What is SEO in 2020?
SEO (search engine optimization) is a process that is very much like shooting at a moving target. Every year it is a slightly different process because Google makes changes to the algorithm in order to provide better and more relative results when people search for a word or phrase. Over the past few years there has been a dramatic change in the way SEO must be done in order to gain good positions on search engines due to a few changes in the way Google approaches things. As society has changed, Google has adapted to these changes in order to remain a source of information, the most important societal changes being a shift to a majority of searchers using a cell phone over a desktop computer, and the different ways that people search because of cell phone use. Cell phones are able to be tracked for movement, and Google is now able to filter localized results based on the ongoing location of your device when you search, as opposed to the static location of a desktop in the past. Google can now use their results to feed locations that are closest to your device in real time. This change has also lead to people searching using voice commands instead of typing, and this change has also changed the way people use the search bar. As results became more personalized based on locations and previous search history, Google began to notice that people now ask questions instead of simply searching for something specific. This change has modified the way SEO must be done, as Google is now presenting results that answer questions as opposed to simply using keywords.
Keywords vs Intent
In the past, SEO meant identifying keywords that are important to searchers and manipulating code and content in order to push up results for that keyword. We concentrated on using that keyword within the content, or variations of that keyword. We made sure that links coming back to that content had that keyword or a variation of it as the hotlink. We worried about how many times we used exact keyword matches, and tried to create percentages of use in the links coming into a website. Today, these types of tactics no longer work to provide the high results that end up with people clicking through. Instead, Google scans your web pages looking for how well a question can be answered based on the user’s perceived intent. This means that in order to maintain a ranking page for a “word” that a potential customer would probably use to find you, the SEO tactics that work in 2020 are to answer the questions that a user would have about that subject, which also probably uses that word or a variation of it. This means that keyword targeting has not been completely abandoned, but instead has shifted to being more of a dialog between potential customers and the business. “Intent” attempts to predict what the searcher is seeking, even if they are not asking a question specifically. The website that answers that “intended question” best gets the highest rankings. Links and keywords are still part of the equation, just not in the very targeted way they once were. Today, the content you create should be thought of as a question and answer period in a group meeting. People are asking specific questions and you are providing specific answers. This process creates the high positions that result in clickthroughs for the subjects that you discuss on your site.
Content Is Still King
The way to convey answers to questions is content, and has always been content. You need to write content into your web pages that answer the questions your customers are asking, but this is not the only way to provide answers in 2020. Any medium that can effectively provide quick and easy answers to customer questions is valid in Google’s eyes, so we see the rise of infographics and video as a way of communicating. Google looks at these forms of communication as equal, and potentially superior, for the means of conveying answers that customers will appreciate. Content in all forms is critical to rankings and SEO in 2020, so experiment with the ways that your customers prefer to be spoken to.