Only 10-15 years ago, if you were doing SEO as a profession, people might have had no clue what that meant. Nowadays, SEO is a common practice important for every company that cares about their website visibility and ranking in organic search network results. 

Importance of keywords in 2020

What are the big changes in 2020?

Let’s look at on-page optimization first. Some years ago, SERP ranking was all about keyword optimization, since the competition was low and the Google algorithm was less intelligent than today. This led to the much-hated black-hat SEO techniques, where companies practised keyword stuffing around the whole website in order to rank as high as possible for specific keywords.

Today, keyword stuffing is a no-go strategy for SEO and a long-forgotten one, although keyword analysis and research are still important and relevant. 

Since competition has increased across the web, ranking for relevant keywords has become more competitive. Keyword research for medium tail keyword phrases helps to boost organic ranking. Especially for 2020, on-page keyword optimization must include LSI (latent semantic index) keywords, which help Google understand the relevance of the website in order to rank it higher. LSI keywords are any words that are relevant to the website’s content and the business itself. 

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How does Google rank pages today?

This is one of the most important questions to answer for all digital marketers. And since the ranking factors are constantly changing due to Google’s algorithm updates for its search network, the topic remains a high priority for all digital marketers year after year.

Keyword research and optimization are still relevant for websites and an important ranking factor. Nevertheless, valuable content that interests the audience plays a bigger role than before. Google focuses on delivering value for users and therefore with their RankBrain update, the machine learning system tries to identify the relevance and user-friendliness of a website in order to rank it on the organic search network. This includes high-quality content, user experience, and the relevance of the website. 

Pogo-sticking has created some buzz online recently since it is part of RankBrain update based on Backlinko’s report. Briefly explained, pogo-sticking is a method where a user clicks on many search result pages and bounces back to the result page until they find a page which does not return to the SERP anymore. Referring to Rand Fishkin’s article on Moz, it can be said that pogo-sticking plays an important role in user experience and should be taken into account, while also optimizing landing pages for user-friendliness and relevance. 

google ranking

Ranking Top 5 is not enough

SEO is all about ranking on top of a SERP. Ranking on the first result page of a search engine is important for every business, but that does not automatically mean that your website will get the click. Let’s have an example: 

Let’s assume you are searching for information about marketing analytics. Your SERP for “AI marketing analytics” shows the following top 5 organic search results. 

serp newsletter screenshot

The top three URLs that are ranked here are wordstream.com, marketo.com, and nexoya.com.

Now, the question: Which link will I click? 

I see nexoya’s link and click on it since I know the brand and have read other articles from them in the past. I am certain that they deliver good content and I will not lose time surfing on an unknown website.

Even though ranking on top of a SERP is an important deciding factor for a user to click on a link, similarly the URL of the site is playing an important deciding factor for a user. 

If the page is known already and has created certain credibility in user’s mind, it is more likely that user will click on the URL that they know from before regardless of if that URL is ranked on first or even fifth position on the search engine result page. 

Therefore, brand awareness plays another important role in the user’s decision-making process.

Focusing on top rankings is not enough. It is equally important to get into the user’s mind.

An integrated marketing strategy that includes activities on all channels like social media, social ads, and others, already play a major role in the game. Even if a user would not click the ad, they’ll still fix the company’s name in their consciousness. These are the first steps in brand awareness related to SEO. 

Outbound linking 

Why would you link to other pages from your content? Just like internal links, outbound links are important as well; Google counts the site’s relevance by outbound links that link to relevant, high-quality websites. 

Additionally, outbound linking can create attention among the targeted websites and perhaps increase the visibility of your website. 

From the user’s perspective, outbound linking increases user engagement and their experience on the site. Linking within the text provides quick access to more detailed information when it is needed and a transparent connection or relationship between the content and linked websites. 

SEO and UX walk hand in hand

All your SEO efforts can end up meaningless if the targeted website does not fulfil the expectations of the user and does not provide an easy, fast, clean, and transparent user experience. 

As mentioned before, bounce rate and time on site are comprehensively influenced not only by the content but also by the website’s user experience — how easy the website is to navigate, a website design that speaks to the user, and the overall atmosphere that the website creates in users’ minds.