The introduction of machine learning and AI have been an extra force in the continual evolution of marketing. Of course, this is nothing new for those who have been trying to keep up with SEO. As Google continues its mission to provide the best service possible for users, it measures and values web pages in different ways. In the early days, flooding a page with keywords was the best strategy. Now, we’re in very different times.
In this guide, we want to put an end to the confusion of Google’s ranking and list five SEO best practices for businesses. Whether you’re an old business trying to make it in this new world, or a new business trying to make an impact against more experienced competitors, these tips will ensure that your SEO strategy is effective in 2020.
When it comes to what we need to do to get onto the coveted first page, businesses often make it more difficult than it needs to be. This brings us to the topic of E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness with regards to content. Back in 2018, everybody was talking about E-A-T and it was the worst kept secret for SEO success. In 2019, however, everything changed.
All over social media and blogs, we’ve seen companies question whether E-A-T is still important. Let us answer this question for you—yes, building authority with content will ALWAYS be important.
Even if you think your niche is ‘boring’ or ‘dull,’ we believe that every business has an opportunity to build authority through content. Regardless of industry, your customers have questions and love valuable information. The more authoritative content you produce, the better your reputation will become in your industry. Customers get their answers (which could lead to sales), you come across as a knowledgeable market leader, and others start to link back to your well-crafted content.
In 2020, you should create content that demonstrates your expertise, creates authority on the topic, and builds trust with your audience. Soon, everyone will look to you for industry news, reviews and other valuable content.
Cater to Your Audience - In terms of SEO best practices, the best advice we can provide is base your content around those who consume it. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a business with potential create content that its audience doesn’t need or want. Take advantage of the various platforms and media types available. Creating long-form content is a great option, especially podcasts that people can listen to while on the way to work, sitting in the dentist office or cleaning the home.
One of the best ways to rank on search engines is to tell them exactly what the page contains. Why wait for the search engines to guess when you can inform them yourself? With a title tag, you can tell Google what the page contains and and is optimized for in terms of keywords.
Common Mistake - Many businesses optimize the whole website for a keyword, but this is a mistake. In fact, it’s called ‘keyword cannibalism’—a term that describes when several pages all point towards one keyword. In essence, what you’re doing is setting these pages to compete against one another. Instead, make sure every page on your website has a unique keyword and a unique title tag.
When writing a title tag, use the following formula:
Use a simple dash between keyword phrases, and then finish with a pipe (vertical dash) before the name of your brand. Wherever possible, avoid duplicating title tags. With all pages working towards a similar (but not identical) goal, your website will have an opportunity to truly shine.
When building authority, long-form content is often forgotten. Some say, ‘People are too busy and don’t have time to consume long-form content’—this is only partly true. Busier lives and more competition does not render this content useless.
As noted earlier, we need to be smarter with content. While some topics will only require a 500-word article, others might need 4,000 words, or a 30-minute podcast. Rather than worrying about the length of content, your focus should be on answering the consumer’s question or solving their pain point.
According to a recent study from Backlinko which compared the link rate between long-form and short-form content, the former got around 77% more. If you can get high-quality, authoritative long-form content on the website, organic search results will improve.
We also need to remember that Google and other search engines can read search intent better than ever before. Fortunately, content with more words has more potential when it comes to search intent and targeting relevant queries. However, when done right, you can condense a 4,000-word article into a 1,000-word article without losing any value.
You likely have internal links, which takes users to another page within the same website. For example, you might have a home page or contact link on every page to make navigation easier for visitors. But internal linking isn’t just about helping navigation and the user experience; it strengthens keywords for each page too. What’s more, internal links inform search engines that a certain page is relevant for a specific keyword while making navigation easier for the search engine robots.
For SEO purposes, we recommend including internal links in your content. To succeed with this strategy, your anchor text will prove pivotal. Please don’t be tempted to add links with the anchor text as ‘click here’; for example, ‘click here to learn more about our products.’ Instead, use a keyword phrase as anchor text. If you’re marketing lawnmowers, make sure the anchor text directs readers to your products with the following:
With the link attached to ‘cordless lawn mowers’, visitors still know what they’re clicking for without having to add a ‘click here for…’ anchor text.
We couldn’t finish this guide without including meta descriptions. We know that meta descriptions aren’t going to help a business rank first on the SERP; but once on the early pages, they will encourage people to click through…and this will impact SEO.
Keywords certainly play a role in meta descriptions, but they’re not the ultimate factor. It’s more important to have compelling, interesting and accurate meta descriptions than to fit some keywords in and have them not make sense. With a meta description, the reader should see the description and feel compelled to click through. They should see it and say, ‘this is exactly what I need and have been looking for.’
If you’re going to improve meta descriptions, keep them between 150 and 160 characters. Just like title tags, don’t give every page offering the same meta description; it will only take moments to make descriptions slightly different than one another, so there’s no need to copy and paste for each page. Finally, Google will remove any non-alpha characters or quotes so steer clear of those.
You now have five SEO best practices to optimize your marketing strategy in 2020. Build authority with your content (remember E-A-T), fill in your title tags, consider long content, use internal page links and create compelling meta descriptions.
In terms of long-form content, remember that it doesn’t always have to revolve around articles. With videos, podcasts and other similar content, you can get special guests, industry experts and discuss industry-relevant topics. You’ll find success with SEO as soon as you start to generate clickable content (and content that people want to link back to). Get these five in order and you’ll boost SEO in no time.
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