2020 SEO Basics Guide: What Today’s SEOs must be Well-Aware of?

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The SEO strategies you have used a decade or five years ago are no longer that much effective in today’s time as they used to be before. The landscape of the SEO field has altered and evolved dramatically. Google is getting smarter and more intelligent with time and if you want to succeed in your goals, you need to extend the horizons of your knowledge base.

In 2020, the complexities that come with SEO have increased like never before. Now, it is not just about building links and creating content with targeted keywords. In today’s time, you also need to track:

  • Emerging trends (e.g. E-A-T, YMYL, and voice search)
  • Changes and updates in algorithms
  • Advancements (e.g. machine learning and artificial intelligence)
  • Evolving audience behavior and needs

That’s why it’s high time to brush up your concepts, skills, and knowledge to stay abreast of what’s going on in the SEO industry in 2020.

Key SEO Basics and Fundamentals [Essence of SEO]

What are the four basic components that form the basis of SEO strategies and most SEO professionals use in everyday life?

Though the answer varies on the Internet, you won’t disagree with these four concepts:

  • Keywords and Keyword Targeting
  • Keyword Search Volume
  • Organic Traffic
  • Conversions from Targeted Keywords

Most SEO strategies and concepts revolve around these four components whether it is on-page optimization; link building, content, or technical SEO.

Consequently, the first most important thing you should know is –How to pin down these key SEO components sagaciously while running a newly launched or existing campaign?

Therefore, we have come up with a detailed 2020 SEO guide for Beginners to provide clarity of the basics and fundamentals of search engine optimization.

Keywords (and their Types), Entities, and Concepts

Keyword has always been the nitty-gritty of SEO. In fact, in the fledgling stage of SEO, keywords and keyword targeting were all the professionals had. The entire focus was on the creation of page content with targeted keywords and optimizing them to rank the page.

What’s different now?

Nowadays, you not only have to consider targeted keywords but also synonyms and related keywords.

At present, you are not restricted to use high-performing terms. In order to improve rankings, there are different kinds of keywords that can be used based on your goals and approach for SEO.

Now, you also have:

  • Money Keywords – drive the right potential customers who actually generate business for clients
  • Head Keywords – generate high search volumes and are very competitive.
  • Short Tail keywords – have a short length, of possibly one or two words (less specific in nature)
  • Long-Tail Keywords – are more specific and lengthy than commonly searched keywords
  • Supporting Keywords – are all other keywords you are targeting (also called secondary keywords)
  • Branded Keywords – include the brand name or its variation
  • Phrase Match Keywords – whereby a search engine matches your ad against exact keywords that include the phrase
  • Broad Match Keywords – allow displaying your ad when someone searches for that keyword, its variation, or even related topics
  • Exact Match Keywords – allow you to reach customers searching only for a specific keyword or its close variants
  • Negative Keywords – prevent your ad from displaying for particular keyword phrases

And so on. If you are thinking about LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords, then don’t. It’s a total waste of time.

Having an in-depth knowledge of keywords is quintessential and it is, of course, the first requirement for the SEO profession.

Another important thing to note here is that the trend has recently shifted from keywords to topics and entities.

While keywords are specific words or phrases, topics can be considered as wider terms and concepts. On the other hand, entities can be anything that is unique, well-defined, and distinguishable, including people, things, places, companies, and so on.

Even though the industry is witnessing a shifting trend, the importance of keywords can never be diminished. Meanwhile, this is also true that you can’t ignore entities and topics for optimization in the present time.

So, go along with all these three building blocks of SEO.

Why Topics Matter in SEO?

In previous times, targeting a single targeted keyword with one page was a traditional SEO practice. But, now topics have taken a plunge in the SEO industry.

There are even topic researching tools online such as AnswerThePublic.com.

SEMrush has its own tool for topic research as shown below.

Image Source: SEMrush.com

With the help of such tools, you can discover the topics that you should work on for the type of website project. This is amazing and super easy for anyone.

Since the trend is in favor of topics, it would be wise that you don’t lag in the race. Besides these building blocks, there are other basic components, for instance, content, links, and technical SEO that hugely impact the success of your page/website.

So, let’s move forward with these basics that you must learn well.

Content – High Quality, Informative, Optimized

If your content is not of high enough quality, you may be at constant war with Google’s algorithm that gets updated (and smarter) everyday.

In general, if you want your/your client’s website to perform well and rank higher, focus on creating high-quality content with a perfect balance of information, readers’ interaction, and keyword usage.

The trick here is that the quality depends on various attributes of a marketing campaign, for instance:

  • The core industry
  • The previous work on your website
  • The current work on your website
  • Your competition within the industry
  • Google’s algorithm

You need to understand that there are variations based on the industry in SEO. Therefore, when it comes to using SEO approach, you need to go beyond one strategy.

The industry norms vary and you can find about them with a competitor gap analysis.

A competitor gap analysis will assist you in finding out how you can improve rankings and get them higher than your competitors.

Besides, it also helps in getting other valuable insights, such as:

  • Ranking of your competitors
  • Features like frequency and word counts of your competitors’ content
  • Linked profiles of your competitors
  • On-page SEO and technical SEO (though at a lesser extent)

SEO is complex!! A Simple Correlation / Causation Paradigm doesn’t work here.

Many people think that if they perform certain actions or steps, they will surely see some improvement. To be honest, this is not the case in SEO. You can never be sure of what factor will work for you. Making slight changes to some keywords on a page or links won’t necessarily give you desired results.

Similarly, if you are getting results, you cannot easily point out the contributors that produce that result.

To find out what caused the results, you have to go through detailed organic traffic data analysis and interpretation.

The way Google algorithm works is far more complex and on top of that, Google introduces changes to their algorithm daily. The updates they announced or information they release about their algorithm seem drastic, especially if you are indulged in spammy practices.

So, you never know what exactly is going to work. However, you may have a general view or narrow down factors about what may work.

Now, let’s go further and discuss overlooked yet important topics – White Hat SEO, Black Hat SEO, and Grey Hat SEO.

White HAT SEO vs. Black Hat SEO vs. Grey Hat SEO – Which one is better for me?

In the SEO world, there are different philosophies. Thus, having an idea of which category you belong to is a wise thing.

White HAT SEOs – These are the ones who work according to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and believe in using strategies that are sustainable. They are transparent in their actions and don’t want to be a target of Google’s penalties. In fact, they are counted as the most ethical SEOs who facilitate their clients with everything they do – details, links, and posts (and whatever they should include) in a detailed report.

Black Hat SEOs – As far as black hat SEOs are concerned, they are fearless and like to implement the latest and greatest techniques and approaches, regardless of how far they are diverging from Google’s guidelines. They are tech-savvy especially when it comes to perpetual churn-and-burn machine, however, obtain only short-term results rather than long-term. They are the ones who build links en-masse to get #1 ranking until Google spots them.

Grey Hat SEOs – This category encompasses SEOs who use black hat techniques just for research but don’t implement them. For implementation, they adopt white hat techniques to generate sustainable results.

In short, if you want to be in the goodwill of Google, it’s better to stick with white or grey hat SEO techniques.

Never Ignore Industry Research, Especially When You Are Not Familiar with Client’s Domain

The steps for gathering industry information are:

  • To reach out to your client
  • Ask industry-specific questions that you should know while doing SEO
  • Find out SEO elements your competition is leveraging for SERP performance
  • Do a competitor gap analysis
  • Define industry benchmarks
  • Do site analysis
  • Find out what has been done to the site previously and is being done to the site now

All of this information can be very helpful and insightful to run your SEO campaign.

Analysis of Competition’s Link Profiles Can Help You Improve Site

Doing an analysis of your own links and your competitors’ links becomes necessary when things get tricky and you couldn’t find what can improve your site. Though it is not essential that you will find out the correlation for sure, you can narrow down the list of causes responsible for improvement.

No matter what techniques or approaches you are implementing, you should always keep in mind that correlation is not causation in SEO. So, remember that just because you did some changes or add something, it may or may not result in improvement.

On-page SEO and Technical SEO are crucial too!!!

On-page optimization

When it comes to on-page optimization, you should be aware of the following factors:

  • Delivering unique value
  • Excellent user experience (UX)
  • Laser targeted keyword targeting (i.e. the keywords that precisely target market issues & strategies)
  • Easily shareable through social networks
  • Easily transferable between devices
  • Making site crawlable / bot accessible
  • Optimization in terms of authorship, metadata, schema, and rich snippets

Technical SEO

It mainly concerns crawling and indexing of the website. This is the part where you can increase the odds in your favor. We highly recommend you to optimize your website for crawlers.

In technical SEO, there is nothing to do with content or link building. It is purely technical.

In 2020, you need to learn and implement certain things in technical SEO, including:

  • All concepts that involve robots.txt
  • Optimization of the site’s navigation and architecture
  • Optimization of URL structure
  • Schema.org Structured Data
  • URL canonicalization
  • Server analysis for locating bottlenecks affecting SERP performance
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Page speed metrics
  • Code optimization (including W3C concepts such as validation and accessibility)
  • Internal links
  • Link profile analysis for identifying penalties or algorithmic adjustments
  • Pagination like next/prev
  • Implementing international multilingual concepts
  • AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) formats
  • Cross-platform compatibility
  • Cross-browser compatibility
  • SSL implementation for security
  • Error page analysis and rectification (like 4xx, 5xx, etc.)

Search Intent and Precise Target Query

Ignoring user intent while doing optimization is a big mistake!! If you want your optimization to be successful, it is critical that you target keywords that fulfill user intent. Though this concept is in existence for a decade, it still hasn’t lost its importance.

Apart from this, you must learn about:

  • Page speed optimization (image file size, title text, alt text, image file name)
  • Page URL optimization
  • Target keywords optimization
  • Providing content that matches the intelligence level of the target audience
  • Internal link optimization during creation of content page
  • Strategic placement of images throughout the content

E-A-T –A Turning Point and a Big Deal for SEO Profession!!!

Commonly known as the medic update, the concept of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness is a game-changer in the SEO industry.

Nobody can escape from this concept as it is implemented in Google’s core algorithm in 2018. For an idea of how much businesses lose within 7 days of its introduction, take a look at the table given below.

Image Source: Torquemag.io

Researchers later uncovered that it mainly affects:

  • YMYL sites
  • Health sites
  • Business
  • Finance
  • Travel
  • Technology
  • Ecommerce
  • Entertainment
  • Coupon / Deal sites
  • Adult Sites

For precise figures, here is a pie-chart:

Image Source: Search Engine Roundtable (by Barry Schwartz)

Creating authority and trust in a website does not solely depend on SEOs, it’s a long-term project.

One way to build authority and trust is to provide comprehensive answers to the user’s query and mind-mapping your content.

Understand the possible pain points, needs, and desires of your users while answering queries.

If you are going to build a website in 2020, ensure that it is SEO friendly because long-term sustainable SEO will be there for good.

If you do blogging, ensure that you include important questions in a well-organized manner that are easily discoverable and can be promoted on the industry and market scale.


Stick to your SEO routine because wonders won’t happen overnight in the SEO world

Though there are a few examples of achieving amazing results overnight, it is not always the case. In fact, it happens once in a blue moon. So, it would be foolish if you quit SEO after a month and expect better results for a long-time.

You need to adopt a multi-faceted approach in order to create a solid foundation to cover several SEO issues simultaneously and be consistent and organized in what you do.