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Should You Bother with SEO in 2020?

It used to be that if you stuffed your website full of keywords and bought enough backlinks, your content will show at the top of Google. Now, we look back on that time and laugh as if it was a wacky hairstyle that we thought was cool in high school.  

The next SEO trend that grew into popularity was the belief that as long as you had a keyword strategy and metadata, you’ve done your job as an SEO expert. I have very specific memories staying up all night writing intricate metadata for hundreds of website pages as if it was the most important thing in the world. If you have the same memories, you probably will feel disheartened by the following statistic:  

25.02% of top-ranking pages don’t have a set meta description and Google uses different text than the set meta description 62.78% of the time.  

After all those hours of work, Google doesn’t even leverage the copy we spent so much time on. So, was it worth it in the first place to spend so much time on focus keyword SEO practices? What else is happening behind the Google curtain?  

Here are some discoveries SEO experts have made by analyzing several SERPs:  

The focus keyword holds less power  

It used to be simple: use a focus keyword enough times throughout a piece of digital content, it will be considered “optimized” for said term. But just as life, SEO is no longer so black and white.   

Download our checklist of 30+ ways to promote content here.

Due to keyword stuffing, Google algorithm updates made it possible to use your focus keyword too many times, to the point where it hurts your keyword strategy. However, it also means that the algorithm takes related terms and similar phrases used into account when deciding rank and relevancy. While that makes the SEO expert’s job more nuanced, it makes the content creator’s life easier. This update leads to more naturally written messaging that is more focused on the topic than the term.  

  

Results show differently based on the device type  

Did you know that your SERP information differs in how it’s displayed based on where you’re viewing the information? Titles and snippets may vary across desktop and mobile and even differ between other devices.

For example, mobile titles are generally longer and mobile descriptions are generally shorter than how the same result is displayed on the desktop. The content may also change, which may even alter the overall sentiment of the metadata.  

  

Results can show differently based on the query  

Meta titles and descriptions can vary between searches. Pages that rank for many different terms can display different titles and snippets depending on the query.  

For example, if you search a certain term or phrase in your query, Google may choose to use that term or a related term in the metadata they present.   

While this is mostly to help promote how the content on your page is relevant to the search query, the fact that it is autogenerated means it may not read as naturally as the metadata you wrote for the page.   

  

Results can show differently based on-page content  

Google will sometimes take a creative license on your metadata and snippets, regardless of device or query. In many cases, Google will pull information from places other than your written metadata to create your results.  

If you have multiple titles or descriptions on a page, they could get combined into one phrase. So, title 1 + title 2 = new title.  Other ways it may impact your results are prioritizing brand names, mentioning PDF info available on the page, using info for image SEO, or using anchor link text from the page content as the title.  

All of these have the same goal – best notifying the searcher what kind of content they’ll find on the page.   

  

You have more control over potential Google snippets than you have over your titles  

You may not have total power over where and when Search Engines show snippets for your business (if at all). But, you do have some power over what is in those snippets.   

Meta titles can be automatically generated by Google, and they may display phrases that you did not write.   

Unlike Titles, Snippets come exclusively from content on the page, and it will not display autogenerated information.  

While it is not guaranteed that your information will display as the coveted ‘position 0’ featured snippet, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of displaying snippets on Google.   

  

Does this mean that SEO best-practices aren’t worth pursuing?  

No. But it does mean you can’t be a perfectionist about how your information shows in Google.  

There is much that you don’t have control over, but there are some important aspects you do – and there are even some loopholes to impact the aspects you don’t have control over.  

For example, if you have a snippet showing for your company that you don’t like, you can take a couple of steps to influence Google to update the result. In webmaster settings, you can specify a length one character less than your current snippet length with “max-snippet” to generate a new option. This prevents content within those sections from being shown as a snippet.  

But at the heart of it, loopholes and small hacks aren’t going to greatly aide your big-picture online presence in the long term.   

Having keywords discussed and mentioned on your pages is still important to do, but not for keyword’s sake. The best thing you can do is speak on a relevant industry topic and speak to it well. If you’re addressing a problem, offer a thoughtful, detailed solution. If you’re explaining a concept, speak to it fully.   

All of the Google algorithm updates they pump out are to reach one goal – offer the best and most relevant content. So, your SEO strategy should prioritize offering the best service/product/information available. Then, you will be working in tandem with Google updates instead of fighting against them.   

  

The SEO world is constantly changing. What worked a couple of years ago may not work now, and what works now may not last forever. If you want to re-evaluate how your website accounts for SEO strategy, reach out to us today!  

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