The start of a new year can be the perfect time for us to overcome bad habits and gain positive changes we’ve been hoping to carry out for a while. However, these ambitious “New Year’s Resolutions” can be hard to commit to and often end up discarded come mid-January.
It’s made clear when you notice how busy the gym is at the start of the year compared to February, but how would I know? I never made it that long...
Despite this, at Ryte we always believe in creating technically sound, quality-focused SEO decisions and committing to them, and what better time to plan out new ideals than the beginning of the year? Rather than give you our predictions or what we believe will be hot trends of this year, I’ve put together my opinions on SEO New Year Resolutions for mindset changes and new strategies to implement and stick to that aim to be impactful and meaningful in 2020 and beyond.
User experience has been a trendy yet crucial topic for SEOs to get involved in since Panda was first rolled out in 2011, and the subject is frequently brought to online marketing publications and events. However, it was only after more recent core algorithm updates in 2018 and 2019 that drastically impacted poor UX when most marketers started to stop and pay attention.
I still believe that in many cases the ideal is still not fully supported too much, so it’s worth highlighting that we SEOs really need to commit to those user-focused principles, and keep them in mind with everything that we do.
With Google’s huge strides and advancements in 2019 into natural language understanding, we don’t (or shouldn’t) have anything to change in order for the right searchers to find us. When it comes to unclear or potentially miscalculated queries, BERT’s frameworks aim to assist Google in properly interpreting and uncovering intent when there is semantic ambiguity.
The only thing we have to remember is making the content we deliver humanly readable. This may seem all too obvious, but occasionally pages are still created with heavy-handed keyword usage or a lack of attention to detail without realising just how elegant Google’s query understanding really is. Plainly put; ensure your content is being written with humans in mind and not Googlebot circa 2012.
Moving on from powerful semantic analysis frameworks, a step you should be taking is looking into how much effort you’re putting into assessing, understanding, and uplifting user satisfaction on your domains. You can simply no longer make assumptions as to what visitors are wanting, looking for, and needing.
Which is why it’s crucial to get properly invested and make those (user-)data-driven decisions. It’s incredibly important to work with colleagues over in CRO and UX teams to learn how they themselves research, hypothesize and test.
A/B testing seems like a practice that belongs solely within the CRO teams realm, but we can use similar methods to measure goals like micro-conversions including content digestion, time on site, or actions like adding items to a cart. As conversion rates can be something we cannot always directly impact, working to improve these micro goals gives us meaningful insights into areas we can personally improve.
If you’re unable to carry out A/B testing, there are tons of free sources and means to carry out qualitative user research. For example, you can implement feedback forms, have chats with real customers about their issues and what they hope to gain, and learn from your sales and customer service teams who deal directly with clientele on a daily basis. Another practical way is simply analysing your different queries by using Search Console data to get a better grasp of searcher behavior.
A mindset change that can be necessary to divulge within 2020, is making company-led decisions during your work and using that to contribute to the business's growth. All too often, SEO teams can become siloed either by their choice or by surrounding departments, which leads to challenges such as lack of resources for technical website implementation, fighting over attribution, or mixing up marketing communication.
Remember, there are no set rules to this wild world we work in; there is nothing stopping you from attempting to or aiming to reshuffle company priorities in order to make SEO a focus when it’s relevant.
Rather than blaming technical issues on the lack of resources available, get to the bottom of why that is the case. Are the SEO team’s tasks and performance misunderstood and therefore not prioritized? Solve that with internal education, clearer reporting, and more focused audits with priority lists ranked by amount of effort and impact. Is there simply no budget available? Find potential workarounds (e.g. service workers) to have technical fixes implemented, and prove the impact to get it finalized and set in stone.
Another way of contributing to overall company success using your SEO know-how, is driving and encouraging digital initiatives that bring offline factors into the online, organic realm.
Working to bring more customer service aspects online that uplift on-site satisfaction (e.g. FAQ portal projects, assisted chatbots), and helping with brand uplift and reputation management strategies don’t fall directly into the classic SEO job description but can be incredibly more impactful in the long run than a few new landing pages or links.
We’ve all seen the studies showing the impending doom of "zero-click searches" brought on by Google becoming highly resourceful at satisfying queries directly with content-rich SERP integrations. If this sparks the age-old cry of "SEO is dying" within you, remember that SEO isn’t dead, it’s just rapidly adapting and we need to readjust our priorities, strategies and understanding with it.
Within your industry, make people want to visit and return to your website directly to carry out their action. Be the go-to resource that customers can’t live without so that the action is made on your domain and not via Google.
Work towards this by delivering that irrefutable customer experience, by being referenced and mentioned as an expert figure by other authorities, and again, using your SEO know-how in overlapping digital initiatives. Don’t get bitter, get better!
This won’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort to establish yourself as an authority, but this is how you will be able to stand out in an increasingly competitive space - no matter if your biggest competitor is another brand or Google itself.
Entities are one of the most exciting topics for myself, and have been since I got pretty vested in studying Structured Data and Knowledge Graphs a few years ago. In 2020, there will be a large shift towards the prominence of entities in indexing and ranking, so that's a place where your head needs to be at ASAP, yo!
To see this clearly in action, carry out a quick Google search for a product-related query and witness what is happening with the organic SERPs. We are presented with features such as Knowledge Panels displaying Knowledge Graph entity data, refinements that allow us to further tailor the result to our specific needs, as well as connected entities shown such as related products and suppliers, not to mention a whole lot more.
In order to succeed in being prominently featured within those results and win valuable organic presence and traffic, we need to think more with this entity perspective, rather than purely URL based. These entity results are going nowhere, and are only evolving to become more intuitive in finding the best response to a query.
Consider how your company, it’s topics, and services exist in the grand scheme of the Google Knowledge Graph, and work to improve their presence and connections via efforts like effectively structuring data, leveraging the power of data feeds like Merchant Center, incorporating recognised and relevant entities within content, and (as always) keeping an eye on the SERPs to stay on top of how Google is representing you.
A common SEO strategy involves initial keyword research and content gap analyses to find juicy new queries to target, followed by somewhat hurried content creation to have a fresh piece of text written and an article published. More often than not, that piece of content becomes forgotten about and exists for the sole purpose of achieving organic rankings quickly.
This rushed method oftentimes lacks greater judgement or refinement leading to a waste of time. For competitive queries, it’s basically attempting to fight an already lost battle. Therefore a concept I think that will be increasingly important this year is to dedicate more time and effort into building well-researched, extensive, and factual resources that simply can’t be beat.
This isn’t always easy, but (similar to my previous points) it’s a meaningful step in the right direction. Don’t just think exclusively towards creating quality, "written for humans" content, but look into relevant formats that will resonate with your audience, be they extensive guides, whitepapers, repositories, podcasts, visual content, and so on. Not only this, but aim to provide well-rounded collections of data and information across your domain that go on to support each other as a strengthened resource.
All too often, search marketers focus their efforts to be ranking highly and solely within Google organic search and not tapping into and optimizing for other potential sources.
For example, leveraging the power of Google Discover can be such an exciting way to receive impressions and brand awareness before a searcher has even given a query. You’re being shown by Google as a must-see resource that is simply not to be missed. That’s pretty exciting and something to aim to be present within, just by leveraging the content strategies you already should be: being engaged with highly, covering trending topics in a unique and timely way, and publishing content that is written by an authority figure author.
For local businesses, presence within Google Maps and Local Pack rankings deserves a huge chunk of attention due to the prominence and availability of such features. Additionally, delivering and publishing video content on YouTube not only increases chances of being displayed in SERPs on features like video carousels, but you can win visibility in that huge search engine too.
Searcher intent analysis and satisfaction as a goal is no new trend, but as we are witnessing Google’s flexibility for varying goals and devices - we need to progress with it.As Search Engines become more refined at better understanding and indexing different content types such as video and sound, search results will become more and more situational to best serve the circumstances, location, and devices. For example, voice assistants within cars may be best responding to queries with content snippets from podcasts or similar audio content for drivers and passengers. Don’t lose out to these huge advancements by keeping it text and image based.
Following on with my previous points, a main theme has been the role the SEO must play within a company or agency, and how it’s reaching a much more holistic level than before. In order to adapt to these ongoing requirements of leveling up skill-sets, communicating, and aligning different channels and teams - the classic “SEO Manager” job role might not cut it anymore.
These days a good SEO should think and behave like a Product Owner who assesses the needs of their users, collects feedback and requests, prioritizes changes based on impact and then works with designers and developers to best implement those. If SEO teams remain siloed within their company to fight battles already lost, their existence is increasingly meaningless.
This wild and wonderful industry we work in changes rapidly by the day, and we are all figuring it out for ourselves and developing own opinions and judgements - which is good! The fact that SEO relies on constant knowledge sharing to exist (and let’s face it, we are kind of Google’s algorithm breakers and testers) is a pretty unique and special thing.
In order to continue to grow and develop as an industry, for this more wholesome New Year’s Resolution, I think we should work to not only continue to keep learning and testing, but encourage others to do the same. One way of encouragement is not just by actively doing so, but by simply avoiding toxic know-it-all and critical behavior. Of course, there is nothing wrong with friendly debate and discussion, but conceited opinions and overly-harsh critique just stops many smart contributors from sharing their valuable thoughts.
I couldn’t say it better myself.
Finally, my last resolution (and it’s a big one) is probably my most favourite. SEO as a practice is getting older but it’s only getting harder to properly achieve and perfect. One of the key ways of succeeding within organic is proving why you deserve to outperform your competitors.
What makes you unique and special? Find your USPs, your wow-factors and tap into that. Make it well known to your visitors, potential customers, passers by in the street, and Search Engines. Keep building exciting and engaging online experience. Awesomeness is the best ranking factor, after all.
Happy New Year from all of us at Ryte!
Hopefully you’re now excited and motivated to tackle many exciting topics in the upcoming year! From myself and everyone at Ryte, we wish you the best of luck with all of your SEO endeavours in 2020!
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Published on 01/10/2020 by Izzi Smith.
Izzi is a Technical SEO Analyst at Ryte where she loves spending her time solving technical SEO mysteries, sharing her knowledge, and helping beloved clients create even more awesome websites for their users and Search Engines. Izzi has spoken at many top industry events and conferences across Europe, and has been rated the best speaker several times. When she's not optimizing, you can find Izzi at one of Munich's beer gardens or binge watching Netflix.