State of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in 2020 and Beyond

SEO is in an interesting place in 2020…

Google really likes their algorithm…

Even though COVID-19 has caused some fluctuations in what people are searching, people are still searching the internet with commercial intent…

…and the companies that get in front of these searchers can get a lot of new customers.

I discuss more in this video:

Approximate Transcript of video…

Hello. This video is about the state of SEO in 2020. Where SEO is now, where it’s been and where I see it going into the future. I’m going to start off by talking a little bit about me. I’m David Hood, Dallas SEO geek, just so you have some context as to where I’m coming from. I’m not somebody who just kind of read a few articles and then is regurgitating the information out there. I’ve been doing SEO since 2009, so over 10 years. Full time since 2012, so I did it on the side while I was an engineer and I’ve been ranking on the first page since 2013 for Dallas SEO related terms. Right now I’m number one for Dallas SEO and I’ve been ranking high on the first page with my biggest term probably since about 2016, I don’t remember the exact date. I’ve been focusing a lot on maps lately and that’s an intentional decision because I think maps has become more important over time and I’m going to talk a little bit more about that in a second.

Also, I want to point out that what I’m talking about is based upon data. Here’s a funny Dilbert cartoon about data and this isn’t based upon… Google puts out information about this is how to do SEO and there’s a lot of half truths in it and a lot of things missing. Then there’s also a lot of people out there who are writing articles about SEO, putting content out there about SEO, who’ve never actually ranked a website by themselves. Either they’re a hired writer where they’ve done little pieces of SEO and they’ve been part of projects that already have massive advantages and they just do kind of the standard stuff and they get to take credit for other people’s work to some significant degree.

I’ve done a lot of projects, basically from scratch, where there’s nothing to something high on the first page and not just my website, but other people’s websites as well and I have a lot of test sites out there. This is really, really important because there’s a lot of weird stuff that you wouldn’t expect, that is not common knowledge out there, that is part of Google’s algorithm and weird things that you can do that work and weird things that you would think that would would help you, actually hurt you or don’t help you. There’s a lot of strange scenarios and there’s just a lot of different conditions that you wouldn’t believe existed if you didn’t experience it with data, if you didn’t actually walk through it. I like to compare learning SEO to let’s say, learning how to shoot the basketball from Dirk Novitsky. You can’t just read a book over a weekend or a handful of articles about how to shoot a basketball and then be an excellent shooter. You actually have to go in there and experience it and walk through the day to day and do some stuff and see what responds.

I have several thousand, maybe tens of thousands of different examples, where I’ve done stuff. I’ve recorded the data in very good detail and documented it really well so that I can see, okay, when this happens, this happens and I can get a lot of different data points and I can get a deeper understanding of some of the concepts out there. Some of them are true and some of them are half true or they’re missing some major pieces. What I’m going to talk about in here is not based upon what should be true, not based upon reading an article or not based upon what Google says. This is based upon real data of testing and seeing what happens when I do different stuff.

Okay. Let’s talk about Google’s algorithm. There are other search engines out there, but Google is obviously the biggest one and they have been for a very long time. Here’s the funny thing with Google, when their search suggests how to sneak in the zoo and look at the penguins, I mean obviously why wouldn’t want to do that? I want to point out that I think they really like where their algorithm is right now. Let’s actually, I want to talk about my chaos theory. I can’t spell theory. It’s kind of a myth out there and it’s kind of related. They really like where their algorithms right now and there’s not a lot of major changes except there’s a few exceptions and we’ll talk about it in a second, that I see in the future and that have happened recently. There’s really not major, major changes. Yes, there are some people who are hit by a very specific algorithm and they see major changes because they have a single site and it’s making a bunch of money that drops maybe 99% overnight in terms of traffic. That does happen, but that doesn’t mean that the algorithm as a whole is changing significantly.

There’s this idea and I call it SEO chaos theory, where there’s a ton of people out there who say that… It’s kind of an understood as being true, even though it’s false, that Google’s algorithm, you never know. It changes all the time. You got to stay up to date every moment of every little minor algorithm change. This is not true. I can count on one hand the amount of major algorithm changes that Google has had since their beginning. Since 20 years ago. All right. Yes, again, there are specific situations where they maybe target specific techniques or specific industries and they do some weird stuff there, but in terms of major fundamental shifts and how they evaluate and how things rank, there’s only a handful of those. All right.

The fundamentals of their algorithm have not really changed that much or they don’t change that often and I think they really like where they’re at, especially when it comes to non-maps results. The maps stuff, they’re still playing with a lot more and that’s one of the areas where I see the most change, which is where there’s a lot of stuff that started working in the last couple of years with regards to maps. They’ve been changing that algorithm quite a bit, that is just not really well known and even to full time SEO people and that’s why I’ve done a lot of testing on that as well.

Let’s talk about what I would consider to be the four buckets of SEO activity. You can split some of these buckets up and put things in different places and that’s totally legitimate. Especially the on-page where I include keyword research and putting under here, even though it could probably be its own thing and in some projects this is less important, in some projects this is super important to do lots of detailed keyword research. I’m putting it under on-page because it has to do with what’s going on in your site. That’s really where the direct effect that you get, but it does affect the off page and the maps and even the engagement to some degree.

Okay, so engagement SEO. This is something where I have some really crazy case studies that you would not believe, where Google is tracking how people respond to specific searches in terms of how engaged they are to this. Now this is one of the major developments that they’ve had over the last 20 years. I can remember exactly when they started implementing this. It’s pretty old. It’s maybe seven to 10 years old when they started really implementing this heavily into the algorithm. Ultimately this is sort of like the Trump factor. If they are sending traffic to your website and the visitors are loving it and engaging with it to a high degree, that’s ultimately what their purpose is. All other factors can be damned if you have super high or super low engagement, it can really help you or really hurt you. That said, it’s not really where you start because they’re not going to send you visitors right out of the gate, at least not very many and so their data is not super complete, but it is something that you want to be aware of and this is why I like videos a lot. I do recommend using videos on your website as I do online because videos are the most engaging form of content.

On top of that, Google owns YouTube and YouTube videos can rank by themselves, in YouTube. YouTube is a big search engine by itself, but just in terms of content on your site, videos are going to be the most engaging. They’re going to help you sell better. In general, obviously some industries it’s different than others and in some industries it’s not really possible or reasonably possible to do videos, but you want to just try to keep them on your site as long as possible. You want to speak directly to your target market. It’s more important to have engaging content than it is to have a lot of content. Google is watching that. Even if people don’t go to the search engine, they still have a lot of ways to see a lot of the traffic that’s going on out there.

Okay. For local businesses, maps. This is where I see the most change over the last couple of years in terms of how Google ranks their maps listings. I think this is also becoming more important as their maps listings take up more space in the search results. Actually, their ads as well are taking up more space because they’re trying to compensate for the fact that it’s like 85% of people never ever click on ads and so they’re trying to make more money and they make most of their money, I think over 90% of their money comes from the ads in the search results. Naturally, okay, well let’s put more ads there. Let’s make them more likely to be clicked on by taking more space up. What this has done is it’s pushed down the non maps results and especially on the mobile device. If you’re a local business maps is super critical. If you rank number one below the maps, that’s well below the fold, which is well below the initial screen. While it’ll still get traffic, it won’t get nearly as much as the maps, but also there’s a lot of misunderstanding on how maps works.

What maps results they serve up can vary widely across different cities. Dallas is a pretty big city. In north Dallas versus south Dallas you might get three completely different results for the same keyword, depending on where you’re sitting. You can also get different results at the same location with different devices, with your mobile device and desktop device. There are other factors, weird factors like that, that can affect what maps results come up. The way I look at this is not like, oh, I rank X for this keyword in the maps. It’s more like how much influence does a maps listing have in terms of different keywords overall. It’s a little bit more complicated view to it and there’s a lot of weird stuff that you can do that very few people are doing with the regards to maps that really help increase the influence of your maps listings. It’s super, super important and it’s one of the best ways to drive business with maps.

If I could choose between ranking number one in the regular organic or having a lot of really good maps listings, top three for a lot of good keywords and not having the regular organic, I would choose the maps every single time. Every single time by far and away, with the exception if you have really poor reviews on your Google listing, which is a whole other issue in of itself. If that’s the case, okay, well maybe that’s not going to help you, but by and large, the maps are super, super important.

Okay, so we have on page. This is basically what’s going on, on your site. Your domain name, the titles, URLs of your pages. This is a pretty simple thing overall, in terms of the concepts of what really matters and there’s a lot less… 99% of what matters from an on-page standpoint can be accounted for with just a handful of factors. Even though you have these lists of people with like 101 things to do for SEO, they generalize SEO and it’s all… First of all, it’s all on page. They don’t talk about engagement, they don’t talk about maps, they don’t talk about off page a lot of times, but there’s really a handful, under most circumstances. There are some things like site speed that don’t matter until they do matter. If it’s really, really poor, then it doesn’t matter, but the difference between it being good and it really good is not going to really affect your rankings at all.

Off page SEO. This has to do with links pointing back to your site. Google’s algorithm, this is one of the major developments that they came up with 20 years ago is basically a popularity contest. When another website links back to you then that’s a vote of confidence. Now this is where a lot of the changes over the last 10 years have come from in the off-page area. I think that they’ve settled on this pretty well. There are some things that they’re still doing and there is still some changes happening here in terms of the quality and the relevancy and the trust of the links matters more and more over time and I think that how you define those three factors is really misunderstood in my industry, but good off-page matters. You just need it. It’s sort of like authority in your industry and without it, it’s not impossible to rank, especially for low competition searches, but for high competition stuff, it’s very, very… It’s almost impossible. There’s some really weird conditions where it can happen, but it usually does not and it’s still a critical part of ranking for anything competitive. Definitely you want to have a plan to do off-page.

One thing to point out here is that where you rank in the maps is affected heavily by on-page and off-page. Off-page tends to be the most expensive part of SEO. It just is. It’s a really complicated thing. It’s a lot of work and it’s very expensive. The maps stuff can be very expensive as well, it depends on your situation. There’s a lot of work that can be done there and you just can’t do it all. There’s just an unlimited amount of work that you can do there. With the off-page, again, it tends to be… To do it right is very, very difficult and not many people can do it and that’s why it’s so expensive.

Longterm, kind of looking forward, I see the off page going more towards relevancy, authority and trust. I think the on-page hasn’t changed a whole lot. There are a few things that are a little bit different, but overall this has been their steadiest. The studies facto, with maps, I think they really like where they’re going and can anticipate getting more and more customized results from the maps, but the general direction of some of the techniques are still going to be applicable and it’s going to be huge focus. They like maps because they make more money because people stay on their platform longer. It makes it harder for people in the SEO industry to really game the system when they have a little bit more eyes and data on what’s happening and they make more money and that’s really what they’re all about. They’re a corporation trying to make money.

It’s easy to say this. I don’t see any super fundamental changes in the future. It’s not that it’s impossible. There’s always people going, oh, now they’re going to do this and it’s going to be fundamentally changed. By and large, there have been very, very few of those where really… The bark is much worse than the bite for a lot of people in terms of how is it going to affect your business.

Thank you for watching, if you’re still with me. If you want a free SEO analysis and recommendations for your business, feel free to give me a call. 214-504-3848 or go to and fill out a contact form on there and I should get it in my email or you can email me directly at Thank you very much and I hope you have a great day. Bye.

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