- With each passing year the state of play for the SEO industry shifts
- You can boost your SEO efforts by creating high-quality content
- Excellent on-page optimisation and a secure website play a big part in SEO
- Enhancing the user-experience and improving navigation is key
- Building a website that works well on mobile will earn you points from Google
The Google algorithm has undergone a series of tweaks since the early 2000s. To see for yourself, here’s our Google algorithm change timeline, which documents the most significant shifts:
Though the impacts of these changes vary in significance, the algorithm revisions reflect an overall shift in the direction SEO is travelling in. Whatever industry you’re in, you’ll need to pay attention if you want to continue achieving high rankings for your website as and when these changes occur.
Let’s take a look at some key tips for improving your SEO rankings in Google in 2020.
1. High quality content
Google have been tight-lipped about their algorithms since the search engine first launched. The SEO industry is a success story in educated guesswork. In fact, the only advice they’ve ever given is ‘write great content’. In their defence, most Google algorithm changes have been aimed towards making the search engine better at judging this – but it’s certainly been a work in progress.
With the rise of machine learning, however, Google can reliably claim to be having some success analysing the deeper, semantic value of a piece of content. Increasingly, the algorithms are geared towards analysing content based on its ability to fulfil ‘the semantic intent of a user’s journey’. To debunk the jargon, this means keyword targeting is going to become increasingly less important, in favour of content that genuinely solves problems and answers questions.
Increating high-quality content, you can drastically improve your website rankings. This is because high-quality content boosts the likelihood of users spending longer on your pages. It also tends to lower the bounce rate on your site and – most importantly – provides value for the user. In providing value for your audience, you will improve the chance of repeat visits to your site.
To create high quality content, you will need to look at:
- Long-form in-depth articles
- Search intent
- Keyword research
- Rich snippets
- Long-form articles
Google algorithms now favour long-form content over shorter counterparts – concluding that the extra length means that the piece is more likely to have more detailed, quality answers in there.
That doesn’t mean you should start writing extra paragraphs just to drive up the word count. If the content is worth the length, and the information is sufficiently complex, detailed and nuanced enough to justify the breadth – then readers will stay. If not, cut it out.
Search intent refers to the ultimate goal of the person using a search engine. Over the years, Google has been getting better at determining the search intent of people on the web. Google ranks pages higher when they fit the search term as well as the search intent of a specific search query. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that the content on your page fits the search intent of your target audience.
Most classic SEO tactics are based around keyword placement; what keywords to use, which combinations, where to put them and with what frequency. In the past, however, this contributed to content that was stuffed with search terms that aren’t relevant to the content or the user. Nowadays, fulfilling the intent of the search term is as important, if not more so, than including the search term itself.
This doesn’t mean that all your keyword strategies are now redundant. But keywords for the sake of keywords won’t do much for your SEO strategy any more – particularly if they’ve got nothing in particular to do with the surrounding sentence or article. Generally, if keywords appear naturally in your text, you’ll find yourself ticking these boxes without really trying.
A snippet is a result that Google shows to the user in search results. A rich snippet is the term used to describe a structured data mark-up that site operators can add to their existing HTML, in turn allowing search engines to better understand the information contained on each web page. This allows for better visibility in Google search results.
Rich snippets can also increase your click-through rate and lower your bounce rate, because they give users a better preview of your content before they click through.
2. Excellent on-page optimisation
Ensuring excellent on-page optimisation is a crucial part of improving your SEO rankings. To achieve this, you will need to consider:
- Title tags and meta descriptions
- Headings and subheadings
- Internal and external link structure
- Schema mark-up
- Voice optimised SEO
- Title tags and meta descriptions
Title tags and meta descriptions
A title tag is a HTML element that specifies the title of a webpage. Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages as the clickable headline. These are important for social sharing, usability and SEO. The title tag of your webpage must be an accurate description of the content found therein. Your title tag is important to SEO, because it determines your display title in search engines. It is also the first thing that a visitor sees.
A meta description is a snippet of up to around 155 characters, which summarises the content on a page. Search engines show the meta description in search results mostly when the searched for phrase is within the description, so it should match the content and include your focus keyword.
Headings and subheadings
Headings and subheadings are important to SEO, because they help users and search engines to understand and read text. They act as signposts for the readers and make it easier for visitors to grasp what a page is about. Ensure your headings and subheadings are clear and relevant to score well in Google’s rankings.
Internal and external link structure
Internal links are hyperlinks that direct the reader to the target page on your website. External links, on the other hand, are links to different sites. A good internal and external link structure helps users and search engines find your pages.
Internal links connect your content and give Google a better idea of the structure of your site, while external links to trustworthy and useful content helps you build an authoritative brand (and helps Google to figure out what your content is about).
Schema mark-up is code that you can put on your website to help search engines identify the essential information on each page. This is great for SEO rankings as it improves the user experience and makes your content easier to find.
Voice optimised SEO
Since the early days of Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, the SEO world has paid quiet attention to the prospect of voice optimised SEO content. Until now, it’s been slow to get going. That all began to change in late 2018, with the advent of Google’s Speakable mark-up, and it’s only set to get more important over the coming years.
The Speakable mark-up lets you mark sections of your content that would be a relevant oral response to a voice search. Think of the voice response as an award, and the mark-up is the tool you use to nominate your own content. From there, Google’s algorithms will analyse the content and select the most relevant contender. Currently, the system only applies to news-specific content, and eligibility is judged against the same guidelines that govern Google News content. There’s every chance that as 2020 progresses, this will expand to more types of content; specifically, those that answer quick and easy questions in a digestible format.
As far as SEO is concerned, publishers can rest assured that things won’t change overnight. In fact, marking text up in your post for voice searches isn’t much different from marking it up for a featured snippet. But as the total ratio of voice to text searches continues to rise, there’s every chance that the focus of SEO will shift far more fundamentally than it already has. 2020 is the year this SEO steamroller really begins to roll.
3. Create a secure website
A simple step that you can take to improve your SEO rankings is by switching from HTTP to HTTPS. Since 2017, Google has flagged sites as ‘not secure’ if they aren’t under HTTPS. HTTPS provides users with 3 key layers of protection:
- Authentication – which prevents ‘man in the middle’ attacks and provides a guarantee that a user is communicating with the exact website they intended.
- Encryption – which provides privacy by encrypting the exchanged data, in turn ensuring that conversations will be kept private and information will be kept safe.
- Data Integrity – which prevents data from being secretly modified or corrupted during a transfer.
If someone visits your site and is met with an alert from Google that the page is not secure, you can hedge a guess that they won’t stick around to check out your content. What’s more, Google has publicly stated that the security of sites is a ranking signal in the search algorithm, so having a HTTPS page will also help you feature higher on search engines.
Alongside winning favour with Google and improving your SEO rankings – creating a secure website will also help to reduce your bounce rate – as visitors are more likely to stay put if the site is declared secure. Bounce rate, for all intents and purposes, is the percentage of users who land on your website and leave without going onto a second page. A high bounce rate, then, indicates that your site failed to convince visitors to stay and explore your content or offerings. According to a RocketFuel study, a bounce rate between 26-40% is ideal.
Now, to increase the average amount of time spent on your site, it’s a good idea to monitor your content and see what works best. It’s possible that your headline or call to action isn’t working – which is why it’s important to A/B test. Try producing different landing pages, using different content forms and language, to see what works best with your audience. It’s worth noting that large images can really slow down the load time of your site – so you should watch out for this and remove any files from the server that are not being used. Ideally, your site should load within 1-3 seconds.
4. Build a website that works well on mobile
People now interact with Google on a wide range of platforms. The search giant can’t simply tailor all search results to those with keyboards and computer screens anymore.
Content written for desktop screens doesn’t look exactly the same on mobile or tablet devices. For logistical reasons, there’s often less ‘space’ on the mobile version of a webpage than the original desktop.
Much recent discourse on mobile SEO optimisation suggests that because more mobile searches are being made than ever before, publishers should optimise towards them. While this is true, it misses an important bit of nuance.
It was once the case that website-optimised content would rank better on all devices, regardless of how well-suited to mobiles it was. It is now the case that mobile-optimised content ranks better on all devices, regardless of how well suited to websites it is.
Why is this distinction important?
Without understanding this, organisations who receive proportionately less mobile traffic could happily convince themselves they didn’t need to worry about mobile optimisation. But the success of your mobile rankings influences your web rankings – even if you have barely any mobile views on your website.
B2B websites are among those that receive less mobile traffic, since people tend to access these websites at work, from desktops. It’s understandable that B2B websites may not have been as quick to the mobile optimisation trend as other websites. However, it’s no longer important how many visitors to your site are on mobile. Google has decreed that mobile optimisation is the way forward, and websites that want to stay ahead in the rankings will need to ensure they pay attention to the changes.
From now on, Google will base what it places in the index based on the mobile version of your site. You don’t need to have a mobile site to be mobile-first indexing, but you’ll find it hard to rank if your site isn’t mobile friendly. To find out how you score, you can take Google’s mobile-friendly test.
When designing or adapting your site, keep the phrase ‘mobile first’ in mind. Test your website on a mobile device to check that the design is responsive, clear and easy to navigate on a smaller screen. Be sure to keep an eye on load time too, as this will certainly impact your SEO rankings.
5. Improve user experience and site architecture
Google have always said that their first priority is the user, and content that best serves their needs will always perform the best. Despite their intentions, this hasn’t always been the case – and it’s taken many years to get to the point where the algorithms are intelligent enough to properly deduce the best content for a user’s search query.
Whether it’s optimising content to voice and mobile searches, or choosing detailed content that fulfils the deeper, semantic requirements of searches, the changes in Google algorithms are all aimed towards creating this heightened user experience.
A great way to improve the user experience and boost your SEO rankings is to help users find what they are looking for with ease. You can achieve this by ensuring that your website has good architecture and navigation. After all, the more appealing a site is to your users – the more appealing it is to search engines.
To improve site architecture, it’s important that the hierarchy of your site is logical. The navigation and structure should make it easy for visitors to access the information they are looking for. Information should be readily available and the design of the website itself should be simple. Complex structures and ambiguous signposting can put visitors off and cause them to click off your page.
Not only does strong site architecture keep people on your site for longer, but it also helps search engine crawlers to find more pages on a website. Ideally, a user should be able to find any page on your website within three or four clicks.
Keep it genuine
There are plenty of ways that SEO will change over 2020 – and much for businesses to pay attention to if they want to continue attracting attention to their websites. But in 2020, the most important thing to remember is that the content you create must first and foremost fulfil the user’s requirements on a number of levels. Content should answer genuine queries, with reliable, detailed and well-researched information.
The days of content for content’s sake are slowly beginning to pass. Throughout 2020, optimising for the user experience will become a far more valuable part of a successful digital marketing campaign than it has ever been before.
The SEO experts here at Fifty Five and Five keep are keeping constantly up to date with the latest trends and changes in the world of SEO to create the best possible campaigns and improve rankings for our clients. Get in touch with us to find out more.