Google makes thousands of updates to search every single year. How do you stay on top of the waves when you’re trying to be the best spouse ever, a super parent, and a successful business owner?

Oooh, I’ve got an idea! Make friends with a team of super nerds who spend hours every week testing new things and reading everything there is to read on Google, rankings, and all things SEO.

(Ahem, Spark Marketer.) 

We’ve got you covered. Based on our nerd-findings, here are the top 5 SEO and marketing things you should focus on in 2020. 

#1 Email

“Email’s dead!” has been cried more times than “The end is near!” But the truth is, email is alive and well. 

How alive and well? Oh, I don’t know…let’s ask Emarsys, SaleCycle, OptInMonster, Fluent, DemandGen, eConsultancy, and Campaign Monitor:

  • Email reaches about 85% of people. (That’s a waaay better reach than you’ll see with your organic social posts!)
  • For every $1 spent on email marketing, you can expect to see $44 ROI. 
  • 80% of business pros believe that email marketing increases customer retention.
  • 59% of people surveyed say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.
  • Marketers who use segmented email campaigns see as much as a 760% increase in revenue. 
  • 68% of millennials say promo emails have influenced their buying decisions.
  • 60% of consumers have made a purchase after receiving a marketing email.
  • 60% of consumers prefer email when it comes to receiving promo messages from brands.

So yeah, I guess you could say email is still your best bet for communicating with customers. 

Aaaand, email is currently the only communication channel you really own. Facebook owns your Facebook page and Instagram profile. Google owns your Google My Business listing. Hell, Google even owns the search results. But you own your email list. 

So cherish it and use it to connect with your customers regularly and wisely!

3 bonus tips for sending better, more effective emails:

  • There are some words you should definitely avoid using in your subject line if you don’t want your emails to go to spam. Words like: free, money, and reminder. Studies show those can land you in the spam folder faster than Ghallagher can destroy a watermelon.
  • Use a familiar send name/email address and be consistent. If your customer doesn’t recognize your email address or name, they’re not going to read your emails. In fact, MailChimp says almost 50% of people will simply report an unfamiliar name or email address as spam. Eek!
  • Get personal! Personal greetings make people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Research shows that when you practice ongoing, personalized communication with your customers, you can expect to see a significant increase in revenue and customer engagement. Plus, your emails are more likely to be opened, which is always a win. 

#2 GMB

You may not officially own it, but you need to pay attention to your Google My Business (GMB) profile. Why? ‘Cause Google loves it and it’s one of the first things your potential customers are going to see in search results. 

So first things first: If you haven’t already, claim your GMB profile and start filling out as much info as you can. Set your service area (if applicable), add your website, create Google Posts, answer questions, turn on messaging if you have the means to answer promptly. 

Google is always adding and testing new features — some good, some bad — so download the GMB app and regularly check in. 

We can’t promise you that all your GMB efforts will have the ROI that good email can have, but you should definitely be utilizing everything Google gives you, given that Google has 87.96% of search engine market share.

#3 Reviews

I know, I know, you’re not surprised to see this on the list — or at least you shouldn’t be! Reviews have been growing in importance for local businesses for the last few years, and they’re not going away.

Take a look at these stats from BrightLocal:

  • 82% of consumers read reviews when searching for local businesses.
  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling like they can trust a local biz. 
  • 91% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.

So how do you get more of these trust-building reviews? Start by making your business the best it can be. 5-star service earns 5-star reviews. 

Once you know you’re nailing the service and customer experience side of things, go ahead and ask your customers to review you — whether through email, text, face-to-face, or some sort of automated service or platform. Yelp doesn’t allow you to ask your customers for reviews (weirdos), but Google does. So go for it!

#4 Your website

What’s the number one thing that consumers do after reading reviews? 

Drumroll…

They visit the company’s website. 

So don’t think, just because GMB is like a mini website right there in search results, that you can forget about your website. It’s still super important!

Here’s a quick cheat sheet on what makes a good website in 2020:

  1. Secure. If you haven’t made the switch from http to https, the time is now. Hop to it!
  2. Mobile-friendly. It’s a mobile-first world and something like half of searches are performed on mobile. So if you have a wonky website that looks like trash on a smartphone, it’s time for a revamp.
  3. Original photos and videos. Your customers don’t want to see Sven, the stock photo “blue collar guy.” They want to see you and your team. So upload high-quality, original photos to your website and show your customers who they’ll be working with. Also, the world can’t get enough video. Consider putting together a quick video to include on your homepage that introduces your company, answers common questions, and gives visitors the feeling that they’ve come to the right place for quality service. 
  4. Helpful, informative content. You own your website, so make it a super helpful and useful resource for your customers. More details to follow…

#5 Content

Your customers are doing more research than ever before, so be their #1 source of information and answers. How do you do that? By creating awesome content on your website, blog, and social profiles. 

Your written content doesn’t have to be a specific length. If you can answer a customer’s question in two sentences, do it. If you can provide more value by going deeper and writing more long-form content, do it! The length should fit the topic, need, and platform.

Videos are especially hot right now, and you don’t have to invest in super expensive equipment to create good ones. A smartphone, good lighting, and a tripod are all you really need to get started. So give it a shot.

What should you do in your videos? Answer customer’s questions. Introduce your team. Show them what it’s like to work with you. Show them how to do something or fix something. There are probably a million great ideas for video, so spend some time brainstorming. 

Pro Tip: One of the best books I’ve read on creating content is They Ask, You Answer, by Marcus Sheridan. Go get it. For real. I’d give you my copy but almost every page is dog-earred and almost every sentence is highlighted. 

There you have it, five things to focus on in 2020, straight from the super nerds at Spark Marketer. Have a great year!