Every year in December, the SEO team at McCann Connected get together to look back at what was predicted for that year in digital and how it played out, and where we believe we should be focusing our attentions in the year ahead. We can’t ever predict the curve entirely, but one thing we find incredibly useful, for us and our clients, is making a commitment as a team to knowing the areas that will require smarter, more creative thinking, upskilling or forward planning.
So, where should you be focusing your attentions in 2020?
Here’s a rundown of our top six topics from our Organic Search Director, Radek Kowalski:
We’ve seen Google investing a lot in their algorithm and infrastructure to compensate for many websites’ poor technical set up, which clearly indicates the importance of having a sound technical foundation in 2020.
Of course, page speed will remain an ever-increasing focus, with John Mueller (Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst) mentioning that Google may be enforcing and penalising slow loading pages more than ever in 2020. You can see this coming into play with the new Chrome “slow warning badges”, and speed reports in Google Search Console.
Mobile-first is as much, if not more, important in 2020. John Mueller said the “clock is ticking” for those businesses that don’t provide good user experience in this area. Our practices will continue to focus on ensuring our clients’ can operate a fast and responsive website, built with an approach that ultimately heroes a mobile-first experience.
This is all due to Google starting the process of migrating sites to mobile-first index. It’s worth explaining here that a mobile-first index does not mean “mobile-only.” There’ is still a single index with both mobile and desktop versions.
In 2020 we will see even more sites ranked by Google on the “mobile-first” basis.
This means there is no longer an excuse to procrastinate with mobile-friendliness, which should now be perceived as a crucial element of creating online competitive advantage. Google recommends Responsive Web Design because it's the easiest design pattern to implement and maintain.
Practically it means that if you still sport an m. separate URL mobile site setup, 2020 will be your last call to provide better user experience for your visitors and a more cohesive platform for search engines by migrating to responsive design.
“With mobile first indexing, I'd recommend integrating the mobile version just as well as you would the desktop version. …at some point all these sites with separate mobile URLs should just move to a responsive design anyway, which makes all of this moot. (Separate mobile URLs makes everything much harder than it needs to be)” John Mueller, 2019
Every business needs to find its unfair advantage and identify their E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness). These are the basics of a strong marketing strategy, whether applied online or offline. And is validated by Google’s John Mueller public statement they will strongly support E-A-T in 2020.
Businesses need to shout out loud about the authority they generate, often building through events happening offline – conferences, awards, partnerships. It’s important for both customers and Google that this information is utilised online to build, prove and increase trust. This theory shines a light on companies that struggle with a poor reputation, customer service issues or a below-standard user experience, as they will fall even further behind in competing organically in search engines such as Google.
Practical pointers for 2020;
The acronym has been front of mind in 2019 as the launch of Google’s new BERT algorithm hit the industry. With its incorporation into the ranking and featured snippets algorithm, it is clear that Google are striving to better match user intent to the output in SERPs.
When considering keyword research, we must understand our users’ and map intent to these keywords more than ever. In addition, when creating optimised content, we need to understand our users’ journey/path as well as access points, to ensure our onsite content placement is based on providing the best user experience possible.
For us SEOs, it means that when interacting with clients’ businesses we should explore as much business-related intel as possible, mirroring the role of a channel-agnostic Planner. Let’s try to find out the issues, attitudes and needs of our client’s customers to better understand how and where our content can be built to not just resonate, but help.
Google is getting smarter by the day, but its algorithms don’t yet fully understand the full context of the content by default. This means using structured data is an ever-increasing opportunity to help search engines understand what is on a page, how each of the page elements relate to another, and how that page relates to other pages within the website.
It’s worth remembering that structured data isn’t only exclusive to Google as there are other data consumers like Amazon and Facebook, as well as the AI technologies that are becoming more and more prevalent.
It seems that going into 2020 Google is almost downplaying hype around Voice Search and is driving attention to the fact it’s just another way to interface with search, and that is how we should look at it.
What can businesses do in the meantime? We would advise to consider the following areas which will help us get ready for the Voice Search era:
If you’d like to speak to McCann Connected about any of the topics covered above, you can contact Claire Richardson-Critcher on firstname.lastname@example.org
We should become adventurous by experimenting with structured data and content which is consumed by search engines, voice assistants and chatbots, as this will help expose the intent of the content to machine learning algorithms as much as possible.
And finally, for structured data, we will be actioning Google Search Console reports of any incorrect structured data mark-up on our clients’ websites as a critical part of every SEO monthly workflow.