The SEO world is a fast-moving one, meaning that those looking to rank their website in 2020 must be up to date with the latest developments, trends and strategies.
From the content produced, through to the mobile optimisation of a site, there are many different things to think about, and we’ve brought together the 14 most important of them on this page.
So, keep on reading to learn what you need to be doing in 2020 in order to rank your website…
Without doubt, the most important ranking factor for a website is great content – just as it’s been for many years.
Content really is king in the online world, and you’ll only be sitting on a throne at the top of the SERPs if you’re prepared to deliver the content readers really want.
To create great content, you have to meet the expectations of visitors.
Essentially, your content needs to be useful and answer the question or query the reader is asking – even if they haven’t asked this question directly in their search.
It’s also important to be thorough. Searchers don’t want a basic answer to their questions, but instead, want you to answer their query in-depth.
This generally means that a 500-word post isn’t going to work. According to Backlinko.com, the average length of a page on the first page of Google is 1,890 words.
This figure will only have increased more in recent years since that study was completed (2016), so 2,000+ words is not a ridiculous target.
Here’s the challenge though: while writing an in-depth post, you must also keep it simple and understandable for those with the least knowledge.
It’s a tricky balancing act, which relies a lot on the structure of the piece. Make it simple to read by incorporating plenty of text breaks, graphics, bullet points and more.
Quite simply, use every weapon at your disposal to keep readers hooked on what you have to say.
Voice search was a big topic in 2019, and it will continue to be important throughout 2020.
Google has previously stated that 72% of those with a device offering voice controls will use this feature, so it is vital that every site optimises properly for voice search.
You might think that your existing SEO is acceptable for this, but just consider the way you type and the way you speak – they’re likely to be very different.
It can feel strange optimising for voice search at first, but as with optimising for traditional search, you’ll get the hang of it in the end.
The best way to learn? Play around with voice search yourself and see what exactly you say.
Of course, when optimising for voice search though, you should still stick to the basics, which includes creating those high-quality pages discussed in the previous point for those new voice terms you’ve uncovered.
Offer Something Unique
Sticking with the theme of content, it is absolutely vital that you offer something new and unique to those searching.
After all, why would Google, Bing or any other search engine bother to rank you above other pages already providing exactly the same information?
The key here is research. You absolutely must research what is already out there and then work out what the existing copy lacks.
You can then produce a page that is better and/or different than the one you previously read – and better content, as we’ve already discussed, is far more likely to be ranked highly in SERPs.
Now, you might think that your niche is already saturated with content, making it virtually impossible to offer something new.
This is almost never the case.
If you’re not providing new information, you can still change the way in which you relay this information. Perhaps an infographic might appeal to searchers, or maybe you can simply present information in a way more accessible to those with little knowledge?
Essentially, the lesson here is to think before you write. Research the competition first and then do everything you possibly can to create a page that is a bit different from the rest.
Correct Keyword Usage
Keywords: they’re as important in 2020 as they’ve ever been and using the correct keywords in the right places must be one of your SEO priorities for the year.
Quite frankly, how is a search engine going to know a page is about a certain topic if you don’t reference that topic on the page?
It’s like speaking to your friend about your favourite football team, but never once mentioning what team you’re actually talking about.
Whatever you do though, don’t stuff keywords in like crazy. Google really isn’t going to like your article on dog training including the keyword “train your dog” 50 times in a 500-word article.
Be more subtle, and also include other related phrases too, such as “teaching dog to sit” and “clicker training” for example.
Essentially, do everything you can to show the search engines that your content is incredibly relevant to the keyword you’re looking to rank for, but also remember that the content has to be super useful for real readers as well.
Freshness of Content
Imagine there are two pages about the same subject. One of them is five years old, and the other was written last month.
Which will a search engine prefer?
It will more than likely be the fresher piece of content, as it will probably provide the most up to date information about the topic being discussed.
Don’t worry though: you’re not going to have to completely rewrite every piece of content every year (although it is good to completely rewrite pages that are completely irrelevant to the current time).
Instead, edit your article and alter sections to make them relevant. The search engines will see that the page has been updated recently and will, therefore, be more likely to think it’s still relevant to the current audience.
It’s not just the search engines deciding on their own whether a page is relevant though, as they’ll also pay attention to how readers react.
If they navigate away from the page after seconds, they probably haven’t found an answer relevant to their search query.
So, do everything possible to answer a person’s query and keep them on the page for as long as possible.
Mobile Optimisation is Key
It is absolutely vital that pages are optimised for those searching using a mobile device.
Even Google has admitted that poor mobile pages can be “demoted in rankings or displayed with a warning in mobile search results”.
This is no surprise, considering how many people now use smartphones and tablets to access websites.
Don’t worry though, as Google will help you out.
Just tap in your site’s URL into their Mobile-Friendly Test and they’ll let you know if there are any issues. What’s more, they’ll also tell you how to go about fixing them.
Mobile browsing is only going to get even more popular in the coming months and years, so it really pays to get on top of your mobile optimisation as soon as you possibly can.
Loading speed is one of those things that many people know about, but choose to ignore, focusing on other aspects of SEO.
In reality, though, loading speed is still an incredibly important factor in how well your website will rank. This is especially important when it comes to your mobile site’s loading speed.
There are many ways to increase the speed of your site, including using a fast hosting server and optimising any images on display.
You might not think that doing so makes a great difference, but lots of small modifications can lead to a big improvement.
Once you have optimised your site for loading speed, use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to see how fast your site really is.
If you find that you can’t increase the speed of your site sufficiently, you should speak to an SEO professional, as it can be quite a complex job.
Backlinks will still be key in 2020.
A backlink to your site is essentially a vote of confidence – confirmation from another site that your site really is offering great value to readers.
As you might imagine, search engines like to see as many of these votes of confidence as possible.
Quite simply, it’s generally the case that the more backlinks your site has, the more it will appeal to search engines.
Not all backlinks hold the same weight though.
In fact, spammy backlinks from low-quality websites can even be damaging to your site.
So, get as many backlinks as possible, but have some restraint and don’t get backlinks from sites without any real authority/traffic or link to your niche.
It is possible to build backlinks by contacting other sites and providing useful, relevant content to them.
The best backlinks are those that are earned organically – those that see a site linking to your page for no other reason than your page is the best around on that topic.
This is a great reason to ensure that every word written on your site is the best it can possibly be.
Domain authority is essentially how much authority your page has in the eyes of the search engines. The higher your domain authority, the more likely your content will be to rank highly in the SERPs.
But how can you improve your domain authority?
Well, the most important thing to do is build a fantastic site – one that directly and comprehensively answers the queries visitors have, as well as one that is incredibly easy to use.
Just think, who would you trust more: a shopkeeper with lots of knowledge and a well-kept store or a shopkeeper without any knowledge and a store that was impossible to find anything in?
You can also boost your domain authority (DA) by getting links from other sites with high DA.
Most importantly though, just be patient and keep adding content, as it can take a while to be regarded as an authority on a subject, both with search engines and with your readers.
Correct Anchor Text
Correct anchor text is important, as it lets search engines know what a page is about.
For example, if there’s a link titled “dog training”, search engines will know that clicking on that link probably takes readers to a dog training site. Therefore, they’ll be likely to rank that page higher for searches of “dog training”.
Now, you can’t really control how other people link to your site, however, you can use anchor text to great effect internally.
You should have links throughout your site using important keywords, to show search engines exactly what pages are about.
Don’t overuse one piece of anchor text though, but instead vary it slightly so you don’t get accused of spamming.
If you do find that there are other sites linking to your site and these links have questionable use, you should contact them and ask them to remove them.
If they don’t, you can use the Google Disavow Tool to remedy the problem. Consult an SEO professional to learn more about this tool from Google.
Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, and it essentially means that it wants to find content created by true experts in the niche.
Google is massively into E-A-T when it comes to ranking websites.
In fact, in February of 2019, Google confirmed that E-A-T is indeed a very important part of their algorithms.
And in August of 2019, Google published a document on core algorithm updates. Their advice, if you have been negatively affected by a core update is to “get to know the quality rater guidelines (QRG) & E-A-T “.
This is because they believe – usually quite correctly – that true experts will provide the best answers for search queries.
The main thing you can do to comply with E-A-T is to make it obvious who exactly wrote the piece of content on the site.
You should also make sure readers can easily contact you, plus you should also constantly monitor what other people are saying about you online.
Of course, you will probably be writing most pages on your site though, so how do you become an expert?
Quite simply, you need to create the best content possible, and Google will be able to recognise whether this is the case.
It might take time, but after a while, you’ll be seen as an expert in your field, providing you constantly create new and relevant content for your readers.
Ensure Pages Are Crawlable
This is something that has always been the case, however unbelievably there are still sites out there that aren’t set up to be crawled properly.
This means that search engines are being told not to index pages, meaning that they’ll never show up in SERPs.
To see if your site is accessible to search engines, just head over to the Google Search Console, which is a vital tool for everyone doing SEO on their website.
If your site is not being indexed properly, you really need to contact an SEO professional as soon as possible.
To ensure your site is being crawled properly, make sure you have a site with a clear design, where search engine robots are able to get from page to page easily.
This will also have another benefit, as it will allow users of the site to navigate around more easily as well.
Matching Search Intent
When someone searches for something on a search engine, they have an intent.
Nowadays, Google, in particular, is trying to provide results that match best a user’s search intent, instead of just relying on things like backlinks and keywords.
Google even employs many people to monitor whether users are getting the content they really want to see.
But how can Google know that a page matches intent, other than employing people to check?
Well, they will use the bounce rate/dwell time, amongst other things.
If a reader accesses a site then bounces away from it straight away, it’s clear their intent hasn’t been matched.
If they remain on the page for a while though, something has probably caught their attention, which is a good thing.
But how do you ensure search intent is matched?
Well, you should put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What would you want to know when you type a search query?
Then go about providing a page that caters perfectly to their wants, by providing comprehensive, but also user-friendly, content.
Finally, we come to Google RankBrain – something those outside of the SEO world have rarely ever heard of.
It’s something vital to consider though, as Google themselves have admitted that it’s one of the top three factors that affects search engine rankings (the others being quality of content and links).
But what is Google RankBrain?
Well, it’s the algorithm Google uses to work out what exactly a person wants when they type a query.
It’s not really possible to apply any technical SEO practices to improve what RankBrain thinks of your site as it’s constantly changing and is learning more about the way in which people search online.
The only thing you can do to keep the algorithm happy is to write the best content possible – content that really gives your readers exactly what they’re looking for.
That’s what every good site should already be doing though, so for those already writing top content, there’s no need to worry about being penalised by any algorithm update.
I’m a UK based freelance SEO consultant and digital marketer and I provide results-driven online consulting and digital marketing services to SMEs. Are you ready to grow in 2020? Get in touch today!