SEO Trends to Watch for in 2020
Every year at Guardian Owl Digital we take a look back and ask the question, “What tactics will move the needle most for businesses in ranking on search engine result pages that matter.”
This was an overall turbulent year in search engine land with the largest algorithm update on Google in 5 years which was officially named Bert.
In recalibrating to maximize business results in 2020 here are the 10 key areas that need to be a priority moving forward for search engine optimization.
User Focused Optimization
The fact of the matter is that even though Google is responsible for rankings of websites, the end user is the deciding factor when it comes to the longevity of a site. If a user enjoys the experience on your website chances are that they will return multiple times.
You can measure which search queries your site is currently driving impressions on Google by utilizing Google’s free tool, Google Search Console. This allows you to see, in full first party transparency, which search queries are most relevant to site users.
Secondly, people can see through (or at least we can!) sites that are blatantly trying to rank for a specific word. At the end of the day, make sure that you optimize your site for the users, not the algorithm.
Content is Still King
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you don’t need content. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!
Content relevant to your business product or service is important, and once you’ve honed in on your content as it relates to the main pages of your site, it’s time to focus on producing fresh content by blogging. Google doesn’t like stagnant sites, so even if you are very much still in business but haven’t updated your site since 2015, chances are Google isn’t giving you much traffic as a result.
If you want to see which search queries are driving the most volume we recommend utilizing keyword research tools like SEM Rush, Ahrefs, or Keysearchco to help aid in attracting high volume, relevant search traffic for your initial content kickstart in the new year.
EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) and Reviews
You are the expert of your industry! So you have to act like it! Give knowledge freely (or ask for an email address in exchange.) The acronym EAT developed by Google refers to being an authority in your industry and showing your expertise, all while being someone that users can trust.
Which brings us to something that we harp on all of the time. REVIEWS. Google (and everyone else, has no idea if you are trustworthy or not unless the people that you have worked with leave you a review!
If you’re afraid to ask in person, we recommend sending a pdf email that leads your loyal customers directly to your Google My Business listing where a review can be written.
Ask away for reviews, Google reviews are going to do the most good, but we’d be ok with a Facebook review too!
Link building from 5 years ago is for sure different than link building of today. It isn’t as easy as dropping your website into a directory, in fact, please don’t do that! Link building requires a lot more thought and strategy. It is important to reach out to websites that will give you a follow link back, in a specific way, with a plan in mind.
For years people inside and outside of the search engine industry have misunderstood “no-follow” links. On September 10th, 2019 Google released new link attributes that will give consumers heightened visibility into paid, user generated, or non paid links.
For ages, “Nofollow” value attributes on links have provided online publishers with a straightforward way to share with search engines, for all intents and purposes, to ignore a link on their website while still providing the user with potentially valuable content.
As Media Vine mentioned this year, the more information you give Google on backlinks the better for rankings.
Create Your Content Calendar in a Strategic Way
Your content calendar for seo doesn’t have to feel like you are trying to nail jello to the wall in search of something that sticks. The free data in Google Analytics tells you a lot about what users are searching and more importantly when they start searching. Once you have a solid 6 months to a year of data under your belt, you will feel like it is a no brainer putting together a content calendar. (and Guardian Owl Digital can show you how)
Segment your top 5-10 trafficked pages and the predominant themes of those landing pages. We recommend pulling a content gap report between your three closest competitors on those landing pages. Analyze what it is your missing and how you can close the content gap on those pages. Are they utilizing different topics, search terms, or backlinks that are helping them drive traffic? Include this work each quarter in your content strategy to ensure you’re working from a strong blueprint to climb closer up the search engine result pages!
Secondly, you want to work on the landing pages that you recognize need to be ranking from a business perspective but aren’t. Pull the same content gap report and create “buckets” of content that will need curated each quarter to help these pages in generating traffic. New content should be added each month and indexed through Google Search Console for immediate review by Google
Make Sure You Have a Video Strategy
If content is king, having a video content strategy, is like having the entire royal family on your side. Google has decided over the past year or so that they really like video and reward websites handsomely that are utilizing video in one way or another. If you’re really looking to impress Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine and Google’s owns the platform! Creating and optimizing video on Youtube will be important in 2020 because of this often undiscussed nuisance.
Building an audience base for your channel isn’t easy, and takes careful consideration about your content. You want to make it easy for YouTube’s algorithms to choose your videos to place on the Google Search engine result pages. YouTube videos are a great media for introducing your business, rolling out new products or services, and engaging with your site users. Video production is at an all-time high, while user attention spans are at an all-time low, so make those minutes count. As with any social media platform, video sites such as YouTube are more about reaching your audience versus solidifying a sale, so focus on building relationships with your videos.
It’s also important to consider physical user behavior. For example, how they access videos is rapidly changing. By 2022, PCs will account for only 19 percent of IP traffic, whereas smartphones will account for 44 percent of total IP traffic. Traffic from all wireless and mobile devices combined will account for 71 percent of total IP traffic by then. So it’s not enough just to have information available, but to make it readily viewable on the user’s preferred device. Mobile-friendliness is an important video factor as well in search engine rankings too.
STILL Not Secure?
Not to beat a dead horse (but it has been dead for many years now) there is absolutely no excuse for not having a properly installed SSL certificate on you site. It keeps users information safe (yes even in the forms that are filled out on your site) but beyond that if a potential visitor was navigating to your site they could get a warning that your site isn’t safe to visit.
The Google Chrome browser now warns all users if a website is not SSL-enabled by displaying a “not secure” message next to the URL. This, along with the proliferation of data hacking, should be reasons enough to have your site certified as secure (HTTP versus HTTPS).
Don’t Ignore Google My Business
Once again, making sure that you utilize the free tools that Google provides is a big deal. Google my Business is yet another way to get the word out about who you are and what services that you provide to clients. Plus the more you use Google My Business the more cool beta tools and insights you unlock.
When setting up a Google My Business account, there are six crucial pieces of information you won’t want to leave out:
Hours of Operation
Companies are responsible for managing this information on their Google My Business accounts. It is crucial that information on the platform is up-to-date and thorough to ensure customers are properly engaged and new prospects are well informed especially if you are a destination business. Our prediction? Pretty soon it won’t be free any longer.
Very few users will sit and wait for a slow site to load, especially on mobile devices and this won’t be changing in 2020.
Optimize for Image Search
Lots of people are searching via images first before utilizing the standard search options. Make sure that you have your photos optimized and are properly utilizing the ALT text box for both the visually impared user and search engines.
Google recognizes BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG image files, so ensure that your image file is saved as one of those. Secondly, you’ll want to name the image itself something descriptive and relevant. Alt text is helpful if your web page has trouble loading, since alt text displays as a placeholder when images fail to load properly.
Lastly, you don’t want to forsake images just because a few extra steps are necessary for SEO effectiveness. Take the extra steps to ensure that the work you put into your site shows up as a real return on investment in Google’s eyes and the user experience.