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SEO In 2020: What To Expect For The Year Ahead

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At the close of the decade and the start of a brand new year, I have taken some time to reflect on SEO trends that emerged in 2019 and those that I believe will define the year ahead.

SEO is one of the most exhaustive topics in the world of digital marketing, and there are a plethora of sources promising the latest information regarding updates to Google algorithms and the dynamic nature of consumer practices. The best advice I can offer is this: Find an in-house digital marketing expert or hire a third-party company that proves to be forward-thinking. When it comes to hiring an SEO expert, look for someone who demonstrates an understanding that trends are constantly changing and is committed to staying on top of the latest updates. SEO techniques from the previous decade will be wholly insufficient in the roaring ’20s ahead.

Did you know that Google, the most popular search engine in North America, updates its search algorithm, on average, 500 to 600 times per year? Your SEO strategy should follow a similar trajectory if you want to have the best rankings. Let’s dive into the most important aspects of SEO and what trends to expect in 2020.

Organic SEO

Organic SEO is a marketing approach that focuses on improving online visibility. While the term is widely used, it is also commonly misunderstood. When it comes to SEO trends to watch for in 2020, one of the most significant for organic SEO is the importance of advanced links.

Advanced link-building strategies can increase your website’s Domain Authority (the score given to your site between 0 and 100) and thereby improve your overall visibility online. Advanced link-building goes beyond establishing generic directories and includes guest blogs, paid links and web 2.0 blogs. Each of these strategies involves placing content on third-party sites with links back to your website.

The more websites that point to yours with a substantial DA, the more visible your website will become. If you’re looking for a digital marketing company to promote your brand, ask about their network of partnerships, websites and forums that they use for guest blogging and paid advertising.

Local SEO

Local, or map search, SEO has emerged as a distinct form of SEO over the last few years. Through internal research, our company found that 30% to 40% of customers, on average, now find local companies through maps. As such, strong map visibility is crucial.

Instead of a website, local SEO requires that your Google My Business (GMB) profile be optimized with keywords and links. The strategies for improving local SEO include NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency, link-building, image geotagging and further engagements with your GMB profile (such as reviews).

This year, SEO experts and digital marketers will need to be extra diligent in ensuring consistency and giving the appropriate time and energy to local optimizations, especially for small businesses and local service providers.

Content And Blogging

If one thing is for sure, Google’s updated deep-learning algorithms are getting smarter and smarter. Some experts believe they will soon surpass human understanding in terms of natural language processing. In recent years, Google’s algorithms have been placing more and more emphasis on well-written content, encouraging strategies such as natural language keywords and quality over quantity; 2020 will see this emphasis continue to rise. Google is becoming more sensitive to the nuances of language with a focus on understanding search query intent. Thus, in 2020, content should be concise and informative as well as targeted. As always, content also needs to indicate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

While my team has always helped clients by creating consistent content to add to their websites, our research has found that guest blogging, and building links with additional high DA websites, is even more effective. I would recommend a shift in strategy to include more link-building supplemented by high-quality content that focuses on specific query topics. Answering questions clearly and concisely will go a long way for any SEO strategy (especially with voice search optimization on the rise as well).

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Pay-per-click advertising includes Google AdWords and social media advertising. Pay-per-click ads get your message in front of already-interested consumers. Depending on your industry and budget, getting to the No. 1 result on Google organically isn’t always possible. Utilizing PPC allows your company to show up at the very top, regardless of your organic ranking.

In the field of remarketing, I anticipate two trends to be of special significance in the year ahead. Due to the Rule of Seven, a theory developed by marketing experts that states customers require seven touches with your brand before making a decision, remarketing is gaining traction within the marketing world as a necessity for some industries. If your business is highly competitive with a mid to long sales cycle, a remarketing campaign will effectively follow consumers around the internet until they’re ready to make the decision.

Advertising promotions are also a great way to convert customers. As the economic downturn continues, consumers will be looking for any way to save a few dollars. A marketing company may help determine and implement effective promotional offers and supplement any existing advertising efforts to increase awareness and conversion.

I believe 2020 holds the potential for innumerable growth opportunities for both marketing companies and their clients, so long as the right techniques are implemented, maintained, and adjusted as needed. Link-building, visibility, and user experience (especially for mobile) will continue to be areas of focus for my team, along with professional, well-written, informative content.

SEO and digital marketing are exciting fields, precisely because they are constantly changing. As you strive to find a balance between upholding consumer trends and maintaining relevance with search engine updates, I wish you a prosperous 2020.

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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