aware of important and incoming questions or requests by customers that can be resolved with help resources.
You should explore your Google Search Console keyword data with common question modifiers to find relevant topics that can be addressed. Ensure that these queries are answered clearly and published to relevant FAQ sections on the website.
It is easy to lose the attention and trust of the audience if you fail to give value to your customers. Brands have to retain an interest in customers by providing them content that is comprehensive, useful, and factually correct. Writing such content requires focus and commitment.
9. Brand SERP Optimization, Knowledge Graphs & Entities
This year, keeping a close watch on brand SERPs and knowledge panels will become very important. Understanding who you are, what you offer, and what audience you serve will hold a lot of value for other businesses.
We may even start to see personalized knowledge graphs in 2022. Google has so much information about you, including your search history and behavior, email, and social media, it might be able to scale up the process of personalizing knowledge graphs.
What does this mean for SEO in 2022? It means optimizing a brand’s entire digital presence like its social media profile, Youtube channel, etc., in order to influence Google to feature them the way they want.
Today, it’s not just about your website and what it showcases, but it is about your brand’s entire digital presence and how they interact with each other on SERP. SEO experts must understand how NLP (natural language processing) and entities play a role in Google rankings.
The Importance of good keywords still remains crucial but it comes secondary to understanding topics related to the query and the intent behind it.
Google Discover is the only place where there are no keywords at play. The only way to optimize for it is by establishing your entity in the knowledge graph and honing how it is connected within the topic layer, as per Jes Scholz, the International Digital Director at Ringier.
Some of the activities that Scholz suggest to focus are:
- Ensuring a correct and complete organization markup.
- Establishing a strong presence on knowledge bases such as Wikidata.
- Claiming your knowledge panel to use the posts by Google feature.
- Setting up Google My Business profile for brick-and-mortar businesses.
10. All SEO Is Mobile SEO
Ensuring that your website performs well for mobile devices is something that you must continue to take care of in 2022. Mobile device user experience will be a big focus for all SEO experts.
Simplicity is the key to a user-friendly web design. You also need to personalize your website content according to the needs of your users. Google will eventually ignore your desktop site and completely focus on your mobile site to determine your rankings.
So, if your focus on improving user experience on mobile devices has been the bare minimum to date, it’s time to shift your focus entirely on it. If you have a separate desktop and mobile site, it time to consider migrating to a mobile responsive site
11. Assess, Adapt & Execute
In 2021, thinking out of the box will be more important than ever. You need to have a better perspective of the opportunities that are there in front of you. This is the time to get organized, build a plan, and work according to it.
Shifting to a more strategic SEO plan will be critical to help you stay atop your competitors. It is recommended to shift your focus from user behavior to a dual process of understanding the market in which these consumers operate first and then take a more strategic approach to the changing demands in real-time.
You should utilize various tools, platforms, and sources available to you to understand how economic, social and psychological factors impact search demand and then look at understanding consumer behavior at a deeper level.
12. More Automation
Looking at the number of SEO tasks we were able to automate in 2021, 2022 will open doors to bigger opportunities. We can expect the quality and quantity of AI-generated content to increase this year. This will however create bigger challenges for search engines to weed out spammy content.
Over the past few years, more and more industry-leading tools have introduced automated features to roll out site changes. This has been particularly beneficial for in-house SEO roles, who can now spend more time focusing on strategies to improve site performance.
13. SERP Layout & Functionality Changes
There is going to be a big change in the way content is viewed or laid out on the website since Google Passage Ranking was announced. Instead of having multiple pages on a topic, why not have an entire page dedicated to that particular topic.
Cindy Krum, CEO & Founder, MobileMoxie, believes that Google identifying and ranking passages will be a huge SEO trend in 2021. Passages are really important as far as Google’s ability to extract the exact information that the audience is looking for is concerned.
Strong page and schema structure help with passage optimization along with the presence of text that has a high readability score and is easy for NLP to evaluate.
Google has been testing multiple layout changes, including more inclusive autosuggestion that gives the users the information without even having to hit the search button or scroll down the results.
Google is expected to add infinite or continuous scroll in search. Though implemented on mobile search results in the US in late 2021, we may soon see this feature in other regions and desktop searches as well.
14. Long-Form Content
One trend that will help you outrank your competitors in 2022 is consistently publishing long-form and relevant content on your website. The content should adhere to E.A.T guidelines and should be 2000-word long or more.
As long-form content continues to garner importance in 2022, well-written long-form content can even cross the 2000-word threshold and aim to standardize a 3000-3500 word mark.
15. SEO Scalability
If you want to beat your competitors in 2022, you should focus on building scalability in your SEO services.
Mark Traphagen, Vice President of Product Marketing and Training, seoClarity recommends listing all the tasks and workflow and then determining which of these steps could be automated using SEO tools.
You should also set up an alert system that monitors significant changes like ranking of your important keywords, URL changes, or changes in content. Establish SoPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for any other tasks you can’t automate.
These are the SEO trends for 2022. Implement these SEO strategies on your website and stay ahead of your competitors. Which of these strategies do you think will be the most important in 2022?