The competition for the top spots on a SERP is steadily increasing and the skills required to compete have dramatically evolved.
Long gone are the days of a two-tiered search result, displaying only paid ads and organic search results.
SERP features and more companies implementing SEO are making the search landscape a smaller arena with more formidable opponents.
What can be done to ensure a position in the top spots? Here is a list of the most important items to consider when competing for traffic in 2020.
- Create hyper focused content
- Build link-building relationships
- Optimize for SERP features
- Build a social presence
- Improve website performance
We’ve all heard it before: “Content is King” but as much as you may be tired of hearing it, this phrase has never been more important for aligning your priorities of what makes a website competitive.
Create hyper-focused content
Continual advancements in the sophistication of search engines have led to a deeper understanding of the content that is being published on the web. Search engines have become extremely efficient in understanding what a user is looking for in a search query and matching websites that provide that solution.
This being the case means that the quality of content produced needs to be able to satisfy user intent. Search intent isn’t just making “in-depth” content, but being able to adequately provide the user with a solution they are seeking from their search.
Extensive coverage on your topic and all related subtopics give you more credibility for being able to answer search intent. When a user types in a search, a search engine connects multiple subtopics and possibilities that the user may be looking for. If your content covers those possibilities your site will get priority over a site that doesn’t have the same depth of the topic.
With more businesses actively implementing SEO, hyper-focused content is a strategy for making first page appearances. Companies that specialize in a specific niche can increase the potential to dominate that particular segment in search results by producing more insightful content than that of their competition.
Provide more hyper-focused content to separate from the competition and become more dominant in the SERPS.
Build link-building relationships
Implementing the most creative and effective methods of link building is a huge asset for every business when it comes to improving search visibility. The ability to acquire links from highly relevant sites in your niche plays an integral part in your performance in the SERPS.
Outreach campaigns are the most widely used method of link building by SEO agencies and companies. Building relationships and networks with the right influencers and authors will ensure your future in acquiring the necessary links to stay ahead of the pack.
Guest posting will still be a major link building method moving forward into next year. This practice is becoming increasingly difficult due to stricter guidelines and policies being enforced by higher-quality sites. Producing content that is worthy of the titans in your industry will land you the most powerful links to fuel your competitive edge.
Optimize for SERP features
Zero-click searches have reached an all-time high, catapulting Google to be categorized officially as its own walled garden. Rand Fishkin published an article on Sparktoro showing that 50% of total searches are resulting in “zero-clicks.”
The consistent encroachment of SERP features have contributed to a decline in the organic click-through rate. SERP features such as the local pack, featured snippets and ads are just a few reasons why searchers have less reason to click on an organic result. This trend is amplified in mobile searches as opposed to desktop because of the layout and number of scrolls it takes to get to the organic listings.
Take PAA boxes for example. Every click made on a question will populate the box with two or three more questions. This continues indefinitely and is the perfect example to demonstrate how the organic search results are literally being pushed further below out of sight by a SERP feature.
For continued growth in the number of visitors to your site, capitalize on traffic opportunities by optimizing for SERP features whenever and wherever possible.
Winning a position in the featured snippet or PAA box improves click-through rates and is excellent branding opportunities to feature your company.
Expand your social network
Social media will continue to be an additional source of traffic used to attract visitors with like-minded interests. As competition on Google’s search engine increases, it will be necessary to keep as many channels of traffic open and diversified.
YouTube has shown tremendous growth in the last two years and has recently surpassed Facebook as the second most frequently visited site in the world. YouTube is excellent for branding opportunities by simply offering the next best thing to face-to-face interaction.
Use video as a means for providing solutions to informational searches. Not only is there value from generating traffic from YouTube but also you can multiply the effect of your videos by sharing on other social platforms and optimizing your videos for Google search.
The number of people watching video online is still growing exponentially. Using video in your marketing efforts will continue to offer more return on your investment well into next year.
Improve website performance
The complexity of search engines have grown and in effect, so has the quality standards in how your website performs. The factors that affect user experience will definitely continue to be a major consideration moving forward. The major areas of concern for this year have been implementing mobile-friendly designs, improving page speed and correcting technical errors.
July 2018 marked the Mobile-first update in which Google began indexing the mobile version of websites first. It should come as no surprise that the performance of your website needs to be geared primarily towards mobile devices since mobile searches topped desktop searches since 2016.
Google has been so insistent on urging websites towards a more mobile-friendly design that they offer mobile-friendly testing to show what errors will need to be fixed to improve the overall user experience.
As the disparity widens between the volume of desktop and mobile searches, it will become increasingly important to ensure your site meets all of the necessary criteria of being mobile-friendly.
Time is money. This statement has never been truer when it comes to page speed-especially for e-commerce websites. Every extra second it takes for a page to load equates to more clients backing out of the site resulting in lost sales and abandoned shopping carts.
It’s not just e-commerce sites that need to worry about page speed. On average a user will start to back out of your site if the pages load time is over three seconds. If a customer backs out of your site they are immediately going to the next website on the list of search results. With traffic being much more hard-earned it pays to make sure your site doesn’t lose any visitors to technical aspects directly in your control.
Page speed will continue to be a priority for businesses because it’s an official ranking factor and it directly affects conversions.
Be prepared for 2020
Smart marketers and those who are able to adjust to changing SERP conditions will thrive, despite increased competition and zero-click searches. Next year may bring surprises but until then, stick to the same tactics and strategies that are working now to get results. Great quality content and is optimized for different traffic opportunities on the SERP will bring continued success in attracting visitors.
Christian Carere is a search engine optimization consultant and founder of Digital Ducats Inc. Christian specializes in SEO services to improve the quality of traffic and increase the number of leads and new clients