The search engine results page, where legacies are made and dreams are broken.
Okay, maybe it’s not that serious, but if you’re doing business online (which you should be) you have skin in the game when it comes to organic search.
Today we’re doing a complete review of SERPs in 2020, giving you the need-to-know info on how Google ranks pages and what it means for your business. Let’s get into it.
Short for a search engine results page, a SERP displays the links, ads, features, and everything else that shows up after you enter your query in the search box.
The order of these results, and the way they’re presented, is determined by a complex algorithm that search engine companies do not fully reveal to the public.
A primary role of digital marketers is to test and discover the criteria search engines use and optimize their websites to rank higher in the SERPs based on those factors.
When the first search engines came about in the 1990s, the SERP was not much of a sight to behold. Only basic URLs and a few advertisements populated the page, and little else.
Nowadays, SERPs are dynamic, multimedia experiences that are highly responsive to specific queries, and serve up quality information with minimal clicks on the user side.
In fact, according to Authoritas, fewer than 50% of Google searches resulted in no clicks in 2019, meaning the competition is stiffer than ever to rank high and earn featured spots.
To put it in very simple terms, if SEO is a game of king of the hill, the SERP is the hill that everyone wants to dominate. It’s not only a scramble to the top, but the lead contender needs to actively defend its position and not be overtaken.
This analogy doesn’t work perfectly, since it isn’t a winner-take-all scenario, but you get the idea. The higher your page ranks in the SERPs, the more clicks, impressions, and conversions you will ultimately earn.
As a marketer, you should be continually analyzing, refining, and improving your site’s visibility in the rankings, targeting keywords and search patterns that your target audience tends to use.
While SEO may seem like a highly specialized aspect of digital marketing, it includes many different aspects of business including content, design, sales, IT, and more.
Today’s SEO experts are skilled analysts, marketers and many of them have programming knowledge as well, to ensure their websites continue to rank highly in the SERPs.
Because today’s SERPs are so crowded and competitive, you need to broaden your strategic scope and discover new ways to rise in the ranks.
This means doing your homework, taking advantage of the latest SERP features, and anticipating upcoming additions to the field.
Ahrefs tells us that there are currently hundreds of ranking factors that Google uses to sort results, but a few that should be top of mind in 2020.
Let’s check out what matters most right now.
Digital marketers have been gung ho about backlinks since the early days of the web, as the first versions of modern search engines appeared to heavily prioritize pages that had a wide range of incoming links from other sites.
Gone are the days that you can just buy, sell, and spam backlinks, however, as the current algorithms have cracked down on these shady practices.
Don’t get banned over backlinks that you can legitimately earn on your own! Today’s best practices include guest posting, influencer marketing, and PR platforms like Help-a-Reporter-Out (HARO).
These methods earn you backlinks that rank high in authority and relevance, which are the two most important factors from Google’s perspective.
Above all, strong backlinks are built by creating stellar content that users will genuinely want to share with friends and that other websites will link on their own volition.
2. Page Optimization
The technical side of SEO is vital in 2020, according to Disruptive Advertising, especially as it relates to the speed of your site.
Research clearly shows the heavy correlation between the length of a page’s load time and bounce rate. It’s instant gratification, or else!
Do everything in your control to max out your website’s speed and guarantee a good experience for users, no matter what device they use to browse.
From there, you can focus on issues like indexing, metadata, broken links, and other factors that may be impacting you negatively in the SERPs.
3. Featured Snippets and Knowledge Panels
The top-ranked page on any SERP tends to earn the first click, but recent elements like featured snippets and knowledge panels are steering users toward a clickless world.
These are the designated boxes of information that appear at the top of the SERP, or on the side panel, and provide instant, relevant answers following the query.
Structuring your site’s data is a stepping stone toward earning one of these coveted positions, but in the case of featured snippets, keywords and content organization are critical.
Invest some time and money into creating a strong FAQ page for your site, or loading relevant data points into tables and charts that are more likely to appear in position zero.
4. Local Search
Moz points out that localized knowledge panels, map pins, and “near me” results are the main features dominating local search in 2020, so it’s crucial for regional businesses to make their mark in these categories.
Marketers should aim to flesh out the “My Business” profile to the greatest degree possible if they want to appear at the top of the local SERPs and be featured with rich listings.
Local search has a profound impact on mobile and voice searchers in particular, who tend to use their smartphones and tablets on the go to find nearby businesses fast.
Ensure that your keywords and content pages reflect local preferences and stay on top of your social media game as well.
5. Multimedia and Social
Regular text is so 2000s. Google and its users have moved on to prioritize multimedia resources in the SERPs, as evidenced by its promotion of videos, images, and social media posts.
Be sure that your brand has every base covered in terms of multimedia, and that you maintain an active presence on the top social media sites.
The lesson here is to mix up your content calendar to include new types of rich media all the time, and never fall behind the curve on a trend.
As Google and other top search engines adjust their algorithms to provide a better user experience, there will be changes to the SERPs as well.
We’ve laid out for you a good roadmap for the SERPs in 2020, but who knows what next year will bring! Stay tuned to the latest trends and you will remain out ahead of the competition.