The new year is almost upon us. Wondering what’s ahead for your SEO rankings and content in 2019? In this article, we’ll look at some strategies and tactics that you can start implementing now to get a head start on keeping your brand relevant on search engines.
1. Voice Search
Our list opens with the entry everybody saw (or shall we say heard) coming. It’s hard not to miss, with so much talk about it. The bigger mobile internet grows, the further we get removed from good old-fashioned typing. Teaching computers to understand our speech – that’s what the future is about. In fact, Google determined back in 2014 that over 40% of users were already using voice-controlled web search. According to Google, every fifth search query on mobile devices is now made via voice input. Due to the increasing use of digital assistants and smart home devices, users will probably use features such as “Voice Search” more frequently in 2019.
Action Plan: You should start focusing on more long-tail keywords when optimizing content. It can also be helpful to anticipate possible user questions that your content will answer.
2. Mobile-First Indexing
2018 was the year when Google finally rolled out their mobile-first index. How does it work? Simply put, websites are now ranked based on the quality of UX they provide on mobile devices. Bear in mind, a mobile-first index does not mean “mobile-only.” There’s still a single index with both mobile and desktop versions. However, the whole “mobile-first” buzz means that Google will be using the mobile versions for ranking once the site’s migrated. If a site has mobile and desktop versions, the index adds the mobile one; if there’s only the desktop version, it gets indexed the same as normal. What does this tell us? You need to master mobile SEO!
It’s absolutely imperative that you have a mobile-friendly version of your site. Otherwise, Google will index something you can’t show to mobile users and a large chunk of traffic will go right past you. Just take into account a few moments. Google’s Trends Analyst John Mueller mentioned: “If you want to go responsive, better do it before the mobile-first launch”. So, if your site hasn’t migrated yet, and you’ve been thinking about switching, do it now. Plus, Google strongly recommends against m-dot and responsive for the same page, as it confuses crawlers.
It’s also a good idea to track your mobile pages’ loading speed. Also remember to regularly check whether your pages deliver impeccable user experience.
3. Quality Content Development
It’s common knowledge that content is king, and high-quality content opens the path to high Google rankings. But what exactly qualifies as “high-quality” content? The answer is actually pretty easy once you remember who the content is meant for: users. When they do a Google search, they hope to find something that will satisfy their needs 100% and then some more. When you take the users’ search intent into account, you can prepare a piece of content that does exactly that. The Internet will be dominated by people who are the best at getting into their audience’s mindset.
Everyone can agree that the more time users spend on your website, the better. Long content obviously takes more time to consume, which makes it seem like the ideal solution. In reality, size doesn’t matter. Or rather, you can’t expect users to be satisfied with size alone. And yet, the websites ranking on the first page of Google tend to have over 2000 words. If their secret is not the length of their content, that logically leaves its depth and quality. Content that is not just long, but also engaging keeps its status as the page one ranking winner even in 2019.
Action Plan: Check your texts continuously and make sure they remain unique and offer added value. Word counter analyses can support you in the analysis and writing of texts. These show you which terms your text should contain so that it becomes as relevant as possible in relation to a search term. Make sure you do not stuff keywords in your texts – we still see a lot of websites that do this and it does more harm than good.
4. Page Speed
Google is nuts about delivering the best UX and delivering it fast. For a while now, desktop page loading time has been a ranking factor. But – in July of this year, mobile page speed become a ranking factor for mobile. This crucial change calls for understanding which metrics matter for Google in terms of page speed evaluation. Historically, when analyzed in Google’s PageSpeed Insights, a site was evaluated just on the basis of technical parameters. Now, both for desktop and mobile, it’s graded according to two different metrics: Optimization and, a new one, Speed.
The game-changing part here is how Speed score is generated. The data for the metric’s taken from Chrome User Experience report, the real users’ performance database. It reflects how your site loads for each visitor. It’s obviously hard to measure how fast each visitor’s device loads your site. As a result, the metric’s impossible to get through local tests. As for Optimization score, you can totally control it by fixing all the issues preventing your site from loading fast.
So, which metric has the strongest influence on rankings? According to the mobile page speed experiment by SEO PowerSuite, the correlation between the page’s Optimization score and its position in SERPs is strong (0.97). And there is no correlation between the page’s position and its Speed score. In other words, now Google can rate your site as slow, but your rankings stay the same. However, Speed metric is something new, so it’s clear Google’s testing it. With time, those correlations may change.
5. Branding as a Ranking Signal
Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, stated that Google uses online brand mentions in its search algorithm. There are two ways it can use a brand as a ranking signal. First of all, through unlinked brand mentions, the search engine learns that your brand is an entity. By further analyzing all the properties mentioning it, Google gets a better picture of your authority in a particular field.
Second, each component’s sentiment and context matters: reputation, trust, advertising, complaint-solving, etc. Through context, Google learns to tell the good from the bad. For example, Google’s Search Quality Guidelines state that reputation matters for rankings. Consequently, the sentiment around brand mentions can affect the site’s rankings.
Action Plan: Use backlinks politely. They are a powerful ranking signal– however, building links fast is rarely a white-hat affair. Instead of going this route, mention your brand name online whenever you have a natural opportunity.
It’s also a good idea to cater to your brand’s reputation online. Try to address the customers’ pains with your brand and engage with happy clients as well. For that, track mentions of your brand online. You can also find influencers to talk about your brand.
This regulation affects the EU companies and customers. However, international companies should also comply with GDPR. As a result, Google has decided to introduce changes into its Analytics. Now, all personal user data expires after 26 months since it was collected. Such data includes demographic and affinity data (earlier kept perpetually) and doesn’t include sessions and goal completions. However, each site owner can change this data collection default period. Plus, it’s now possible to delete the data of individual users upon their request.
Action Plan: If you have no European customers: You can switch to the “do not automatically expire” option in Google Analytics. Beware that this way Google shakes off the user data protection responsibility on you. Plus, these user data control efforts can extend well outside the EU. Just wait for it.
We’re predicting some big changes this coming year. While all things mobile are going far, we still have to keep an eye on content and GDPR’s consequences. What are your thoughts on an SEO landscape for 2019?
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