As an SEO nerd, I often read what people in and around the industry say about the future of search engine optimisation. The trick is to read as much stuff as you can, so that you can filter out the 85% of it that is either badly researched, hysterical, untrue, or all of these put together. Knowing which 15% to take on board is key. And on my Christmas-period reading binge, I did see an interesting post on Forbes about marketing trends for 2020 that included some interesting topics, with one being, ‘SERP Position Zero‘ being more competitive in 2020. The article may be late to the game, but still worth discussing. 

snippet of a position zero (p0) ranking in a Google search.

An example of a position zero ranking.

What SERP position zero means is the ‘snippet’ that sometimes appears above search rankings when a user has made a search on Google. It is very advantageous to be ranked in this spot – for the obvious reasons of being the first available page to be clicked on – but also because of the perceived authority gained from Google giving such a reward to a site.

Many people will think that the page that the snippet is taken from must be the most authoritative on the subject, and it’s hard to disagree with their thinking. As an SEO of some years (decades!), I know that this won’t always be the case, as many-a-thousand SEO will be working away to find out the nuances that make a page appear in ‘position zero’ or ‘P0’ as it has been deemed by some. However, what I do know for sure is that web pages with naff content will not be appearing in these positions. Maybe over the next year or so, some will get through the cracks, but as time goes on, less and less position zero rankings will be had by sites that don’t deserve it.

SERP Position Zero

Who would have guessed that I would be advocating content to earn rankings? 🙂 But this is yet another factor that shows that beautifully-crafted, editorially-linked, long-form content is the way to do well in search engine rankings. On this subject, this is a great time to be a forward-thinking SEO – or a forward-thinking content writer. Why? Because there are large gaps in every market right now for the correct type of content.

Most websites in every industry on the web have too little content. Some website owners/SEO agencies thinking they are clever are saying “more content”, but what they really mean is “more words”. More words alone are NOT the answer to increased search engine rankings. To start to take some sizable ‘land grab’ opportunities, now that Google’s algorithm(s) have got much better in 2019, you need to be the publisher of rich, beautiful, diversely-designed, editorially-linked long-form content across your web portfolio.

Let me say that again:

More words is not enough. You need rich, beautiful, diversely-designed, editorially-linked long-form content.

The actual theory is not hard. Every website owner, every marketing manager, and every SEO (OK, most SEOs) know that the answer to greater riches on the web is better (and more) content. It stares us all in the face every single day – and many times per day at that. Many of us love using Amazon (I bought over 30 items in the past 30 days), and that’s because it has amazing content. The reviews, the questions that are answered, the related products, the ease of use – all of these are excellent forms of content.

What do I mean by “editorially-linked”?

Some things on the web become the norm when producing websites, but the sources are rarely known. Two examples come to mind. One is that people (and Google) love articles of around 500 words. What piffle. I hear so many content writers say this and when I question them as to why, they stare blankly in to the distance. Another thing that has become the norm for content writers and SEOs in particular is to link to other pages in their site in a way that “helps with rankings”.

For example, if I was to link to the social media page on the Embryo site, the ‘norm’ for SEOs would be to link like this – social media. There is nothing wrong with this as a standalone, but when done across the site, page after page, then this creates what I call an ‘exact match’ scenario, where there maybe some uplift for the target phrase in the rankings, but there will not be much of an increase in overall keyword reach for words relating to this phrase – and this (overall keyword reach) is where many, many visitors and buyers come from.

Now, let’s try to link to the page on our site that discusses how our social media strategies help to grow your brand in a much better way. See what I did there? The text of the link makes it much more clickable to the user, while also including the keywords, ‘strategies’ and ‘brand’. This will help Google to understand the ‘shingle’ of keywords that the page is about. And what about the links to the social media page from other pages of the site? An example of a link from another page to the social media page could be as follows:

As a leading Manchester social media and SEO agency, we aim to tie up all of your online channels together.

Now our ‘shingle’ of keywords is ‘social media, ‘Manchester’, ‘SEO’, ‘agency’, ‘strategies’, ‘brand’. And that is just from two links. Imagine what you could do to increase your keyword reach across 10, 20, or even 100 pages. This doesn’t even include the words surrounding the link text which also adds to the ‘shingling’ effect!

This is what we call editorially-linked – meaning the same kind of way that a BBC or Guardian journalist would include links in their content. Do the same, it might just change your SEO-life!

Wishing and hoping – instead of writing content

There are thousands of website owners right now saying things like “I wish we were bigger on the web like competitor X is”. I guarantee that competitor X has better (and much more) content than they do. Atop of EVERY established sector of the web are sites with the richest, best, and most voluminous content. It stares us all in the face, yet as the weird beings that humans are, most of us blank this out and think that there “must be some other way”. Some other way means exactly, “what can I do to make this less painful for me?”.

As I see it now, website owners, SEO consultants, and marketing managers/directors have three choices when it comes to being successful on the web and earning the coveted SERP page zero. They can choose one of the following scenarios:

  1. Keep producing a low-to-average amount of content – and keep relying on building links, sometimes dipping in to the dark side, because “others do it too”.
  2. Add “more words” because that’s what some others are doing – and get some traction, but not feeling 100% good about what they are doing
  3. Produce rich, beautiful, diversely-designed, editorially-linked long-form content – and feel like they are really making a difference, adding value to users that land on their pages, and giving Google the best chance of understanding that their content is useful, giving it to evermore people as its algorithms get better at understanding content.

The choice is yours!

* As always, a blog post of mine about a particular subject matter (SERP position zero in this case) turns into a long-form post about the power of content – but to me, they are one and the same, and achieve the same results – success on the web.

 

James Welch

James is a digital industry veteran, and has worked various roles from SEO, head of research, to director level. He is a content nerd, and loves nothing more than demanding that evermore content is added to client sites - as well as the Embryo blog!