4 Ways to Integrate SEO Strategy in 2020
Updated: Apr 26
It’s 2020 and time to master that acronym that strikes fear in the hearts of small business owners across the nation: SEO. Search engine optimization comes across as complicated or mysterious even, and as an search engine optimizer by profession, I get it. I began learning about SEO as a public relation specialist and copywriter, hoping that I can learn a skill that’s so difficult to master that companies couldn’t help but hire me.
I’ll let you in a little secret though – it’s pretty simple – and it’s even easier to implement. It takes a little time to fully comprehend, but with a little hard work you can ensure your website is SEO-friendly and atop search engine results pages (SERPs) in no time.
Perhaps you’re wondering what is and why should I care about “SEO” in the first place? In layman’s terms, SEO is the tactics used to ensure your website shows as one of the top results on search engine results pages.
This form of marketing is commonly referred to as organic marketing – as in without any paid help from pay-per-click or third-party advertising. SEO methods are free to implement and more importantly help increase your site’s visibility and website authority.
Your site visibility refers to how often your site shows in SERPs and how many different search queries (keywords) spur your up your website. The higher the visibility, the more keywords spur up your website and more often people will find your site.
Your site visibility coincides with your site authority. Site authority is a measurement of how popular your website is, and it usually is in the form of a number. Your authority serves as an excellent comparison tool to measure your business’s online prescence to your peers. Several SEO tools are available to measure site authority, including SEMRush, Ahrefs, UberSuggest and more.
The tactics used to increase your site visibility and site authority are the projects that SEOs are tasked with everyday. As you’ll read shortly, these tasks are wide-ranging, but will inevitably change how your website and business are perceived online.
4 SEO Tactics for 2020
1 – Keyword Research
In order for your site to become an organic juggernaught, you have to know what keywords you want to spur up your website to begin with. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve watched bloggers or videographers simply create content for the sake of creating content without understanding how often the topic is actually searched.
Let’s put this into an example. Say you’re an art vendor in San Francisco hoping to improve your site’s ranking for certain art pieces. You decide to make a video about your art pieces entitled: “Impressionist Art to Buy”. You leave it up for awhile and realize that you’re only averaging 10 pageviews per month, despite your website easily getting 1,000 pageviews per month.
So what’s the problem here? If you had done your homework and checked search volume for the search term “impressionist art to buy” before you published your page, you’d realize that there are 0-10 searches per month for that keyword. Had you simply titled it “Impressionist Artwork”, you’d see a better keyword ROI because it’s searched 8,100 times per month.
This can be the difference between making a video that gains 100 views and 1 million views.
2 – Content Creation
Content creation can mean a variety of things. Content includes: blogs, videos, infographics, songs, artwork, webinars, podcasts and anything else you can publish online that people can read or learn from.
Producing content just gives your site more opportunities to appear in SERPs for different search queries. However, as search engines update every year, such as with Google’s BERT update in late 2019, their ability to decipher what an individual is searching for and the quality of content via search algorithms becomes increasingly superior.
This means you must identify what keywords are searched often, what their intent is based on your site’s purpose and write content to that purpose. Don’t try to trick a search engine, it’s smarter than you think.
Back in the early 2000s, it was commonplace to try out “keyword stuffing”, meaning inserting keywords in random blogs in hopes of ranking for that keyword.
Today, search engines will not only penalize your site for trying this tactic, but your site authority and visibility will suffer as well. With that in mind, you have three choices when deciding content topics and producing it.
1) You can find keywords with lower search volume and very little content written about it. Due to the minimal volume of content around the topic, your piece can begin to dominate the organic competition if it’s of quality.
2) You can quickly rank for a highly searched keyword by being the first to write about it. For example when Google’s BERT update went live, numerous digital marketing agencies scrambled to publish guides on the topic to rank highly for a topic that was sure to gain several searches in the coming months.
3) Lastly, you can attempt to rank for highly-searched keywords that are difficult to rank for. This mean there are numerous pieces of content that detail the topic and they dominate the first page of organic search results. This is often difficult to do as those pages are already gained high page authority and have numerous backlinks pointing toward them.
While the most difficult and least timely, focusing on option #3 can often be the most beneficial way to have your site rank. Which brings us to the next topic, press releases & backlinks, the method to take over those high ranked content pieces.
3 – Press Releases & Backlinks
Press releases are typically sent out on behalf of public relations (PR) firms or PR departments to bring light to a new story or innovative product or content piece. As a business, it’s key to send out updates to the media to gain notoriety and fanfare from people who potentially haven’t heard of your services.
But the question I always heard as a PR professional was, “How do we measure the ROI of press releases?” One word: backlinks.
Backlinks are the number and quality of pages that hyperlink to your site. The number of backlinks and the site authority of the website which those backlinks belong to are key factors in how high your site authority and site visibility are.
Earlier, we talked about how ranking highly for high-volume search queries with several well-documented content pieces is often the most fruitful way to focus your content strategy.
Overtaking those content pieces is dependent upon how credible search engines consider your site, and one of the most important factors in that is the number of backlinks pointing to your site.
The question you’re surely asking yourself is, “How do I gain backlinks in the first place?” From here, you have two choices.
1) Begin reaching out to publications that have readerships similar to yours and asking if they will publish your content or
2) You can start searching for content pieces that rank highly for the topic you’d like to rank for and ask for a backlink from their article.
Typically, the easier of the two is going to be reaching out to the publication you’d like to be published in. These companies are accustomed to being asked this and typically have an easy-to-use request form.
Otherwise, you can typically send out a well-worded email to well-known blog authors with hopes that they’ll answerback and point a backlink to your site. While this will probably be the most beneficial, in my own experience it’s the most difficult to pitch.
4 – Focus on Technical Factors
Technical SEO is where non-SEOers stop when it comes to SEO. Small businesses especially may read a few blog articles on keywords, but immediately jump for the nearest smartphone to call an agency and handle the technical stuff.
I’m here to calm you down a bit – it’s not too difficult. Let’s look at a few easy technical SEO tactics you can use to rank higher in 2020.
Focus on your sitemap and robots txt file. When search engine crawlers visit your site, they’re going to skip over the gorgeous design you’ve done and start with the basics – the sitemap.
Your sitemap is just a list of all the URLs your site has to offer, serving as a guide for how to crawl your site in-depth.
Your robots.txt file is more of the instruction manual of what to check in on. On most mid-size to larger sites (i.e sites of 100 pages or more), there are bound to be dead links pointing to your site and pointing to other websites you’ve hyperlinked within your content.
Robots.txt file will tell crawlers what to crawl vs. what is being redirected or no longer indexed. Without an optimized robots.txt file, search crawlers may search your site, find numerous problems and penalize your site rank as a result.
Nailing your URL structure is an important SEO principle on many factors.
Have you ever typed in a URL that’s just too long? You probably haven’t, because who wants to do that? From a user experience point of view, it’s just something that no one wants to or is going to do. So just remember my favorite acronym: KISS. Keep it simple stupid.
URL structure is an important factor in determining what keywords you’re going to rank for. After all if it’s in your URL and your title, then search engine crawlers would be wise to understand that’s what the content is about.
One key thing to note is that keyword stuffing into a URL is frowned upon by search engines just as much as it is when stuffing in the content itself. A good rule of thumb is to just make sure your title and URL structure are true to the content’s topic.
On-page Optimization (Broken links, Alt-text, Keyword usage)
On-page SEO optimization refers to all the small tweaks you can make to each page you publish on your website. There are an exorbitant amount of tactics your team can adopt, but I’m only going to dive into a couple and leave a few guides for you to check out by subject from other great SEO authors.
Every site is destined to have a few broken hyperlinks, that is sitelinks that lead to pages that lead to a 404 error page or doesn’t redirect correctly.
If your site is small enough (i.e. 20-40 pages), you can try to manually comb through and weed out all of the hyperlinks to check if they’re broken or not. I don’t suggest this, but I have personally done this before.
It’s not fun.
I do suggest that you instead start utilizing a free (or paid if you’ve got the money to use) on an SEO tool like UberSuggest, SEMRush or Ahrefs. These tools can automatically check your site to ensure that you have no broken internal or external links at the click of a button.
In addition, you can look into updating your robots.txt file to ensure search engines understand broken links should not be indexed and which links should be redirected.
Image & Graphic Alt-text
Alt-text is the nomenclature you choose to name your images when they’re uploaded onto your site. This is important for user experience on your site in addition to search engines.
For individuals that are vision-impaired or require audio assistance when reading content, often times there is no alt-text included to help them understand what the graphic or photo is supposed to be. Search engines do recognize this factor and reward those for who include it.
Secondly, the more you use alt-text, the more opportunities you have to rank. What do I mean by this? If you use alt-text for your images then when those keywords are used for a search query, there is a chance that you may rank in the images section of a search engine. As long as the ranking is legitimately for your keyword search – the more the merrier.
If you’ve done any research on SEO, it’s most likely that you’ve read into how to optimize for keywords as an on-page tactic. But just in case you’ve forgotten, let’s refresh the concept.
The general rule of thumb is to focus on 1-2 long-tail keywords per blog post. Long-tail keywords are keywords that include 3-5 words within the keyword. If you’re confused as to why, think specificity.
Let’s think about Nike shoes for example. If you were to type in “nike shoes” into a search engine, how many results do you think you’d get? The answer is around one million.
If you’re a Nike seller out of Portland, Oregon, how do you expect to actually rank for any search queries at all? The answer is long-tail keywords.
When the Nike seller decides to focus on keywords that speak more to the shoes she wants to sell, such as “nike air force one sale”, they’re going to get the 880 searches per month that have higher intent to buying a pair of shoes.
That means in a majority of the content she produces, she going to attempt to include her 1-2 long-tail keywords in strategic spots across her blog, including:
Headers – It’s always smart to split up your content into an easy to read format, which includes large headers to easily identify where content is
Title - Your title is the first thing a searcher will see on SERPS, so make sure it’s in line with the keywords you want to rank for
Meta Description – Your meta description is the little paragraph that will be included with your URL in the SERP, so make sure you fill it up with an easy content summary
As I said before, there are a million things you can do to focus on SEO optimization that we will continue to explain further in 2020, but here’s a few reads to dive deeper into that in the meantime.
Several SEOs will always make the art of SEO seem nearly impossible. After all, that’s how some of us make money. Acronyms like CPM (cost per thousand), CPC (cost per click), CPV (cost per view) and CTR (click-through-rate) will continue to confuse those who haven’t had a moment to research SEO in full depth. But I’m confident with more research and a little focus, your small business can top your competitors on SERPs.