What’s Changed in SEO in 2020? | From BERT to Branding

By | Branding, SEO, Web Design | No Comments

Successful SEO strategies in 2020 look very different from previous years. Some of these changes include shifting consumer buying patterns and changes in the technicalities of search engine optimization itself. Google and other search engines are evolving. And this requires your search engine optimization strategies in 2020 to evolve, as well.

The first step to ranking your website at the top of Google is to understand what the SEO landscape looks like now.

So, to prepare you for your journey, brace yourself for the new realities of 2020 and the SEO practices that you need to battle them! 

What’s New with SEO in 2020

The Rise of Voice 

The biggest change to SEO in 2020 is the rising trend of voice searches. Studies revealed that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. Why do you need to care? Because in the next two years, it’s estimated that 55% of all households will have Smart Speakers.

Here’s how it changes everything. 

In contrast to text searches, where being on the first page is what mattered, in voice searches through smart speakers only one result will be dictated. If that result is not your website, you have already lost the battle.

There used to be a lot of space on the front page for you and your competitors. But with voice SEO, now there’s only one spot. 

Scared? You should be. But let’s see how we can optimize your website for voice searches.

The area that requires your attention most is  Google’s Featured Snippet. This is how Google responded to the increase in voice searches. It’s easier for someone to squeeze their Google Pixel and ask it a question. In return, Google provides them the answers to their queries in the form of a “Snippet”. 

To show you a featured snippet in action, here’s what Google showed me when I asked it if SEO is worth it:

And that’s what you should aim for. Optimize your content in such a way that you become the selected website that Google displays. Keep reading to learn how you can achieve that.

The first area that we should look at is how Voice Searches are different from regular searches. You probably would have noticed the difference yourself. The nature of voice searches tend to be more of an inquiry– a question.

So, to continue with my example, I used Google Home to inquire whether or not SEO is worth my time. Google chose this website as the result to my inquiry because of 3 factors:

  1. Its relevance to my question
  2. The use of long-tail keywords
  3. If it can answer my question directly in 42 words

This is also how I designed this article. The title predicts the inquiry while the very first paragraph briefly answers it. So, there’s a chance that the next time you use Voice Search, this article is what you will come across. 

Next, let me drive your attention to another rising trend– hyperlocal inquires. This is especially important for business owners. According to Social Media Explorer, local searches account for 46% of all searches

Offline and Online Factors on SEO

To facilitate these inquiries, Google has launched a new algorithm called BERT. What BERT does is provide the most credible links that are near, relevant, and most prominent. 

Let’s say you are a business that’s looking to raise your profile in the neighbourhood. You’ll have to work on both your offline and online presence. You can boost your offline presence by asking customers in person to leave good reviews about your product or service. This will increase your credibility while increasing your chances to be identified by BERT. 

The next aspect that you need to work is your online presence. Make sure that you use accurate information about name, addresses and hours etc, on all of your platforms. Facebook, Instagram, your website, any online directories– the key is to be as credible and prominent as possible across the web. Leave no stone unturned.

Don’t take this lightly as a single mistake can make you lose customers! Imagine the horror if a person searching for you ends up on your competitor’s page because its just in more places than your are. It’ll be challenging for you to regain those lost customers. Google’s launch of BERT has made it essential that you’re credible across the internet.

Design for Mobile First

In 2020, I want to remind you to focus on mobile-friendly user-interfaces. I know, you’re probably thinking “We already know that” but this is more important than ever as mobile searches account for 80% worldwide! This means that 8 out of 10 consumers will interact on your portal using a mobile phone. So, it becomes absolutely essential for you to build a responsive website.

To aid you in this process, Google provides you with a Mobile Friendly Test. This will help identify areas of your site that you need to work on. The second thing that you can do is to have Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMPs for short. You can learn how to do AMPs here. Or you could hit up DxM Creative for a hand.

Branding Plays a Big Role in SEO

Now coming on to the final aspect of SEO in 2020 that you absolutely need to incorporate. And that is the concept of Branding.

Remember our discussion on BERT? Becoming a credible website does not only mean good reviews and accurate information. If it really were that simple, then everyone would do it!

Branding is the ultimate weapon that will allow you to cut through the immense competition and withstand all the new algorithms to become the winning search on your consumer’s device. But you might be thinking, “How exactly do we become a brand?”. 

Although you can find tons of definitions, branding relevant to us is how the BERT algorithm distinguishes a brand from a generic webpage.

To get identified as a brand by Google’s algorithm, you need to have different social forums all talking about you. So, in 2020, a highly optimized website won’t cut it. To become the winning search, you need to have credible presence on other different platforms using similar type of keywords and having the same type of quality reviews. Only then will BERT identify you as a Brand.

And this is not just to optimize for BERT, but relates to all the above points. Your branding is what will ensure your position in Google’s Featured Snippet. Branding is how local consumers will identify you. A good user-interface is what consumers expect from your brand. 

Following these SEO tips will help your website reach a ton of new customers in 2020.

But search engine optimization is just one part of doing well online. Here’s what it takes to build a successful website.

What Ryan Reynolds Can Teach You About Brand Affinity

By | Branding, Marketing | No Comments

What do brand affinity and Deadpool have in common? Ryan Reynolds.

When he’s not playing the foul-mouthed mercenary or winning over hearts, Ryan is also an entrepreneur building Aviation Gin.

Aviation Gin recently caught a lot of attention for creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe of TV commercials when they scooped up the actress from this blunder of a spot from Peloton. Try not to cringe.

Within 36 hours, Ryan and his team had filmed and distributed a new video with Monica Ruiz’s (the actress) face front and centre in the opening shot. Eyes teary, Monica hits the watering hole to drink away her pain with her two supportive friends. You’ll love this.

The original Peloton ad was met with a ton of controversy. The internet did with it what the internet does with things it doesn’t like– memes. With parodies across Tik Tok, Instagram, and comment sections everywhere, the internet was having a field day with Peloton.

I’ll admit, the only other time I had heard of Aviation Gin before this was during Ryan’s very meta commercial for Samsung.

His team’s responsiveness to a very tiny window of opportunity allowed Aviation Gin to get itself in front of a ton of new customers in the best light possible.

With the holiday season in full swing, the timing of Aviation Gin’s move could not have been better. Had they been a day or two more late, we might have not cared as much.

Today, we’re going to take some time to breakdown the brand affinity lessons we can learn from Ryan Reynolds and how you can apply them to your company.

But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.

What The Heck Is Brand Affinity?


Oxford defines affinity as “a spontaneous or natural liking for someone or something.” Brand affinity is basically the same thing. When you have an affinity towards a brand, you naturally like it more than its competitors. It’s why I pay the extra $100 for my grande extra hot Americano with blonde espresso at Starbucks instead of settling for Timmies’ bean water.

Brands use emotions to strengthen the relationship they have with their customers. This can be as subtle as the copywriting on their menus, to as overt as a waiter asking what the special occasion is. Companies with high brand affinity understand that optimizing every touch point is crucial.

Children even as young as 3 years old are able to identify and distinguish between logos. Your kid knows that you’re a liar if you promised the palace of golden arches but take them to Burger King.

…how could you?

Nurturing brand affinity helps cement your brand as the go-to when someone needs what you’re selling. Consider the exercise below.

You need tissues. You pick up a box of __________.
You need sticky notes. You pick up a pack of __________.
It's cold out and your lips are dry. You grab your __________.

These brands have become so popular that their products are synonymous with the entire category.

Most companies only ever seek brand loyalty. But there needs to be an emotional connection for your brand to stay top of mind in the first place. What would make someone think of your product beyond just a lower price or a few extra features?

Brand affinity is what leads to customer loyalty.

Aviation Gin isn’t the cheapest product on the market in its category. And it certainly isn’t the gin your grandfather used to drink.

Developing brand affinity is about nurturing human connections. It takes a lot of leg work. But it’s not work that Ryan Reynolds and his team shy away from.

Here’s What Ryan Does Well


Corporations are guilty of speaking to customers like… well, corporates.

A couple stopping to grab a bottle of wine before a dinner party don’t speak to each other as if they’re monoliths. Ryan knows this. He knows how the people who he wants to pick up his product actually talk to each other.

So, he employs the same tone and language that you’d overhear them using. A quick scroll through their Twitter feed will show you how tongue-in-cheek their copy is. They never use supernumerary words with crazy syllable counts or drone on in lengthy copy with an exclamation point at the end for a last ditch effort to add “personality!”

Aviation Gin has a certain voice. And you, naturally, associate a face or a type of person to that voice. I bet you’re not imagining John from accounting with the geeky pocket protector.

The way Ryan’s team tweets about their product and talk about it makes you WANT to keep listening. It’s enjoyable! You’re having a good time. You almost forget that you’ve fallen prey to content marketing.

The best advertisements don’t look or sound like advertisements. Aviation Gin’s TV spots are entertaining. You WANT to watch them.

And the Peloton Wife spot was no different. Ryan’s team responded quickly to a cultural moment and capitalized on Peloton’s misfortune. This responsiveness allowed them to hack culture and stay top of mind during the holiday season.

Spontaneity, guts, comic relief– the themes of this moment embodied the emotions they wanted to have associated with the Aviation brand. Brand affinity is all about what someone feels when they hear your name.

Courageous marketing feats aren’t the only way Ryan develops brand affinity. He does it on a micro level, as well.

When one deaf Twitter user pointed out that people like her are missing out on the fun because of a lack of captions, Ryan took her feedback and responded promptly with an edited video. Check out the exchange:


Cryssie was delighted. I mean, RYAN REYNOLDS responded to HER. I’d be freaking out.



Now, Cryssie might not have went to her nearest LCBO and bought a bottle of Aviation Gin right away BUT… the next time she’s walking down the gin aisle I think we both know which brand she’s gonna be looking for.

Brand affinity starts on a 1:1 basis. If your customers feel listened to, they’re much more likely to return the favour. It’s the golden rule, folks– treat others how you want to be treated.

People don’t want a big bad corporation to speak down to them. They want companies to feel like the hilarious friend they’re catching up with on a Thursday night. Aviation Gin is that friend, and the Peloton MCU is their inside joke. Inside jokes build brand affinity.

How You Can Do This For Your Brand


You and I are mere mortals. We can’t have Ryan’s charm or his smile (or his wife… or his career… or his general life). But, we can observe the marketing masterclass he puts on. Here are 3 things you can do to start building brand affinity today.

Listen to Your Customers

Every business has a Cryssie. That one customer that wants to love you, but feels left out.

Connect with them and listen. Engaging your customers and hearing how they perceive your brand is primary data you can use to grow. Pay attention to what excites them. Take note of what they ignore.

Companies with high brand affinity excel in customer service. You’ll have a much easier time attracting new customers if you’re doing a good job at retaining your current customers.

Your customers won’t always tell you the whole picture, though. That’s why it’s equally as important to listen to the cultural overlaps where your customer hangs out (figuratively).

Respond to Culture

Aviation Gin’s target demographic was glued to the Peloton commercial. It’s where their eyes naturally were.

Many brands make the mistake of being the dude on the corner of a busy intersection twirling a sign around. They’re sweating profusely to divert drivers (your customers) off the path they’re on and make a hard left.

Brands claw to turn attention their way. Aviation Gin goes to where the attention already is.

Your customer isn’t one dimensional. The relationship they have with you doesn’t have to begin and end directly with the product you’re selling. People’s interests and desires are deep and wide. Understand what intersections your customer spends their attention at and meet them there.

Add a Personal Touch

If I screenshot one of your recent tweets and removed your handle from the picture, would someone who’s seeing that for the first time be able to tell the tweet’s from you? If you can swap out your brand name with a competitor’s and the message doesn’t feel wrong, that’s a problem.

Let your personality shine through in your copywriting, your website design, and your customer interactions. The more human you can make your brand feel, the easier time you’ll have nurturing brand affinity.

Delight Customers, Earn Promoters


First impressions are lasting impressions. If a prospective customer’s first interaction with you wasn’t memorable, they won’t think of you. It’s much more noteworthy to make a customer laugh or cry, than to be forgotten about.

The only thing you want customers to forget, is that you’re an ad.

Share this with a marketing nerd.

Thank you for reading.

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