Ahead of New Year’s 2020, search engines are still the most common way for new prospects to connect with a business. According to one study, organic search accounts for 53% of traffic across the Internet, raking in page views, leads and customers for organizations with a website. Accordingly, search engine optimization (SEO) remains a central pillar of online marketing: but SEO strategy changes from year to year and keeping up can be hard.
In 2019 for instance, Google updated its flagship product no less than 3,200 times. And – while other companies like Amazon are competing for a piece of its share in the search market – Google still dominates at 88%, effectively defining SEO best practices for everyone else in the industry. So what has changed, and what should search engine marketers be aware of in 2020?
Publishers should realize that Google is no longer just a search engine: it’s an experience. As the front page of the Internet for billions of people, it is also the first and last place they go to for information, and Google has sought to keep them within its ecosystem by providing information-rich features that drive more visitors to high quality links:
- Diverse content –the first page of Google now includes travel results, the knowledge graph and interactive snippets in addition to images, maps, videos and shopping options. Studies show that more Internet users are jumping straight to videos and skipping text results entirely.
- Featured snippets – thanks to featured snippets and structured data syntax, any website can now show up in “position zero” on the first page – no matter their rank – providing a fairer and more dynamic experience to readers and brands alike.
- Launch of Google Discover – filling a gap left years ago by the retirement of Google Reader, Google Discover allows users to “follow” brands, topics and stories. A continual cycle of content gives new links a chance to mature, and rich opportunities for targeted advertising.
- Rise of mobile/voice search – mobile-first indexing became a reality in July of this year, confirming a future dominated by mobile devices. In conjunction with voice search which has steadily grown throughout 2019, this trend will impact the way users find content and what makes that content effective.
In short, the way that Internet users discover information – and the kind of information they’re looking for – has changed in many ways. Some of these changes follow trends that have been unfolding for a long time, and others are brand new: all of them impact the best way for you to win more clicks for your website and content.
Here are five tips for reaching front page of Google in 2020, based on the information we’ve gathered from many sources:
- Write for Voice
2020 is the year when voice searches will finally comprise 50% of web traffic, representing explosive growth from 2019, when 1 in 5 adults used voice search on a regular basis. But voice searches differ from text searches in several ways:
- They are longer, and use “conversational” language
- They are frequently direct questions: “what is SEO?” for instance
- They are often targeted to a local area
To stay afloat in the influx of voice queries, brands should change the way they write content to reflect a more natural style of speech. This means using long-tail keywords and optimizing for semantic analysis which allows Google to match vague queries to the most appropriate response.
- Structured Data and Snippets
When snippets were first introduced, they were little more than a novelty that made Google slightly more interesting for smartphone users. Now – after years of improvement – they are a central feature of the search engine, sponging up 54.7% of clicks.
Google now has many types of snippets (called ‘panels’), but the most popular is the featured snippet, providing a quick response to any query, and a link to the original source at position zero on the front page.
The trick for getting a snippet is to use structured data formatting in blog posts:
- Use H2 and H3 tags to highlight a question, and provide a short (~90 character) response in the text below
- Use the markup schema from org to highlight content for Q&A panels, reviews, products and more
- Use Schema Markup Generator to automatically generate code for Google snippets
For more in-depth information and links pertaining to Google snippets, check out our blog post about Google’s Q&A panel.
- Optimize for Mobile Experience
It goes without saying that every brand should have mobile-compatible website by now. In June of this year, Google finally made the switch to its mobile-first index, meaning that desktop-only links will always rank lower than a mobile-formatted alternative.
But it’s not enough to have a “mobile compatible” website anymore: sites should also be optimized to provide a rich and clean user experience for mobile users. Google’s Mobile Friendly Test is a great way to quickly assess your website for mobile optimization, and identify problems like:
- Slow loading time – for every second of delay, websites lose 7% of visitors
- Intrusive pop-ups – pop-up CTAs and advertisements that look great on Desktop either look terrible on mobile, or don’t work at all
- Poor organization – mobile users have a limited space to browse websites, meaning that meta-data and titles should be streamlined to provide fast navigation and quick reading
Today, nearly half of all Internet searches originate from mobile devices, and – by 2025 – that number is expected to reach 72.6%, as more and more users exclusively access the Internet from their smartphones or tablets. By then, brands who emphasized mobile development will have a leg up on the ones who didn’t.
- Focus on Branding
SEO and branding might seem like completely different disciplines, but they go hand in hand: due to changes in Google’s ranking algorithm, a website will rank higher based on its reputation around the web, and the number of links it’s already ranking for on the first page.
This will make ranking difficult for brands who haven’t already established a good web presence with organic links back to their site and rich content for readers, and establishing the groundwork for SEO will mean following principles of Inbound Marketing such as:
- Building and maintaining a social media presence
- Publishing diverse content – blog posts, eBooks, infographics, etc. – on a regular basis
- Using feedback from past clients and customers to improve, and publishing positive testimonials
- Maintaining a brand guide to ensure consistency across multiple platforms
In addition to brand, Google will also rank websites according to visitor retention, meaning that businesses should establish cornerstone content, and prioritize long-form over short-term blogs. Put simply, the better value you provide to visitors, the more value you will get in return.
Seize the Day!
The new year is a great time for new resolutions: as it approaches, consider a comprehensive web assessment to find out where your performance can be improved, and set goals for the first quarter of 2020. Any website can become your best salesperson, attracting organic traffic and driving leads through great user experience: all it takes it patience, and a willingness to learn.
Conveyance Marketing Group is a team of bright, innovative and talented veteran marketers dedicated to big ideas, fresh insights and measurable results. We pride ourselves on taking challenging marketing issues and turning them into opportunities for our clients, on pointing brands in the right direction, and on getting our customers noticed both online and off. From branding to websites to digital marketing, and public relations, we handle all your marketing communication needs! Web Design and Development | Brand Strategy | Inbound Marketing | Social Media | SEO | PR