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SEO in 2020

Updated: Jan 21

What inspires you these days?

Surfing the world?

Finding the best pub in Europe?

Launching an online store?

Imagine writing about these topics for people to discover them.

Where would you start?

What audiences would you try to reach first?

How would you tailor your approach?

3 Months to # 1

In 3 Months to #1, ranked #13 in Search Engine Optimization on Amazon for 2020, former pilot and current online marketer Will Coombe details the most effective modern SEO practices and details how the SEO blueprint has changed since early 2005, when Google started to make significant changes to their major deciding factors for ranking web pages.

In today's blog post, I'll cover the most important of these changes for 2020 and how our Santa Barbara Ecommerce & SEO Agency has implemented these strategies while optimizing our client's websites over the last 6 years.

Here's what we've learned:

Keyword Research

When I first started SEO, I relied on Google's Keyword Planner to research keywords I would like to try and rank for.

At the time, I figured Google's competition score (out of 10) was the most significant factor for assessing competition. I usually stayed away from majorly competitive phrases since I wasn't confident that my time would be well spent trying to rank for a race already won.

Unfortunately, this is something that many people who are starting SEO research might also experience.

Here's where I was wrong:

Google's competition score is intended for paid search campaigns only (hence why it's shown for Google Ads).

For Organic research, just assessing the monthly volume and competition score alone is not a good predictor for how difficult it is to achieve results for that target search organically.

Researching the actual quality of the web page that ranks well for a given target phrase is a far better practice.

Here's what you can do differently:

The most effective way to assess competitive difficulty for a given keyword is to assess the strength of the web pages that are ranking well for that given search.

A great tool to do this with is KW Finder's Keyword Difficulty tool which allows you to enter your keyword and (with the paid version) gain access to key ranking factors that includes domain authority, page authority, links, and social activity.


Find a target search phrase you'd like to research

Type the search phrase manually into Google search (clear your cache, especially for local searches)

Using KWFinder, copy the URL of the highest-ranked pages appearing first on Google SERPs

TIP: Nowadays, it is less about a literal approach or use of keywords and more about engaging visitors with content (including media). Exact keyword overuse or words that mean the same thing is not an effective strategy to rank well

For more detail on the most significant factors that KW Finder uses to graph web page ranking, let's discuss our next topic: Page Authority

Page Authority

A great factor for Page Optimization is Page Strength.

This concept is shown especially well for local seo. By tailoring web pages to your local market, when done properly, you can sometimes outperform larger more well-known sites or webpages that might have a higher domain authority.

The reason you would show up for them for the same search would be topic relevance to your local market

Remember, just because a search term is not mainstream (50k in raw monthly search volume) does not mean that it won't lead to success on your site.

Long-tail keywords including niche phrases can help your business accomplish its goals as effectively as high volume commercial keywords. No matter how "commercial," or "competitive" your keyword is, gearing your page's content to your niche market, when done right, will result in improved visibility on Google Search.

TIP: Try diversifying your SEO strategy: Target large markets while testing out newer niche markets as well. If it is about increasing profitability, then targeting the most converting commercial keywords is your best bet.

A dedicated optimizer will track your customer journey as you grow, and give you a better idea of what is converting best on your site from all sources.

Finding the exact search phrases that lead to positive ROI can be a bit tricky sometimes, but you can usually fill in the gaps with strong educated guesses.

On-Page SEO

As a web designer, I always began site development by mocking up the website I was building.

But it wasn't until my first site went live that I began noticing the most popular sites (and the best-ranked) all had one thing in common:

They all made it really simple for users to both understand and use their site.

But nowadays, site usability alone isn't enough.

Trying to convince Google that your site is more relevant than it actually is can lead to penalties and temporary de-indexing.

TIP: The most "optimized" sites are the most relevant web pages for a given search, based on user data, including both click-thru rates and return visitors %.

Develop quality web pages and you will achieve visibility.

And remember to stay away from these outdated tactics


Given the widespread education and online resources for SEO in 2020, should you need to hire someone or can you do it effectively on your own?

By relying on a professional you are giving yourself the best possible chance for long-term, dedicated improvement.

Major Client Problems

With that said, here's some of the biggest client SEO headaches that clients were unable to fix on their own:

- Outdated web design

- Poor site usability and negative site experience

- High bounce rates with low target relevance

- Not utilizing key branding opportunities

- Content geared towards an audience that didn't exist, or was insufficient to accomplish goals

- Lacking content or missing updated brand information

- Not adapting to updated market intelligence

- High amounts of traffic with the wrong purchasing or brand intent

For most, a little planning, strategy, and rehabilitation went a long way.

For those who were looking for a quick fix, they either underfunded the project or cut site improvement out of their budget altogether.

TIP: If someone can't see the value in investing in the most important resource (online) for their business, there is something either fundamentally wrong with the way they think or something majorly getting in the way. Cost is most certainly always the main factor for clients. After all, online marketing comes with no revenue or ROI guarantees.


SEO is about helping people connect with their true audience.

If we asked our clients to describe the perfect customer to come walking through that door they would say, "them".

But we know finding new markets to discover is just as important as listening to clients about past success.

The truth is, online marketing takes knowing the product you are marketing which takes dedication and time. There are overall strategies you can apply but if you don't truly know the product and the brand you are marketing, your marketing plan might be too general.

TIP: Listen to your client from day one. They know what they want for their brand. Your job is to fill in the gaps and offer your professional experience to make this happen. Becoming an expert about their product is a key part of this.

Always, remember to spend your time optimizing for your true audience.

We're always happy to help you along your journey.

You can always reach out to me at

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