Delete’s Digital Marketing Director, Polly Pospelova, recently spoke about Subdomains vs. Subfolders and ccTLDs vs. TLDs for SEO at Women in Tech SEO event at Zoopla HQ. If you missed it, here’s a detailed recap of what Polly had to say.
SEO in 2020
In this post, our SEO Executive, Patrick Crier, evaluates strategies that are already working that will likely become more important in 2020 or considerations agencies have always needed to be aware of that are only likely to become more relevant over the next 12 months.
With that being said, here’s a table of what I will cover in turn – BERT & User focussed Optimisation, High Quality Content, EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness), Mobile SEO, Link Building and Brand Building and finally a conclusion.
- BERT & User focussed Optimization
- High Quality, Optimized Content
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness
- UX and Technical SEO
- Mobile SEO
- Link Building/Brand Building
BERT & User focussed content optimisation
Launched in October last year, the introduction of BERT meant Google updating its algorithms to improve the way it understands the meaning and intent behind queries. Previously, Google interpreted search queries by looking at the words individually and in order, but following the update, the context in which words appear is more important. Google now places greater emphasis on how each word relates to the others in a given sentence.
The big question for agencies and clients is what is this likely to mean for search? Well, according to Eli Schwartz, International SEO growth expert and consultant, “Content will truly have to be written to user intent rather than just strings that a user might search,” which could in turn mean keyword research tools may becoming less relevant with the primary dataset for content creation coming from suggested queries.
Jenn Matthews, Senior SEO Manager at Groupon, echoed that noting “There’s no sign of natural language processing and deep learning research slowing down anytime soon, and you can expect search engines to shift even further from keywords to intent in 2020,” This is likely to mean both practitioners and tooling providers will need to shift their efforts towards ‘intent research’ and fulfilling user needs” meaning it’s not beyond the realms of possibility Keyword Planner, might have some interesting updates of its own in the next 12 months.
Industry experts are also highlighting the potential need for businesses to step away from their desks and talk to customers to understand what their audience really wants from them and if it’s an ecommerce site, ask them to tell you about their journey to purchase, how they used search, what they thought of your site, and use that data to inform every digital marketing decision you make.
Whilst BERT, undoubtedly represents, an important shift in the industry, keeping users at the forefront of your mind in SEO is nothing new. Nor is advising against a marketing strategy based purely on individual keyword’s and Google has always advised against a sole reliance on pages to keyword matching, it’s just now with the introduction of BERT, they have become more advanced in terms of being able to spot it.
In summary, introduction of BERT will lead to:
- Increased understanding of the intent behind queries
- Potential for updates to Google Keyword Planner
- Less emphasis placed on individual keywords
- More emphasis on customer feedback
- Important to remember keeping users at the forefront of your mind is nothing new
High Quality Optimised Content
As referred to in my introduction, not everything covered in this presentation will be revolutionary and the importance of content in the industry is certainly nothing new. According to Anna Crowe, Assistant Editor of SEO Journal, “Content still affects everything in SEO, from your site structure, internal linking strategy and types of backlinks obtained” and to succeed in 2020, it’s more important than ever before to write something that is valuable and relevant.
Tony Wright, CEO, Wright IMC echoes these sentiments and explains that, whist Google’s editorial discretion isn’t perfect and there does exist some content that ranks that shouldn’t, “the day is coming when the sites with the best content will win”.
Therefore, it should be the goal of all websites to have the best content on the web for their topic – and if that is not possible, produce content on an important subsect of your topic. This will allow websites to compete effectively for long-tail searches - which has been a focus for Gregg and I with analytics and search review of the R&A’s website. In addition, this type of approach to content is exactly what Google is looking for to satisfy user intent with the a for mentioned BERT update.
It’s not just the quality and relevancy of content that SEO’s need to be aware of however, content cannibalisation is also an issue many sites need to address. This means, undertaking a full content audit, looking for overlapping rankings with the desired result being every page ranks for a unique set of keywords. According to Aja Frost, Head of SEO Content at Hubspot, many websites cover the same topics again and again and even if they’re covering them from different angles, the end result is likely to be pages knocking each other out of the results.
And in the world of international SEO, the time is now to invest in good localisation of content, according to Motoko Hunt, President, AJPR who believes that many global websites have poorly translated content that hasn’t been edited for the local tongue. It’s not the placement of the keywords that’s important, anymore, it’s about how well your content is written for the local audience and Google is fast becoming able to tell the difference.
- Content still affects everything from site structure to internal linking and type of backlinks obtained
- Aim to have the best content on the web for your topic or at least produce content on an important subject of your topic.
- This will allow sites to compete effectively for long-tail searches
- As well as quality and relevance, content cannibalisation is also an issue many sites should be looking to address.
- Localisation of content is more important than ever before
EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)
In 2020, Google will continue to assess the overall reputation and EAT of a given company and the individuals who publish content on their behalf.
Companies that struggle with a poor reputation, are renowned for issues surrounding customer service or other general trust issues will find themselves struggling with SERPs as a direct result of these problems more than ever before. Google will determine this by not only assessing reviews and feedback around brands but also in the form of any technical or security issues they find on a site.
Interestingly, according to Lucy Ray, SEO Director at Path Interactive, 2020 will be the first year where it will be notable how difficult it is to receive organic visibility to write about Your Money, Your Life topics without the proper expertise and credentials to write about these issues.
And this will form part of a wider stance taken by Google in the fight against the distribution of fake news. It is now more important than ever to focus on the trust value of authors and wherever possible collaborate with industry experts when producing content outside of your brand’s regular area of expertise. Which, is something, at least with McCarthy & Stone’s winter campaigns that we’re already doing here at Delete evidenced by Beanstalk’s involvement in our campaign about volunteering, Arthritis UK’s involvement in our campaign about arthritis week and Energise Bike help with Top Reasons to Take Up Cycling in Your Retirement.
- Google will continue to assess the overall reputation and EAT of a company and the individuals who publish content on their behalf
- Technical issues, reviews and overall reputations will be used to inform this decision
- An important part in Google’s battle against fake news
- Beanstalk - Volunteering; Arthritis UK - National Arthritis Week; Energise Bike - Top Reasons to Take Up Cycling in Your Retirement all examples of Delete being aware of the importance of EAT.
UX and Technical SEO
With lots of talk centred around the importance of content in 2020, it’s vital to remember User Experience from a technical perspective is just as important as ever before.
Whilst it’s expected that Google will continue to do what it can to compensate for sites with erroneous technical foundations – such as canonical and Href Lang corrections – it’s becoming increasingly important for sites to sure up their technical background before worrying too much on other aspects of search marketing.
And when we talk about technical SEO and UX, perhaps the two most obvious issues that come to mind are site speed and page speed and indeed Google have reinvigorated discussions around both, with the new Chrome “slow warning badges”, and the speed reports in Google Search Console. Dan Taylor, SEO Account Director at SALT has noted “for many, these updates will reignite conversations with developers and in some cases lead to systems requiring almost complete redesigns of page templates and reengineering of how assets are loaded.
Again, here at Delete this is something we’re already aware of with Gregg and I producing regular page speed reports for Safestore and SFC using Google Lighthouse with the developers continually striving to improve their scores.
It’s also vital to remember, according to Brock Murray, co-founder of seoplus + that User Experience does not end the moment a user leaves your site. Remarketing, drip campaigns and personalisation for returning users are all issues SEOs need to be considering in 2020.Clients and agencies need to be thinking about how we can help users have the best possible experience while truly pondering what value we can provide to them during their visit.
We’ve now reached a point where businesses without a mobile SEO strategy are ignoring most of their potential buyers. Gone are the days when SEOs should visualise their customers sat at a desktop visiting their site as most of the time, people will find their website via a mobile device.
Indeed, some industry experts are now advising that agencies such as ours, build sites for mobile first before making them compatible for desktop. That way sites don’t have to be optimised for page speed after launch.
Many continue to ignore the importance of mobile SEO however, as Gregg and I found out in our Analytics and Search Review of the R&A’s website which was not even able to pass Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.
To avoid issues such as this all online reporting must reflect insights into mobile performance as a priority with the specialist Mobile User Experience tools available on SEM Rush, Search Console needing to be regularly taken advantage of.
- Up to 70% of web traffic happens on a mobile device (CIODive, 2018)
- 57% of all U.S. online traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets (BrightEdge, 2017)
- Reporting should therefore now be tailored to reflect the importance of mobile SEO
Link Building and Brand Building
It’s no secret that link building is the most effective way to build traffic to a site and increase its ranking on the Search Engine Results Page. But in 2020 marketeers need to be considering more than just how a link building campaign might increase their client’s backlink profile.
Indeed, Carrie Rose, Co-founder / Creative Director, Rise at Seven, said link building will be more about brand building in 2020. “The responsibility will fall on SEOs to build links and media placements that drive traffic and push brand, not just links that help with search rankings,”.
Casie Gillette, Senior Director of Digital Marketing, KoMarketing echoed these sentiments by explaining that:“ Customers are getting smarter and they expect more when it comes to marketing,”. “The more they trust you, the more they are willing to share your content (links), talk about your value, and buy your products.”
Which is something Rich & Natalie kept in mind for the McCarthy and Stone Winter campaigns with the Arthritis and Volunteering campaigns in particular both having a positive brand massage.
This increased awareness does have its downsides however as it means many traditional link building practices – whilst still perfectly legitimate – such as speculartively chasing historic brand mentions are unlikely to return a positive ROI as we’ve found out over the past 12 months with work done for Safestore and McCarthy & Stone.
And finally here are my key points to end with:
- BERT is likely to have a significant impact not only on the nature of content we produce for our clients but also on how we conduct keyword research
- This could lead to interesting improvements to SemRush and Keyword Planner
- Brands should be looking to produce the best possible content in their field and when branching out, working with authorities in that area
- Google have reinvigorated discussions around page speed and UX within the industry by adding slow warning badges to Chrome and speed reports in Google Search Console
- Many traditional link building practices - whilst still legitimate - are now unlikely to return a positive ROI
- Link building is no longer about solely improving a website’s backlink profile as promoting a positive brand message is now equally as important.