Search engine optimization is one of the most dynamic fields of digital marketing, which means keeping tracking of best practices is an ongoing endeavor. Google has all but cemented its position as the go-to destination for all our needs. While many aspects of SEO remain the same over the years, there are still changes that continually pop up. As a result, marketers need to stay on top of changes to make sure that their pages rank for relevant keywords on Google.
Let’s look at how Google is changing our search experience, and the necessary steps marketers have to take to keep their pages optimized for Google.
1. People Find Answers on the SERP
Featured snippets allow users to find what they’re looking for on the first page without having to click on links to other pages. This type of result is referred to as “zero-click searches”. These types of results made a huge splash in 2019, and their use will only continue to grow in 2020. Today, almost half of all Google searches are zero-click searches. All of this comes courtesy of Google’s Local Packs, Featured snippets and Knowledge graphs.
This means that marketing is increasingly happening on Google’s search result’s page as opposed to websites. Therefore, implementing a marketing strategy that places emphasis on the data contained in the snippets will give marketers a competitive edge.
Optimizing for search snippets is more important than optimizing for blue links to websites in 2020.
2. Featured Snippets over Rich Snippets
Rich snippets are the text below the URL and description of a webpage which provides additional information to users:
The image, along with the rating and ingredients is the rich snippet for the “ultimate vanilla ice cream” search. Optimizing for rich snippets is not hard – add a title, brief description along with an image, stars for reviews, prices, etc. However, their click through rate will be lower than a Featured snippet’s CTR.
A Featured snippet provides an entire chunk of useful information at the very top of the results page. While featured snippets will increase your CTR, they are harder to attain.
To optimize both types of snippets, head over to an in-depth website auditor which will make sure that all of your information is properly structured. Then use Rank Tracker to find ways of getting Featured snippets. When researching keywords, pay attention to those which have given your competition Featured snippets.
Even if you rank first for some keywords, this still doesn’t mean that you’ll get either of the snippets. However, do everything you can to get them because the benefits to your website are enormous.
3. Video Content is the Future
According to Cisco, 80% of all online traffic will be video content by 2021. And the demand for video seems insatiable. Therefore, make video content an integral part of your SEO in 2020.
Video is regularly popping up as Featured Snippets on the results page. For example, if you search “how to do the Macarena”, your first result will be a video showing the steps:
There are 3 key steps to follow to get your video to be in a Featured Snippet.
Firstly, set up your content into distinct sections. This means that your video must have a clearly defined “about” section on a topic, examples, benefits, downsides, etc. As a result, Google will be able to include a certain part of the video in the results page.
Secondly, include a title, description and tags so that Google will know the topic of the video.
Thirdly, include a transcript of the video. While YouTube captions are pretty good (at least for English), they are not 100% accurate. Therefore, by uploading a transcript, you’ll make sure that both Google and YouTube know the content of the video.
YouTube is a massive and growing search engine that should play an important role in your overall SEO strategy. YouTube is actually more popular than Bing and is still growing! And the best part is that most marketers ignore the relevance of YouTube. So if you want to have a leg up on the competition, optimize your video content for the streaming platform.
Finally, include video in most of your blog posts to take full advantage of this medium’s popularity. You should embed video in blogs which are rich in text because we are all conditioned to ignore huge blocks of texts. Therefore, an embedded video can help lower your website’s bounce rate.
4. Get a Feel for a Keyword’s Intent
Understanding the main reason why a user is typing a specific set of keywords will help provide the content that they are looking for. For example, you are hungry and want to make a quick meal. You search “chicken soup recipes” and find a page with great instructions and images, but the preparation time is 2 hrs. Since you’re hungry, you go back to Google and search for “quick chicken soup recipes” and find a recipe with a preparation time of 15 minutes.
If most users who type “quick chicken soup recipes” are looking for the same thing as you, then that page will rank well. And pages that don’t match users’ intentions won’t rank at all.
This approach to SEO started to become important in 2019.
Keywords contain the user’s intent, and it is up to you to decipher their intention. We use search engines for a vast array of reasons: to buy something, to learn something new, to compare prices, find places, etc.
Therefore, you must match intent with each target keyword. Intent is sometimes apparent in the keyword search: “buy yeezy sneakers”. Unfortunately, it is not always so straightforward. For example, let’s say someone searches for “protein powder”. Clearly, there are different reasons why someone would search for that keyword. They could be looking to buy some protein powder, or they simply want to learn about it before they start going to the gym.
However, Google believes that someone who searches for “protein powder” wants to be informed about the substance and nothing more:
The best way to find out a user’s intent is by doing research yourself. If you want to publish on how to earn more Twitter followers, then search for “how to get Twitter followers” and look at the results on the first page. You could notice that most of the links were list posts instead of a step-by-step guide.
You now know to post a list post because that is what users want to read. This will help you to rank for that keyword because you’re providing what users want.
5. Focus on Brand Building
Organic social has taken a hit in the past year. Brands are relying on paid advertising in increasing numbers, which will inevitably result in lower ROI for everyone. The way things are heading, paid advertising will become prominent and more expensive as time goes by.
At the same time unlinked mentions and sentiments are becoming more influential for ranking on Google today. This means that marketers have to create relevant mentions. Social media is the best channel to gauge people’s opinion of your brand.
Also known as social media listening, by tracking mentions of people’s experience interacting with your brand, you will be to develop its reputation. You do this by engaging directly with customers, which naturally builds trust. You should use this as a way of familiarizing people about future promotions or releases. Therefore, publicly engaging with prospects and customers is a great way of promoting brand awareness.
6. Content Will Always be King
Google will continue to find ways to give priority to quality content over simple keyword stuffing, or any other machinations which many dishonest marketers like to use.
Now is the time to create content that is made for users and not for search engines. This will entail performing a series of adjustments to the way you create content.
High-quality content will continue to lie at the heart of SEO. Content that ranks will be the best on a particular topic. Therefore, posting both valuable and relevant content will help you rank well regardless of future measures that Google will undertake: your brand will be secure.
By doing so, you will build website authority and interest in your content while effectively competing for much more long-tail searches, which make up over two-thirds of all queries.
Marketers will need to make a shift in their approach to content by focusing on subjects that deal with an overarching discussion, instead of only targeting keywords. When creating content, your team needs to understand what users need. Make sure that you understand your target audience, and the reasoning behind their queries. Next, the solutions that you offer should be presented in a concise way with authoritative content. Create this type of content for every step of their customer journey in order to have them coming back to you.
There is one more important point to watch out for: overlapping content. If your website touches on the same or closely related topics continually, then your web pages will lower each other’s rankings.
As Google’s algorithms for natural processing continue to become more sophisticated, it’s becoming especially important to publish high-quality and relevant content to guarantee ranking on the results page.
If you really want to take your content to the next level, then aim to publish “research content”. Data is an extremely sought after commodity in many fields, including digital marketing. So if you’re able to carry out a reliable survey or come up with an insightful statistic, you are almost guaranteed to have people linking to your website!
Of course, coming up with accurate and insightful data is difficult. But if done properly, the benefits are enormous!
7. Optimize for Voice and Mobile Search
As smartphones continue to play an ever increasing role in our daily lives, it should come as no surprise that the number of mobile and voice searches is also growing. However, to be fair, voice searches are also done on Amazon’s Alexa and on smart TVs.
Optimizing your website for mobile and voice searches is one of the most innovative and exciting adjustments you need to make that will grow organic traffic.
So how do you go about doing it?
Voice searches are more demanding than regular queries because search engines need to perform a lot more tasks to get the necessary information. They don’t have to be chopped up in different keywords, rather your voice search can be more conversational and natural.
Voice assistants are developed to be more human-like, which means that you aren’t limited to constraints of a text-based search. This means that you need learn how your target audience talks about your product/service. You can then use relevant phrases to better understand your prospects/consumers engage with your brand.
The best way of doing this is by optimizing for Featured snippets. Mobile users don’t have the patience to scroll down looking for content, and voice searches only come up with one result. Therefore, having a featured snippet optimized page is essential.
Your content must be structured according to h2, h3, etc subheadings which focus on one particular question/topic. Also, include short and concise descriptions under each subheading so that search engines can quickly feature the content.
8. Word Count Matters
The length of your posts is another important factor to look out for in 2020. Studies show that websites with longer content attract the most views. The reason why is pretty simple: people want to get all of their information from one place. Posts with at least 2,000 words have more readers than those with fewer words.
If you provide a comprehensive and informative article, then visitors are more likely to stay longer on your website. As a result, Google will give your website a boost in ranking because you are providing relevant content.
SEO in 2020
Search engine optimization is all about placing your brand in front of your target audience. However, while you’re doing all the necessary technical tinkering to rank well on Google, don’t forget to engage with people on your webpage and not just on social media. Google claimed that discussion that happens on your website is better for SEO than simply going to social media. So invest time in building a community on your webpage, because in 2020, Google will greatly reward you for this.