The Future of Search Engines: SEO Trends for 2019
You might be looking back at 2018 and thinking to yourself that everything’s going smooth, and there’s nothing to worry about. But, is this really the case for a lot of the industries that compete for page one results? With the immense growth of voice search, the ridiculous amount of structured data, and consistent push for website performance — one has to wonder how long it’s going to be before Google just takes all your content without ever sending a visitor your way!
One of the leading trends for 2018 was the exploration of other marketing channels opposed to just Google. While aiming for high SERP rankings is still a viable technique, there are the likes of Amazon, Apple, Instagram, and Quora — all of which serve hundreds of millions of daily users. Can you think of ways that these platforms could benefit your long-term marketing strategies? As more people spend time inside personalized apps, it’s critical that SEO’s find a way to get their content inside those apps and in front of potential new users.
Google’s RankBrain algorithm has also been making quite a bit of noise. Furthering the efforts to encourage SEO’s to write better and more intentional content. And then you have the engagement metric, where Google wants to know how engaging a page is to a new visitor. That’s a lot of stuff to unpack, digest, and fully understand.
This post is going to take a look at existing (successful) trends and also what to look forward to as we move into 2019. Whether you’re a seasoned SEO expert or a newcomer to the game, this post has something for everyone.
It’s all about intent and audience type
Google no longer wants to promote broad and saturated answers. Instead, webmasters should focus on understanding the questions that their audience is asking. Once you understand the question (keyword), you can write an answer (content) that’s easy to understand.
At the same time, even the most perfectly optimized content framework isn’t going to go far unless you’re serving a strict audience type. The goal for intentional content is not to boast or impress, but to provide concise answers that both Google and the reader can appreciate.
As for keyword optimization, it’s going to change drastically when taking into the account user intent. E.g. Rather than promoting “growth hacking for brands”, you ought to go a step further and focus on, “growth hacking for food brands”. This also means that you have to optimize your keyword research strategy.
The best way to do this is to explore existing content around the web for the keywords you’re trying to promote. Are other sites answering the right questions? Can you somehow improve an answer to provide more detail? This is what it is going to take to serve user intent and in turn please Google’s algorithm.
It’s definitely a lot more work to write detailed answers for even the smallest questions, but this is what it’s going to take to rank well in Google SERPs.
Structured data is the future
Google’s love for machine learning is visible everywhere. And rather than doing all the work itself, Google wants you to specify every small detail about your content. This is also known as Structured Data or Schema Markup. It’s not that Google is lazy or doesn’t have the computing power to process sites.
The reason why structured data is becoming such a quintessential part of the SEO experience is that it’s fast. And very fast at that. Structured markup tells search engines what is what immediately upon landing on the page. Which means that search algorithms can focus solely on analyzing and indexing the content.
JP Sherman, enterprise search and findability expert at Red Hat, said you should start looking at and understanding structured data, schema, active and passive search behaviors, and how they can connect to behaviors that signal intent so that the behavior of search becomes a much larger effort of findability.
You can start applying structured data through your Google Webmasters Central. And if you’re using a popular CMS like WordPress, then there’s plenty of solutions to help you automate some of the structured data markups. Check out this article from IBM which showcases some of the structure data tools functionality.
Quality continues to gain importance
Anyone and everywhere can start publishing content online today. There are tens of millions of new content pieces published on a daily basis. And Google is well aware of this fact. Over the span of 2018 — all major content marketing experts have said that there’s a massive increase in traffic to their most in-depth pieces. Whilst content with less structure and quality is seeing a slight drop in rankings; indicating that someone else has taken their place.
For the ‘average’ blogger this means that publishing keyword-based content is soon not going to be enough. Google wants to see real engagement and interaction, it wants for readers to spend more time on your site (and not click the back button) in order to give you a better SEO ranking. Not to mention, links are still the most popular content marketing method.
Ask yourself, are your content pieces worthy enough for a link from an external site? Likewise, it’s wise to consider the fact that publishing one good post is better than publishing two crappy ones. Putting extra time into your content can produce a better structure, increase depth, and deliver much clearer value to the reader.
It’s almost like there’s this twisted side to SEO marketing, where we oftentimes do our best to rank well but forget that without substance to our content, we might as well not try at all.
Get people from your industry involved
This is also known as the EAT principle: Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. Depending on your niche and industry, EAT can play a major role in how Google perceives your projected authority on a subject matter. Who is putting you in a position of authority or expertise? Are there brands and businesses supporting your claims?
One of the ways you can start building EAT reputation is to involve experts from your industry. Get them to share their opinions and experiences with your audience. Also, think about the ways that you can get journalists interested in a story of yours. Why are some editors choosing another source for context and not yours? Google’s algorithms are smart enough to tell the difference.
What are the ways in which you can collaborate with others in 2019:
- Questions and answers. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and their work. It’s both a way to share and promote brand awareness. If you have not done any QA’s before — it’s a great way to establish new relationships, and get to know other authoritative figures in your field.
- Podcasts. The growth of podcasts has been immense in recent years. And for a multitude of good reasons. Listening to a podcast can be done anywhere, whether it’s driving to work or waiting in line and the doctors. If you haven’t started a podcast yourself, see if you can get on someone else’s podcast and talk about a topic close to your heart.
- Video. Understandably a less desirable option for those who are constricted with time and other resources, but an amazing tactic nevertheless. Videos get insane amounts of clickthrough rates and are an easy way to build some authoritative links if your content gets picked up by the media.
How are you going to build your expertise in 2019?
On-Page optimization has potential
Optimizing SEO internally is still a thing, and can have a significant impact on your broader SEO strategy. For one, on-page SEO doesn’t require you to leave your site. All the optimization can be done in-house, which also provides a way to learn as you go. Again, the goal here is to deliver a smooth user experience. An experience that flows naturally and doesn’t require unintentional thinking or downtime on users’ part.
How can you further your on-page SEO efforts?
- Provide answers. Whether it’s your landing pages or FAQ sections. Answer questions in a comprehensive manner as possible. Use sub-headings and lists to answer as many questions as possible. Go for depth and not flashy appearance.
- Simplify the conversion funnel. These days nobody wants to stick around for too long. Work on shortening the process it takes for new visitors to on-board as a member and/or customer.
- Artificial intelligence. Consider implementing chatting solutions like Hipmunk and other brands are using. A chatbot can answer pressing questions on your behalf, and provide relevant contact information where necessary.
- Search. Using WordPress as your platform? Better think of ways to improve the search experience. WordPress isn’t known for having the best search future in the world, but if you want users to stick around — optimize search results for clarity and efficiency.
What other on-page SEO optimization tricks do you know? Let us know in the comments.
Is Voice Search critical for SEO?
Don’t get too hung up on the idea of voice search taking over any time soon. Even though reports say that as many as 20% of search users are now searching with voice, it’s more than likely that number is far smaller. Also, there is no chance in heaven that voice search is going to jump to 50% in the next five years.
How often do you use voice search yourself? The only time I have used it is to try it on my Android device. And even then, it quickly turned into a meme as it was funny to make Google’s Assistant do all kinds of amusing searches.
That being said, 20% isn’t a small number. And there are many good reasons to start adapting to a voice-oriented content structure already today. One of the ways you can do this is by using services such as Play.ht. Their platform can convert an article or a blog post into an audio format.
In addition, a strategy that works well is the usage of sub-headlines and concise lists — hinting to Google that these are potentially featured snippets. Whenever you use voice search, it’s generally the featured snippet that gets spoken out loud. Improve your chances to get highlighted by optimizing from the ground up.
Keep pushing the Mobile-First standard
- Remember the screen size. Not everyone has the latest iPhone X or Pixel 2 XL — many mobile users still use older devices with relatively smaller screen sizes. As a result, not all content is going to be displayed evenly unless you plan for it ahead of time. There’s plenty of sites out there to automate the testing of your design against all types of mobile devices.
- Emphasize navigation. On mobile, the site navigation is either stuck at the top of the page, or scrolls with the user through a sticky-header integration. The latter option provides easier access to your sites navigation links. Creating an unobtrusive sticky menu is quite simple. But best to test out multiple variations to see what works best.
- Less content, more action. A clean layout promotes your most important website bits. People aren’t blind when it comes to design discrimination. If a site looks like crap, you can bet that users will question everything you put in front of their eyes. So, work on creating clean and smooth layouts. Get rid of pointless content and encourage users to take direct action.
Nurturing a reputable brand image
The last thing to consider for 2019’s SEO trends is your brand image. How recognizable is your brand in your given niche? Are people happy to link to your content because they know they can trust you? And are you attracting insightful and meaningful discussions that promote a healthy community? A brand image establishes a strong presence across many different marketing and media channels. And if you can retain that status of good reputation, Google is going to take note.
When you search for a specific keyword, how much more likely are you to click on a link that’s written by a brand you know? We all follow this same principle, yet we oftentimes forget to work on our personal brands’ image to achieve the same result. Sure, some markets are really tough to get through, and building reputation might require some true innovation and creativity. But, all you need to know is that it can be done. Where there is persistence, there are results.
So, if you plan on applying the tips found in this article — tie them all together to your brand image. Even if it’s a small little thing you do to infuse content with your brands’ name, that one little act could make all the difference. E.g. Making custom images? Add a logo somewhere in the corner. Writing a guest post for a reputable platform? Invite an expert to share his opinion on your piece. By consciously making these small acts of brand promotion, you’re inevitably creating a wave that’s going to stick in people’s minds whenever they recognize something from your brand!
Closing it off
The SEO trends for 2019 are looking sleek and suave! There’s no time for complacencies or over-thinking. Time to act is now, especially if you wish to get ahead of the curve. Even though there are several markets that have been oversaturated with content, you can still make your presence felt. Neil Patel has worked on his personal blog for many years, starting with mere 50,000 unique visitors in the first year. These days, his blog gets up to 2 million monthly visitors, and in one of the most notorious niches on the web: digital marketing.
The only person telling you that you cannot do is the one looking at you in the mirror. Conquer that sucker looking at you and go out there, accomplish great things.