SEO Content Writing in 2020: What You Need to Know
Search engines have gotten a lot savvier at helping searchers find what they’re looking for. SEO writing that doesn’t accomplish that task will seldom rank very well. Yes, you can sometimes get to the top of the SERPS with mediocre, subpar content – it does happen. But you will invariably be booted from your coveted position by someone else who does a much better job of solving the searcher’s query.
Google has changed the way the algorithm behaves when it analyzes web pages. Instead of using keyword density, it changed the focus to something called “user intent”, which can be defined as what the user was intending to search for when they used a particular keyword. As Jenn Mathews, Senior SEO Manager, Groupon, points out, Google is continually updating to optimize search results based on user intent rather than a focus on content/page to keyword matching.
In order to create content that ranks well and drives visitors to your site, you first need to understand the needs of your visitors, the language they use, and the type of content they seek. According to Frédéric Dubut, Senior Program Manager, Bing, “you can expect search engines to shift even further from keywords to user intent in 2020.” (SEJ)
In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know about SEO content writing in 2020:
The keywords on your page should be relevant to what people are searching for so they have the best chance of finding your content among the results. Based on the following statistics, most of your keywords should be over four words:
- 10% of searches feature 1-word phrases
- 20% of searches feature 2-3 word phrases
- 70% of searches feature 4-word phrases
When doing keyword research you want to find keywords with the lowest competition with the highest search volume. Learn what keywords your competitors use, what advertisements they run and where they get their traffic from. Once you have established that, you will know your options. Using words that are similar to your main keyword allows you to practice smart and safe keyword research without running the risk of getting penalized by Google for keyword stuffing.
Think of synonyms in terms of “related keywords” or “similar keywords”. In fact, “related” and “similar” are synonyms of each other. Synonym examples include hot, burning, fiery, and boiling or cold, chilly, freezing, and frosty. Google is getting better and better at understanding synonyms while it is becoming less and less dependent on exact keywords or phrases.
I personally recommend flushing out your page first and then going back and adding your keywords and related terms and phrases when and where needed to help boost your SEO. If your primary focus is on incorporating search terms rather than the actual topic at hand, it can negatively impact the overall quality of your content. Over optimizing your pages is also something Google is becoming more and more strict about with each passing year.
There are multiple reasons why titles are important for SEO. The title is the main thing searchers see when they’re looking for something on Google or other search engines. Users who see the keyword they searched for in the title of the page in the search results are more likely to click on it then if they don’t see it. The most effective titles will incorporate the main keyword or phrase within a snappy headline. If you use an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO, you can specify a custom SEO Title Tag that’s different from the H1, which means that you can show something on your page and something different in the search results.
- H1 Title Tag: Why Buyers Need A Top Arizona REALTOR
- Custom SEO Title: Top Arizona REALTOR
SEO friendly URLs are URLs that are designed to meet the needs of users and searchers. URLs optimized for SEO tend to be short and keyword-rich. Along with title tags, link anchor text, and the content itself, search engines use URLs to understand what your content is all about. Include the words and phrases that people are searching for in the URL can also be helpful for searchers who see the URL referring to the specific thing they are looking for. Because URLs are so important, the Google SEO starter guide dedicates an entire section to them:
Although meta descriptions are not used for rankings, they are used by searchers. If the meta description includes the specific words or phrases that a searcher has queried, they’re more likely to think it will be a relevant answer and click it. More clicks due to optimized meta descriptions can actually lead to better rankings as long as visitors don’t immediately leave after clicking on your site due to lackluster content.
These days, the user experience of your content matters more than ever. Google is able to see that people who click on a particular result are less likely to click off and choose a different result or more likely to stay on the site and engage further and solve their task due to engagement metrics. Three metrics that are commonly used as gauges of engagement include bounce rate, pages/visit, and average visit duration which will be reflected in your ranking.
Image Alt Text
Adding image alt text is helpful for regular search results as well as for Google Images, which gets a huge amount of search traffic on its own. Also called “alt tags” and “alt descriptions,” alt text is the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a user’s screen. The alt tag is used by screen readers, which are browsers used by visually impaired people to tell them what is on the image. Adding images to your articles encourages people to read them.
Well-chosen images can also add impact to your content and get you ranking in image search results. Alt text offers you another opportunity to include your target keyword. It’s in your best interest to create alt text that both describes the image and, if possible, includes a keyword or keyword phrase you’re targeting. Alt tags provide better image context/descriptions to search engine crawlers, helping them to index an image properly
Anchor text is the visible characters and words that hyperlinks display when linking to another document or location on the web. SEO-friendly anchor text is relevant to the page it’s linking to and can provide both search engines and users relevant contextual information about the content of the link’s destination. Search engines use external anchor text (text other pages use to link to your site) as a reflection of how other people view your page and what your pages may be about.
You typically can’t control how other sites link to yours, but “you can make sure that anchor text you use within your own site is useful, descriptive, and relevant.” (Google). As a general principle of SEO, anchor text is one of the most important elements of on-page / off-page optimization.
User-Intent Quality Content
Last but not least, write quality (relevant and valuable) user-intent focused content. Anna Crowe, Assistant Editor, Search Engine Journal, said “there is one thing that has been and will continue to be the lifeblood of SEO and that is quality content.” User intent focused content is a major factor in search engine optimization because the term describes what the users are looking for when they conduct search queries.
Everyone who performs an online search has a specific intent. Whether they want to buy something, find information on a specific brand or acquire knowledge in a specific field, they hit enter with the specific intention of finding what they are searching for.
“To succeed in 2020, you’ll have to write something that is relevant and valuable,” said Tony Wright, CEO, WrightIMC. “This means that SEOs need to learn how to write or hire people who know how to write,” Wright said. As search engines become increasingly more adapted to natural language understanding, the best-written, user-intent content will win.
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