SEO has been the driving force of how websites are marketed since the inception of search engines. What started as simple cataloguing and indexing has evolved to a more complex, intent-driven process for ranking high in search engine results.
Google (the one search engine to rule them all) has been rolling out around 500-600 search algorithm changes every year and occasionally releases a major update such as Panda and Penguin that dramatically affects search engine results in huge ways. As a search marketer, you know first-hand how important it is to keep up with these trends as they can significantly affect the search industry and how you operate.
From keyword stuffing to publishing of relevant content, SEO has evolved by leaps and bounds. In the coming year, we’re expecting changes in SEO trends as technology plays a huge part in shaping new methods and optimizing SEO processes. Here are some of the trends that may change the SEO game in 2019:
SEO Trends in 2019
According to a Statista report, the number of smartphone users is expected to reach the 2.5 billion mark while mobile users are predicted to pass five billion in 2019. Google has made the move to predominantly use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking since majority of users now access Google through their smartphones. Going forward, the index will primarily use the mobile version of a page’s content.
In mobile-first indexing, Googlebot essentially crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent, allowing Google to show the URL, which is either desktop or mobile, most appropriate to users in search results.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
After coming into effect in May 2018, GDPR is expected to make some changes in SEO. The biggest impact will be on website subscription and registration services since compliance with data protection policies and consent will be more prominent in the coming year.
In terms of ranking, GDPR is anticipated to affect user experience as data permissions and prompts are required to be presented to inform users. Analytics is also expected to change since users must also be informed how their data is going to be used in web analytics.
While there’s still no clear indication of how GDPR will affect ranking factors, Google will be rolling out updates in the next few months, so changes may happen.
Page speed is a measurement of how quick the content on your page loads. And with Google indicating this as one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank in search engine results, it’s high-time to optimize your web pages for faster loading.
Page speed is important in delivering great user experience, since pages that take longer to load tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. Make sure you utilize SEO best practices to make sure your content loads fast such as file compression, minimizing code and reducing redirects.
User intent or user experience optimization
Also known as search intent, this involves the goal an internet user has when entering a search term into a search engine. This has now been a major factor in content and SEO, passing individual keywords as a dominant ranking factor.
User intent is also essential in delivering a more pleasant UX so search results show the most relevant content possible. If you can figure out the user’s informational intent, you can deliver content that meets their needs. This results in better and more traffic.
Voice search and artificial intelligence
Technological innovations have given us consumer products such as virtual assistants Siri and Alexa, changing how we conduct search queries. You no longer have to type in keywords but instead, conduct voice searches using full sentences and grammatically correct language.
With this new method, opting for conversational content and fully integrating businesses with Google Maps help capture the benefits of this new type of search.
There are 300 hours of video uploaded on YouTube every minute, making videos a dominant media type for content on the web. They are optimized differently from text-based content, so to make them rank in search results and get those views, your videos should be optimized for video search.
Despite constant updates, search engines can still have a hard time interpreting web page content. This is where structured data comes in, allowing search engines to not only crawl your site but also understand it. These are basically all the added information that you see next to a website and its meta description that help your business in search results listings.
When you’re searching for a restaurant, the search engine listings will show structured data with not only the restaurant’s name, but other information such as hours, pricing, and stars to indicate customer reviews. If you’re not using structured data as part of your SEO strategy, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to really distinguish yourself from the pack.
Image SEO was once a huge factor in content and website optimization, potentially driving a large amount of image search traffic. This made file names, alt tags, and image sitemaps important back then. But when the ‘view image’ button was added to Google images, image search traffic went down by as much 63%. While image optimization is still practiced today, it hasn’t been effective in driving much traffic---until now.
The ‘view image’ button was removed and has since made a huge impact on image search traffic. This adds more context to each image while forcing most users to visit the site where it’s published before merely grabbing the image and leaving the image search results page.
Security has always been important not only in keeping your website and all its data safe but also for SEO purposes. Website security affects rankings in two ways: site speed and protection from hackers that mess with your site’s overall function.
HTTPS has been a Google ranking factor since its 2014 algorithm update, and while it doesn’t give you an instant search engine ranking boost, it adds an extra layer of trustworthiness to your visitors. However, HTTPS is not without its flaws and this is where HSTS comes in.
HTTP Strict Transport Security or HSTS is a more robust security policy mechanism that protects your website from hackers who strip down your SSL certificate, leading to protocol downgrade attacks and cookie hacking. Since HSTS helps your web pages load faster by adding an extra layer of security, this undeniably helps boost your site’s search rankings.
Amazon has grown to be the largest online retailers in the world. And if you’re trying to improve product visibility on their website using Google AdWords data, you may be striking the wrong chord.
Amazon uses its proprietary A9 algorithm and with it, has its own way of ranking your product in its search results page. A product with a strong sales history will rank higher with the algorithm heavily relying on as many relevant keywords as possible to match the potential search queries of customers.
Everyone wants to be in Position 1, but Position 0 is going to be what it’s all about this coming year. This is the place on the search engine results page above the top result. It usually features a snippet in paragraph form, showing the most relevant answer to your search query.
As Google continues to adjust its algorithm to include more “featured results” such as videos and product listings, the exposure for rest of the page will most certainly get stolen. There’s a new most-coveted spot in town, and you’re going to want to be there.
There will always be changes, both big and small, in how Google ranks websites. This will be influenced by what we put out there and how technology integrates itself in how we use the internet.
It will be a challenge, but adapting to the changes and doing what’s needed can help you achieve your SEO goals. Let these trends be your guide as we enter another year of using the web and work our way up the search engine ladder.