How to Win At SEO Content Writing in 2020 (and Beyond!)
SEO content writing in 2020 is going to be more user-friendly and intent-driven.
It needs to be written for people – content with a purpose.
Here are the reasons.
What Are the Factors That Affect Google Rankings (and SEO Content Writing)?
While there are hundreds of factors that may affect the ranking of your page, the top 3 factors according to Google are:
There you go… Content (and content writing, by extension) is still king, according to Google. However, the search giant will not specify which of the top 2 factors is more important, so it could be content, but it could just as well be…
The number of links pointing to your site is one of the top two ranking factors.
A caveat: you won’t find your page ranking on the first page of Google just because you have a few hundred links pointing to it. Your page could be at Position #1 with no backlinks at all, depending on the content.
However, if your page does have backlinks, bear in mind all backlinks were not created equal. Google will take into account the page authority (PA) and domain authority (DA) of the pages linking to you to get a link score. Higher link scores indicate content with value. Why else would these reputable websites be linking to your resource?
Links are not the only factor, but they do play an important part in page rank IF they are of high quality.
Google RankBrain is a part of the search algorithm that Google uses to give more relevant results for search queries.
To do this, it relies on:
- Understanding search queries (or the keywords)
- Measuring how people interact with the result through User Experience (UX/UI) signals.
(For more great videos with SEO tips, check out Dave’s LinkedIn posts!
What are the UX/UI signals RankBrain considers important?
Organic Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Organic CTR is the number of times people click on your page when it shows up in an organic search.
Dwell time on a page is the amount of time people spend on it.
If people visit a page on your website from the organic search and then leave the website without viewing any other page, that is called a bounce. The bounce rate is a percentage number of how many times that happens vis-à-vis the total number of views of the page.
Pogo-sticking is when a user searches using a key phrase, clicks on a link, is not satisfied with the answer, and hops back the search results page to click on another link.
This tells Google that even though the page appeared as a result of the query, it’s not the best result, as it didn’t give the user the information they were looking for.
The BERT Update
Another factor (in addition to the three listed above) that has come into play is the BERT update to Google’s search algorithm. BERT (which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP).
Long words, I know… here’s what it really is:
BERT is technology that allows the search algorithm to understand phrases instead of a string of, or individual, words, and the way people use them.
For example, when asked ‘do aestheticians stand a lot at work’, the algorithm would match the word ‘stand’ with ‘stand-alone’. However, since the search was for the physical demands of the job, this result would not satisfy the user’s search intent.
With this new update, the search algorithms can understand the intent behind the search, thereby giving more relevant results. This means that SEO content writing in 2020 needs to be even more focused and targeting the search intent precisely.
Google held page speed as an important ranking factor way back in 2010, but in 2018, it made mobile page load speed a factor in mobile search. This means mobile searches are becoming more and more important.
63% of all US online traffic comes from smartphones and tablets. This number is only going to grow in the next two years, about 3x from 2018 to 2021. Experts think the mobile share could go up to 80%.
With mobile search growing, it’s only natural that voice search will grow as well (seeing as most voice search happens on mobile devices and not desktops or laptops).
As of now:
Almost a third of all smartphone users across the world use voice technology at least once a week.
It is predicted that 50% of all search will be voice-based by the end of 2020.
By 2022, around 55% of households in the USA are predicted to have a smart speaker.
How Do You Use These Factors For SEO Content Writing in 2020?
Based on the above factors, SEO content writing in 2020 will have to be tailored to match the search intent, and be optimised for mobile and voice search.
But how do you do that?
Deliver Useful Content That People Need
I don’t want to get into the Search Engine Optimisation technicalities here because this is a content writing article. What I want to talk about is what you, as a writer, can do.
You could write useful content.
There are 5 stages of a sales cycle, where the customer is:
- Problem aware
- Solution aware
- Product aware
- Fully aware
Based on the keywords, you, or your SEO content writer, need to understand at which stage the customer is and tailor the content to their requirements.
For example, ‘the best running shoes 2019’ is very different from ‘why do I need running shoes’. The former is a search query from someone who is researching before buying a good pair of running shoes.
The latter might be a query from someone who is not quite convinced they need running shoes when they already have walking shoes.
Both queries are looking for a specific answer, but they both address different stages of the sales cycle.
So you’ve gone and done your keyword research (or maybe your SEO guy did it, I’m not judging!), and have a list of words and phrases with which to optimise your content.
Are you only focusing on the keyword ‘running shoes’ or are you drilling down to the way people are using that keyword to search with medium and long-tail keywords?
Analyse the search intent of each keyword and solve that problem with your content. What information could a person need if he is searching for this particular term?
Then, craft the copy to give that information.
Of course, you can still do your bit to make it easy for search engines to find and understand. Make sure you include your target keyword in the title. Break up the content with structured (and semantically-correct) headings… put H3 headings under H2, H4 under H3, and so on, and so forth.
Divide your information into lists. These are great for both people and robots crawling your text.
Finally, keep updating your content to keep it relevant and fresh.
Write your content to solve your customer’s problems. Find out their pain points and address them. The rest is just trimmings.
However, the trimmings can enhance the value of a meal; so let’s plan our SEO content writing menu for 2020.
Give Them a Reason to Link
As I mentioned earlier, links are one of the top two ranking factors, according to Google. Apparently, internal links to a page can affect its ranking, but links from domains with authority? They are invaluable!
So how do you get links?
There are several link building techniques floating around the internet. However, the one thing they all have in common is content that is inherently linkable.
If you are able to address the problems of your audience comprehensively, you have a valuable resource on your hands. Market this properly, and you will have as many high-quality backlinks as you want.
Content Writing for RankBrain
As we mentioned earlier, RankBrain is a part of the Google search algorithm. It takes the UX signals from the users to decide where your webpage should rank.
Let’s say people don’t click on your webpage even if it comes up in the top search results. That tells the search engine even though your page is optimised for the keyword, it might not be the most suitable result, so it will push it down in ranking in favour of a more suitable page based on user behaviour.
How do you account for that?
Improve your click-through rate, and dwell time, and reduce your bounce rate, and pogo-sticking.
How to Improve Your Click-Through Rate
Once you understand your users’ search intent, you can tailor the content to match their requirements. Then, you can create appealing meta-descriptions that accurately show what the page is about.
People will be more likely to click on your page when it shows up on the SERPs (search engine results pages) because it has the information they were looking for, and not just randomly optimised for a keyword ‘just because’.
Title tags can play a part in the click-through rate. Various studies have shown that title tags with the keyword, modifiers, numbers, brackets or parentheses, tend to do better than those without.
Meta-descriptions that create excitement, play on the fear of losing out or generally evoke an emotion tend to do well.
It also helps if you show your customers what they get rather than what you offer. If that sounds odd, let me explain:
Say you offer digital marketing services… **ahem**
“We provide web design services with search engine optimisation and on-going SEO”
Are you excited about our services? I’m guessing not.
“Get a sparkling new website that wows your customer and cuts through the competition to get you at the top of search engine rankings!”
(Yes, yes, yes, shameless self-promotion. We’re a brilliant marketing company, after all! Oops, I did it again! Oh well.)
How about now?
That piqued your interest a little bit, didn’t it?
Because now you see what’s in it for you instead of what we offer. There are plenty of companies around that can build a website, but you are interested in YOUR website and YOUR business and what YOU can get.
Can you see how the right language could help improve your CTR?
That was rhetorical. You’re reading an article about SEO content writing in 2020… of course, you see.
How Do You Improve Dwell Time?
If your page does not have the information the users need, they will jump off the page immediately. However, if you have exactly what they’re looking for, in detail, they will stop and read.
In fact, the more in-depth your content is, the longer they will stay on the page to read.
But let’s say your target audience doesn’t like to read too much. Won’t they leave the page if they see too much text?
What do you do to remedy that?
Use images and videos!
Visual tools are better at imparting information than just words, so use them. If you’re still not convinced, 80% of marketers think that having videos on their site has improved their dwell time.
Videos not only make it easier for people to absorb information but they are also inherently more trustworthy and memorable than the written word.
Plus, it’s easier to watch a video on a mobile device than it is to read!
Ways of Reducing Bounce Rate
If you have the right content, why would people jump off your website?
They came but they didn’t find what they were looking for immediately.
They found what they were looking for but your internal linking game was weak and they just closed the window.
Your content was too text-rich, with big paragraphs that looked intimidating.
Conversely, you had too little content and they went off to find more detailed information somewhere else… somewhere that was not on your website.
Here’s what your SEO content writing can do to make them stay longer:
- Push the relevant content above the fold. Give out the important information early.
- Short intros, where you get to the point quickly
- In-depth content…
- But broken up into bite-sized chunks, so it’s easy to scan
- Add internal links to relevant content (using anchor text that converts!) so people stay on your website
How to Cut Down Pogo-Sticking
Pogo-sticking happens when it becomes immediately apparent that the content is not relevant.
People also jump off the page if they find what they were looking for but now they have more questions.
As a content writer, this is an easy problem to fix. Provide your viewers with relevant content that is designed to meet their search intent and make it detailed.
By the way, if you’re noticing a theme here, yes, the refrain of our ‘content writing in 2020’ song is ‘great content with search intent’.
Optimising for Voice Search
As I mentioned earlier, voice search is growing and it will be big in the next few years. However, smart people will start optimising their websites NOW instead of scrambling to do it after the fact.
So, how do you optimise for voice search?
- Be Brief: Provide quick, concise answers, no longer than 90 characters and ideally less, to questions people might ask.
- Aim for Position Zero: A featured snippet in position zero, above the result that is ranked #1 is most likely to be the answer in a voice search.
- Ask the Right Question: The title tag and the heading tags should ask the exact question people are asking. Since most people use voice search in the way they talk, stilted ‘SEO optimised’ language might not be the way to go. User search intent, yet again, is your best friend.
- Keep it Simple: Voice search results tend to be easy to read and understand. Keep it at a 9th-grade reading level.
- Focus on Local: Optimise for local search, as most people will be looking for ‘near me’ information on their phones.
- Be Comprehensive: Long and detailed content that provides ALL the information will help your page come up in voice search. It’s surprising, but the average word count of a voice search result page is 2,312 words.
- Mobile-friendly: Most voice search queries come through mobile devices. If your site is mobile-friendly, it will be more likely to rank higher on SERPS, and therefore more likely to show up as a result for a voice search.
Make Your Content Mobile-Friendly
Right, I know I said we’d only discuss content writing in this article. So why did ‘a mobile-friendly site’ pop up in the requirements? Isn’t that a job for the developers?
It is, but you can use SEO content writing to make your copy mobile-friendly! (That’s a good article. Read it!)
Close your ey… no, wait, don’t close your eyes or you won’t be able to read the rest of the article.
Let’s pretend you’ve closed your eyes. Now pretend you’re imagining your mobile phone. Don’t tell me you can’t… I know you spend hours staring at it!
What you’ll have is a small, long, narrow screen, not the big widescreen laptop or smart TV screen.
A narrow screen means sentences will get ‘squashed’ in the display and the paragraph will seem longer. Remember how we said earlier that big fat blocks of text put people off?
Yeah, so keep your paragraphs short.
Also, formatting with plenty of headings and sub-headings will make your copy easier to scan through, as will lists, bolded text for emphasis and italics to draw the eye to the relevant bits of information.
Because, in the end, it’s the information that is important.
SEO is no longer about sticking in the keyword once every hundred words.
It is about providing value.
That’s what people want, and, as the BERT update shows, it’s also what Google wants.