Adaptability is an indispensable quality for successful SEO. In Google’s quest to be the undisputed heavyweight champion of search engines, they are constantly refining the art and science of gauging searcher intent through sophisticated algorithm updates and features. These frequent updates can put even the saviest SEO on their heels.
Over the years, the strategies and tactics for improving organic rankings and online visibility have significantly evolved. Couple this with the fact that a number one ranking just ain’t what it used to be. It used to mean your website was prominently featured atop the competition. This is no longer the case.
Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of value in ranking at the top for competitive and long-tail keywords. You should use all the ingenuity and tools at your disposal to accomplish this valuable feat. But with featured snippets and paid ads increasingly dominating the SERP landscape, it just isn’t enough to have high rankings.
The game is changing. And Google seems to be doing everything in their power to streamline search in a way that doesn’t require searchers to click through to find the answers they seek.
Best SEO Practices
Traditional SEO tactics are still relevant and should be adhered to. It’s recommended that you prioritize blogging and content creation in an effort to target relevant keywords. Optimize these efforts using battle-tested onpage optimization tactics such as:
- Title tag
- Description tag
- H1 tag
- Alt text
- Internal/external linking
Backlinks are still highly valuable and remain one of the top ranking factors. But the process of acquiring new backlinks has become convoluted. It’s 2019. Everyone is wise to the game. Guest posting isn’t as effective as it once was and can wind up in a penalty if you’re not careful. If you want a quality backlink, you either have to throw down some serious incentive or make content so unique that people elect to share it of their own free will. This is much more difficult than it sounds.
Outreach, social media, and PR have melded together into a symbiotic practice. Effective outreach is about establishing and nurturing relationships through brand awareness.
SEO in 2019
So how do you find SEO success in 2019?
By continuing to sharpen and develop your skills to maintain a competitive edge. To help you accomplish this goal, here’s a list of six SEO trends for 2019. Think of these trends as a shortcut. Make it a priority to implement them into your overall SEO strategy.
Act fast. The word is out.
1. Quality Content Matters
This trend will remain true in 2019 and beyond. Google measures the quality of a piece of content by the context it creates around a particular topic. The primary concern of the search engine behemoth is to provide searchers with the most relevant results for their queries.
Your content needs to be thorough. Keyword stuffing hasn’t worked for a long time. Google RankBrain is far too sophisticated to be fooled by haphazard attempts to game the system. In order to rank, your content has to cover a topic in-depth.
Invest time, money, and energy into creating content that is well-researched and rich with long-tail keywords. Make something that uniquely addresses the questions and concerns of your particular industry. And keep it evergreen. Evergreen content has a much higher potential to garner more backlinks and social shares in the long run.
2. Mobile-First Indexing
This one is a biggie. In March 2018, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing. If you have a Google Search Console property set up for your website, you have been notified. If you don’t have a Google Search Console property for your site, create one now.
Mobile-first indexing means that your site needs to look good, providing UX and functionality on mobile devices. Mobile search makes up for approximately 60% of web searches. It is essential that your site be ready to capitalize on this fact.
The mobile-first index doesn’t mean that it’s the only index. Google has a single index which includes both mobile and desktop, but mobile now takes priority. Ensure that your site is mobile-friendly by rethinking hidden content that exists on desktop but not mobile (such as accordion displays). This content will not be crawled. Additionally, make sure the mobile version of your site uses responsive design and loads quickly.
Regularly check that your UX is up to speed. Test the mobile-friendliness of your site with Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool.
3. Structured Data & Featured Snippets
Google’s SERP evolution has placed an ever increasing focus on providing different types of data in the form of rich snippets. This is evident in the breadth and variety of SERP features that are present when searching almost any query. A featured snippet summarizes the answer to a search query, prominently displaying it at the top of the SERPs. Google will create their own meta descriptions and rich snippets when they feel like it best answers a searcher’s intent.
Take some time to study the different types of featured snippets. Make an effort to build your content with an awareness of how featured snippets work. Then add structured data markup where relevant. This will give you a shot at being featured with attention grabbing snippets. With featured snippets, you stand a better chance at having your content rise above the clutter, substantially improving click-through-rate (CTR) in the process.
To start realizing the potential of structured data, also commonly referred to as Schema, review a list of the myriad markup opportunities at schema.org.
4. User Experience (UX)
In SEO, it’s easy to forget who we’re optimizing for. I’ll give you a hint, it the user. We try so hard to appease Google that we all too often focus less on appeasing the end user. Structuring your site and creating your content in a way that enhances user experience (UX) is a great way to ultimately give Google what it wants…which is to show searches the best and most relevant results.
Some effective ways to improve UX include improving your site’s loading speed and optimizing your site for mobile. Nothing will make a searching hit the back button faster than a site taking longer than a couple of seconds to load. You can gain valuable insights on site speed using Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool.
Put as much effort as your budget and resources will allow into creating an enjoyable user experience. This includes flow, content, and technical concerns. This may seem like a far cry from traditional SEO tactics, but it is becoming an increasing requirement for being relevant. Internet users are seasoned. They have taste and preferences. Give them something valuable, something they want, and the rest will follow.
By 2021, video is predicted to make up 80 percent of all online traffic. That’s HUGE. If video isn’t part of your digital marketing strategy, you may want to rethink what you’re doing. Did you know that behind Google, YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world? Also, YouTube is owned by Google, so there you go.
All of this adds up to one obvious fact. Make YouTube a part of your strategy. There is room for content of all kinds. Whether it’s tutorials, education, how to’s, product updates, commercials, or entertainment. It just needs to be good. Getting a video to rank well in YouTube will ensure that it ranks well in Google.
6. Voice Search
By 2020, 50 percent of searches will be voice searches. And about 30% of searches will be done without a screen. Thank mobile phones and home devices such as Alexa. The wave is coming and it’s coming fast.
The best way to prepare yourself for the voice search revolution is to think like people talk. The written word (if writing for the web even counts) is far different from the spoken word. People tend to be more drawn out when talking vs. typing.
Getting your content to rank high and scoring featured snippets will drastically improve your chances of showing up in voice search results. Additionally, voice searches reward those who target long-tail keywords. When creating content, optimize for the long-tail. Google Suggest is an amazing tool for this.
You know when you begin a search and Google makes suggestions? Pay attention to those. They are decent volume long-tail keywords with traffic potential for those who can adequately answer those queries.
Prioritizing these 2019 SEO trends is a way to help future proof your optimization efforts. Obviously, no one knows the future. But these tactics have been gaining momentum in recent years and are smart places to put your energy. The practice of SEO has been going strong for over two decades now, and part of the reason for it’s enduring value is that practitioners continue to learn and explore new ways of improving online visibility.