Search engine optimization (SEO) is constantly changing. Do you want to improve your rankings in organic search results in 2020? Now is the best time to define a valuable SEO strategy. How do you optimize your website for Google & Co? And what trends can you anticipate?
SEO review of the year 2019
To better understand 2020's SEO trends, it is worth looking back at the changes in 2019. So you can see the trends and ambitions of the search engine giants. And my goodness! 2019 was a turbulent year for us search engine optimisers.
Tip: Take a lot at SEO Guide 2019 on our blog, with tips on GoogleRankBrain, Mobile Firstand Voice Search.
Changes to the search algorithm
Google makes adjustments to its search algorithm every year. The difference to previous years: The number of SEO updates or changes is constantly increasing. At this point, many thanks to Peter J. Meyers, who has researched the following figures for Google:
- 2018: 3234 optimizations
- 2017: 2453 Changes
- 2016: 1653 optimizations
- 2013: 890 optimizations
- 2009: 350-400 changes
Most interesting is this statement for the year 2018:
"In 2018 alone, we made more than 3234 optimisations to Google search. These range from innovations such as the knowledge graph until our ranking algorithms are updated. This is how we ensure that we continue to deliver relevant and reliable content."
While the high number of changes speaks for rather small optimisations, this year there were also the much noticed big updates. Here is an overview before I come to the trends for 2020.
Confirmed Google algorithm updates for the year 2019
The Google Core March Update (12 March 2019): Also known as Florida 2 Update. It is all about comprehensive adjustments to the core algorithm. Such updates are usually about the quality of the search results in general. There are - at least according to Google's statement - no concrete recommendations to optimise your web pages for the update.
The Google Core June Update (04 June 2019) saw a similar update of the core algorithm. The Twitter Channel SearchLiaison from Google will tell you when major changes go live:
Google Domain Diversity Update (June 07, 2019): Here the search results were adjusted if a domain with several URLs dominates a search query. This update is intended to prevent a web page from being ranked more than once for the same search term. The Google update on reducing adult content (July 16, 2019) favors adult content. In other words: If there is an adult interpretation of a search query, Google prefers it.
On September 18, 2019, the presentation of experience reports and valuations was adjusted: Companies that Structured data for ratings (so-called Google stars in the serp's) are no longer considered by the algorithm.
The Google BERT update of 19 October 2019 is a topic of much discussion, affecting 10 percent of all Google searches worldwide. BERT stands for "Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers" and is intended to improve the text comprehension of search queries in natural language (Natural language processing / NLP). With this, the search giant wants to improve the quality of its search results raise again. Some more tips on this later.
Announcements, product updates & WordPress
Google introduces new link attributes
The announcement on September 10, 2019 had it all: Google declared that Nofollow attribute in the future to be treated differently. The company provides you with concrete solutions on how to deal with advertising links (sponsored links) and user-generated content.
The changes are designed to help you better differentiate the purpose and origin of a link - to better understand the relationship between your content and that of other websites. More information on this will follow later.
Update of the Search Console
Already in 2018 Google announcedthat the Search Console (formerly: Webmaster Tools) will get a completely new interface. On September 09, 2019, the time had finally come: the old Search Console was replaced by the new interface.
Little by little it also received new updates and functions. This includes information that the old Search Console did not deliver. For example, the Search Console now informs about too long charging times:
There is also new information about the click rates of videos as well as numerous other updates. Basically, we are now getting a whole lot of insight into how Google understands our website from a technical perspective. Google would not undertake all these things if the technical optimisations could be neglected.
Updates for Pagespeed, Lighthouse, TestMySiteWithGoogle
Webmasters have known for years that loading time plays an important role in user experience and SEO. First Mobile First Indexations And since the charging time can vary due to network availability or network speed, it makes sense to reduce it.
In addition to the Search Console, Google has updated and launched several products to help you optimise your website:
- PageSpeed Insights
- Test my Site with Google
- Lighthouse (also included in the developer tools of Chrome)
Google's entry into the Plugindirectory of WordPress
Google has released several plugins for WordPress this year. So the Open Source CMS certainly carries weight for Google. For example, the Google Site Kit to the market. It displays important data on Analytics, the Search Console and PageSpeed. At WordPress.org there is the suitable WordPress plugin.
Or that native lazyload Plugin. Although there are already some WordPress plugins out there supporting the Lazy Load. But the extension again shows the ambitions of the search engine giant to improve load times for WordPress & Co. to further reduce the number of employees.
More tools from Google for SEO 2020
In addition to these tools, there were a number of other announcements in 2019:
- A clarification, which Rules in the robots.txt will still be supported in 2019 and which will not.
- The start of Google Jobs in Germany in May 2019.
- The new FAQ & HowTo Feature using structured data in the search results.
These were not even all announcements. Many details were only included in the Webmaster Hangouts or on Twitter mentioned. It is therefore worthwhile for you to subscribe to these channels. But one thing is certain: SEOs had a lot to learn this year.
From the announcements and algorithm updates of the last two years you can derive the following recommendations for your SEO 2020:
User experience always has priority!
Even in 2020 the most important imperative remains to meet the interests of your visitors. With every additional year the border between User experience and search engine optimisation. Sometimes it seems not unlikely that signals such as dwell time will replace proven signals from SEO (for example backlinks).
But as a website operator you also benefit from many other positive effects of user experience, such as higher sales or faster loading times. But this also means that you have to concentrate on the essentials:
- Only invest in content that meets the search intention of your visitors. See the contribution of Jan Tisslerthe Content strategy.
- Forget complicated Funnels.
- Avoid uncommon hacks to get stars in the search results or to create content that is not interesting for your customers or users. This did not work in the past and will be even worse in the coming years. Precisely because search engines are becoming better and better at understanding content and its relationships.
- Avoid duplicate content or unnecessary intermediate pages. Guide your users to their destination as quickly as possible.
Form a brand or authority
Do you remember the Medi Update from the year 2018? In August 2018 there was a major Google Core Update that mainly affected the healthcare industry. Hence the name.
As it turned out only later, this update was not aimed at the industry at all. Instead, the truth content and the authority of a content have been re-weighted. These contents were classified according to the so-called Search raters quality guidelines (PDF). A number of people evaluate the quality of a website according to appropriate guidelines. The collected data is then used to adapt the algorithm.
Of particular value are the 2 sections on YMYL (Your Money your Life) and EAT (expertise - authority - trust). This means publishing content on websites that can have negative impact on a person's life. For example because of false information about medicine & diseases, finances or law.
False information is against the interest of the user. They only provide an advantage to the site operator. But there are also other backgrounds. Companies are looking for ways to mitigate the damage caused by fake news. Among other things, this resulted from the scandal of Facebook Cambridge Analytica. This makes it all the more important to establish an authority or brand. In other words, to create websites whose information content can be trusted. Google's CEO Eric Schmidt has already 2008 confirmed:
"Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.
As a company that writes about sensitive topics, you can, for example, look for the following optimisation possibilities:
- Work with source references in your content.
- Use Microdata and author boxes to clarify who wrote the content.
- Publish information about what qualifies you to write about the topic.
- Build up an authority on the subject in your niche. For example through guest contributions, link building on topic-relevant sites or industry catalogues.
Also the traffic of a customer of mine collapsed after the update in August 2018. However, following the tips in the Quality Rater Guidelines has helped to restore the original traffic:
I recommend that anyone involved in SEO 2020 read the Raters Quality Guidelines thoroughly!
Technical optimization is more important than ever
When we look back at all the product updates of the last two years, we should ask ourselves why Google gives us all these tools. Certainly not without reason.
Technical search engine optimisation means among other things: Make it clear to search engines which contents of your website are really relevant. Those methods that worked very well in 2019 will remain valid in 2020. Such as the internal linking and pillar content. Use tools like the Search Console to find and fix 404 errors on your website. This prevents unnecessary forwarding. Also test whether the structured data of your website correctly programmed are:
In short: Do not neglect the technical structure of your website. Content may be king. But if every operator only creates high quality content, then it becomes more and more difficult for search engines to choose the best content between all the variations. The influence of other ranking factors (loading time, internal links, relevance, backlinks) thus again plays a decisive role in contested niches.
Search engines have an interest in crawling only the relevant information of a website. Make clear which Urls serve which purpose and how they may be indexed.
Tip: How to subject your website to a technical check, I show you in my detailed tutorial for the SEO audit. Including numerous recommendations for improving your sites .
When we look back at the product updates of the last two years, it is striking: The majority of the changes serve the performance optimization. It is no coincidence that so much effort was put into the speed after the announcement of the "Mobile First Index". Mobile devices have already left the desktop search behind. This trend will continue to grow in the coming years. With Google lighthouse you can check the mobile speed of your websites:
Webmasters should deal with the fast delivery of their web pages and create a appropriate web hosting select. With this and the correct measures the loading times of your projects can be improved enormously.
Better understanding of content and content
In 2019, search engines have also made efforts to better understand content and relationships. Most core updates in 2019 were aimed at text comprehension. Or to the improvement of user experience.
The view, like Google nofollow links will change from March 2020. While it has been common practice in the affiliate industry up to now to declare all outgoing advertising links as "nofollow", Google is for the first time interested in understanding the context behind ad-financed links. Or what content a site user has created. To this end, Google is introducing two new Link attributes on the way.
In addition, updates such as "BERT" aim to further improve text comprehension. Unfortunately, there is hardly any possibility of technical optimisation for website operators. We can only optimise our content naturally. In other words, writing texts that are of high quality and primarily offer meaning and added value for the user. As is the case with tutorials like this one. On the blog of Moz there is a very good Article about BERTincluding video.
Tip: Do you want to find out which content is interesting for your visitors? Then I recommend a keyword search. I explain them to you Step by step.
Structured data is becoming increasingly important
Structured data or schema markup has been a major topic in recent years. Also in 2019, new possibilities were offered to make your own website more attractive in the search results. Sometimes you are even rewarded with better rankings.
Stuctured data will also gain in importance in 2020. Every website operator should find out whether there is a data format for his industry that he can use to his advantage. For example, local companies can use the LocalBusiness Markup launch.
A decision tree from Rand Fishkin helps you decide whether Structured Data gives you an advantage. You can read it in the post Optimising for and against Google on searchengineland.com.
Position 0 by FAQ & HowTo boxes
A complicated issue are the new FAQ boxes, which answer search queries already in the search results. And which thus more and more often end in so-called zero(0) click results. By the way, these now almost make the Half of all search operations out.
On the other hand, with the new function you have the chance to be mentioned in particularly attractive positions. Here is an example:
This new feature is problematic because it makes Google a direct competitor in the search results for the first time. I love FAQ boxes, but as a website owner you have to ask yourself seriously:
- What information do you give to the search engine?
- Do you want to give this chance to your competitors?
- How important is the click for this search query for your website? Or what is the chance that the FAQ box will end in a click?
- Is it possible to write content in such a way that there is no chance but clicking?
Rand Fishkin said about this at SMX East:
The prisoner's dilemma is: Do I optimise for zero-click searches, for providing these answers, for marking my results the way Google wants them - and potentially losing traffic as a result?
He presents the following decision tree as a possible solution:
Comeback of meta optimisation
And this leads us to an optimisation opportunity that is often neglected: Meta titles and meta descriptions! And yes, meta descriptions are no longer active ranking factors. But the click rate (CTR) in the serp's has a passive positive effect on the search engine optimisation of yourssite .
The difference to 2019: With the ever-increasing trend of 0-click interactions and the amount of information in FAQ boxes, you have to stand out more and more to get a click in the search results.
Do not rely on the automatic generation of meta information. Use a WordPress SEO plugin to make sure that your most important URLs have an appealing, attractive meta description. It has to be written in an interesting way, so that it stands out from FAQ's and better positioning if necessary.
These were my thoughts about the upcoming SEO trends in 2020. What is your best guess? Do you have questions about the SEO strategy in 2020? Which methods worked particularly well for you in 2019? I am looking forward to a lively exchange in the comments!
Picture: Vince Fleming