What SEO challenges are marketers facing in 2020?
When it comes to SEO, these words from Greek philosopher Heraclitus over 2,500 years ago couldn't be more relevant: "change is the only constant".
Google reportedly changes its search algorithms 500-600 times per year, which makes it near-impossible to always stay ahead of the SEO game. But now and then, significant changes – or so-called core updates – happen. And that's when it's time to really pay attention.
To take a closer look at the main SEO challenges for 2020, as well as the steps that marketers can take to boost rankings (in light of existing and potential algorithm updates.) We caught up with Asad Zulfahri, Head of Marketing & SEO, PieSync from HubSpot to get an insiders look.
So, what are the challenges?
As a marketer, common SEO challenges include finding the time, resources and energy to:
- Publish new content
- Educate teams on SEO best practices
- Make sure meta descriptions and page titles are added everywhere
- Fix technical SEO problems
However, staying ahead of algorithm updates and reducing their impact is one of the most challenging tasks for marketers in 2020.
At the beginning of May 2020, Google started rolling out its latest Core Update. And when Google changes their algorithm, no website is safe. Even huge sites like Spotify and LinkedIn saw massive dips in their ranking.
If you have a website and check your stats, you'll probably notice that something happened to your traffic as well. Hopefully, it went up! But if not, don't despair.
Volatility usually settles down a few weeks after these updates. And according to Google, a drop in traffic after a core update doesn't necessarily mean you're doing something wrong. Nevertheless, there's always room for improvement – and there's likely to be plenty more algorithm updates ahead.
To keep up with and adapt to a rapidly-changing SEO landscape, there are several evergreen SEO best practices that are more relevant than ever. Read on for five pointers to up your Google game in 2020.
How marketers can respond to SEO challenges in 2020
- Update your old content regularly
- Enrich pages with thin content
- Fix your technical SEO issues
- Optimize for SERP and featured snippets
- Research and outperform your competition
1. Update old content regularly
Neil Patel, one of the kings of SEO, shared one perspective of what set the winners of the May 2020 update apart from those whose rankings dropped: how frequently old content was updated on the site. He recommends continuous updating and removal of any old pages that have become obsolete.
An example of this philosophy's efficiency is HubSpot, who doubled their historical optimization when they realized a whopping 92% of their blog leads came from "old" blog posts.
HubSpot decided to optimize and republish valuable content, which led to an increase in monthly organic search views to these posts by more than 100%.
2. Enrich pages with thin content
Another variable shared by Neil Patel as a potential culprit for decreasing Google rankings in 2020 is thin content. If a website contains many pages with very little written content, you should consider enriching or removing them.
After the May update, sites with thin content experienced around three times higher likelihood of being negatively affected than positively. This can be an indication that Google now values in-depth content even more than before.
3. Fix technical SEO issues
SEO is not all about the content‚ there's a technical side of things as well. Technical SEO issues can hold a website back and, if left unchecked, hinder your company's growth significantly. The best way to run a technical SEO audit is to use an SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush. Look out for broken links (404 pages), duplicate tags, slow pages and redirect chains.
No site is perfect, and occasionally it makes sense to keep duplicate content. But in most cases, it will be worth the effort to optimize your technical SEO and get rid of duplicate meta descriptions and title tags.
4. Optimize for SERP and featured snippets
There are two ways to rank at the top of search results for any specific keyword. Either, you pay for a Google search ad, or you write content that Google finds good enough to give a SERP feature.
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page, and a SERP feature is a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) including more information than a general search result.
These featured snippets are meant to provide the most relevant answer to a search query and appear in different forms, such as paragraphs, lists, and tables. You've almost certainly seen a lot of them in searches.
The best way to optimize your content for featured snippets is to make sure it's answering a question. "What is [...]" posts usually perform very well, especially if you use long-tail keywords as questions in your H2 titles. Clear, intuitive UX with a table of contents on top, like in this post, also helps.
5. Research and outperform the competition
If you want to rank #1 for a keyword, quality content has to be your priority. That means making sure your content is both better and more elaborate and that of your competitors.
To rank higher than the competition in Google searches in 2020, you need to focus on the three things Google looks for in all content, also referred to as E-A-T:
Long-form posts still tend to perform the best, but it has to make sense; a local restaurant won't necessarily benefit from a 3000-word blog article, whereas a tech startup could absolutely make it work sharing authoritative content about their industry.
To get the best SEO results in 2020, adapt
Google is continuously updating its algorithms, and the significant changes in May 2020 are unlikely to be the last for this year. For marketers to stay ahead of the competition, it's essential to monitor performance, build on your SEO knowledge, and keep improving both on-page SEO and technical SEO. Implement the tactics we've discussed to overcome SEO challenges for 2020, and you've got yourself a competitive edge!
About the Author: Asad has over a decade of SEO & Marketing experience and currently leads PieSync (from HubSpot) acquisition strategy. He’s worked with well-known tech companies like Monster Worldwide, Zapier, Tray.io, and many other top Silicon Valley companies. He’s an insatiable world traveler with 30+ countries and 150+ cities under his belt and advocates the remote work culture.