2020 Roadmap to SEO Success
For SEO success, it pays to think ahead! As we approach 2020, it’s time to start brainstorming about what it’s going to take to stay ahead of all of the SEO trends and changes. What’s the next big thing? Are keywords going to become less and less significant? Should our energies be focused on mobile-first? Probably!
Customers 1st For Success with SEO
Your customers are the core of your business. Therefore, being innovative, thinking outside of the box, and going back to basics is a theme for 2020. Let’s start with the basics – you MUST understand your customers. To create a SMART strategy tailored to your client’s audience, you have to get to know them first. According to the Search Engine Journal, “The more you know about your audience, the more powerful your digital marketing efforts will become.” Remember, SEO is not a condiment; it IS the main course. All of that is easier said than done. There is so much data, and it can sometimes be overwhelming. But, if you can collect the information effectively, your marketing (or remarketing) efforts will build momentum, increase revenue, and ultimately offer a better return on your investment.
Start by asking the right questions like, what are they looking for? What do they need? How can I help them? The best way to answer these open-ended questions starts with collecting feedback that will allow you to understand your customer’s needs better. Try implementing random client check-in’s and ask what they think! You’d be surprised at how honest and open people will be when you empower them to offer feedback.
Another layer of collecting client feedback is the use of Q&A sessions. Your customers are one of your most trusted sources of information, and there’s no better way to fill in the gaps. Customer feedback is a fantastic asset to have in your toolbox! Steve Jobs said it best, “Turn consumers Into Evangelists, Not Just Customers.” When you take the customer-centric approach, you are not just putting them first, but you are influencing them to want to promote your product/service. There is no better or more effective way to market and have SEO success.
What is BERT — and How Will It Affect SEO?
Now, let’s talk about Google’s reasonably new A.I. technology rolled out in October 2019 called BERT. Change and the internet should be the same. They are two peas in a pod, or maybe they are like BERT and Ernie. Like how I did that?! Don’t let this high-tech acronym fool you. BERT stands for, wait for it, Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. Well, now that was a mouth full! So, what is it? This technology uses algorithms that can read sentences and queries with a higher level of human contextual understanding and common sends.
It is translating and understanding how we think, act, and search. Google’s recent update of BERT affecting the SEO world impacts 1 in 10 search queries. Google projects that this will increase over more languages and locales over time. After all, the way humans naturally communicate is going to vary, so it makes sense to develop crazy smart coding that better understands our differences. BERT is so intelligent it identifies polysemy words, words that have more than one meaning, or even those dreaded homonyms. Previously, the traditional keywords never would have captured these nuances. I can’t tell you how many times I have corrected people who have incorrectly used “there, their, and they’re.” No more ambiguity! How about those synonyms? Yes, BERT can identify those too. (Too is one of those homonyms I was talking about.) BERT is changing the keyword game and making it a thing of the past.
Mobile-First Indexing (M.F.I.)
The other theme that should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind in 2020 is mobile-first indexing. “Instead of visualizing a person sitting at a desktop computer, you have to realize that most of the time, people will find your website via a mobile device.” Why is this important? Well, the way people search on their phones will differ from how they search on a desktop. Informational queries, local searches, personal search, and how do I searches are more and more prominent. Think about it; the primary function of a phone is to have a conversation. So, that’s precisely how the user is going to search. It is essential to create relevant content; don’t just overload your content with synonyms. Satisfying users is not a one size fits all task and should encompass problem-solving, identifying age groups, and time of day queries.
In July 2019, mobile-first indexing was enabled by Google and set as default for all new websites. It is going to be super important to include the same content on both the mobile and desktop sites that will offer the user consistent information. Also, you might want to consider consistent coding for navigation links for both mobile and desktop. Remember, mobile-first for SEO success! Last, but not least – your page speed. Ugh! I can’t tell you how many times I have searched for something on my phone and if I didn’t find what I wanted, well, I moved on. Check out this article that offers 7 Ways to Improve Mobile Page Speed.
The good news is, Google will notify you when you have been moved to mobile-first indexing. After all, the worldwide mobile population stands at 3.7 billion users, and almost 50% of site traffic came from mobile phones. So, if you want to capture this audience, it is going to be more critical now than ever to prioritize mobile optimization.
Page Speed Matters for SEO Success!
The Page Load Time (PLT) is yet another priority in 2020. Our expectations are increasing when it comes to receiving immediate results/answers, and if your PLT is not up to par, you will lose your audience. I want to highlight how to check the performance of your page. First, you can use developer tools in the chrome browser to check the Time to First Byte (TTFB). Another option is to run a web page test. Lastly, you can never go wrong with a Byte Check. If your page speed is healthy, you should see no more than 160ms when you run the test. The reason why this is so important to test is that it reflects the server response time and the time to transfer bytes. Essentially, it is the amount of time it takes for the browser to wait before receiving data.
Less is more! The Document Object Model (DOM) is another layer that will either positively or negatively impact your PLT. DOM determines the processing time to download all HTML code. If you minimize the volume of HTML, this will ultimately improve speed. To stay on track with the less is more theme, it is also essential to reduce the number of resources to be loaded. The more resources, the more time is needed to load.
Lastly, programming errors can and will impact your page response time. The most common mistakes that affect indexing are poorly created data filtering and sorting mechanisms, the dreaded 404 errors, unnecessary links on websites that redirect to new URLs, and blocking access for robots too often.
In conclusion, 2020 is the year not only to think ahead but to clean up and bring it back to basics. There is no perfect recipe when it comes to SEO success, but these tips will put you on the right path to success. Measure and research as much as you can and always think of your customers in everything you do.