Ranking as number one in Google in 2020 and beyond is important for many companies and individuals building a business online. Here are some tips.
There is one question that continues to baffle every SEO guy for years. That’s achieving number one position in Google search. It’s somewhat of a mystery especially due to the numerous factors that decide the fate of a search result.
I have seen organizations pouring tones of money into search engine optimization and digital campaigns hoping to see their results at the top of the search.
One thing that many people forget is the value of search terms. For instance, is it worth it to get your insurance company at the top of search results for the term “insurance”? Or is it profitable if you ranked for some other specific term such as “cheap car insurance in New York state”? You may see many more people bidding on the latter; also, the latter tends to be far costlier. The reason is the latter shows intent and can bring business.
Two reasons for ranking for specific, long search queries:
- You are targeting the right audience with such searches. The visitors of your website are already looking for your services.
- Most of your competition is still trying to rank for the generic terms, and they are competing hard against the likes of Wikipedia for that. Ranking of generic terms is harder than ever.
Your search ranking goal in 2020 should be to rank your website and well-designed landing pages for the search queries that your potential customers are searching for. Let’s see some of the ways to achieve this.
Study reveals that around 3.01 billion people are internet users in the world. Global internet penetration is around 42% and is slated to grow steadily.
So, people are consuming content every second. And the content is reaching them through various means—websites, blogs, videos, podcasts, brochures, flyers, whitepapers, case studies, podcasts, etc.
The channels for these are also very diverse: WordPress, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, the list is just endless.
Your success with your brand depends on how well you target each channel with your content. And how all your content tie well together to a single message that you are going to market with.
Steps involved in your content marketing strategy:
- Research your target audience and build their buyer persona
- Develop your message for this audience
- Develop various pieces of content specific to each channel
- Measure the reach and optimize
While developing a strategy, think about the most effective channels among those listed above. You may find some of your target audience in certain channels. For instance, the millennials are flocking Facebook while the Gen-Z, the people in their early 20s, are attached to Instagram.
Research each channel carefully and identify which channels cater to maximum of your audience. Your content should be built around these channels.
While working for an IT company as the global marketing manager, I have identified LinkedIn and Twitter as the better channels for engagement than Facebook and Instagram. These channels are more widely used by my target audience, and it made sense to invest in them.
How does content marketing help you come to the top of search results? Social media is one of the key aspects of SEO. The more likes and shares your content receives, the better it ranks on search as well.
Since the early 2000s, one thing you kept hearing is the value of links in bringing search ranking. Google’s search algorithm depends on links to rank your web pages. It’s still the primary ranking factor. But there are a lot of other aspects attached to it.
Links no longer add value unless they are relevant.
For instance, when we are talking about link building, you can have a link to the Wikipedia page about “link building” within that sentence. That would be relevant and value-adding. On the other hand, if you place a link to a shady SEO services company that builds links en masse for you, then that would be regarded as illogical and unworthy. Why? Because your reader usually clicks that link to learn what is link building not to get to some sales page that gives such a service.
Similarly, awkwardly placed keyword links do not add value.
How do you build relevant backlinks? Well, again we go back to content marketing. You have to develop great content and publish it on your website. Links will naturally come. Secondly, create great content and approach leading online publishers to publish your content for free.
I have approached many online publishers over time to publish content on behalf of my company. And all of these engagements have built backlinks and online reputation for them. So, it’s something you can also try to build better backlinks and reach a greater audience.
Also, massive link building will only get you into trouble with search engines. Do not do that.
What is a brand?
It’s a mark, name, design, or symbol that differentiates you.
Brand’s reach and credibility depends on a lot of aspects—the quality of your products and services, a brand story, the brand colors, the way it resonates to your audience, the people it associates with, etc.
Personal branding is also extremely important. Some key examples of personal branding are Richard Branson, Jeff Weiner, Tony Robbins, Neil Patel, etc.
Use the available media wisely to personally brand yourself and reach a wide audience.
How to do this effectively?
Firstly, find what you are good at and understand how you can turn it into a living. Identify all the social channels through which you can make an impact in the area of your interest. For instance, if you are building a personal brand over fitness, your best bet may be YouTube videos.
Next, as I mentioned in the first step, create content that is both useful and enriching to your audience. It takes time and effort and an insane amount of patience.
Once you have a genuine social media audience, it can help you rank your website to number one position in Google in no time.
Speed is the name of the game in 2020 and beyond. Without a high-speed website that launches in less than 3 seconds, you cannot hope for that first position. Especially in the case of advertising online, a high-speed website is extremely important. Check your website’s speed online through Pingdom or GTMetrix. Check out ZoomOwl’s speed data below.
One thing to note is that unless you use a content delivery network (CDN), your website’s speed from a location further away from your server’s will always be lower than ideal.
For instance, my server is located in New Jersey. When I test the speed from New York or Washington, the speed is optimal, but when the test is conducted from a farther location such as Zurich or San Francisco, the speed is lower.
With Amazon Echo and Google Home filling homes worldwide, voice search has become extremely important today. Simple conversational queries are being used to search on Google. And this is something we foresaw with the Hummingbird algorithm update.
Today, over 72% of voice-activated speaker owners use it as part of their daily routine, so says Google.
Don’t you see queries being answered as part of Google search? Google introduced the “People Also Ask” snippet which came up in 2016. This snippet is answering queries that people may have around a search term from within Google Search itself.
The content for this snippet is derived from several websites which actually answer queries that people may have.
This is extremely important; going forward, if your content is not conversational enough, it becomes difficult for you to get into snippets like these.
Most experts agree that ranking on featured snippets such as these is more effective in driving traffic to your pages than ranking at the number one position. Search queries containing words such as recipe, best, vs., make, definition, etc., have a better chance of being ranked on featured snippets.
Going forward, answer more and more questions and seek ways to be featured by Google.
For years now, Google has relied on structured rich snippets to unearth valuable information from web pages. It’s high time you have started using such snippets on your pages. You can test and optimize structured data on your website with the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.
What are structured data?
Structured data contains code in a specific format so that search engines can read it better. For instance, if your website contains recipes, you can add a rating to each recipe and let Google know what the rating is out of 5 or 10. Google can pick up these ratings and show them as part of search results.
The result may be enhanced by additional data too—such as the time taken to finish cooking a recipe, the calorific value of it, etc.
Such data is valuable to the searcher and will help you rank better on Google in 2020.
When you enrich your pages with images, you increase your chances of showing up on image search of Google. Also, it has been found that image-rich search results have improved click-through rate for Google search positions 3 – 10.
Image optimization is also important for SEO. For the most part, you should have all the HTML attributes for the image in place—ALT, title, description, etc. These attributes will help search engines index and categorize images more accurately.
Now, about video: It has been found that web visitors are 64% more likely to purchase a product after watching a video. Videos are powerful, hence, to rank your web pages. Not only on regular Google search, but on Google video search as well.
In order to rank well, host your original videos on YouTube and embed them on your relevant web pages. Provide captions and transcripts for your videos. Give a detailed description and tags.
Third most important multimedia element for ranking well is an audio podcast. How do you create audio podcasts for your website? It’s very easy with services such as Castos.
More important than most, it’s worth your time and effort to fix your overall website structure, links, content, etc. You may have a lot of old content that is still pulling audience. But do you know how deteriorating the user experience may be when people see old content?
It’s found that as the website ages, the classic content draws fewer audience and causes higher bounce rate for the overall domain. It’s important for you to fix this issue by updating the content on a periodical basis.
You may be wondering how you can do it on a website that has thousands of pages. Well, this is where analytics comes handy. Open up Google Analytics and find out the most visited pages from your website. Open these pages and check them for broken links, old content, and any user experience issues. Fix them, and you are good to go.
If you do this especially on the pages which get maximum time from visitors, it will be worth the effort. Go to Google Analytics and open up the report under Behavior->Site Content->All Pages.
Sort the report based on page views as shown below.
You will see the most viewed pages on your website. Use this information to understand how your website is perceived by the external world. If any of your pages are well visited, that page will have an impact on your brand perception.
To pick up from the point 1 above, you need to know what long and deep content is. As mentioned above in the rich snippets point, Google is already turning into a content creator, not a curator. Which means, Google will create content and put it at the top of search results. All these content creation activities are done automatically too.
So, for instance, if your website gives shallow answers such as top 10 movies of 2019 or the date of birth of the US president, then you are about to be wiped off the face of SERPs by Google itself.
Google itself gives the answer right there on the search result page, so nobody would be interested to click through to even the first search result.
After the advent of rich content within Google search, websites providing shallow content have seen massive drop in organic traffic.
So, then how can you maintain your ranking and traffic? There is only one way. You need to create complex and long-form content with in-depth answers to questions from people. Forget about ranking for simple and easy keywords and straightforward questions. The era of such ranking has long gone.
Since 2018, Google has been extremely serious about the mobile-first designs strategy. Jon Wiley, Google’s search lead for user experience, tweeted the above in 2018.
We can see that most of the search results have snippets already designed for mobile platforms such as iOS and Android and later adapted for the desktop version.
For instance, check out the desktop search result for the “best songs of 2019” below.
The search snippet is not as intuitive and well designed (with those left & right arrows and horizontal scrolling). That’s because it was originally designed for the mobile platform and then adapted to desktop. To compare, check out the mobile search result below, which is far more intuitive.
It’s very important that you embrace the mobile-first design and optimize your content to show up fast on all smartphone platforms.
So, those were the most important recommendations for successful maintenance of the number one position in Google in 2020 and beyond. As opposed to some of the suggestions for the last few years, the content creators have to become experts and develop more enriching content in 2020 and beyond.