The world of SEO is always changing and it pays to be able to look into the future a bit and read the tea leaves to stay ahead of the curve.  Though 2020 has been a mess in many ways, including the world of SEO and local search, with service pauses, Google glitches (see this past week), and algorithm updates, we have also seen some tea leaves take shape that we should definitely take not of in terms of the future of ranking factors for local and all SEO keywords.

Big Changes of Note in 2020 from Google

The Evolution of Reviews

Review Qualities as Business EntityI have been predicting for a long time that reviews would play a bigger and bigger part in rankings, as they allow customers to tell Google about your business and your reputation. Google just had to get better at reading and trusting them.  We all know anything Google gives value to will also spur a lot of cheaters to take advantage. Google has to be sure they are valuing the real reviews and not fake garbage. They still haven’t nailed that perfectly, but they have gotten much better in the past year, including suggesting you review specific qualities such as service, speed, value, about a business, or pulling out regularly used terms to show users about your business. This should continue to grow and asking everyone for reviews (whilst doing a good job) is a continued key to ranking and digital marketing success.

Recent Chatter Downplaying Links

Another tea leaf to read from Google in 2020 is that there have been a number of times that they have made public comments against the value of links or in this case, how we should forget everything we have learned about links. Though links still show to be highly correlated with ranking success, the way Google looks at them is clearly changing, and we should be well aware of that going forward. I believe they will continue to drop in value, though retain importance, and the types of links and values of each link will change drastically in the coming months.

Information Gain Could Cause Massive Ranking Shifts

Information Gain is a new concept. Bill Slawski does a great job keeping an eye on Google patents and how they may use these to change the algorithm.  With his summer posting about Information Gain Scores, we see another fairly obvious shift in how Google wants to view, and rank information. Though “Content is King” has always been a credo in SEO, the world can certainly beat a topic to death and when there are literally hundreds of articles saying approximately the same thing about a topic, there needs to be a better way to decide what should rank than just links and speed, etc.  If content really is king, then Information Gain may be the answer.  Google has found a way to algorithmically score content based on what it is offering to differentiate itself from all of the rest of the competition. Adding new and helpful content that isn’t the same 5 bullet points will be key to a better ranking. Those same bullet points may still be important, but providing user-friendly ways to dig in and offer deeper and more helpful additional information may be the next step.

How Does Information Gain Work?

Content silos may become more important than ever. Having a general subject page at the center of a wheel that offers all of the supplemental information may be the trend. For example, a physical therapist may be offering a solution for tennis elbow with the standard information. Many physical therapists may have a similar page, but by adding information gain, you may have a bullet point for another of additional topics that then lead to their own page on the subject, and link back to the core page.  They may add bullets such as Treatment, Recovery, Payment, Latest Advancements, Risks, Business Hours and Appointments, Business Credibility. These are all additional pieces of the puzzle a user may be interested in and would provide “Information Gain”.

There will likely be much more to come on this subject, but it is good to start thinking about it now and get plans in place for additional content.