The New Year is upon us and we now need to take what we learned about SEO in 2019, continue to apply it and adopt new techniques to improve our SEO ranking. After all, the Google algorithm will continue to evolve and change. Every content marketer and blogger must wisely build the right type of content to be seen by the search engines and to be engaging to readers.
Here’s our take on the 2020 SEO outlook.
Rich SERP Improvements and Reader Intent
With more users searching on mobile devices, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) remains at the forefront of searchable content. Content creators and web designers have known since 2016 that mobile-friendly pages were important, but with more users seeking quick answers such as directions or definitions, content development will need to consider how to tackle winning at the AMP game.
Voice search means featured and rich snippets, and answer boxes must be congruent between what the searcher’s intent is and how the speak. The algorithm is getting better at this and content that meets the demands will be rewarded with more rich snippets and answer boxes. The challenge becomes converting a snippet into a converted click.
The SEO play here is to grab each and every snippet that you can. It helps you rank and it keeps your competitors at bay. When Google says your answer is the best, even when you aren’t the top Google Search Engine Results Page choice, then you gain the trust of the reader. We’ll get deeper into trust in a minute. But for SERP improvements, know that you must treat your introductions, conclusion and any text following a header as if it will become a snippet. It may sound like becoming an encyclopedia writer, but you have to find a way to do this while still engaging the reader.
For definitional types of snippets, you’ll concede the percentage of people who are looking for a quick answer such as, “how long to roast a prime rib.” The answer could be 20 minutes per pound but the goal is to then have the recipe that draws them in for a perfect prime rib rub. Keep in mind that voice search also means voice response with Alexa, Google Voice and Siri. However, the more you rank for results like this, the more you will get additional recognition from Google for having the right and best answers.
Expertise. Authority. Trust. (E.A.T.)
Having the right and best answers gives the content an expert feel, says you are an authority in the topic and builds trust with the readers. This may seem like a simple concept at face value but really requires more understanding and in-depth study.
Think about it this way, most local doctors don’t rank nationally for family medical blogs because they don’t have the massive amounts of content Google sees as an authority. Conversely, content mills are hiring experts in the field to either write or review content before it is published. This isn’t new but it is becoming almost a requirement to have Google trust their massive amounts of content. What this means it isn’t enough to be an expert in your field; you also need to gain the authority of Google as having enough information disseminated in a digital footprint as possible. Between the Google authority given via rankings and the expertise, the two combined should provide readers with trust as long as the right answers are provided consistently.
When we speak about the digital footprint, this means that the expert who once just had his own website will now seek more guest posts in larger content mills or mainstream publications. It also means other websites must link out to the content or cite it to validate that it is great information. Video content is still important as is white hat link building. It will be a mistake in 2020 to simply focus on your own content on your own website. You must expand your digital footprint.
When we look at keywords, Google has gotten really good about understanding what keyword stuffing is and it has also gotten really good at determining who is using keyword research tools and simply trying to write content using one or two specific keywords. While content creators will still need to have primary keywords, many large websites saw a dramatic hit to traffic with the Q4 Google algorithm updates because they focused on structured templates and too few keywords.
Structured templates and focusing on one or two keywords goes back to building trust across Google’s algorithm. What we mean by that is experts don’t stick to templates and expert content uses a multitude of words relevant to the topic naturally. You’ve heard for years that content is king but it has to be naturally written in order to rank. When major websites are focused on structured templates and refuse to break them, the algorithm is going to pick up on the style and see that as a negative.
Going forward in 2020 with content development, you must be considering a full recipe for keywords. This is harder to do and requires an understanding of your topic, your competitors, and your overall subject pillar. The pillar has it’s own set of keywords based on the subject topic. We’ll get into pillars in more depth in the next section, but it’s important to understand that Google knows that the best answers aren’t going to be structured the same from one article to the next. Using pillar keywords, unique article longtail keywords, and smart competitor analysis will help content creators build expert content that is unique.
Pillars, Sub-pillars and Site Maps
If you’ve been in content creation for the past few years, you have heard a ton about pillars and sub-pillars. Essentially, your website’s site map should have a cohesive theme and the content is written like chapters of a book. That is a pillar. Sub-pillars take a chapter and expand it to the best content with the most details – essentially a pillar on its own. The site maps is created using smart content categorizations, internal linking, and credible anchor text.
For example, if your website is about dog health, then your main pillar would be every aspect regarding dog health including categories such as holistic health, trauma and first aid, and preventative care. Within that main pillar, you may later break holistic health into its own sub-pillar sections, perhaps even doing an entire section on CBD oil for dog’s health. Breaking that into a pillar and various subchapters would answer every possible question about CBD oil and dogs while the main pillar may only touch upon the topic.
This brings rise to the concept of 10x content. This is a massive ultimate guide that is the foundation of any pillar. It becomes the absolute definitive guide on a topic. We’ve been doing a version of 10x content for quite some time now, though Rand Fiskin officially coined the phrase. Here’s the thing with 10x content; you’re writing a book that no one will truly read while scanning the internet. However, it builds trust and authority with Google as long as it is supported by two things: an easy to navigate internal article structure and the right sub-content.
The problem with 10x content is this: if you truly make one article the superior ultimate guide, you probably don’t have much left to expand on in sub-content. We suspect that Google will find a balance with word counts as we move forward with the algorithm. Just as keyword density was once a surefire way to rank, word count and 10x-ing content may prove to be too much for some content creators to handle.
Link building will become more important with content strategies in 2020. It will take more than just a quantity of links; again Google is looking for authority and trust. The higher domain authority that links have coming into your website, the better chance you have of ranking. Whereas having 10 small links was once as good, if not better than having one quality link; content creators need to be concerned with the quality of every link and disavow any links that could potentially be frowned upon as spammy sites.
When linking out, be sure to only use authority sites that are respected in the field of article topic. Whether it is where statistics come from or a major journal that you can cite, use outbound links as a way to tell Google that your research is top-notch and you only rely on the best.
The other component of link building will be pillar and sub-pillar linking. These are the links you use in an article that you connect to other pieces of your own content. Make sure anchor text directly relates to the article being linked to and be selective to build specific pillars. Try to write content in one pillar before jumping to another. Once you can gain Google’s trust within one area of expertise, you will have an easier time expanding. This part of link building works hand-in-hand with pillar building and feeds all 10x content with supporting content.
The Predictions of 2020
Refining content strategies is the goal moving forward in 2020. Less emphasis will be placed on individual keywords while pillars and recipes will be needed for ranking success. Content strategies and marketers must develop content so it meets the voice and snippet needs but still engage readers to click and get more than a rich snippet or knowledge box. In the end, continuing to write quality content that provides great answers and insights will continue to win as long as it is natural and feels organic.
If you need help with your content creation moving forward in 2020, contact us. Digital Footprint Media has several solutions to help DIY business owners with content development or our parent company, Sensible Copy and Consulting can take your whole campaign from strategy to implementation for you.