The state of web traffic flow and direction is always fluctuating. As Google continues to adapt and create new algorithms and as users continue to break ground with new websites and an increasing flow of content, the standards of web design and content creation will continue to grow and change. This means that the internet experience is constantly improving. If your website is not constantly improving as well, then you are falling behind. Tactics that worked even a year ago may have become outdated or unnecessary. 2020 brings a slew of new changes and updates to the forefront of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The tips outlined below will help you understand what these changes are and how they apply to your website and your business. By keeping on top of them, you can ensure uninterrupted success as your business transitions into this new decade.
Past SEO Standards and Updates
Search Engine Optimization is the process by which you make your website and your content more appealing to Search Engines. Search Engine platforms such as Google and Bing utilize algorithms to comb through data, categorize it, and determine its relevance to a search. These algorithms operate through a critical lens that analyses and evaluates content based on a variety of factors. In the past, these algorithms have prioritized image use, desktop-prioritization, content relevance, and content freshness. While the majority of these evaluation factors are still in play, they are no longer the number one priority. Instead, these algorithms have evolved to keep up with the changing demands and bottom lines of both technology and software. New standards have been set, and some existing standards update as 2020 paves the way for increased mobile dependency and the evolution of smart home technology.
No, I’m not talking about Bert from Sesame Street. BERT is Google’s newest search engine algorithm. Launching in Q3 of 2019, BERT is the globally dominating the search engine game. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. The good news is that you don’t need to understand what all of that means from a technical standpoint, but you do need to understand what it means from a practical standpoint. BERT has redefined how Google analyzes Search Results, which means that it has also redefined how you need to be optimizing your content. BERT’s primary “new” function is to better understand the context of a particular word within a search. This helps Google better process vague, open-ended searches, as well as words that have several meanings. This also helps Google better adapt to the cultural zeitgeist. Another important change that comes with BERT is the importance of snippets, which we will address in detail a little bit further on in this article.
Optimized Content/ Catering to Google
BERT may bring some unique changes of its own, but that doesn’t mean that it invalidates changes brought about by previous Google algorithms or SEO standards. SEO does not function as a replacement part for outdated algorithms and standards, but these updates build off of each other as Google consistently works to improve and enhance the search process. The changes that BERT brings should be used in conjunction with past changes you have made to your website in the name of optimization. This means that if you have kept your website up to date in the past, you have given yourself a tremendous head start in catering to the changes Google brings about with BERT. Remember that Google is equally as important as your intended customers in terms of website design, and you need to cater to their standards if you hope to attract internet users.
What does it mean to create authoritative content? Does it mean that your content is loud and in charge? Does it mean that you are a self-proclaimed expert of everything you author on your website? Yes, but not quite. Authoritative content is content that can be verified or and, even better, recognized by other reputable sources. Authoritative content is something that your business is a recognized expert in. Both Google and Users like this type of content. Why? Because it makes their jobs and their searches much easier. The odds are that if other sources are quoting or recommending a piece of content, that that content is already up to both the user’s and the Search Engine’s factual standards. In 2020, Google and BERT are prioritizing authoritative content, because authoritative content is what people are looking for. One of the best things you can do for your website is to have your content referenced or linked to by outside sources. You can also take advantage of this from the other end and link to outside sources in your own content, helping create a double-verification process for the authoritative nature of your content.
Authoritative Content and Quality Content go hand in hand. Ideally, the quality of content lends credence to its authoritativeness and vice Versa. Quality content, however, doesn’t just mean that your works are verifiable. Quality content means that your works are authoritative, but that they are also unique, interesting, and capable of tapping directly into what your audience is looking for. Quality content is unique, has a recognizable voice, and is saying what other websites are not capable of. In order to create quality content, you must find your voice as a content creator. What topics are you knowledgeable in? What topics does your audience want to hear more about? You need to determine the answer to these questions because that is what will help focus your content and differentiate it from every other content creator out there.
The Desktop version of your website is not a thing of the past. However, it is no longer deserving of being your top priority. Mobile Devices are far more numerous and far more accessible than desktop devices, and search engine traffic done through these mobile devices dwarfs desktop traffic. As visual and voice search continues to rise to the forefront, this prioritization is only here to stay. You need to make sure that your website not only runs smoothly on a mobile website platform but that your website also appeals visually on a mobile screen. Odds are that a customer’s first impression of your website will be in this format, so make sure that it is a good one.
As mobile devices continue to become more accessible and to improve technologically, the number of search options will continue to grow. While visual search is not a new tool by any means, it is one that has drastically grown and expanded within the past few years. Smartphones have placed a high-quality camera in everyone’s pocket and expanded the potential of visual search greatly. Users now have instant access to taking a picture and using it as their search. Advanced algorithms can now determine the contents of a photo and relevant similarities within seconds. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and Visual Searches are quickly rising to that standard. As Google pushes for more understanding of an image through its algorithms, Visual Searches will quickly become a faster and more reliable means of finding out information. Make sure that your website is utilizing relevant visuals that can correlate with the content you have to offer.
Video is Only Becoming Bigger
The visual side of SEO has previously been something that is more difficult for algorithms to evaluate. However, as those algorithms become more and more advanced, they can decipher and evaluate visual content with greater efficiency. They have always been able to categorize it to a certain degree, but algorithms such as BERT are helping push that envelope even further. If you are not actively created video content for your website, you are losing out. The fact of the matter is that content preferences are rapidly shifting to video, especially in the world of social media. While it is true that most people view these videos with the sound off, it is equally true that many users prefer to read the information within a video rather than to simply read the information in a chain of text. This doesn’t mean that all of your content needs to be created as a video, there is still plenty of room in the marketplace for text, but that you should be utilizing it just like you’d utilize any other tool at your disposal.
In addition to image search options, voice search is quickly becoming a frontrunner in the world of search engine usage. Voice search is not only faster for most users, but is more accessible, especially when on the go or in a vehicle. However, voice search has not always been the most reliable function of a smartphone. That is quickly changing though, as Google and Amazon alone have invested millions into furthering voice search software and hardware.
This is where BERT comes heavily into play, as Google attempts to adapt its algorithms to the mannerisms and context of each individual’s speech patterns. BERT is designed to better understand you. This extends to vocabulary, word choice, and even dialect. As voice search continues to become an even more reliable search method, you need to be ready to be able to adapt your content to the restraints and often specificity of a voice search.
Linking is a surefire way to ensure that your SEO game is performing at its best. Links not only help establish your website and content as authoritative, but there is also a great way for you to ensure that customers who visit a page on your website are enticed to visit other pages and to stay on your website. Proper linking is done by peppering both internal and external links throughout your content. Take care not to overload the user, but don’t be afraid of keeping a link or two visible at all times within your written content.
Snippets on the Rise
Snippets are a great way to cut to the front of the search queue. If you’ve done a Google search lately, you’ve probably noticed a featured snippet listed above the ranked links. These snippets are short (about 50 words max) blocks of text that highlights the core of what your content is about. Snippets entice users and search engines alike by directly providing them with the specifics of what your content is about, and best of all, you typically get to craft or pull your snippet yourself. This means that you can influence the first sight of your website that a user sees.
If you aren’t creating your snippets carefully and purposefully, you are losing out on free traffic. It’s that simple. In 2020, Google is moving snippets up the ladder and giving them more of a focus, because that’s what the users want to see. Make sure you are writing snippets that pop and that gets straight to the heart of what your content is about.
Make sure that your brand is consistent. Users and Search Engines alike want to see websites that feel unified and created with a singular purpose. Remember that everything you make available to the public via your website reflects your brand. You want to make sure that people associate your brand with quality. This impacts both your search engine traffic and the number of visitors that become satisfied customers. Branding is just as important as every other step you take during Search Engine Optimization.
2020 is a transformative year in the world of Search Engine Optimization. It is a year that features an increased emphasis on new technology, and one that diversifies the available and reliable methods of searching. With BERT behind the wheel as Google’s lasted Search Engine Algorithm, you need to be prepared to adapt your website and your SEO process to fit the needs of algorithms and users alike. These new changes and updates don’t have to be frightening, but you need to be ready to adapt so that they don’t become overwhelming.