Did you know Google updates its SEO requirements more than 500 times every year? Yikes! How can you possibly keep up?
Well, it’s important to point out that some of Google’s updates are tiny nitpicky changes, and some are more major changes that can seriously impact how you optimize your content.
But if you’re like most content creators—very busy—you don’t have time to sort through it all.So here’s the skinny on the most important new Google SEO changes and how they’ll affect your content marketing strategy for staying ranked in 2020.
Natural Language Processing
Google has been very clear on this point: They want you to write like humans. If you jam-pack your blog posts with keywords until they’re unreadable, you’ll take a nosedive to the bottom of the rankings.
Last year Google issued the BERT Natural Language Processing Update, which means it gives priority to content that naturally answers searchers’ questions. Now more than ever, Google views your text holistically rather than zeroing in on individual keywords. It’s not just about content. It’s also about context.
What does this mean for content marketing? It means well-written blog posts are more valuable than ever before. It’s worth hiring a talented ghostwriter who can think from your customer’s point of view and answer their natural questions in a friendly voice.
Meta Description Length
Although Google’s official stance is that there’s no absolute limit on meta description length, optimization experts say the optimal length is about 158 characters or 120 on mobile. Google emphasizes the need for “quality descriptions,” and here’s what that means:
- It’s truly descriptive of the content found on the page.
- It uses proper keywords but not at the cost of readability.
- Your descriptions are unique for each page and not duplicated elsewhere.
- They’re either written as sentences with proper grammar or list facts from the page, like "Written by Jane Johns, Illustrated by John Jayne, Price: $12.99, Length: 450 pages."
To see your blog post titles display properly in search results, keep them within a fairly narrow limit: about 60 characters. If shareability is your priority, consider these stats about social sharing:
- Facebook readers prefer titles that are about 12 to 14 words long.
- Twitter users prefer shorter headlines of about eight to 12 words.
- LinkedIn users tolerate longer titles of 14 to 16 words as long as they’re professionally relevant.
- All social platforms show higher click rates on titles with bracketed afterthoughts, like: “Your Blog Post Must Have These 10 Traits [New for 2020]”
Remember, about 60 percent of people never make it past the headline of an individual piece of content. To capture their attention, you must be specific about the topic, colorful in your writing and helpful to the reader.
Optimal Word Count
It sounds counterintuitive, but even as people’s attention spans have shortened, the optimal blog post is still quite long: between 1,700 and 2,400 words. If it’s your top priority to land new customers through SEO, stick to posts that are 2,100 to 2,400 words.
People tend to scan content until they find something that’s intensely relevant to them. At that point, they’re willing to read longer-form content. This is your opportunity to build a deeper connection with them.
This advice flies in the face of previous wisdom that it was adequate to churn out 300 and 500-word blog posts. Today those short posts are more likely to get lost in the depths of Google.
Core Questions to Ask About Your Content
About once a year, Google issues what they call core updates—refreshers on the issues that affect content ranking. It’s a massive list, so we’ll summarize it for you. A blog post is more likely to have high rankings if you can answer “yes” to all of these questions:
- Does it provide original information, new research or insightful analysis?
- Does it go beyond the obvious?
- Is the title descriptive and helpful to searchers?
- Is it trustworthy with clear sourcing and links?
- Is it 100-percent free of spelling and style problems?
- Does it avoid looking sloppy or hastily written?
- Does it genuinely appeal to real human beings?
If you’re not sure about the answer to that last question, ask a few of your customers for honest feedback on a specific blog post. Even better, ask a qualified content marketer to review it with their expert eye.
Touching Up Your Content Strategy
Is your mind slightly blown by all this stuff Google wants? We get it. Staying ranked is tough!
When you need help keeping your content marketing strategy up to date, reach out to 11outof11. We have a staff packed with experts on SEO strategy, content creation and more. Let’s work together to make sure your blog posts are keeping Google happy day after day.