SEO in 2020-2021: 4 Things That Have Changed and How to Pivot Your Optimization Strategy

seo changes and how to pivot strategy

Being the best in business is all about staying on top of the latest industry trends – and when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, there is a lot to keep up with.

“SEO” refers to digital marketing campaigns designed to increase a website’s organic search presence. Essentially, it’s all about getting a page to rank as high as possible on the search engine results page (SERP) to receive more impressions, drive more traffic, and gain more revenue.

Google is constantly updating its search algorithms, and the way that users engage with the internet is becoming increasingly complex as mobile technology advances. Marketers must adapt to these changes if they want to see successful metrics and expand their profit margins.

To be sure that you’re up-to-date with the latest SEO methodologies that achieve the most effective results, read through the list of following SEO trends in 2020, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

E-A-T is Everything

Google’s latest algorithm update prioritizes Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) as a ranking factor, which is one out of the many signals (200+) used to determine the results it displays for a given search query.

google e-a-t ranking signal

According to the Google Quality Rater Guidelines published in December 2019, E-A-T is one of the most important factors considered when determining the overall quality of the page, along with the purpose of the page, the quality and quantity of content, and the website’s reputation.

Google’s number one priority is to satisfy a user’s search with accurate and reputable information. Therefore, they give privilege to pages that are backed by E-A-T; for example:

News articles should be fact-checked and produced with journalistic professionalism, presented in a way that helps users better understand recent events.

Medical advice should be written by professionals with appropriate accreditation.

Informational pages about scientific topics must represent a well-established consensus where consensus exists.

Financial, tax, or legal advice should be offered by trusted experts and updated regularly to reflect ongoing policy changes.

They want to see everything – from parenting suggestions to home renovation tutorials, guitar lessons to photography manuals – written by “experts” or experienced sources that users can trust. Google notes that even gossip and humor websites are evaluated for E-A-T, so this is one ranking factor that you should definitely look out for in 2020-2021.

The solution?

While you can’t fake being a medical professional columnist, you can cite any and all sources from where you pull your information. Drop names, mention studies, publish data, and build domain authority to show Google that you can be seen as a go-to resource for credible information.

When looking at a website’s E-A-T signals, Google is increasingly scrupulous regarding sites that fall under Your Money or Your Life, also known as YMYL.

YMYL refers to sites whose niche, service, or product is directly tied to a user’s financial well-being, physical health, overall happiness, or safety. If your site has the ability to impact one of these areas of your site visitors’ well-being, you fall into the YMYL category.

Google will be extremely vigilant when making sure you are a trusted source if this applies. If you are creating content for YMYL, you should definitely consider seeking out a professional to reinforce your claims.

If you don’t currently have the budget to hire a specific professional to create your content, consider exploring the option of writing the content in-house and having a professional appear as the author of the post (with their permission, of course). Reinforce the person’s expertise to write on behalf of the topic by providing an in-depth author bio, highlighting their knowledge and skills regarding the subject matter.

Even if your site doesn’t specifically fall under YMYL, you will still want to be conscientious about the content you are creating. While your site may not impact a user’s financial health or well-being, the individual pieces of content on your website can still fall into this category.

Consider staying away from these content topics all together or make sure you do your research, verify your facts with a professional, and back up your claims with industry leaders who are trusted in that space. One last consideration is to make sure the information you are providing is up-to-date and maintain updates on YMYL pages.

At the end of the day, the biggest takeaway with Google is that everything on your site should be for the benefit of your users.

ymyl meme

You Still Need Link Juice

Domain authority is built through link-building or generating “link juice” by increasing the number and quantity and quality of inbound links a website receives. It’s measured by PageRank (PR), one of Google’s ways of measuring the importance of website pages – and it’s still as important in 2020 as it was back in 2013 when they overhauled the algorithm.

In fact, Google updated its patent (named after one of its co-founders) in 2018 and filed for a continuation of the technology, introducing a slight change during the process.

Now, PR also computes link distances between a spam-free site with a high E-A-T rating and the website it links to. Whereas in the past, you might be able to rank higher by having lots of backlinks from questionable sites that are filled with spam and adware, that won’t get you far in today’s digital economy – at least in Google’s eyes.

Linking is a two-fold aspect of the algorithm – the first focusing on your site’s internal and external linking, the second focusing on your backlink profile. As we mentioned in the earlier section on E-A-T signals and YMYL, you want to provide external links to reputable websites to reinforce your content and the information you provide to site visitors.

Internal linking refers to the pages within your website that you are linking to from other pages on your site. The benefit of internal linking has two important considerations.

First, internal linking can better help Google crawl your website, which, in turn, helps it better understand your site layout and the different offerings throughout your site.

Second, internal linking is also beneficial for user experience (or UX). Internal linking can help site visitors find other important information related to the reason they initially landed on your site. It can also help to increase a user’s time on site and decrease the bounce rate and influence other important metrics that can help with rankings.

It’s all about creating a strong link-building campaign that incorporates an internal linking structure as well as an inbound and outbound link strategy. By providing resources to reputable industry leaders, you increase the chances of establishing credibility for your posts, which will increase the likelihood of those posts securing organic link placements.

If you take a look at the screenshot of ShareAble for Hires below, you can see how the website establishes E-A-T by publishing statistical findings, citing a reputable source with an outbound link, and increasing the brand’s reputation.

ymyl e-a-t example

According to the PR update, if a page with a high domain authority linked to this blog post as a resource for its users, it would receive an even higher ranking score that drives its presence up the SERP.

Local Listings are a Must

Another SEO trend we’ve observed in 2020 is the prioritization of local listings displayed in the SERP. If a user searches for something such as “Tax consultant” or “Shoe repair”, Google assumes that he/she is looking for local services and therefore displays localized listings based on the user’s location and browser configuration.

In order for your business to appear on the SERP for users seeking your services in the area, it’s critical that you claim your company on Google My Business (GMB) and classified sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List.

It also helps to expand your keywords with long-tail phrases that describe where you are so that Google’s crawlers may index the site more easily. Mention the city, county, and state you service within the ad copy, along with contextual details like, “Right off Highway 101” or “Located next to Starbucks on 8th Street”.

When maintaining business listings, it’s critical that the information is correct across all platforms and that you regularly monitor and update listings as needed. Inconsistent business information can cause issues when ranking and is negative for the user-experience.

When setting up your GMB listing, try to use a local number if possible, optimize the description to align with your SEO goals, correctly categorize the listing and add photos.

It is also strongly recommended to add a Google map with a marker on your page. We suggest adding this to your “About Us” or “Contact Us” page. An embedded map on your site is aesthetically pleasing, especially on a page that might normally have thin content. Adding a Google map can help with rankings; just make sure that this embedded map matches your GMB listing so that Google knows they are linked.

Lastly, consider running a marketing campaign that will help you acquire positive reviews on your business listings, both on Google and other third-party directories.

Visual Search is on the Rise

Visual search engine optimization is poised to take off in 2020 thanks to platforms like Pinterest that get over 600 million visual searches per month (source). Google introduced its own visual search feature known as Google Lens back in March 2019, and users have been quick to pick it up.

For reference, Google Lens and Pinterest conduct visual searches by having the user take a picture of the item of search interest and then return relevant results and information. The most common use we have seen for this type of technology is with the use of QR codes.

Although the technology is in its infancy, it’s proven very helpful at providing local business reviews, identifying landmarks, producing nutrition information, and so much more.

According to Google, one of the best ways to optimize for visual search is to centrally place an image up high on the page. Every image should be optimized and should have descriptive file names and alt-text contained in the back-end coding.

What we’re really excited to watch in 2020-2021 is the development of Google Lens’ use of AR (augmented reality) tech that allows you to interact with 3D models in the real world.

For example, if someone wanted to learn more about a shark, it might be helpful for him/her to see what the size of an 18-foot shark actually looks like.

google lens augmented reality

The search engine giant is urging companies such as NASA, Target, New Balance, and Samsung to publish its own similar content. So we’ll be waiting to see how this trend develops later this/next year – and how you might be able to take advantage of it, too.

Keep in mind that while many predict AR to become an integral part of everyday technology, it is still mostly inaccessible to the general public due to cost. As this technology advances, the cost will decrease, making it more commonplace, yet it may be a number of years before this becomes a reality.

About the Author

Samantha Rupp holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and is the managing editor for 365businesstips.com. She lives in San Diego, California and enjoys spending time on the beach, reading up on current industry trends, and traveling.

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5 Responses

  1. Deepeksh says:

    This article is pretty cool. What I had learned in my 5 years of SEO experience, if we follow the algorithm, and avoid poor/duplicate content, Google will surely provide us good ranking.

    Ranking totally depends on our quality of work. Thanks Samantha Rupp for sharing this with us.

    • Soumya Roy says:

      Deepeksh, you are absolutely right! SEO is all about strategy and high-quality content marketing. The better your strategy and content, the higher is your rankings.

  2. Amy Diaz says:

    Something is changing, but others are staying the same! Interesting to see what the future holds for SEO.

  3. Mountwoo says:

    Everyone is excited about SEO updates, which we will see in 2021, and digital marketers are preparing themselves and building new SEO strategies. It’s interesting to see what case studies will be there and how we all folks can learn from it. One thing is for sure; whatever the updates will be, it will definitely help others out there; content is the king and will remain the king. Also, people will start working on Ux and branding too. Google will notice those sites which are clean, easy to navigate, and provides value to users.

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