Internal links are links that point from one page of a site to another page on the same website. Because they’ve never carried as much SEO weight as their cousin, the backlink, people often dismiss their power. But make no mistake, internal links are an important part of every website strategy. Google deems pages that have a lot of links pointed at them as valuable. And although a link pointed at your site from an external site carries more weight in the search algorithm, Google takes all links into consideration.
What’s working now
Here are the main content strategies we saw work for our SHE Partners and owned & operated properties over the past year. Based on the good intentions behind all of these strategies, I don’t see any reason why we would move away from them in the coming year.
Keeping content maintained
Evergreen content isn’t meant to be outdated or stale. If your blog has headlines where it indicates it’s a current list of best products, best skin care tips, facts on botox, hottest couples of all time, scariest movies ever, then it should be kept up to date to include recent options as well. Google likes brands where they can count on the content to be current.
Each year or as a new contenders for your evergreen content reveals itself, add it to your piece. This keeps users happy and that keeps Google happy.
The premise for content clusters is that you have one core theme or topic and then many related angles pertaining to that theme. This is how your brand becomes a known expert in a topic and it’s also the way you grow your authority w Google in a certain niche. Be intentional about the content you publish, does it compliment another, related piece you’ve written about in the past?
Look at your organic search data in GA. If you see that your top performing pieces are all related to one overarching theme, do some keyword research to see what else people are interested in about that topic. Make sure you link them all together, internal linking is an important strategy to include.
Cleaning up low quality content
Many SHE Partners spent 2019 embarking on this beast of a project, but if not, then 2020 is your year! Most bloggers I talk to, shudder to think of their content quality in their early blogging days. Posts that covered what you did that day, or documented what you bought at the mall, these may not be ones that need to live on your 2020 website version. Google has a pretty simple best practice recommendation on this one: either fix it or dump it.
Look at content that has driven no (or very little) traffic to your site over the last year. When you find a piece of content, think to yourself if you would cover that same topic again on the site today. If you can gut it, make it better and you think your current day audience would enjoy, then update it. And if not, them dump it. If the post holds nostalgia for you, like documenting kid moments, just add noindex tags to the page and this will block Google from crawling it.
creating content around seasonal trends
This is a true service to the user! If you’re my favorite food blogger and not highlighting your fun, new holiday dessert recipes to try (or old classics), I’m more annoyed to have to dig for it. Your audience expects the seasonal stuff. But also remember, you don’t need to post a brand new version of each seasonal angle, each new year. If it’s an evergreen topics like Thanksgiving Recipes, just add a new recipe to last year’s post. For sales, we typically go with including the year in the URL and the headline and creating a new one each year. Black Friday sales, Veteran Day Sales, etc.
Content strategy predictions for 2020
A continued increase in content created around e-commerce
Although bloggers participating in affiliate programs has been a thing for decades, it seems to have really blown up this year. There’s not a SHE Partner I talk to that doesn’t have affiliate links on their site. Our advice for this in 2020 will be the same as it has been, value your reader first. If your affiliate linking strategy jeopardizes the quality of your content, your user experience or the trust of your reader, then find a different way. Google is getting better and better at telling which sites care about their customer’s user experience and brand trust more than they care about the money.
Find more information on how to engage in affiliate programs while also keeping your SEO safe, you can read more here.
Brands increasing the diversity of voices represented on their site
Bloggers who are serious about being around for the next decade, should focus on becoming a true brand. Becoming a brand includes things like becoming known for something. It possibly includes appearing larger and farther down the path than you actually are! One topic I’ve been talking to our partners more about lately is increasing the number of voices who write on your site. Not guest posts necessarily, although there is a correct way to do that. But adding freelance writers, expert writers – even if it’s just adding expert quotes – and really allowing those writers to be known to the readers. Make sure they have author bio pages on your site, with pictures, qualifications and interesting facts about their lives. Find partners you trust, co-create content or products with them.
More authentic, more conversational
One shift in the SMPN audience development program we made this year was to go from having more formal, SEO audit presentations (me speaking to the partner the whole time) to the more conversational approach of SEO sessions. The general feedback from partners is that they get more out of just having a conversation, asking the specific questions they’ve been holding onto and walking through actual examples on a shared screen. This is how you should engage with your readers, especially your brand loyalists. Take the time to know them, to respond to their comments, to ask their opinions.
even higher quality expectations
And not only higher quality expectations, but bet ya that Google will be more proactive about communicating to the user of potential quality issues before they make the choice to click on your site. Google’s goal is to provide the user with the best result and that includes making them aware of issues that may hinder that experience. Back in November, Google announced they plan to warn users of slow websites before they click on them.
Here are some options of what it might look like:
When it comes to this potential new badge, Google said, “We think the web can do better and want to help users understand when a site may load slowly, while rewarding sites delivering fast experiences.”
Another interesting thing they said was that the plan to alert users to site quality issues extending outside of page speed. We, as publishers, need to think about all the different experiences a user encounters when they visit your site. And what would happen if they user was warned beforehand.
Ones that come to mind could be alerts for sites with auto-play video, sites with low quality images, too many ads, not responsive, not secure (to some extent this already exists), the list goes on.
Brands are going to focus even more on hiring reputable writers, ones who have the experience or knowledge it takes to write on certain topics. A lot of brands are ignoring this one. It’s not great for budgets, as great and credible writers are more costly. But think about it – if Google continues to move at the speed they are in devaluing sites where they can’t process the author and their trustworthiness, you may have paid less for your article, but less people will ever see it.
There is also a method that Facebook is now using that I could see Google also using, and that is to alert users of potentially inaccurate/unproven/disputed content within the post.
This warning on Facebook looks like this:
Can you imagine the impact this would have on users clicking on your site?
I believe content formats that are valued by Google will change. The slideshows, the listicles, the best-of round-ups, Google is beginning to question the realness of this content and the true value it has to the reader.
In 2020, Google will continue fighting the fight for favoring original sources, favoring better user experiences and favoring websites they trust to have accurate information on their site.