Winning with SEO is harder than ever in 2020. Increased competition and an ever-changing Google algorithm mean that businesses have to play all their cards right if they want to top the SERPs.
It doesn’t help that more and more B2B businesses are turning to SEO to attract high-quality traffic. Content marketing, once the domain of plucky startups, is now being adopted by B2B businesses across sectors and sizes.
While SEO can be unpredictable, following a few best practices can ensure that you at least stand a fighting chance.
In this guide, I’ll share a few such best practices in the form of the ultimate B2B SEO checklist for 2020.
1. Use your primary keyword in your title
This one is self-explanatory: if you want to rank for a keyword, make sure to use it precisely in your title. Don’t add phrases or words that might change the focus keyword.
If you’re trying to rank for “what is inbound marketing”, use the term exactly in your title, like this:
It’s even better if you can accommodate the keyword at the beginning of the title. Although it might not help you get better rankings by itself, it can help you attract more organic clicks which can impact your rankings (more on this below).
Ahrefs’ research also shows that pages with keywords in the headings are more likely to rank at the top of the SERPs:
2. Use your primary keyword in your URL
In addition to the title, also add your primary keyword to your URL.
For instance, this blog post on creative briefs uses the “creative brief” keyword directly in the URL:
This helps in two ways:
- It makes your URL short and easy to remember
- It tells Google exactly what the page is about
Research shows that shorter URLs correlate to higher rankings.
Plus, given that Google now uses mobile-first indexing, a shorter URL makes your page more mobile-friendly since it’s easier to type-in.
3. Add primary keywords to your Meta description
The Meta description is supposed to be the text that shows up as an excerpt when you Google something. If this excerpt contains keywords that you searched for, it gets highlighted in search results, like this:
Of course, Google doesn’t always use the Meta description that you define. It will often create its own excerpt based on your page content.
Regardless, using keywords in your Meta description should on your B2B SEO checklist for 2020. If nothing else, it will tell Google what your page is about.
4. Optimize titles for higher clicks
Your organic click-through rate (CTR) determines how many people click on your page over others for any organic query.
Back in 2016, a Moz study found that stronger organic CTR might correlate with higher rankings.
While Google itself has denied this correlation, it does make sense from the company’s perspective. Google wants people to find the best possible result for any query with the fewest number of clicks. If a user prefers one link over another, it can indicate a preference for that link’s content – a positive ranking signal.
Try adding some power words to your titles. Borrow ideas from sites like BuzzFeed to figure out how to create headlines that really draw on a user’s emotions. The more clicks you can attract, the more traffic you can get, even for the same rankings.
5. Update older content
Google first unveiled the “Query Deserves Freshness” (QDF) algorithm back in 2007. As part of this algorithm, Google prioritized “fresh” content for certain queries. Most of these queries dealt with changing information, such as pop culture, current events, etc.
For instance, if you search for “Bible quotes”, it doesn’t matter if your page is from 2010 or 2020. The source material itself has remained unchanged.
But if you were searching for “best headphones”, would you want to see a page from 2010? In the 10 years since, headphones have changed drastically and most recommendations won’t even be on the market.
In the last few years, QDF has become an even more important part of the Google algorithm. Try it yourself – search for your target keyword. Notice the dates next to all the results. You’ll find that for a lot of keywords, Google prioritizes content that was published in the last couple of years.
An easy way to tap into this “fresh” traffic is to update your older content. If you have any pages that are more than 2 years old and ranking on pages #2-5, add new content to them and change their “last updated” date. This can push you up the rankings with minimal effort, especially for queries that deserve fresh content.
6. Make your pages as fast as possible
It’s no secret that Google prioritizes faster pages in search results. The company even admitted so back in 2018.
Now with mobile-first indexing, it’s more important than ever to focus on speed. Mobile users typically deal with slower connections than their desktop counterparts (average mobile speed in the US is 21.6 Mbps while the same for broadband is 64.17 Mbps). This means that your pages have to be faster, sharper, and better optimized.
Test your website on Google’s PageSpeed tool. Make the changes it recommends and you just might see a jump in rankings.
7. Make your site mobile-friendly
Speaking of mobile-first indexing, now is the time to invest in making your website mobile-friendly. Since Google is now indexing your mobile site before the desktop version, poor mobile performance can seriously impact your rankings.
Log in to the Google Webmaster Tools dashboard and click on Enhancements > Mobile Usability. All your pages should fall under the “valid” category.
8. Write fewer, but more detailed content pieces
The old approach used to be to create multiple articles covering different keywords.
However, Google today rewards in-depth content pieces more than shallow ones. In fact, there is a strong correlation between content depth and rankings.
A deeper, longer article allows you to cover multiple related keywords at the same time. Try using LSI keyword generators to come up with a list of related keywords that you can use in your content.
Go beyond text articles as well. Studies, visual analysis, data, etc. can help you attract more links. Always think: How can I offer more value to readers?
For instance, this page includes an embedded table to help readers get more value. A downloadable table not only presents the information better but can also be manipulated easily. If the same information was presented as a content-only page, readers wouldn’t benefit as much from it.
9. Add Schema markup
Schema is a computational “vocabulary” that helps search engines understand the contents of a page better. Schema markup is what lets search engines display information such as star ratings, prices, timings, etc. in search results.
According to Google, adding Schema markup can have an impact on your rankings. Visually, as well, adding Schema makes your pages “pop” in the SERPs, improving CTRs.
For instance, the star rating on this listing stands out in the search results:
Schema markup is bound to become even more important in 2020 and beyond as Google moves beyond desktop search to serve voice and mobile users. Featured snippets and FAQs are becoming an increasingly dominant part of the search.
More than 50% of Google searches don’t yield a click (that is, they are “zero-click searches”). Instead, these searches result in a direct answer, usually pulled from Google Knowledge Graph.
In light of this change, you need to add more structured data to your website. This will help your results show up in Google’s Knowledge Graph so that you can get at least some of that traffic, especially through FAQ pages and Featured Snippets.
10. Switch to HTTPS
In 2020, using HTTPS shouldn’t be a top SEO best practice – Google announced it as a ranking signal way back in 2014.
Yet so many business sites continue to skip HTTPS. The result is that their websites not only drop in rankings, but also show the anxiety-inducing (to your customers) “Not Secure” message in Chrome.
Whatever you do, make sure that you end 2020 by switching completely to HTTPS. It’s better for your users and better for your rankings.
Over to You
B2B SEO in 2020 is more complicated than ever. But while the specifics may change, the fundamentals remain mostly the same. Creating detailed, high-quality content, following on-page SEO best practices, and creating a fast, secure website will be more than enough to help you rank.
Follow this B2B SEO checklist to start your search engine domination in 2020.