Confirmed: These SEO Trends will Affect Google Rankings in 2019
The turbulent SEO landscape is changing rapidly. And, to stay competitive, you need to keep pace with these changes.
Now, when you look at the SEO trends that dominated 2018, you can conclude that this was the year of massive shifts. Voice search, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and mobile-first indexing have already transformed the online marketing we know of and are expected to be even more prominent next year.
So, what are the major trends that will impact your rankings in 2019? Most importantly, how to adapt to them?
Let’s find out.
Building presence on multiple platforms boosts brand visibility.
“Let me google that for you.” I believe you used this phrase at least once. Google (sorry Bing and Yahoo) has been the most popular go-to place for finding reliable answers fast. And, the fact that we use its name as a verb today backs me up on that.
However, trends are changing fast and, today, your online exposure is not necessarily tied to Google. People use voice search to find their preferred results effortlessly, find new brands on social networks, read business review sites to get informed about user experiences, and participate in relevant discussions on Q&A sites. Most importantly, each of these platforms has search functionalities, serving as a search engine.
So, it’s obvious that you need to expand your search presence towards these channels. Start by checking how visible you are on, let’s say, Instagram, Facebook, SlideShare, Reddit, Quora, Google Play Store, or YouTube. Not using these (and similar) channels means missing out on an amazing opportunity to put yourself in front of the right audiences.
User experience gets even more important.
The way Google works is quite clear- it combines its algorithms with multiple ranking factors to classify sites by their relevance, quality, and authority. When you look at its long history of algorithms, you will notice one thing. Almost every change Google makes focuses on increasing user satisfaction and making their experiences smoother and safer.
And, this is where RankBrain steps in. Introduced in 2015, RankBrain is Google’s third most important ranking signal. Based on machine learning, it helps Google provide relevant and reliable results.
As such, it relies on a wide range of metrics, most important of which are:
- The click-through rate
This metric simply shows the percentage of users that click on your link. But, why is it that important for your rankings?
Well, the answer is simple. Google has recently started packing its results pages with stuff like carousels, related searches, paid ads, carousels, etc. These elements make it extremely difficult for websites to get noticed by the right audiences.
Precisely because of that, your website optimization starts from the SERPs and your meta tags. These elements inform people about the content on your page and entice them to click on it.
And, if your page generates loads of clicks, it’s obvious that Google will rank it higher than those users ignore.
However, getting people to click on your result in the SERPs is only half the job done. The other half is, unsurprisingly, engaging them. This leads us to another significant RankBrain signal and that’s:
- Dwell time
Dwell time shows Google how much time your visitors spend on your page on average. It indicates how appealing, relevant, and friendly your site is to users. If a user spends 5 minutes on your page, reading your content from beginning to end, they probably like it. If one, on the other hand, leaves your site 2 seconds after landing on it, it’s obvious they don’t find it user-friendly, authoritative, or relevant. This is why dwell time is Google’s important ranking factor.
Now, in the following sections, we will reveal how to inspire people to click on a site and stay longer on it.
Voice search redefines the SEO we know of.
In the world of wearable tech and mobile-first user experiences, voice search is getting more and more important. Statistics say that 41% of adults conduct at least one voice search every day. By 2020, this number is expected to exceed 50%.
So, if you haven’t started optimizing for voice search, it’s time to rethink your strategies.
Here are a few ways to optimize your site for voice search.
- Optimize for conversational keywords.
Even though keyword research is vital for any SEO strategy, the way we do it has changed.
Just look at how you use Google every day. When conducting a text-based search on your laptop, you probably want to reduce the query to its bare minimum. Why? You want to get the desired answer as fast as possible and typing entire sentences into the search box doesn’t help.
With voice search, this trend has changed radically. Voice search is basically Google’s attempt to impersonate real-life conversations and make our interactions with its assistant more pleasant and natural. This takes our searches to a whole new level, allowing us to find the desired information and consume it without even looking at the screen.
This trend directly impacts the way marketers will plan their keyword research in 2019. The importance of exact-match and short-tail keywords will plummet significantly. On the other hand, long-tail and question-based keywords should be a key point on your SEO checklist.
So, when doing keyword research, don’t limit yourself to keyword research tools only. To find your secondary keywords, you can use online communities, industry-related forums, Q&A sites, and social networks to understand the intent behind searches and leverage them. There are also tools like Keywordtool.io or LSI graph that will give you sweet, long-tail keywords synonymous with the one you typed in.
- Include questions in your content.
Let’s say you want to use voice search to find best family restaurants in New York. Would you say: “OK Google, best family restaurants New York” or ask: “OK Google, what are the best family restaurants in New York?” You’d choose the latter option.
This is how your users will look for your site, too. In fact, most voice searches are in a form of a question. The fact that 2.68% of voice search results are FAQ pages (compared to 1.54% desktop search results) confirms this statement.
So, how to optimize for questions?
- Implement trigger words in your content, such as how, what, where, define, why, who, list, types, etc.
- Have a detailed FAQ page. It includes your customers’ most common questions that may match users’ searches.
- Use simpler, conversational language structures. Writing in the language of your searchers will make you more findable.
- Write longer content, as it gives you more opportunities to show up in voice search results.
- Use local keywords and cover local topics in your content. Namely, statistics show that 22% of users conduct voice searches to get location information.
- Use structured data.
In voice search, Google doesn’t provide users with 10 blue links. Instead, it chooses one, most relevant result and displays it. And, to increase your visibility, you need to utilize the Schema markup that helps Google understand the context behind your page content. This way, you will make sure that Google can access your location information and use you as a relevant resource.
Content remains a key link building strategy.
When entering the world of SEO, some of the first terms marketers learn are “backlinks” and “content.” Why is this so? The answer is simple- the quality of your content and the number of sites linking back to it are still Google’s most significant ranking factor. Therefore, even though there are still numerous online resources telling us link building is dying, they’re wrong.
Now, there are numerous link building tactics:
- Build high-authority links on Wikipedia.
- Get your site listed on major business directories.
- Write high-quality guest posts.
- Look for broken links on reputable sites in your niche and offer your related resource as a replacement.
- Search for sites that mentioned your brand/products, cited you, or used your images without linking back to you. Reach out to them and ask whether they can include a link to your site.
There is one thing that connects each of these link building tactics. They’re all based on linking back to quality, relevant, and authoritative content. Today, linking to your homepage or product pages doesn’t work. You need to guide your customers to the pages on your site that engage them and bring value to them. And, this is where your blog shines.
Simply put, content marketing is a critical aspect of your link building strategy.
First, it helps you earn high-quality backlinks. By creating informative posts, you will position yourself as an authoritative source of information. When people see their value, they will keep coming back to your site. Above all, they will share it online, making it visible to authority figures in your niche. This is exactly how you will boost your content’s visibility and earn awesome links without promoting it.
Second, no matter if you’re using link building or publishing guest posts, you need to link to something relevant to your target audience. These link building tactics are key to boosting people’s engagement and getting them to click on your link. But, the question is what happens once they land on your page. If your content doesn’t resonate with them, they will ditch it.
So, how to create content that earns links and engages in 2019?
Experiment with the types of content.
Traditional, 500-word articles don’t make sense anymore. People are sick and tired of self-serving content and brands creating it just for the sake of ranking higher. In the world of rising artificial intelligence, you need to make sure that each post you publish is interactive, exciting, and relevant.
When writing text-based content, make sure it’s over 2000 words. Long-form content performs better on search engines and the Backlinko research proves that. They found that the 2000-word content performs better in the SERPs.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should spam your posts with a bunch of fluff text and irrelevant information. Be it evergreen articles, ultimate guides, whitepapers, case studies, industry research, your content needs to be highly insightful and help your customers find answers to specific problems.
Still, don’t focus yourself on articles only. Combine it with other forms of content, like infographics, photos, or video. For example, did you know that videos help you rank higher on Google? Statistics say that over 55% if search results contain at least one video.
So, it’s not surprising that 80% of online traffic will be videos by 2021. Therefore, using the power of YouTube, creating engaging and link-worthy videos, and embedding them into your textual posts would be a terrific idea.
Responsive website design becomes a standard.
On May this year, Google rolled out its Mobile-First Index. This simply means that, from now on, it indexes the mobile version of your site. And, this move makes sense. Given that 60% of searches come from mobile devices, it’s logical that Google wants to make these people’s experiences as pleasant as possible.
- Switch from the mobile-friendly to the responsive mindset. Unlike static mobile sites that look same on all devices, fully responsive sites change according to a user’s device.
- Serve the same content on mobile and desktop versions of your site. Make sure you deliver the same content on desktop and mobile devices. Avoid hiding content behind buttons and menus or removing any functionality. After all, the aim of mobile-first indexing is to provide equally good browsing experiences to both desktop and mobile users.
- Improve your site speed. In addition to some common practices like removing redirects or using image compression, you could also use Google Mobile Accelerated Pages (AMPs). They will ensure your content loads impressively fast, increase user engagement, improve server performance, and indirectly boost your rankings.
- Increase the overall functionality of your site to make the customer journey frictionless. Simplify your navigation and layouts, choose legible fonts, and add easily tappable CTAs, links, and forms.
- Test how friendly your site is to mobile users. Tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool may be your valuable partner here.
Over to you
Google is constantly changing the SEO sphere. And, to rank high and rise above your competitors, you need to play by these rules. On the other hand, keep in mind that, no matter how powerful these tactics are, there are no uniform SEO rules. Use these tips to get inspired, but don’t forget to run continuous audits of your site’s performance and tailor the strategy to your specific needs.