SEO 2020 – Trends & Best Practices to Stay On Top

The year 2020 will usher in a new decade. There has been A LOT of changes in the way we go about SEO since Google first came online in 1998. That said, its safe bet that changes to the Google algorithm will come at an exponentially faster pace in the coming decade.  You can thank BERT for that.

Who the heck is BERT?

BERT is an acronym for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It uses natural language processing (NLP ) to understand user intent. According to Google, BERT is “making a significant improvement to how we understand queries, representing… one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search.” BERT immediately affected 10% of search results upon rollout. It builds on RankBrain, which was introduced in April 2015.  They work together using artificial intelligence (AI), with the end goal of being able to understand language and context at human levels.

Here’s where it gets REALLY interesting ~ AI is outpacing Moore’s Law

Moore’s Law maps out how processor speeds double every 18 months to two years, thus doubling application performance for the same hardware cost. The speed of artificial intelligence computation doubles every three months, according to the 2019 AI index published by Stanford University.  Let that sink in – then buckle up.

How do you Optimize for BERT?

According to Google’s Danny Sullivan, “There’s nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged.”

As with any statement by Google, you can’t simply take what is said at face value. Of course there are ways to optimize for BERT – perhaps not directly, but certainly there are ways to optimize your website to be treated favorably by BERT. But keep in mind, the algorithm is more than just BERT

Google: It’s Not Just About Improving Your Content But Rather Your Whole Web Site

2020 Top Ranking Factors

Back in 2016, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev revealed that links, content and RankBrain were the top three ranking signals. Heading into 2020, our data shows that links, content and AI are still the top 3 ranking factors. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon, but I do expect AI to play a bigger role in the core algorithm, moving forward.

What’s the Plan for 2020?

Our 2020 strategy relies on building a foundation upon 5 Pillars:

How is this different from the 2019 Plan?

The fundamentals aren’t changing. The underlying methodology is. And that’s an important distinction.

Technical SEO

For your website to be BERT friendly, it needs to be easy for both humans and Googlebot to crawl.  Search engines require certain coding, architecture and structure in order to index and rank your pages. If there are obstacles in the way, then it makes it that much more difficult for Google to understand and rank your web pages. We will audit, analyze and fix (or provide directions on how to fix) any technical issues associated with your website. Our audits also include project management features, making it easy to execute.

On Page Optimization

Beginning in January, we will be introducing a new concept into on-page optimization which takes BERT into consideration; SERP Intent.  This concept will also be applied to internal linking. We will also be looking for more opportunistic KW’s via gap analysis in addition to the strategic KW’s that are chosen by the client

Content Marketing

One of our clients got nailed by the medic update last year. The site has fully recovered and a key component of that recovery was the use of a topic cluster content strategy. This is a BERT friendly approach that I am hoping to roll out to all clients in 2020. We’re also experimenting with ways to use the Google Natural Language API for developing and optimizing content

Link Building

Many SEO companies cheat when it comes to link building. They either buy links or create private blog networks, linking their own sites to clients. The worst part is that this often (usually) isn’t disclosed and can draw a Google penalty.

The value of a genuine, earned, link today is as great if not greater than ever.  We will continue our approach to creating content GUARANTEED to earn links. Our team of skilled link builders knows exactly how to find the right audience, eager to link to your pages.


The aim of this phase is to review current performance based on company goals related to traffic, behavior, and conversions, and to identify areas that require improvement.  We have many instances where clients have an incomplete Google Analytics setup  – we really want to do a better job in qualifying and quantifying what success means for every client in 2020. That starts with having the data.

How do you intend to pull this off?

The same as always – by anticipating where the Google algorithm is headed and optimizing for it BEFORE it gets there. Having an All-Star team doesn’t hurt either. We have added two Senior level SEO’s this year and have a new project manager starting in January.

The Takeaway

The Google algorithm will continue to improve over time. The thing to keep in mind is that it is an algorithm; “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” – source: There will always be a way to make the algorithm work in our favor.

How we do that has changed over time. The results have not. For the past decade, our clients have consistently received a strong ROI on their digital marketing investment. Our future success depends on us delivering the same types of outcomes over the next decade. I feel very good about where we are currently positioned and our processes for moving forward.

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