It’s a brand new decade, and that means it’s time for us to publish our run-of-the-mill yearly SEO guide. So much has changed, right?
The truth is, the same principles that helped you perform well in 2019 are probably going to help you perform well in 2020. Yes, Google rolled out a big update, but it had been working toward it for a while.
For this post, we’re going to try something different and give you a set of SEO mantras to help you get in line with a quality SEO strategy. These are meant to be guiding principles, tips and fundamental truths that you can use to formulate your SEO strategy for the coming year.
E-A-T Your Heart Out
Expertise, authority and trustworthiness. These should be your three core values when you create content for your website, ecommerce or not. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Expertise – Demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about. Selling headphones? Include specific product details on audio quality, decibel level and more on your product pages. Provide resources that audiophiles can reference when they’re shopping for audio gear. Get nitty-gritty and demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about.
- Authority – Similar to expertise but it incorporates exterior signals, like reviews and backlinks to demonstrate that you truly are the go-to site for X.
- Trustworthiness – Google doesn’t want to send its users to a site that isn’t secure or won’t offer a quality product. Be honest, be real and foster a good review profile.
Google pushed quality content very hard in 2019 through several broad core algorithm updates, and 2020 is going to continue that push. Keep an eye on Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines to ensure that you’re getting your E-A-T on.
Write Content for Humans First, Search Engines Second
The Big G crawls, indexes and assesses content the way a human does. Be clear on your page’s purpose and ensure that it is in line with your user’s intent.
- Don’t be overly kitschy because you sell fun products; focus on information and value.
- Don’t overuse keywords or make your content too dry because you think search engines like that – they don’t.
- Be relevant, natural and an expert.
Accept BERT Into Your Life
BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. That’s probably meaningless to you, but Google wants you to know, accept and love the BERT update. BERT is built on top of RankBrain, Google’s first AI method for understanding search queries.
- BERT is a BIG DEAL because it helps Google Search better understand context by understanding relationships of words that come before and after each other. BERT included updates to the search software (code) as well as the hardware that Google’s search algorithms use to process information, pushing the limits on what physical computing hardware can do.
- There’s no method to optimize for BERT; you just have to follow Google quality guidelines, maintain E-A-T in all things you publish and focus on your user or customer.
Find Out What Questions People Are Asking and Answer Them
Google is an answer engine. If you want to get people to your site, you need to provide information they want. This is a simple but very effective tip for 2020: Find out what questions people are asking, and answer them on your site.
- People need information, and you want to be the one to provide that to them.
- Figure out what your customers are searching for and directly provide an answer on your website.
- Use Google’s “People also ask,” autocomplete, or a third-party tool to mine for questions relevant to your business.
- Answer questions in a simple, straightforward manner, ensuring that all of the information is relevant. Don’t bloviate to get more words on the page.
- This is great for getting that featured snippet real estate.
- Google has schema for all kinds of industries and types of content. You can see what they are by visiting Schema.org.
- Leave nothing up to chance with Google by using schema.
- It’s great for getting featured snippets, displaying additional features in SERPs and taking up more real estate on a search page.
- Just this month, Google rolled out a new “Popular Products” search feature that utilizes product schema to display information.
Forget About Voice Search Optimization
Hey Google, is voice search dead?
No, it’s not, but you as a website owner do not need to worry about the moment when Voice Search takes over and you’re not optimized for it.
- Voice search was hyped for the last two years, but with the update of BERT, it’s now just part of a good content strategy and writing content for humans.
- Don’t optimize for voice search; focus on E-A-T.
Go Multimedia With Your Content – Video, Audio and Graphics
Google continues to develop clever ways to show multimedia content on its search results page. Text content is still the currency of the web, but if you want to get ahead of the game and (maybe, just maybe) outperform your competition, start investing in different mediums with your content.
- YouTube is the second biggest search engine behind Google, so chances are, if your customers are searching for it on Google, they’re doing the same on Youtube
- Visual search is still an emerging method of search, so prepare yourself for it by creating optimized images that offer details on your products.
- It’s great for Pinterest, Instagram and other emerging technologies like Google Lens.
This will allow web developers and website designers to create lightning-fast, amazing experiences without sacrificing SEO.
AI’s Impact on SEO
People have been predicting AIs takeover for years now. In the SEO realm, the promise of AI predicts a bleak future for SEOs. One day, AI will automate the SEO process, perfectly optimizing websites without a single human being involved, right? Likely not. If anything, AI is getting better at understanding the idiosyncrasies of human beings. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s improving.
- AI is the primary technology behind search algorithms understanding human intent and delivering accurate search results.
- Will automated SEO be a thing in 2020? Some companies have hinted at it, but it’s likely a long, long way off.
AMP and Mobile Should Be a Given
It’s 2020. You shouldn’t still be wondering if your site works on mobile. Mobile optimization is a pillar of proper SEO. If you don’t already have an AMP-enabled or fully responsive website, stop reading this now and get one.
If you’re wondering if you need AMP to excel on the mobile search landscape – you technically don’t. AMP is a Google meta tag that tells browsers, “Hey, it looks like you might need a lighter-weight page that is easier to load over a bad connection. Check out this super lightweight page.”
- AMP is a good alternative but doesn’t 100% replace a mobile-responsive experience.
- If you don’t have AMP set up right now, don’t fret. You’re not going to drop off the map for search rankings. But you should start looking into how you can implement AMP-enabled versions of your pages on your website. Be ready for it to make a bigger impact in 2020.
Backlinking: Focus on Quality Over Quantity
Backlinks are still a thing in 2020. A big thing. But the standards on what is a healthy backlink profile are changing. Now, website owners need to be very aware of the quality of their backlinks, not so much the quantity.
- As BERT and E-A-T continue to refine how search engines index content, you need to make sure your backlinks are coming from quality sites.
- Guest blogging is still a viable option.
- PBNs are low quality and will likely come back to bite you, but they might work for some time – not recommended.
- One link for a trustworthy high-authority domain will yield better long-term results than several low-quality links.
Your Brand Is Now a Ranking Factor
Google is now assessing websites at a holistic level. This means that you need to optimize for search from the top down. Your site needs to be optimized, PPC campaigns need to be high quality, brand design needs to excite your customers, reviews need to be good, and it doesn’t hurt to just be a good person at the end of the day.
- Google looks at a wide range of metrics – from UX to reviews and more.
- We expect quality brands to start winning out in 2020.
- Optimization should integrate E-A-T, backlinks, reviews, brand mentions & more.
Local Search Will Become More Practical, Convenient and Useful
Local search is a huge priority for Google. As more users resort to browsing on mobile, it’s going to be imperative for brick-and-mortar businesses to leverage and nurture local optimization as part of their strategy.
- Google continues to prioritize local search and results for its users, especially on mobile devices.
- Google will typically test changes on its mobile products first and then deploy them to all browsers.
- Have the basics of local SEO down to stay competitive: optimized profiles, good reviews, great communication with your customers.
Use the Knowledge Graph
Establishing and maintaining authority, expertise and trustworthiness online should always consist of various informed strategies, including careful consideration of Google’s Knowledge Graph. However, you should particularly focus on your site’s place in the Knowledge Graph if you are the type of site selling products that can directly impact a person’s financial stability, health and safety. These sites are referred to as Your Money Your Life sites, and Google takes great care to ensure that information on these sites is accurate and truthful. Even if your YMYL site is performing well today, one broad core algorithm update could sink it without the proper authoritative connections online, making this a critical aspect of planning your E-A-T strategy.
- Google uses its Knowledge Graph to connect information online in order to better predict user intent.
- A site’s positive digital footprint improves authority and trust by establishing credible affiliations with experts and expert publications, such as scientific studies, in your industry.
- Google is continually looking for connections in expertise, authority and trust signals to determine ranking, and that’s true particularly for sites that are categorized as YMYL.
Don’t Forget About the Purchasing Journey
Whether you already have brand loyalty or you’re just starting out in the world of ecommerce, considering every potential step of a customer’s purchasing journey can be easy to neglect. Here’s how to include it, and why you should:
- Some customers may not be aware that a solution to their problem (aka, your product) exists; informative content that answers specific questions will help to increase awareness – the broadest, and oftentimes most neglected, portion of the purchasing funnel.
- Awareness doesn’t automatically create purchases. Think about how to additionally help customers engage in research and comparison.
- It’s not uncommon for business owners to have trouble imagining their product from a prospective customer’s vantage point, so if you’re not sure what kinds of questions people might be asking to gain awareness or help with research and comparison, enlist a third party. Getting friends to help, making note of the types of questions customers ask when they contact you, and reading your product’s reviews for pros and cons are all viable strategies.
Focus on Multilayer Strategies
Most businesses need a marketing strategy that incorporates two or more angles. Here’s why:
- Combining strategies will help you improve brand awareness and increase trust online.
- Paid advertisements have more authority when backed up by natural organic searches.
- Natural organic traffic can be improved with paid strategies because they double visibility.
- A varied strategy distributes your content across various channels where you’ll reach a wide mix of prospective customers, brand ambassadors and more.
- Don’t neglect your local audience, if you have a physical location. Local strategies can include advertisement, but we encourage you to think outside of the box to find ways to engage with the community, such as sponsoring or hosting local events.
Track the Right Metrics
It’s easy to get hung up on the specifics and miss the bigger picture. In addition to tracking conversions and traffic, don’t forget to focus on these important business and ranking metrics:
- Click-Through Rate, which refers to the result you’d get from dividing the number of times a page was clicked in a specific time frame by the number of times it was displayed in the search results during that same time span. You can improve this metric by optimizing your meta descriptions with calls to action, using ad extensions and creating custom URLs.
- Bounce Rate, which is the rate at which users leave your site immediately after landing there. Improve your bounce rates by reviewing your keyword strategy and navigation funnel, creating good content and providing an overall positive user experience.
- Time on Page, which can be improved by creating valuable content that answers specific questions, embedded videos that don’t require users to navigate away, easy and intuitive design, and internal linking.
There you have it, a big list of things you should be working on for SEO during 2020. If you have any questions, want to learn more about something specifically mentioned above, or just want some help with implementing some of these, get in touch with the Studio team today!