What will your key SEO points of focus be in 2020, and what new developments do you need to keep in mind in order to ensure that you’re maximizing your search traffic opportunities?
We recently spoke to ten experts in the field to get their thoughts on the latest SEO updates, and how businesses can apply them in practice, which we’ve outlined here in this post.
Some of their answers overlap, which only emphasizes the urgency of these tasks or aspects.
Let’s take a look at the highlights of our small round-up, which was organized with the informational support of SE Ranking.
1. Focus on the basics. There are no shiny objects in SEO
When you click on an SEO trends post, you no doubt hope to see a list of simple, actionable tips that’ll help you stay afloat over the next year. But the truth is that trends are not a magic pill – we can figure out what to expect from search engines, but ongoing, routine work remains the main recipe for success.
“Too many people in this industry waste time and resources chasing shiny objects. There are no silver bullets, SEO is all about putting in the time and dedicating resources to getting things done. Keyword research, website speed, content generation, and link building are all things that require time and attention. There are no shortcuts.”
Chris M. Walker from SuperStarSEO echoes the same:
“Everyone loves to make SEO this complex abstract thing… and they want to skip over the basics, specifically on-site SEO and technical SEO. The truth is if they spent the necessary time and effort on this, their job would become far easier and more profitable.”
“A lot of companies I’ve talked with are focusing their 2020 SEO efforts on cleaning up errors, resolving duplicate content, restructuring their website, updating content inaccuracies, improving speed, removing/disavowing bad backlinks, and other similar tasks. None of these are the bright, shiny objects of SEO that capture the spotlight but it is the kind of work that will help fix the big underlying problems to rebuild rankings, traffic, and conversion.”
2. Write for users, not machines
Google is continuously updating its algorithms in order to better understand user intent, and provide the most relevant search results. Often this is simplified into acronyms like ‘BERT’ or ‘E-A-T’ to help understand Google’s latest focus – but the constant changes likely mean that we should stop trying to please Google’s latest focus, and instead stay locked onto creating truly useful content which answers users’ needs.
Along this line, Chris M. Walker says that writing for search engines doesn’t work like it used to. As artificial intelligence gets more sophisticated, producing the kind of content Google algorithms like will only get harder while Google has even stated that you can’t optimize your content for the search engine, you just have to write for the end-user.
Omi Sido, Senior Technical SEO Specialist at Canon Europe is of the same opinion, stating that highly relevant content is best for SEO strategies.
“Searchers want content that is helpful, ‘to the point’, and timely. People go online with a question in mind and your web page must provide the answer for it.”
Daria Khmelnitskaya, an SEO Specialist at SE Ranking, gives this thought another perspective:
“Search engines strive to give users the information they need even before the search query, deepening the interaction between the user and SERP. Google Discover is a great example of this. To get your website featured there, you need your content to be popular and engaging. This means that you should optimize your content not only for search engines but, foremost, for your readers.”
3. You have a brand, not a website. Build trust to it
“The days of a random website with a few links dominating Google are going to come to an end”, says Chris M. Walker. “You need to build out a website and a real business with numerous entities in place in order to prove that it’s a business with a real name, that search engines can trust and understand. You don’t have a website, you have a business/brand.”
“It can be through many channels: activity of the users on Google itself (how they interact with your brand on SERPs), the reviews they give through Google, and even their Android phones. It knows when they go to a business, when they leave a business, and when they don’t go back. So the signals of people going to your store are actually the quality signals of your business to Google.”
Besides the quality of your offline service, it’s also worth investing time into building up your website’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trust.
According to Matthew Edgar, at this point, “we may as well rename SEO to EAT given how much focus there is on improving signals which highlight expertise, authority and trust (EAT).”
In addition to improving your content, it’s about restructuring the way such is presented, including internal site links and the website’s navigation. That means that SEO, CRO, and UX teams should be working closely together to maximize website success in the post-EAT SEO reality.
4. Comfort is ever trending. Make your site fast and safe
Questions of basic comfort on the web – such as page speed, security, and UX – will probably be more important in 2020 than ever. Search engines care about the user’s convenience and safety above all.
Dan Taylor, an account Director at SALT.agency, predicts that the speed race will become only more intense, and advises businesses to start being more mindful of metrics Google considers – to remember, for example, that it passes the position of HTML elements in the DOM tree to Google’s indexer.
“Standard recommendations around asset compression, cache-expiry, etc. are not to be ignored as well. And we also need to get more involved in asset delivery.”
Back in January 2017, Dan wrote a post on Search Engine Journal looking at how Google could increase focus on cybersecurity as part of its goal of delivering high quality, safe results to users. And, he insists that this issue is not losing its urgency:
“Google already highlights potential phishing and uncommon downloads in Google Search Console through passive scanning of binaries along with speed.”
Dan believes that Google crawlers can be scanning for known vulnerabilities, both platform-specific and those from databases such as OWASP.
5. Search is expected to get more and more personalized. Get to know your user better
Daria Khmelnitskaya is certain that Google’s perfect SERP state is when the results are as personalized as possible for the user.
“Personalization became more relevant long ago, and it will keep trending in 2020. SERPs differ depending on the user’s location, device, history of previous interactions with search and websites. For SEO specialists, this means that you need to better understand the needs of your user and the context in which the user is doing a search, what they expect to see in response to a query.”
The deepening of the personalization trend is also supported by the development of Google Discover. According to Dan Taylor, Google Discover isn’t going to go away, and even though it’s in its infancy, it represents a change in user behavior and the way Google presents content to users.
“Much like Netscape of old, and current “web portals” like Yahoo!, Baidu and Naver, Google now aims to provide a personalized content experience. We need to be accommodating to this shift in both our strategy and the way we report on performance to the client.”
6. Aim for Featured snippet. It’s worth it
Search engine results pages have changed tremendously over the past few years.
Now, instead of a simple list of blue links which provide users with relevant options to choose from, Google also tries to give a single, most relevant answer, right on the results page. And while that may be beneficial to users, for many marketers, this is their worst nightmare.
And the thing is, it’s here to stay.
Digital strategist and brand consultant Shane Barker claims that in 2020, getting to the top ranking spot on the SERPs isn’t good enough – brands need to aim for #0. The featured snippets that you see above the first organic search result get a high click-through rate because the results featured in this section generally answer user queries directly.
Answering the question about how to make it to position zero, Shane advises keeping the 5W1H rule in mind:
“Your content should aim to answer questions that begin with “What, Who, Where, When, Why, and How” in a crisp manner. This tactic can also help you optimize your content for voice searches, another trend that’s going to be huge in 2020.”
Omi Sido agrees with Shane’s point of view, but also adds that rich snippets are equally worth paying attention to.
As zero clicks are becoming the new ‘normal’ in the SERPs, SEO’s future is increasingly about engaging with your audience directly in the SERP, rather than driving traffic to websites. Sido’s advice is to:
“Optimize your website content for featured snippets or rich snippets. In 2020, all SEOs should focus on making this new trend work for their businesses.”
Ann Smarty, the owner at SeoSmarty.com, suggests going even further, and to understand that Google is an answer engine.
“[Google] wants to categorize and organize the information scattered around the web in order to instantly satisfy any user. In a recent Google patent – called a question-answering system – they are pretty transparent about their plans to become the ultimate answer engine with the help of “…advanced natural language processing, information retrieval, knowledge representation and reasoning, and machine learning…” To adapt your content strategy to this important trend, businesses need to embrace semantic analysis and intent-optimization strategy. This simply means building content which gives your readers exactly what they’re looking for.”
7. Don’t disregard link building. Link value isn’t going anywhere
“It has been frequently predicted that links are bound to lose the prominent role they had in the search for many years. However, links will remain a fundamental factor that is at the very beginning of every SEO success story. That being said, their role is often misunderstood. Backlinks serve two primary purposes as far as SEO is concerned: they help search engines find and crawl content, and they drive converting traffic, directly contributing to the commercial success of a website.”
Daria from SE Ranking echoes this, noting that, over the past year, Google has stated several times that it can identify spam. So there’s no point in wasting time on earning junk links – Google will ignore them anyway. We need to focus on getting links that will benefit not only our SEO but also bring traffic and potential leads.
In 2020, you’ll still have to maintain the classic SEO routines to keep your website error-free, fast, safe, and easily browsable.
Yet at the same time, you should forget about old-school techniques, like buying links or creating content for machines. Aim for quality backlinks and write for people instead. Get to know your audience, your people, and take care of your brand reputation, since Google is judging how successful you are at delivering a good experience to your customers.
Think of your links as a traffic channel, not only as SEO-related must-have elements, and fight for your right to be highlighted in SERPs – strive to have rich snippets and get your content displayed in Featured snippets.
As a starting point, Google yourself. Google your own business and learn how Google sees you. This will give you insight into what impression the search engine has of you, and what you need to work on moving forward.
How to Manage Your Online Brand?
You might be asking yourself, “Why do I need to manage my online brand?” It’s a valid question, especially if you’re not sure what managing your online brand means precisely.
In short, managing your online brand is the process of taking control of how others see you and your business online. This can involve creating and maintaining a strong presence on social media, developing positive reviews and testimonials, and monitoring your web analytics to track progress.
By taking the time to manage your online brand, you can improve your chances of success in today’s digital age.
In this article, we’ll explore some key reasons why managing your online brand is essential.
What is an online brand, and why do you need one?
Your online brand is the way you are perceived by others online. This includes your website, social media profiles, online reviews, and all other digital real estate that represents you when someone searches for you or your business.
It’s important to have one because it helps your potential customers get to know, trust, and like you before they buy anything from you. A strong online brand can also help you attract new customers and grow your business.
It’s good to remember that your online brand is the first thing people will see when they search for you, so it’s important to make sure it represents you and your business well.
How to manage your online brand for success?
Your online brand is your reputation. It’s how people perceive you when they see your name, read your work, or interact with you online.
A strong online brand can help you attract new clients, collaborators, and opportunities. But how do you create and manage your brand for success?
1) Consider what you want your online brand to convey.
Are you an expert in a certain field? A thought leader? A creative visionary?
Once you know what you want your brand to communicate, be consistent in everything you do online.
Use the same name, photo, and bio across all of your social media platforms. Post regularly about topics related to your brand, and make sure the tone of your posts is consistent with the image you’re trying to convey.
2) Interact with other people online in a way that reinforces your brand.
When someone mentions you in a post, thank them publicly. If someone leaves a negative comment on one of your posts, don’t delete it – instead, respond politely and professionally.
By managing your online brand thoughtfully and proactively, you can set yourself up for success both online and offline.
3) Monitor your web analytics to track your progress.
Use Google Analytics or another web analytics tool to track how people are finding you online and what they’re doing on your website. This data can give you insights into what’s working well and what needs improvement.
For example, if you see that most of your website visitors are coming from Facebook, you might want to focus on creating more engaging content for that platform.
Or, if you notice that people are spending a lot of time on your blog but not your sales page, you might need to work on driving traffic to your products or services.
4) Make sure your website represents your brand well.
Your website is often the first thing people will see when they search for you online, so it’s important to make sure it’s up-to-date and represents your brand well.
Update your website regularly with new blog posts, photos, and products. Use attractive visuals, easy-to-navigate menus, and clear calls to action.
If you’re not sure how to create a website that represents your brand well, consider working with a web designer or developer.
5) Pay attention to your social media presence.
Social media is a powerful tool for managing your online brand. Use it to connect with your audience, share your work, and promote your products or services.
Be sure to post regularly, interact with others, and use hashtags and keywords that will help people find you. You can also use social media ads to reach a wider audience or promote specific products or services.
6) Monitor your online reputation.
Use Google Alerts or another tool to monitor your online reputation. This will help you stay on top of what people are saying about you online and take action if necessary.
For example, if you see a negative review of your business, you can reach out to the customer directly to try to resolve the issue. Or, if you see someone spreading misinformation about your work, you can correct it.
7) Manage your online brand proactively.
The best way to manage your online brand is to be proactive. Be thoughtful about everything you do online, from the content you post to the way you interact with others. By taking control of your online presence, you can set yourself up for success both professionally and personally.
By following these tips, you can create and manage an online brand that will help you achieve your goals.
The benefits of having a strong online brand
Let’s look at a few benefits of having a strong online brand:
1) Stand out from the competition.
With so much noise online, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. But if you create a well-defined brand, you’ll be better able to cut through the clutter and attract attention.
2) Build trust and credibility.
A strong online brand can help you build trust and credibility with your audience. If people know what to expect from you, they’re more likely to trust and respect you.
3) Connect with your audience.
By definition, a brand is a way of differentiating yourself from others. But it’s also a way of connecting with your audience on a deeper level. When done well, branding can create an emotional connection between you and your audience.
4) Drive traffic and sales.
A strong online brand can help you drive traffic and sales. If people are familiar with your brand, they’re more likely to buy from you. And if they trust and respect you, they’re more likely to tell others about you.
5) Increase your visibility.
A well-managed online brand will increase your visibility online. When people search for you or your business, you’ll be more likely to show up in the search results. And when people see you frequently in their feeds, you’ll be more likely to stay top of mind.
6) Attract media attention.
A strong online brand can help you attract media attention. If you’re known for something specific, journalists and bloggers will be more likely to write about you. This can help increase your visibility and reach even further.
7) Enhance your career prospects.
Your online brand can have a big impact on your career prospects. If you’re looking for a new job, employers will likely research you online. And if you’re an entrepreneur, investors will want to know more about your brand before they invest in your business.
8) Make a positive impact.
Finally, a strong online brand can help you make a positive impact in the world. If you’re passionate about something, you can use your platform to raise awareness and advocate for change.
The importance of staying consistent with your branding strategy
As you can see, there are many benefits to having a strong online brand. But it’s not enough to just create a brand—you also need to be consistent with your branding strategy.
When it comes to branding, consistency is essential. Your audience needs to know what to expect from you, and they need to see that you’re consistent in your messaging and your visuals.
Here are a few pointers if you’re not sure how to stay consistent with your branding:
1) Define your brand.
The first step to being consistent with your branding is to define your brand. What do you want people to think of when they see your name or your logo? What do you want your brand to represent?
2) Create guidelines.
Once you’ve defined your brand, it’s time to create guidelines. These guidelines should include everything from your mission statement to the colors and fonts you use in your branding. By having a set of guidelines, you’ll be able to ensure that all of your marketing materials are on-brand.
3) Train your team.
If you have a virtual assistant or team, it’s important to train them on your branding guidelines. Make sure everyone knows what your brand represents and how they can help you maintain a consistent brand identity.
4) Monitor your brand.
Once you’ve launched your brand, it’s important to monitor it. This means paying attention to how people are reacting to your brand and making sure that you’re still presenting yourself in the way you want to be seen.
5) Be prepared to adjust.
Finally, be prepared to adjust your branding strategy as needed. As your business grows and changes, your branding will need to change with it. By being flexible and willing to adjust, you’ll be able to ensure that your brand is always relevant.
A strong online brand is essential for any business or individual. By definition, your online brand is the way you’re perceived by others online. And while that may seem like a superficial thing, the reality is that your online brand can have a big impact on your business or career.
If you’re not sure how to create a strong online brand, start by defining your brand and creating guidelines. Then, train your team on your branding strategy and monitor your brand over time. And finally, be prepared to adjust as needed.
Oscar is a passionate full-time blogger and a part-time author. In his personal blog OssieRodriguez.com, he writes about software, online influence, and different business models.
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