24 Dec 2019
When we reached out to some of the finest minds in SEO and search marketing to give us their #1 most actionable tips for 2020, we weren’t expecting such an overwhelming response!
Thanks to all the contributors for taking out time from their busy schedules to give you all a leg up on your SEO goals for 2020.
May it be a successful year for all of you!
Here’s a few tips for 2020.
Enhance Your Research Technique and Create A Perfect Long-Tail Keywords List
2019 was a year of on-page SEO with an emphasis on content.
Now, with the BERT update, SEO specialists should focus their attention on Natural Language Processing (NLP).
The Google algorithm’s ability to distinguish entities, categorize content, and evaluate sentiment forces us to develop new skills.
It’s not about becoming an NLP expert, but having even basic knowledge in this area would give anyone a massive advantage in their SEO.
One of the most common challenges in this subject is the proper keyword selection and usage.
Relevant vocabulary for the main topic increases the perceived value for the user — and that will likely be reflected in your rankings too.
Focus on Relevancy over Skyscraper Technique
Long forms of content are still on the rise.
However, they are no longer as effective as a few years ago.
From the users’ point of view, the skyscraper article is not always attractive.
In many cases, finding specific information is easier when you don’t have to go through 10k words.
Thanks to NLP, the user intent can be evaluated much better.
Google puts information in front of the user based on the purpose of the search.
Therefore, keyword research becomes the most crucial part of the article’s planning.
Find the right keywords and make sure you understand what searchers want to achieve with them.
Analyzing the top pages from the SERPs is a good place to start.
Use SERP Overlapping
Finding phrases with similar search results helps to create a list of topics and phrases that should be included in an article.
That’s called keyword similarity, and it refers to the number of the same results in the SERP.
This research technique allows us to diagnose users’ intentions and to discover great content ideas.
There is an awesome side-effect, too — we narrow the number of relevant threads and keep proper relevancy to the main keyword and topic.
The on-point list of long-tail keywords is another outcome of this kind of approach.
The appearance of phrases with many words in the content allows ranking not only for the main keyword but a wide range of relevant, converting, and attractive long-tail terms.
You can rank for more keywords with the same amount of content!
When we finish our research, and a list of keywords is ready for action, enhance your content by placing selected phrases where they belong.
The importance of keyword placing has never been as crucial as it is now.
Use the most prominent keywords in URL, title, H1, and other headings, as well as the introduction (above the fold section), and paragraphs.
Pick the right query and create content that completely answers that query. Every keyword has some intent behind it. The content must match that intent. This is how search engines can justify ranking your content on that query.
Technical SEO should also be your top priority in 2020. As Google is giving high importance to page load time and other important technical SEO factors.
Do not ignore low volume keywords as they can also be highly relevant to your business and bring in good quality leads.
I think the biggest change in SEO best practices when it comes to selecting keywords to target is going to be the usage of Click data.
Nowadays, many searches result in no click at all to the search results.
Which means the sites displayed for these keywords get no benefit
whatsoever, even if they spent a lot of time and effort trying to rank for
And that’s just not great.
On the other hand, many queries have many more clicks to results than
search volume. It’s not rare to see a keyword with 1,000 searches per month
with over 2,000 clicks.
Search volume completely ignores this.
And yet, many SEOs base their keyword decisions on it.
I think this will change in the next few months and the top SEOs will use
click-stream data to pick keywords rather than search volume.
But the good news is, it will take many SEOs a while to understand this
paradigm shift, so this is YOUR opportunity to snag better keywords than
your competitors and take market share from them.
Both Ahrefs and Neil Patel’s free tool Ubersuggest now provide click data,
so it should be easy for you to use it and make better keyword targeting decisions.
Do all the things.
SEO will never be simple anymore.
The algorithm updates will never be simple anymore.
We’ll never see simple updates that just focus on one small thing.
They’ll include widespread changes that take it all into account.
Thus, trying to do the “bare minimum” SEO will not cut it anymore in 2020.
Sure, it may get you somewhere at the bottom of page 1-2, but the top 3 are the spots that make you money.
The #1 most actionable tip for SEO in 2020 is splitting keyword research into high impact vs everything else.
I developed a new strategy for doing this with the push of a button (and some data from Ahrefs).
You essentially just steal all the best opportunities from your competitors (in terms of intent + volume and discounted based on competition) — I call it cohort keyword research (that link goes to a YouTube video not a blog post; so no reading necessary 🙂 ).
Once you’ve gotten all the highest impact terms on your radar then you can proceed with blowing out all the rest of your term universe and scoring for prioritization (like I discussed with Ross Hudgens on my Content and Conversations video).
More so, the last consideration here is to make sure you’re paying close attention to click volume over search volume… some terms have 10x the amount of click volume vs. search volume (and that metric skews equally in the other direction).
So make sure you’re not using false directional data to make your optimization decisions.
To improve your SEO performance in 2020, you’ll want to leverage one main thing:
SATISFYING SEARCH INTENT
Without getting too fluffy about it: Satisfying search intent is about giving people what they want — and terminating their search.
We (and Google) know that our answer is relevant if their click on our search result is their last click for that specific search query.
If a user searches for “most famous techno club in Berlin”, reads our article (Spoiler: The club is Berghain), and then moves on to search for “green juice recipe” we have done a great job.
Now, when most SEOs think about search intent, they think about keywords and their personal interpretation of them: e.g., This is a “how-to” keyword, this must be an educational/ informational search. I should write a blog post or guide.
And while this might be true in some cases, you want to think about search intent by taking Google’s perspective.
Understanding search intent is first about understanding the type of content Google would like to serve.
We, as SEOs, are invited to make a mindset shift.
Our job is no longer to rank written content in the Top 3.
It’s about winning real estate on Page 1 and being truly relevant.
And relevance in 2020 might mean content other than a blog post.
Analyzing Page 1 and understanding content type, content length, media elements, and context is crucial in 2020.
Move away from what your gut tells you to write — look on Page 1 and make a data-driven decision on what content to create.
This will allow you to truly terminate a search, satisfy search intent, and win Google’s heart.
My #1 tip if always to create content in line with search intent.
How? Analyze the top-ranking pages for your target keyword and consider the dominant content type, format, and angle.
For example, if you wanted to rank for “blogging tips,” it’s clear that the type of content to create is a blog post.
That’s because all of the current top-ranking results are blog posts, which is a clear sign that this is what searchers want.
They don’t want product pages, landing pages, or anything else.
When it comes to content format, people clearly want to see lists of tips.
Whereas for a query like “rank higher in Google,” people want a structured how-to guide, not a list of random tips.
Finally, the angle means aligning your content with what searchers value.
In the case of “blogging tips,” it’s clear that searchers are looking for a list of easy, beginner tips to get started.
Trying to rank a list of tips for experts or experienced bloggers just isn’t going to work because that’s not what searchers are looking for.
Learn more about this in our guide to ranking on the first page of Google.
My number one tip for SEOs is to Google every single keyword you want to rank for.
It’s the easiest way to see what Google considers important for these queries.
What length your content should be, what kind of keyword density to use, what angle to take for the topic, and much more…
Tools like SurferSEO make this even easier to analyze.
Why reinvent the wheel when Google spoon-feeds you the data?
As another year comes to a close, I sit with our SEO strategists and review the wins and losses of the year. Forming a strategy for the next year.
While I don’t consider myself to be an SEO, but rather an entrepreneur in the SEO space, I do still have an opinion on strategy for 2020.
I believe that as SEOs become more and more aware of the value of building brands and long term, content-rich marketing campaigns, we will see people using far more advanced optimization tools while creating said content.
I firmly believe that tools like SurferSEO will see an incredible amount of growth in 2020.
My most actionable tip for the coming year of SEO?
May the SERPs be ever in your favor 😉
Turning sites into trustworthy authorities is what has worked best for our clients and us.
The algorithm has shifted back to satisfying a more precise search intent.
Blindly creating 1000+ word “skyscraper articles” is a bad strategy if everyone else around you is ranking with much shorter pieces.
Focus on search intent by analyzing the search results manually and with tools.
Look at potential topics and then assign all relevant keywords each article should rank for by analysing the top 10.
Do not forget internal linking. Building topical clusters that are perfectly interlinked will satisfy search intent and boost the authority of your site further.
I’m probably going to lose work by mentioning this tip.
My primary income right now comes from helping people recover from Google Manual Actions that are given out for unnatural inbound links.
This hasn’t been such a big deal in the past as I used to be able to get the penalty revoked in 3-10 days.
However, during 2019 things started to change.
Typically, I have been waiting two or even three months for Google to reply to reconsideration requests.
Sure, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to get faster responses, but in 2019 they haven’t been working so well.
Here is my tip:
If you are acquiring backlinks… do not overdo “money keywords” in your anchor text and get yourself a Google Manual Action.
We all know that manipulating the SERPs with backlinks is against the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
But really, your competitors are doing it, so you are going to do it as well, aren’t you?
Bear in mind that Google knows the most profitable keywords.
After all, they have 19 years of data from Google Adwords.
If you are going to play this game, you need to know what the page one winners are doing.
Here are two examples that might surprise you.
The first is a highly competitive global keyword, the second is a lower volume city specific keyword.
I checked the backlinks with the Backlink Profiler (BLP) tool by LinkResearchTools.
You get the idea?
In these examples, we are talking about less than 0.1% of your anchor text being an exact match for the keyword you want to rank for.
You do not need to build hundreds of links with your chosen keyword in the anchor text. If you do have anchor text like this you could be Google’s next victim.
If you are worried about your current link profile, hit me up at https://www.linkdetective.com and I’ll make your site safe.
Voice Search is expected to go up 50% by 2020 with an estimated quarter of adults now owning smart speakers in their homes.
The best thing an SEO can do right now is to be at the forefront of those searches within their niche for operative search queries like: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
In my research for the past six months, I have seen websites who are taking advantage of this strategy increase their traffic by hundreds of thousands of visitors in some cases while helping Google to better understand their entity as a whole.
It’s important that SEOs recognize this and start taking position 0 on low hanging keyword fruits. Failing to do so or ignoring these facts will lead to the catastrophic demise of your properties.
My #1 actionable tip for 2020 is: write purposeful content.
Your content should satisfy the needs of your website.
Too often, content is written just for the sake of writing.
Purposeful content begins with identifying what type of content your website needs.
There are two types of needs: Target pages and Supporting pages.
Target pages are written to rank in Google.
They should give Google what it wants through optimization and users what they want through conversion points.
Supporting pages help target pages rank and provide additional information for users.
Supporting pages should be consciously chosen to support only one target page and provide users additional information on the target page’s topic.
Automation. While not directly SEO-related, it is an important tool in your skillset.
SEO is time-consuming and expensive. Automation allows us to get more done in less time and for less cost.
As a starting point, you want to work on automating anything you’re doing with spreadsheets.
You’ll want to master 3 functions. ArrayFormula, Vlookup, and Query.
If you’re looking to get more advanced, then you can look into Google Scripts and Excel’s scripting.
To be honest, I don’t have any top tips.
Nothing has changed in SEO.
Build a fast, clean website that delivers the experience your customer vibes with.
Populate that website with as much relevant, GOOD content as possible.
Promote your website through social media, link outreach, PR, and advertising.
If you can do that, your organic traffic will grow — it’s that simple.
There’s no hacks and no silver bullets.
Just follow the process and you will see results.
My most actionable SEO tip involves using a SEO Ruler Chrome extension.
It does a bunch of cool stuff like scraping people also ask, title tags, meta descriptions, and links from the SERP, but I like using it to pull bolded words quickly.
I take those bold words and work them into my featured snippet answers, making my answers more relevant and giving me a better chance to rank (just make sure your search results are set to 100).
I came up with this tip and covered it in my strategy newsletter seonotebook.com earlier this year.
Ensure that everything within your control is taken care of. Step away from the obsessive-compulsive link building for a moment and make sure you have a site worth linking to.
The majority of sites I see that are struggling have problems they don’t even know about. So I would recommend you start 2020 with a solid SEO audit.
Start by running your site through Batch Speed and Google PageSpeed Insights.
If it takes longer than 3 seconds to fully load you’ve got some work to do!
You can usually speed up your site with plugins like WP Rocket & ShortPixel.
Then use an SEO auditing tool to find any technical SEO issues and get them fixed.
You should also do a structured data audit, using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, to make sure you have relevant rich snippets in place.
This might seem like a basic SEO tip, but believe me, a huge amount of site owners only focus on building links and skip the essential SEO principles of building a great foundation for their website.
SEO 2020 will be much tougher, and many more SEO experts will realize that affiliate sites are harder to rank.
Google algorithm updates have already killed many websites.
I am seeing many websites 301 redirects and PBNs going down.
Two of my own sites went down with 301 redirection.
Going forward, SEO will never be simple again.
Google performs massive updates every day.
Many sites with traffic in the millions are facing huge hits and getting crushed in the SERPs.
Google is featuring knowledge graphs and featured snippets on SERPs aggressively so the sites on top gain even more advantage.
Being at position three or four will rarely make you money with featured snippets already claiming the top spot,
You really need to be in first or second position to maximize sales for your affiliate websites.
On my blog, I started doing interviews and podcasts, as this is the best way to build your personal brand in 2020.
Personal branding will fetch you trust from Google’s E-A-T algorithm.
My blog traffic increased by 25% in 2019.
This was my greatest SEO achievement so far, and I received a six-figure offer to sell my blog.
Great actionable insights. Keyword similarity & NLP, picking keywords using click-sream-data, focusing on being in top 3, Ubersuggest is also in focus. Focusing on Technical SEO & I liked the example of Link Detective. Website speed & Automation. As SEOs we certainly miss out on some key areas and this post is worth saving and reading few more times. I thank SEO butler for populating expert opinions and making a neat post. Overall I would say EAT is as important as always. It’s surprising none have spoken about image SEO. Thank you!
I can’t speak for all of the authority names in the industry on this post, but I can say that image SEO isn’t quite there yet.
My firm attended a Google hosted even this year where they discussed that image learning is getting there but we’re still about 1-2 years off, as algorithms can’t understand what a picture is yet with multiple items in it.
I may be posting some more about image SEO in the future as things progress, but as of right now it’s still business as usual – for the most part.
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December 30, 2019 at 6:48 pm
Now that’s great content! Thank you so much all for sharing. The Matthew Woodward tip hit me right in the feels.