SEO In 2020: What You Actually Need To Optimise
For those rare people who are gluttons for punishment, search engine optimisation can be an interesting and somewhat exciting pursuit. SEO techs and enthusiasts alike take delight in researching ways to rank better, trying out new things and enjoy trying new recipes and tricks for pleasing the SERP gods.
For mere mortals and business owners alike, it can be a mysterious and frustrating endeavour. Even if you have a basic grasp of SEO, getting your keywords to rank well through hard work and dedication is frustrating but worth the effort, until the next week when for seemingly no reason at all, your position plummets. It’s disheartening to say the least.
Search engines are notoriously mysterious about their algorithm changes and 2019 was an absolute rollercoaster for businesses in various industries across the board. 2019 saw more changes to Google’s algorithm than ever before and as ranking criteria continues to change and evolve, it’s time to start taking your SEO seriously if you aren’t already.
Unless you are an experienced SEO professional or quite an advanced SEO hobbyist, it’s likely you either have little clue what you’re doing or are following SEO methods that were successful 3 or 4 years ago. We cannot stress this enough: times, they are a changing, and a whole lot has changed in such a small window of time, it’s not worth your time maintaining SEO activities that are irrelevant and potentially damaging.
Competition online is only growing fiercer every day, so we’ve compiled a list of the top # trends for SEO in 2020. For those of you that do have a little bit of SEO knowledge, you may have already noticed some of these trends gaining momentum in 2019. We’re here to tell you which ones are sticking around for 2020 so you can focus on these and leave the rest in the past like other fads – we’re looking at you patterned leggings, ‘shutter shades’ and man-buns!
Secure your site
Okay, so website security isn’t normally the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of SEO in 2020 (or ever!) but it’s certainly worth thinking about.
While it might be obvious to some that securing your website is as important as having locks on a brick and mortar shop’s door, many people are still unaware of the impacts that these security measures (or lack thereof) have on your SEO.
We’ve put this as number one because whether you’re just getting your SEO affairs in order or are looking at ways to keep ahead of the pack, if your website isn’t secure then you’re leaving your site vulnerable to attackers and potentially sabotaging any other SEO efforts you are undertaking. Some may argue this is not the realm of SEO, but we disagree, we would say it’s fundamental.
By now it’s likely you’ve stumbled across an ominous security warning from Google when trying to reach a web page. So how quick are you to hit the “back to safety” button? And for those of you more inclined to indulge in some risky clicks despite said warning, you can still see the effect it has on the user experience, right?
Any traffic curbed by these warnings will wind up on a competitor’s secure website rather than your own. The consequential higher bounce rates have a knock-on effect for your SEO strategy, so you don’t just lose the individual customer who clicks away, but based on more and more people turning away, your rankings are likely to take a hit.
Making the move from HTTP to HTTPs will give users a secure encrypted connection, particularly if you have an ecommerce site or require any personal details from your user. Internet users from every background are becoming savvier and more people are searching for the lock symbol in their browser to confirm their safety and security on the web.
The implementation of HTTPS will also help Google to crawl your website more efficiently, while also aiding in the prevention of hacking attempts, both are obviously huge benefits to SEO. HTTPS helps you to provide security to your customers through confidentiality, authentication and integrity of your website while at the same time preventing potential threats such as damage to reputation and financial loss for your business.
So when you think about all the ways in which migrating from HTTP to HTTPS can not only enhance your SEO activities, but also help to secure your website and ensure a smoother customer journey, it becomes glaringly obvious why this is our first step in SEO greatness for 2020.
Being proactive about being responsive
Okay, so mobile responsiveness is in no way a new concept, but if you somehow haven’t started optimising your website for mobile search in the last couple of years, make it a priority in 2020.
It’s almost hard to recall the days of having to pinch and zoom while browsing sites on mobile or scrolling horizontally to view content. This type of user experience was part and parcel of smartphone use in the early days, and website browsing on desktop favoured heavily by users.
Thankfully, by 2010 we saw the introduction of responsive web design and by 2015 Google changed their algorithms to include a website’s mobile presence as a ranking factor, prompting businesses to focus on optimisation for mobile search and creating smoother mobile user experience for customers.
When we think about how our technology has changed over the past decade, from varying smartphone types and screen sizes to diversity in device use with the rising popularity of iPads and tablets and more recently all kinds of home devices having access to search engines.
Mobile responsive design is crucial in providing layouts that have the versatility to adapt to the range of devices used to access search engines and it is arguably the most important aspect in providing consistency and high-quality user experience beyond the mere functionality of the website itself.
Mobile has well and truly eclipsed desktop for search purposes, with smartphones becoming the primary method for search in most cases.
In 2019, Google introduced Mobile-First Index allowing it to use mobile versions of pages for ranking and indexing. This means if you haven’t already, you need to be optimising your website for mobile responsiveness in 2020. If your pages don’t look good on mobile, your website is unlikely to perform well in the SERP.
When it comes to SEO, optimising your site for mobile search is a no-brainer: a site with an effective mobile experience will show up in search results above one without. It’s that simple.
Not only is it vital that your business’s website is up to date with mobile responsive requirements, but it is imperative that you prepare yourself in 2020 for how technology is likely to evolve over the next decade too.
Snippets: zero the hero
Now we’re really getting into it! It’s likely you’ve noticed the appearance of featured snippets more and more in searches this year, and from the look of things it’s only going to increase in 2020.
In an effort to improve the search experience for users, Google has introduced Featured Snippets, which actually appear above the first organic result and for this reason are hailed as ‘position zero’.
Taking advantage of this feature is a fantastic way to drive traffic to your site, not only with users on mobile and desktop, but those using voice search as well.
Perhaps we should be a little clearer in the distinction of snippets, as snippets in general are just that, summarised information displayed for this purpose at least, within the SERP.
Featured snippets are the summarised content Google shows above the first position, hence being Featured. Another element of snippets worth considering is Rich Snippets. Rich snippets aid voice assistants and are useful for those browsing on mobile phone.
These smaller devices obviously have smaller screens, and rich snippets help to elevate small pieces of important information, such as review ratings or opening hours, making them easier to view and click, as well as helping your website to stand out amongst other SERP listings.
As with other content, Google determines the ranking of snippets through factors such as quality and relevancy. It’s important to provide clear answers to commonly asked questions on your website.
To place your content in the featured snippet for a particular keyword you need to ensure your post is better optimised than your competitors – this should be your goal generally of course!
Along with quantity and relevance, optimising for snippets involves focus on structuring content, with blocks of information kept to 40-50 words, targeting the search query of your intended audience.
As we’ve already discussed, optimising your content along with website design for mobile search is great for your rankings and therefore, an SEO must for 2020. The addition to this, is that if your website isn’t optimised for mobile search, it will be incredibly difficult to get a place in the featured snippet.
Google uses information within H2 and H3 tags to identify the relevancy of information for users. Bullet points, tables and short summaries depending on the context of the search query being targeted are also helpful in providing bite-sized content for the snippet.
You don’t have to be in first position to have your post featured in the first position, but having your content appear in the featured position is a very powerful way to help you get to first. Recent studies show that more than half of link clicks from Google originate from featured snippets, proving that optimising for snippets is definitely worth prioritising in 2020.
“Ok, Google …”
In optimising your website for mobile, voice search is another element that should be considered for 2020.
With the aforementioned changes to technology and that ways in which we use it, demand is growing for voice search every day.
Smartphones, voice assistant devices and Smart TVs are increasing the popularity of voice search and if your site isn’t optimised for these searches, you won’t be found through these avenues.
As these voice devices often read out only one entry, optimising your content specifically for this purpose and having rich snippets that the device can ‘read’ will ensure you rank in searches beyond typed queries.
Considering conversational aspects of speech in your SEO strategy to account for these devices is imperative if you want to get the edge on ranking in 2020.
Content remains king
But what does that mean anyway? Google measures content by objective factors such as unique page views, bounce rates and session times, this is to measure the number of users as well as their experience on your site.
Google assumes more time spent on your site means the user is engaged and your content was relevant to their search. Users want content that is helpful, relevant, and timely. Content needs to be well informed, well-written and formatted in a way that makes the content easy to navigate.
Google’s focus is on expertise, authority and trust means that your content needs to support any claims you make, particularly in areas of health and wellness. Testimonials, case studies and reviews support this endeavour also.
Another aspect to look at is video. Video has been touted as the rising star in content for a few years now and rather than fade out, it is looking set to continue its trend in 2020 and perhaps even eclipse other methods of content marketing in performance results and conversion.
Once seen as a vehicle for social media and brand awareness efforts and used primarily to focus on ‘top of the funnel’ users through tutorials, unboxing, reviews etc. video is now being recognised for its contribution to rankings.
High-quality video attracts new users, encourages sharing, and keeps people engaged and in turn, on-site. Better yet, it could get them to buy.
Using keywords to optimise your videos appearance on platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo helps you to find the right audience and speak to the people who are looking for your service. Captions, transcripts and metadata are all opportunities to use your keyword and make sure search engines know it’s relevant to the intended query.
Providing a variety of content that engages users, be it images, blogs, infographics, video, podcasts, eBooks and so on, keeps users on-site and converts them into customers. 2020 is not the year to slack off on your content efforts, in fact, your new year’s resolution should be to deliver the best quality content you can – and try out some new platforms while you’re at it.
That said, we all know currently Google is the most well-known and well-utilised search engine and that isn’t likely to change anytime too soon.
And we’re certainly not here to argue against Google’s constant improvement of user experience or variety in products and platforms such as Google Home etc. which only serve to strengthen our reliance on the company as a search engine and advisor.
But there are people out there using other search engines. In recent years, we’re even seeing a rise in new search engines that prioritise security or even carbon offsetting, to attract users who stray from the almighty Google grip.
In many cases, it’s not a matter of preference but rather, default. One example being that often in Australian workplaces where desktop computers are provided, Bing is the default browser and people often don’t care or don’t even think to change it.
Knowing who your audience is and where they may be looking for you is as important as the nature of your business and what it is your selling, so give some thought to whether they are actually using Google or another search engine.
Even if you think it’s unlikely, the minor effort of optimising your website in alignment with their standards as well as Google’s will help you rank well on these alternate platforms and bring in traffic from these sources too.
Make 2020 the year of your business
By prioritising the above points in 2020, we have little doubt that you will see rapid improvement in traffic for your website.
SEO is an ongoing effort though, and as technology changes and the way in which we use technology also shifts, we not only need to consider what we choose to focus our efforts on, but also how we these efforts may need to broaden or altered as time goes on.
By effectively optimising our site for 2020 and preparing it for future adaptions to algorithms and user behaviours alike, you’re creating a website that is a powerhouse for SEO, ensuring you’re getting traffics now and for time to come.