A Search Engine Optimization Update Report for 2020
This brief SEO Guide is for businesses and organizations (not SEO professionals) to better understand the current state of search engine optimization with insights into what it takes to rank in the top 3 positions of Google and how to stay at the top of Google search.
How to Achieve Top Google Rankings in 2020
- What is Google’s Primary Goal?
- How Does Google Search Work?
- How Does Google Determine Top Rankings?
- What Does it Take to Rank Well in Google?
- Who and What are Google Quality Raters?
- What are the Primary Ranking Factors in 2020?
- Why do My Google Rankings Fluctuate?
- What Your SEO Expert Can and Cannot Do
Google’s Primary Goal / Mission
The primary goal of Google since its establishment on September 4, 1998 in Menlo Park, California by Larry Page and Sergey Brin is to organize, prioritize and deliver the best results for its users seeking to find information on the internet. (For more information about the story of Google, please see “From the garage to the Googleplex”)
How Google’s Search Engine Works (The Basics You Should Know About Google Search)
Google uses an algorithm (a set of rules and calculations) to sort through hundreds of billions of webpages to find the most relevant, useful results.
Top Google Rankings are Relevant & Must Meet Rigorous Quality Guidelines
You may have noticed in the last paragraph of the “How Search algorithms work” image above that Google specifically mentions “relevance and quality” and the use of Search Quality Raters.
A Peak into Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines
Google has created a 167-page document (download the Google Quality Raters Guidelines) to educate their quality raters on how to identify and rate content on a scale from excellent to prohibited. While I find this document fascinating, not everyone is as passionate about SEO as I am and will not want to read it. The bottom line of this Google Quality Raters document is this:
IF YOU WANT TO RANK AT THE TOP OF GOOGLE,
WRITE CONTENT THAT IS THE ABSOLUTE BEST PIECE OF INFORMATION TO ANSWER A SPECIFIC SEARCH QUERY!
Search Engine Optimization in 2020 for Google
Ranking in the top 3 positions of Google is simple to understand, yet difficult to achieve because it requires dedication to producing relevant, quality content that is informative and authoritative (trusted as being accurate and true).
Those businesses that will rank at the top of Google and continually dominate the rankings are those organizations that deliver accurate information to answer search queries. Rather than selling products or services, offer free helpful information that benefits your target audience. After all, who would you desire to give your time and money to; someone who is attempting to sell you based on their interests or someone who has your best interests at heart?
Top 3 Rankings are More Competitive Than Ever in 2020
Google Rank Brain
Google continuously improves its algorithm to deliver the best answers to search queries. Google uses artificial intelligence (AI) known as Rank Brain to understand how users interact with search results.
Rank Brain will, for example, measure how Google users are interacting with the results delivered. If result number 5 shows a pattern of being clicked on more than result number 1, Google will adjust search results to move the 5th result higher in the rankings and move down what use to be the first result.
User Engagement Metrics
User engagement metrics are also factored into Google search results.
Google understands if you click on a result and immediately hit the back button, which is an indication that the result you clicked on did not answer your query very well.
If instead you spend more time on a different result as well as watch a video on that page or download a pdf, Google understands that result is more relevant and useful. Those pages where people spend more time and engage more frequently will move up the rankings.
Increase the Value of Your Content – Increase Your Rankings
Improving the quality of content is the first step necessary to remain competitive in Google search. Additional important factors to remain at the top of rankings include:
- Page Layout – Is the page easy to use or confusing?
- Rich Media – Are additional means provided to consume the content (or is it just text)?
- Additional Resources – Are additional sources of information provided?
Provided the high level of competition to rank within the top 3 positions of Google, content that consistently ranks well within Google will:
- Quickly answer the search query
- Not overwhelm the visitor
- Allow various options for the user to engage with and consume resources provided
Why Google Rankings Fluctuate? (Why Don’t I Stay at the Top of Google?)
Now that you have an understanding of how rankings work, what Google is looking for and the type of content that ranks in the top 3 of Google, perhaps it becomes more clear on what it takes to rank well and stay at the top of the rankings.
When together we achieve top 3 rankings, your competitors (or their SEO company) are reverse-engineering the content and why/how it ranks so well. Content that offers the complete package of accuracy, trust, easy to read and consume, has additional information available and is attractive to encourage the reader to stay on the page longer and scroll down all the way down the page (yes, Google can tell how far down the page users scroll) will continue to rank at the top of Google.
If our content is lacking in any aspect and a competitor creates a better, more informative piece of content that is superior we risk eventually losing our top position.
What Your SEO Expert Can and Cannot Do
As recently as 2 years ago, having a talented SEO professional was enough to rank among the top 3 positions. Today, with the continual increase in competition combined with the increasing complexity of Google to identify the best content, COMPLETE CONTENT IS A NECESSITY TO REMAIN AT THE TOP OF GOOGLE!
What does a “Complete” Piece of Content Look Like?
The best way to understand what a top-quality piece of content looks like and why it deserves to achieve and stay at the top spot of Google is to see an example. There are few topics on Google that are more competitive to rank well than SEO. Why?
Ranking well for anything related to SEO is so competitive because one is competing among the best of the best. The Top Gun of SEOers pits those who understand how to rank well in Google against one another. You will not find a better piece of well written, informative and easy to consume content than an example such as Brian Dean’s article “Google Rankbrain: The Definitive Guide”.
There are a handful of individuals that experienced SEOers will bother to read because the content tends to always have something of value, Brain Dean has over time developed a reputation as being a reliable resource of current, accurate information on SEO. His brand carries high authority as does his website and his name, which is valuable because Google understands which websites, authors and individuals are credible and reliable.
Achieve this level of trust with Google, and you can rank well almost any piece of content you write because Google knows you’ve taken the time to research, write and convey accurate useful information in the easiest to consume way possible.
Important Questions to Ask Regarding Your Website Content
Does your website continually strive to improve the quality of its content to deliver the best information in the industry? What about for your target audience? Is a competitor doing a better job of delivering useful information that helps its customers? Are you focusing on selling products and services or delivering free helpful information to develop a loyal following who will jump at using you when the time comes for them to do so?
Summary of SEO in 2020
Google continually strives to improve its search results to deliver the best information to answer a user’s search query. No longer is SEO alone able to achieve and maintain top rankings. Google will rank in the top positions content that is accurate, trustworthy and complete. Content that answers a question concisely, yet also provides further explanation should the user desire a more in-depth answer will rank well. Provide additional resources of information should the user want to explore the topic even more, and Google will further reward your content. Search engine optimization today is only a starting point to rank well, providing consistent high-quality informative content is required to stay at the top of Google.