by Dan Smullen, Wolfgang Digital
Search algorithms and SEO best practices are constantly changing and evolving. The SEO tactics that got you to the top of the search engine results a year ago might be totally ineffective today — or even worse, they could trigger a penalty that sends you dozens of pages back in the listings.
So it’s vital to keep up to date with what’s currently working as we move into a new year, here’s a guide to what to expect in 2019.
Marketing funnels and user intent
The way people search is changing and their search intent — or what exactly they’re looking for when they search — is changing, too.
The whole world has gone mobile. So has Google which recently switched over to a mobile first index. The increasing use of mobile devices globally means that now almost 60 percent of all searches come from mobile devices and a growing proportion of those are voice searches.
People are not relying on search engines to research products in a linear way and then eventually buy. Instead, each customer journey is unique and different, involving multiple types of searches at various stages in the funnel until the final purchase.
Make your brand an adviser in 2019
The marketing funnel is also no longer linear. Google dominates over 90% of the search engine market and processes around 3.5 billion searches a day.
The Zero moment of Truth is the reality of purchasing decisions today. Before people make that purchase, they turn to Google to find out more information. In 2019, If you can position your brand as the advisor, you will be able capture a lot more of the market than your competitors and help them make an informed purchasing decision.
The importance of website speed in 2019
Site speed is a ranking factor. Speeding up your site is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of improving your SEO, boosting conversion rates, and improving the user experience. Shaving even a fraction of a second off your page load time can have a bigger impact than you might expect.
A slow-loading page delivers a poor user experience. Google is committed to providing search results that deliver the best possible experience to its users and it will reward speedy pages with a higher ranking.
There are many ways you can speed up your website from compressing images and code to using a content delivery network (CDN) to serve
files to users from an optimal server.
One of the latest advancements in technology that make it possible to reduce site loading time, particularly for mobile users, is AMP or accelerated mobile pages.
The AMP project started in 2015 as a joint initiative between Google, WordPress, and Adobe developers. As an open source project it has continued to develop with input from individuals as well as technology partners that include Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
The idea behind AMP is to strip down all the large chunks of code and heavy images on a page that make it sluggish, and serve up a speedy lite version of the page from a CDN.
AMP pages are not only fast to load, but they’re also optimised for reading experience on mobile, resulting in a great user experience overall.
EAT for SEO in 2019
Google’s machine learning algorithms are incredibly sophisticated and advanced but they still need humans to help them learn.
This is where Google’s team of quality raters step in. They manually assess search engine results and individual pages based on how well they serve the user’s query. This helps to improve the algorithms, resulting in better quality search results.
Google’s quality raters work based on a guidelines document that explains how to judge each page. In this document, the importance of EAT (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) for ranking the quality of a site or page is highly emphasised.
A high-quality page is deemed to be one that:
has high-quality information that meets the search query, includes information about who is responsible for the website, and has a good reputation.
Thanks to the growing use of mobile devices and the popularity of smart speakers, the way we search is changing.
Voice searches are increasing all the time, though it looks unlikely that we’ll hit the prediction that half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. However, it’s certainly clear that the growing popularity of voice search will impact SEO.
Optimising for voice search requires a fundamentally different approach than traditional SEO. Voice searchers use different language and they’re looking for different things, too. While a Google user searching for something at their desk might be happy to sit and read a 1000-word article, voice searchers tend to be on the go and/or looking for instant answers.
Some of the most popular types of voice searches include:
business opening times and addresses
questions with a straightforward answer.
When it comes to optimising for voice search, the fundamental aim should the same as in more traditional SEO: make sure the content you produce is high-quality, structured well, and meets the searcher’s need.
Some other things to think about when developing a voice search SEO strategy include:
More focus on general topic areas than specific keywords: Voice searchers use more complex and varied search terms than typed searchers, it makes less sense to target specific keywords.
Concentrate on getting featured snippets and other on-SERP SEO: Voice searchers are looking for instant information and in many cases that means not getting as far as clicking through to your site. SEO will move away from the obsession with ranking and instead move towards trying to appear in the featured snippets area of the SERPs.
Speakable Schema Markup — New markup is currently in beta testing that will instruct home devices like Google Assistant which content should be read aloud. While this technology is still in an early phase, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on developments.
Finally and probably the biggest trend for SEO in 2019 is on-SERP SEO.
What is on-SERP SEO?
Instead of optimising your content for the best ranking in the SERPS, you’ll be optimising it so it appears in featured snippets in the search engine results, and most likely not receiving a click through to your site at all.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but this is the way that search is going and certainly the way that Google is driving it. Today’s searchers — particularly those from mobile and voice searchers — are impatient or on the move and they don’t want to waste time clicking through to your site.
Instead they want the information right there on the Google page — either as a featured snippet that appears at the top of the normal search results, in ‘People also ask’ section, or in the sidebar as part of Google’s ‘Knowledge Graph’.
These are just a few examples of where these special search results can appear in the SERPS and it’s likely that Google will experiment with additional types of content and placement over the coming months and years.
Research shows that a growing number of searches are resulting in zero clicks because the searcher has already found the information they need from the SERPs. Mobile zero-click searches have increased by 11 percent in the last 2.5 years.
However, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is how the future of SEO looks, and so the only option is to keep up with the changes and optimise for this new type of searches.
Key takeaways on how to do SEO in 2019
Focus on the user intent of the search query
Provide the most relevant, highest quality information (as quickly as possible)
Understand the Google rater guidelines to help future proof your SEO rankings