This is the ultimate guide to search engine optimization in 2020.
And let me be clear about something:
This is NOT your average “SEO in 2020” predictions post.
Yes, I’ll cover the most important SEO trends this year.
But you’re also going to see new strategies that are working great right now.
So if you’re looking to improve your SEO next year, you’ll love this new guide.
Don’t have time to read the whole guide right now?
No worries. Let me send you a copy so you can read it when it’s convenient for you. Just let me know where to send it (takes 5 seconds):
Chapter 1:Domain Authority 2.0
Domain Authority used to be all about links.
Today, Google also evaluates your site based on Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
Also known as E-A-T.
In many ways, E-A-T is Domain Authority 2.0.
And in this chapter I’ll cover everything you need to know about this important SEO trend.
Last year’s Google Quality Rater Guidelines REALLY focused on E-A-T.
To be clear:
E-A-T has been a part of the guidelines for years.
But E-A-T seems to be a more important ranking factor than before.
For example, Google’s new “How Search Works” report mentions that they want to rank “reliable sources”.
They even cite E-A-T as a key ranking signal:
Here’s how to bump up your site’s E-A-T.
Be An Expert (Or Hire One)
If you hire random freelancers to write your content, you’re in trouble.
That’s because Google wants to feature content that’s written by legit experts in their field.
They even go as far to say that medical content needs to be written by health care professionals.
This is a tough thing to fake.
In fact, Google might be using a new form of Google Authorship to figure out who’s behind a piece of content… and whether or not they’re experts in that space.
So if you want your content to rank in 2020, it needs to be written by people that know their stuff.
(Especially in the health niche)
Google probably focuses on off-site signals to figure out your site’s E-A-T.
The rater guidelines spend a lot of time on evaluating the site itself.
For example, the guidelines point out that:
This means having:
- Thorough about page
- Easy to find contact page
- References and external links to sources
- Author bylines on every article
Most of Google’s evaluation of E-A-T happens off of your website.
Which makes sense.
Any random person can claim to be an expert.
But getting other websites to agree with you?
That’s a totally different story.
In fact, Google’s guidelines state that:
Besides creating an awesome site, how do you get other people to mention you and your site as a go-to resource?
First, you need to be cited on lots of other trusted websites.
These don’t even have to be linked mentions.
Something like this can help Google see you as an expert on a given topic:
Second, your site as a whole needs to be associated with a specific topic.
Again, this comes down to off-site mentions. Specifically, mentions from other authorities in your field.
For example, getting listed as the #1 SEO blog by Ahrefs probably boosted Backlinko’s reputation in Google’s eyes.
Chapter 2:The Rise of Visual Search
Is Visual Search an SEO game changer?
But based on how things are trending, visual search is poised to take off in 2020.
Here’s what you need to know.
Visual Search is Taking Off
More people are conducting more visual searches than ever before.
Just take a look at these stats:
Google Lens has already been used 1 billion times (source).
Pinterest gets 600 million visual searches per month (source).
36% of American consumers have already used visual search (source).
Visual Search Technology is Insanely Good
Visual search is still in its infancy.
And it already works REALLY well.
Don’t believe me?
Whip open Google Lens on your mobile device and start scanning stuff around your room.
You’ll probably find that it can identify pretty much anything.
Today, Google Lens can identify 1 billion objects. And that number is growing every day.
Heck, I tried Bing’s visual search on my phone. And it works super well.
People WANT to Search With Images
Once you start using it, you’ll quickly notice that visual search is super helpful for:
- Identifying landmarks
- Local business reviews
- Nutrition information
- Lots more
Which is probably why 62% of young consumers want more visual search tech:
How to Optimize for Visual Search
If you want to show up as a visual search result, image SEO is key.
And just like with “normal” SEO, it’s important to use descriptive file names and write alt text for every image.
But that’s just the first step.
According to Google, they want to feature Google Image results from pages that are authoritative:
And feature the image at the top of the page:
Chapter 3:Video Continues to Surge
Online video is EXPLODING right now.
In fact, according to Cisco, online video will make up 80% of all online traffic by 2021.
And that may still not satisfy the world’s demand for video.
Despite the fact that there are more videos out there than ever, HubSpot states that 43% of people want even MORE video content.
If video isn’t part of your digital marketing plans, you’re missing out. Here’s how you can use video to improve your SEO this year.
Video Featured Snippets
You’ve probably noticed more Video Featured Snippets in the search results.
In fact, Google highlighted Video Featured Snippets in their “Reintroduction to Featured Snippets” report.
And I expect to see more of Video Featured Snippets in 2020.
From what I’ve seen, here are the 3 most important things to do to get your video content in a Featured Snippets.
1. Organize Your Content Into Discrete Sections
This is huge.
Clear sections help Google understand the content in your video.
Which makes it easy for them to use different clips from your video in a snippet.
2. Optimize Your Video for SEO
Google uses your title, description and tags to figure out what your video is all about.
So besides publishing videos that have clear sections, you also want to make sure that your video is optimized for SEO.
In fact, a small HubSpot study of 165 Video Featured Snippets found that 80% of them contained a keyword in the title.
3. Provide a Transcript
The captions that YouTube automatically generates are REALLY good.
But it’s not 100%.
So to increase the odds that YouTube and Google can understand every word of your video, upload a transcript.
Grow Your YouTube Channel
YouTube is already the world’s 2nd largest search engine.
(In fact, according to a study by JumpShot and Moz founder Rand Fishkin, YouTube’s search engine is 2x more popular than Bing)
Amazingly, YouTube is still growing.
In short, more and more people are searching for stuff on YouTube than ever before.
So if you want to get more traffic from SEO in 2020, I recommend creating and optimizing content specifically for YouTube.
It’s a search engine that’s too big to ignore.
The best part? Most marketers are too lazy to make videos. So it’s pretty easy to get your videos seen (assuming you know how to create high-quality videos).
For example, my channel has 26 total videos. And those 26 videos generate over 224k views per month.
(And as you might expect, a good chunk of those viewers turn into website visitors, leads and customers).
It gets better: when you publish SEO-optimized YouTube videos, you’ll own more Google real estate.
Why? Well, for starters: 55% of all Google search results contain at least one video.
(And almost all of those videos are from YouTube).
Here’s an example of what I mean:
And considering that Google owns YouTube, expect even MORE YouTube videos in the search results in 2020.
Embed Video Content Into Text-Based Blog Posts
If people want to see more video content, why not give it to them?
That’s why I recommend embedding video content into your blog posts. And from my own Google Analytics data, I’ve seen that this can significantly improve your bounce rate.
Here’s an example of this in action:
Chapter 4:Voice Search Optimization
Is voice search “the next big thing” in digital marketing? It sure looks like it.
For example, check out these eyebrow-raising facts:
- 41% of adults perform at least one voice search every day (source)
- Voice searches performed in Google are up 35x since 2008 (source)
- 20% of all searches on mobile are voice searches (source)
Knowing that, smart SEOs are starting to optimize some of their content for voice search.
Including me ?
How to Optimize for Voice Search
Last year we conducted the largest voice search SEO study to date.
Here’s what we found:
1. Your content needs to rank high in the search results
Preferably in the top 3.
We found that Google tended to source voice search answers from content that ranked in the top 3 search results:
2. Include a question and answer in your content
The vast majority of voice searches are question based (“How do I do a pullup?” or “Who starred in Shawshank Redemption”?).
When that happens, Google usually picks a page that contains a) the question and b) the answer.
When I search for:
I get this answer:
And when I go to the actual page, I see that the content includes my question and a short answer:
Just what Google’s voice search algorithm wants to see.
In fact, that’s one of the main reasons that FAQ pages are GREAT for voice search SEO:
3. Ranking in a Featured Snippet helps A LOT
Google’s algorithm has already put together a convenient little snippet.
So it makes sense that they would use that snippet in their voice search results.
In fact, our data revealed that 4 out of 10 voice search results come directly from a Featured Snippet.
Speaking of Featured Snippets…
Chapter 5:Optimize for Featured Snippets
According to SEMrush, 11.52% of all search results have a Featured Snippet.
And yes: Featured Snippets are stealing A LOT of clicks from the #1 spot.
(As I like to say: “#0 is the new #1”)
The question is:
How do you get your content to appear in the Featured Snippet?
Well, that’s what this chapter is all about.
Last year I decided to make Featured Snippets a priority for us.
And it helped us go from a handful of Featured Snippets rankings to over 190.
Here’s the step-by-step process that I used.
1. Find Featured Snippet opportunities
Like most things in SEO, the first step is keyword research.
Keywords that you already rank for.
Keywords that have a Featured Snippet.
Why is it important to focus on keywords that you rank for already?
99.58% of all Featured Snippets are from pages that rank on the first page for that term.
So if you don’t already rank in the top 10, you have zero chance of ranking in the Featured Snippet spot.
How do you find Featured Snippet Opportunities?
Ahrefs “Organic Keywords” report.
It shows you keywords that you rank for… that also have a Featured Snippet:
3,117 keywords? Looks like I have some work to do ?
2. Add “Snippet Bait” to Your Page
“Snippet Bait” is a 40-60 word block of content specifically designed to rank in the Featured Snippet spot.
Why 40-60 words?
Well, SEMrush analyzed nearly 7 million Featured Snippets. And they found that the most Featured Snippets are 40-60 words long.
I wrote short Snippet Bait definitions for every page of The SEO Marketing Hub.
And these helped my content rank in the Featured Snippet spot for lots of definition keywords.
HubSpot takes Snippet Bait to another level.
They add little boxes to their posts that actually look like Featured Snippets:
3. Format your content for other types of Featured Snippets
Snippet Bait works best for so-called “Paragraph Snippets”, like this:
Even though paragraph snippets make up 81.9% of all Featured Snippets…
…they’re not the only one.
If you want to rank for List Snippets…
Use H2 or H3 subheaders for every item on your list.
(You can manually check you HTML to see if this is set up correctly)
Google will pull those subheaders from your content… and include them in the Featured Snippet:
If you want to rank in Table Snippets…
You need to create a table that Google can easily pull data from.
For example, the content from this Table Snippet…
…is pulled directly from a well-formatted table.
Which leads us to our next topic…
Chapter 6:Master Search Intent
Search Intent was a massive topic in the SEO world in 2019.
And for good reason:
Content that doesn’t match search intent simply won’t rank.
And as Google gets better at giving people the exact search results they want, creating content that’s a 1:1 Search Intent match is going to be a must for 2020 SEO.
Identify Each Keyword’s Intent
Every keyword has an intent behind it.
Maybe it’s to look something up.
Or buy something.
Or compare product A with product B.
And the better your content can match that search intent, the better it will rank.
So your first step is to figure out your target keyword’s Search Intent.
Sometimes the intent is right in the keyword.
But it’s not usually that obvious. So for most keywords, the search results will tell you everything you need to know about that keyword’s Search Intent.
For example, take a keyword like: “protein powder”.
Someone searching for that term could want to buy some protein. Or maybe they want to learn more about it.
Well, according to Google’s first page for that keyword, most people searching for “protein powder” are looking for information.
Create Content That’s a 1:1 Search Intent Match
Now that you’ve identified Search Intent, it’s time to publish something that gives searchers EXACTLY what they’re looking for.
For example, when I analyzed the search engine results pages (“the SERPs”) for “how to get YouTube subscribers”, I noticed that they were mostly list posts.
So even though this was a “how to” keyword, I didn’t publish a step-by-step tutorial.
Instead, I published a list post.
And because my content is what users want, that page ranks in the top 3 for that keyword.
Re-Optimize Old Content for Search Intent
Search Intent optimization isn’t just for new content.
You can tweak your older stuff to make it a better Search Intent fit. To boost your on-page SEO. Or just to improve the page’s overall user experience.
For example, this post used to rank really well for “SEO campaign”.
But as Google got better at figuring out what people that searched for that keyword actually wanted, my post started to drop in the rankings.
Which made sense: someone searching for “SEO campaign” doesn’t want a case study about a random guy. They want a list of steps.
So I transformed that post into a step-by-step guide that was easy to follow.
Which boosted organic traffic to that page by 57.98%.
Chapter 7:Combat Decreasing CTRs
There’s no denying it:
Organic click-through-rate is down. Way down.
In fact, one industry study found that organic CTR on mobile search is down 41.4% since 2015.
It’s no secret why: Google is crowding out the organic search results with Answer Boxes, Ads, Carousels, “People also ask” sections, and more.
And to stand out in the SERPs, your result needs to scream “click on me!”… or else it’ll be ignored.
Include Your Keyword in Your URL
Earlier this year we published the results from our large-scale organic CTR study.
And one of our most interesting findings was that keyword-rich URLs get 45% more clicks vs. URLs that don’t contain a keyword that matches the person’s search.
Use Emotion (Without Going Overboard)
Our study found that emotional titles had a relatively high CTR.
But we also found that title tags that contained “Power Words” reduced clicks by 14%.
It looks like Google searchers want to click on compelling titles. But if a title veers into clickbait territory, they’re going to click on something else.
Write Meta Descriptions for Every Page
In other words: make sure your website’s description meta tags are 100% original. And would compel someone to click on your site in the search results.
This is a simple 2-minute step that can increase your CTR by approximately 6%.
Chapter 8:Backlinks Are Still Key
Even with all of the SEO trends that I’ve covered in this guide, SEO in 2020 is still all about content and links.
Without amazing content, you’ll never get links.
And without link building, you won’t crack the first page.
Also, if you’re not on Google’s first page, Visual Search, CTR, Search Intent (and all of the other 2020 SEO trends that I covered in this guide) won’t matter.
Those only come into play once you already rank on page 1.
In fact, Google recently came out and said that links still play a key role in their algorithm.
And a study by Perficient Digital found that links have virtually the same importance as they did in 2016.
In short, quality content and links should still be the foundation of any SEO strategy.
And once you have a handle on that, it’s time to optimize your site for the new SEO trends that I outlined in this guide.
Bonus Chapter:Quick SEO Tips for 2020
In this chapter I’ll show you a few quick win tactics that are working great right now.
And should work even better in 2020.
Publish “Research Content”
Bloggers and journalists LOVE data.
And if you can hook them up with a stat, a survey, or an industry study, they’ll link to you like there’s no tomorrow.
For example, in 2019 we published 5 pieces of Research Content.
And those 5 pieces of content brought in 2,243 backlinks, 17,199 social media shares and 202,345 thousand visitors.
The downside of Research Content is that it’s A LOT more work than banging out a list post or case study.
But when done right, the extra effort can totally pay off.
Create Visual Content (Especially “Concept Visuals”)
Just like video, visual content is growing fast.
In fact, a recent survey found that 87.5% of marketers use visual content in the majority of their content marketing efforts.
And thanks to social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram, visual content should continue to see growth in 2020.
How can you take advantage of this trend?
Create more visual content… especially “Concept Visuals”.
In my experience, “Concept Visuals” can do just as well as a fancy infographic… if not better.
(Concept Visuals are images that are easy for other sites to embed into their content. When they do, they’ll usually link back to you).
For example, here’s a simple visual that I included in one of my guides:
And because this visual explains a tricky concept, people LOVE embedding this image in their content:
In fact, this single Concept Visual has generated 20+ backlinks to my site.
Encourage Comments and Community
Do blog comments help your search engine rankings?
The answer seems to be: “YES!”.
In fact, Google stated that community on your site (blog comments) can help “a lot” with rankings.
And last year Google said that “Comments are better on-site for engagement signals for SEO than moving to social.”
“Comments are better on-site for engagement signals for SEO than moving to social.”
In other words, Google wants to see that you have an active community on your site. And they may pay even more attention to this ranking signal next year.
Build Backlinks as a Podcast Guest
Podcasts are one of my all-time favorite ways to build links.
It’s like guest posting… without all the back-and-forth. Just show up, share what you know, and you get a sweet backlink:
And podcasting’s popularity is growing like a beanstalk. In fact, 90 million Americans listen to at least one podcast per month (that’s up 26% vs. last year).
That means that next year there’s probably going to be even MORE opportunities for you to get links from podcasts.
Prune Zombie Pages
This is one of the few SEO techniques that seems to ALWAYS work.
Every site has web pages that provide zero value.
(aka “Zombie Pages”)
To be clear:
A handful of Zombie Pages is no big deal.
But when you have hundreds of Zombie Pages?
It can drag down your entire site’s SEO.
Joe Robinson is a Backlinko reader that runs the digital marketing agency, Kazu.
And Joe noticed that one of his clients had 76 thin, low-quality articles on their site:
So he consolidated some of these articles into in-depth guides…
…and deleted or forwarded the rest.
What happened next?
His client’s organic traffic increased by 16.23% in 30 days:
And traffic continued to climb as Google removed Zombie Pages from their index.
Joe isn’t alone.
A small business owner named Alan Boyd emailed me a cool little Zombie Page case study.
Alan’s client is a tour company out of Palm Beach Florida.
And he quickly noticed that this site had 50 service pages that all said pretty much the same thing:
So he combined the content from those 50 pages into 4 category pages:
And that single tactic increased their search traffic by 36.9%:
How about another example?
Bart runs the web design SaaS company, Readz.
Back in the day, Bart would publish content just for the sake of publishing content.
And this bloated his site with low-quality posts, like this one:
Then, earlier this year, he deleted 45 low-quality blog posts.
At first, his traffic dipped.
But as the algorithm kicked in, his organic traffic rapidly shot up by 32%:
Now It’s Your Turn
So that’s how I’m preparing for SEO in 2020.
Now I want to turn it over to you: Which strategy from today’s guide are you going to try first?
Are you going to publish more “Research Content”? Or work on improving your organic CTR.
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now.