What’s Actually Working for SEO (and What Isn’t) in 2020

Search engine optimization has many moving parts. Trying to wrap your head around backlinks, page speed, content length, keyword research, and content calendars can be overwhelming. If you’re not careful, you can get lost figuring them all out.

If you’re an SEO, you have these tips and strategies covered. So for anyone curious about SEO or just starting out, here’s a quick look at what’s actually working for SEO in 2020.

Content Marketing

It’s obvious that content matters for SEO. It always has. But somewhere along the way, SEOs and marketers got sidetracked by shiny bells like backlinks, responsive design, and page loading speed.

Yes, these things matter. But not nearly as much as great content. Virtually all of Google’s major algorithm updates the past 2 years have focused on content strength and authority.

Content Strategy

This probably belongs with content marketing, but it’s so important that I want to give it a dedicated space. If you’re doing keyword research and writing content, you must understand search intent and how Google works in order to rank.

Try searching for “eyeliner” and then search for “best eyeliner reviews” – same topic, but totally different intent and totally different search results. One focuses on the purchase and one focuses on research. If you’re selling eyeliner makeup online and trying to rank your product page for “best eyeliner review” you’re gonna be frustrated.

Don’t just focus on narrow, bottom of funnel keywords. Create a content strategy for every step of the buyer journey to get a strong ROI from your search engine optimization.

Website Architecture

If content is the most important part of SEO, then website architecture is a close second. Website architecture is the design of your website from a navigation perspective. How is your sitemap/navigation set up? How are your pages structured?

Good website architecture makes sure core pages are linked correctly for maximum SEO exposure. This is also referred to as internal linking, and it’s crucial to good SEO. Proper internal linking helps Google to crawl your website efficiently – which means more of your pages are indexed and Google better understands your website’s content.

If your website is crucial to getting leads and new business, work with an agency (like ours) that understands the link between SEO and website design.

Targeted Backlinks

In 2020 links definitely matter. But rather than building a bunch of comment links or footer links (aka spam), the focus has turned to relevant links. Links from websites that Google trusts are great. Links from websites Google trusts and that are in your industry are gold. Links aren’t optional. They’re massively important for cracking a page one ranking. Just make sure you’re getting enough good links and you’ll be fine.

How do you get these great links? Well, it comes back to the content strategy and authority. Create great content, promote it, and you’ll get the links you need.


This is a shoutout to my local businesses. Reviews matter. Get more of them. Get them on directory and listing websites. Make sure you promote them on your website. Reviews are crucial to ranking higher in local search.

Data and Tools

There’s probably not a place that’s changed more in the past 10 years than the tools and data available. The programs, software, code kits, and data have transformed the industry. Things that used to take hours every week, like sending outreach emails, now are done with the click of a button. Creating a content strategy is cut in half with keyword software and content optimization tools. It’s truly an exciting space to operate in.

What Isn’t Working

I won’t dedicate a ton of space to this, but here it goes:

  • Using plugins like Yoast to guide content strategy
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Changing your URL length/position and expecting any kind of ranking increase (www.example.com/how-to-do-something and www.example.com/category/help/how-to-do-something are the same things).
  • Going through and putting H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 tags on every single page (it’s helpful but Google can understand the point without you writing it out).
  • Blogging every single day
  • Semi-committing to SEO and expecting any kind of lasting result. This is 2020. You need to invest money to do anything meaningful in marketing, especially with SEO.

So Much More

This is the tip of the iceberg for what’s working for SEO in 2020. Hopefully, you understand the importance of SEO and why it’s evolved from putting some keywords on a page to strategies that incorporate great writing and strategic outreach.

Austin Cline

Austin Cline

Austin Cline is the founder and principal at Sitemap.io. He is actively involved in the SEO community and frequently writes about the intersection of great content marketing and search engine optimization. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn and sign up to get his posts to your email by joining our email newsletter.

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