SEO Trends In 2019
Keeping up with Google’s constant algorithm changes feels like a neverending battle. One day you are up in the rankings, then another update rolls through and your website rankings fall for no apparent reason. How can you explain these changes to clients when they barely make sense to you? However, one thing about Google search is undeniable and it will underpin SEO for the forseeable future. Semantic search – Google’s attempt to understand contextual meaning will have an increasingly large role to play in how Google ranks websites.
The key word is search. As a search engine, Google’s machine learning program ‘RankBrain‘ is trying teach itself to understand the user intent behind the search queries we type into the Google search bar. This doesn’t always work – and for SEO specialists it can sometimes be mind boggling. However, although there may be some hiccups along the way, the algorithm is constantly improving. The challenge for SEO professionals is to adapt. Personally, I think most of us are already at least two years – and probably more- behind the curve. As Wayne Gretzky said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be”.
With this in mind, I believe there will be six increasingly important elements in SEO in 2019.
1. Content. Content has always been king, but in the age of semantic search we can’t afford to underestimate its importance. When Google’s bots crawl your pages they expect to see certain elements which are common to high quality content. First, readability. If your content is poorly written with grammatical and spelling errors you are not even getting the basics right. Second, subject matter and context. If you are writing an article about pet care there should be something about flea collars. Third, length. I read a lot of SEO blogs and forums and SEO specialists are talking about ‘pillar’ pages/posts. These are in-depth, authorative pieces of content that readers are likely to find valuable simply because of the depth of information they provide. Neil Patel writes that a pillar page may be anywhere between two to three thousand words. (I have heard of pillar posts being twice as long).
2. Authorship. Google is fighting a neverending war against spam and the dark arts of black hat SEO. In fact, the big G rolls out hundreds of updates every year in an attempt to weed out these shady operators. Unfortunately, sometimes these updates inadvertently adversely affect legitimate websites – which is why no reputable SEO specialist can promise to rank you #1 on Google.
One way to combat these shady operators is for Google to identify reputable and trustworthy individuals. Therefore, it is important to identify yourself on your website’s About Us page, as well as your blog. Don’t forget to include your details on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else on the web where you want to be found. The point is that you want to establish your reputation across the web so Google recognises you, and the content you write as trustworthy, and worth promoting.
3. Brand. Brand and authorship overlap to some extent, especially for smaller businesses or sole traders. Many of the same principles apply, just at a much larger scale. The key is to maintain a consistent positive and trustworthy image. Obviously, for larger companies this can be more difficult but at the same time bigger companies presumably also have more resources to devote to brand management.
As with authorship, Google expects to see certain things from a brand. First, a website. Second, social media pages. Third, online reviews. Fourth listings in directories such as Yelp and Google My Business. I agree with the SEO specialists who believe that brand mentions will be regarded much like backlinks by Google. This will be another way for Google to reward legitimate businesses and punish black hat SEO practices.
4. Local SEO. Given that Google is trying to provide the most relevant results for any given search, it is vitally important for businesses with a physical presence to make sure there are no problems with their local SEO. In smaller cities and towns, missing directory listings or incorrect citations can severely damage your rankings and cause you to miss out on a lot of business. These errors can easily happen if your business has moved to a new location or changed phone numbers. Fortunately, SEO specialists are able to fix these problems for you. Unfortunately I see a lot of small businesses that are missing out because they are unwilling to invest in SEO. And it’s a real shame because often they could easily dominate their local competition even with a simple SEO campaign.
5. Social Media. Last month Google announced it was shutting down Google + because most user sessions lasted only a few seconds. But new social media websites will continue to arrive on the scene and others will adapt. In fact, despite a variety of scandals over the years, mainly centred on privacy, Facebook isn’t going anywhere. So in 2019 Google will continue to take social signals into account when determining rankings. But there may be less weight given to Facebook and Twitter and more to sites like Pinterest and Reddit. Where your focus is depends on the type of business you own, and your target demographic. A scattergun approach to social media marketing will only result in wasted resources.
6. Mobile First Indexing. This means that Google uses the mobile version of your page for ranking and indexing. In fact, Google started this process in March 2018. Fortunately, most web design platforms such as WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace already provide mobile responsive websites so many business owners don’t have to worry about getting their website mobile ready.
Desktop page loading time has been a ranking factor for years. Now that mobile pages are becoming more of a factor in ranking results, mobile page loading time will be more important too. A couple of ways you can minimise page loading time is to minimise broken links and redirects; and, use smaller and fewer images. An easy way to check the the loading speed of your mobile pages is to use PageSpeed Insights. If this reveals some problems it is a good idea to consult an SEO professional.
It goes without saying that there is far more to SEO than the factors I have mentioned here. Of course, on-site SEO will always be very important, as will quality backlinks. One subject I’ve purposefully ignored here is keywords, because to paraphrase Gretzky, that’s not where the puck is going to be.
If you are interested in using the latest SEO trends to grow your business in 2019 contact us to arrange a meeting.