What will the SEO year 2020 bring? Which measures should B2B companies take to ensure they play a good role in the search results in future? Christian Kunz gives us the answers in an interview. The operator of the blog SEO Südwest has been handling the topic of SEO and search engines for more than 20 years now. His focus is on the frequent reporting of the latest SEO and search engine news.
Mr Kunz, which SEO trends do you see for the B2B segment in 2020 or in the years to come; trends which have not yet at all been on the agenda or just in a simplified form?
Generally speaking, many trends in terms of B2C or B2B are not very different from one another, as they are relevant for both segments. But if I had to highlight some aspects for the B2B segment, these would be navigation and architecture of the company’s website, the quality of the website’s content in terms of E.A.T., and structured data.
Let’s start from the beginning. In terms of navigation, what’s new that needs to be kept in mind?
If you end up on a B2B website, you notice this quite fast. It’s difficult to find your way through the different hierarchical trees. The type of product on the one page, the manufacturer on the other page, and possibly application options on a third page – this is not only unmanageable, it is also problematic for Google. When the pages are reachable via different hierarchies, various URLs are possibly the result, and this can lead to duplicate content. This can, in turn, lead to a lower ranking of the content on Google.
Has that not always been the case, or why do you see this as being a trend?
It’s a trend insofar as that the medium-sized companies in the B2B segment are increasingly noticing this problem and doing something about it. A change in thinking is going on, and if you don’t want to be left behind, you should optimise the navigation of your website sometime this year at the latest.
What is behind the keyword E.A.T., and why is it especially important for B2B companies?
E.A.T. stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Especially in the typical B2B industries, such as medicine or energy, or in sensitive industries like finance and law, Google is placing more and more value on high-quality content that can be classified based on the E.A.T. approach. Text should therefore be written by experts who are by all accounts familiar with the topic and, ideally, who are recognised authorities in their discipline. What’s more, the trustworthiness of the information should be confirmed by the use of high-quality links.
Christian Kunz, SEO expert
Google has emphasised these criteria in its Quality Rater Guidelines more strongly. This is a guide for the manual quality check of websites based on how Google employees evaluate the search results. These results are then used as a basis to re-adjust the algorithms, to put it in plain terms. As a result, after the last Google update, various websites, for instance, with medical content were sanctioned, as these were evidently ranked as being not serious.
And what is so great about the SEO trend of structured data?
These are data which are embedded in the code of a website and therefore enable certain elements to be particularly highlighted for Google. An example: structured data for products. The information about the manufacturer, the price or reviews can be integrated which Google shows in the search results, such as in a so-called Rich Snippet, which is presented below a hit on the results page. The spectrum of the structured data that Google leverages widens as time goes on – in this respect, this area is also an important B2B trend. This may sound complicated to the ears of a medium-sized enterprise, but there are tools and plug-ins available which simplify application.
Are there any general SEO trends in addition that are just as important in the B2B segment as they are in B2C?
The aspect of quality is becoming more and more important across the board – not just in terms of content. For instance, Google gives significant importance to the ratio between advertising and content, or to the technical quality of a website, such as page speed. In the past, it was perfectly normal for a website to load in three to five seconds – today, a website should load within one second and at least the most essential content should appear for Google to be satisfied. In short, you could say that Google is increasingly recognising better what users want. And when users’ needs are satisfied, the chances of getting a good ranking are better.
About technology: in the B2B segment, lots of search requests are still being made via desktop devices. Should the website be optimised anyway for mobile requests?
Definitely. Google has been solely using the mobile version for calculating rankings for some time now with new websites. And existing websites are being considered bit by bit. What’s more, the number of mobile users is continually growing in B2B. And both desktop as well as mobile users can be satisfied when the display of the website is optimised with a responsive design. Google discourages offering two different website variants – one for mobile and one for desktop. And on top of this, the efforts for maintenance of the website would also be double.
A change in thinking is going on, and if you don’t want to be left behind, you should optimise the navigation of your website sometime this year at the latest.
Which influence does the continually changing Google algorithm have on the SEO strategy? What needs to be considered now in line of the BERT update at the end of 2019?
The so-called core updates from Google have a decisive influence on the evaluation of websites. With BERT, however, the update is not about indexing or ranking data. It is about providing a model for understanding natural speech. Generally speaking, companies don’t have to change anything with respect to BERT, granted the text is clearly structured and written in an understandable way.
And when a new core update is announced?
The problem is that Google announces many of its updates, but no longer recommends any concrete actions to take. In such cases, entrepreneurs should check their website and its sub-pages for their current rankings. If these have moved down in the list, the question should be asked as to why this has happened: Is it because of the content? Can the displaying of the website be improved? Are there technical problems? This analysis is not easy and requires quite a bit of effort. It’s not like in the past when all you had to do was twist a screw and everything was back to normal.
Many experts are expecting the breakthrough in voice-assisted searching for 2020. For the first time, the majority of all search requests could be via voice. What should I, as a medium-sized enterprise, change in my SEO strategy?
Website operators should consider how users formulate their search via voice assistants. Most likely in whole sentences rather than short keywords. This makes it perhaps even more sensible than it already is to integrate a manageable list of questions and answers on a website, such as in the form of FAQs.
B2C companies are extremely interested in appearing as a Featured Snippet in the rankings, in other words as a highlighted search result that instantly delivers a concise answer to the user. Is this also relevant for B2B companies, or do they rather need the click, in other words the visit to their website?
This is a topic that is being hotly discussed. I believe that a Featured Snippet is always positive, because it grabs attention and increases awareness. This creates trust and contributes to building the brand. In its sum, this effect compensates a lost visit or two to the website more than enough.
When we talk about search results and SEO measures, we mean Google. But will SEO traffic also come from alternative search engines more frequently in future? Microsoft wants to make Bing the standard search in Chrome for their users of Office 365 Pro Plus starting mid-February. The desire for Google alternatives with better data protection is also becoming louder.
This depends on the market. For globally active companies, it certainly makes sense to consider other search engines for their SEO. In the USA, Bing has a much larger market share than in Germany; in Russia, Yandex plays a leading role; in China, Baidu is extremely relevant. In Germany, Google will continue to be the standard in 2020 – not even the so-called Microsoft initiative will change this.