Every year, search engines get smarter and smarter. Search algorithms remain a tightly kept secret but they move rather rapidly with the times. And for good reason.
The past few years have completely changed the SEO landscape. The explosion of mobile internet use and the growing trend of voice operated assistants particularly spring to mind. Search engines have had to lock step with emerging tech trends in order to remain competitive, meaning website owners have had to keep up too.
So let’s take a look at 5 SEO trends that are on everyone’s lips for 2019.
The Explosion of Voice Search
The market for voice operated devices is absolutely booming, resulting in an increased need to search the web using voice commands. But rather than barking a string of keywords at a device, we tend to ask questions as a full sentence. It’s just what comes most naturally to us.
With this in mind, SEO experts are increasingly advising to optimise for long tail keywords and even full questions. As always, it’s advisable to keep an eye on your site’s own highly performing search terms, but you may notice your average search strings getting longer. You may also want to conduct a bit of market research to identify the kinds of language your audience use naturally when talking about your products or services.
Bringing us nicely on to…
Optimise for Questions and Answers
When you ask a voice operated device a question, its response would most likely be taken from some form of “featured snippet” – these are the “answer box” type responses that Google often supplies in response to being asked a full question. They’re effectively a highlighted search result that Google feels has done the best job of answering the question at hand.
There seems to be some debate whether sites require Schema.org markup in order to appear in the answer box; Moz says no but Search Engine Journal says yes. Using Schema markup certainly doesn’t seem to hurt your chances of appearing as a featured snippet, but Google makes no mention of it being a requirement.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the only possible use of schema data markup – it can be used to provide supplementary information about your site on the results page such as in-line star ratings or event details. For more information about what’s possible, head on over to Schema.org.
But I digress. Google’s answer boxes generally appear in response to a question as a short paragraph, a table, or a bulleted/numbered list. Start by optimising questions and answers thusly:
- Present simply phrased, common, keyword-rich questions as HTML headers.
- Follow each question directly with a succinct, keyword-rich answer that solves the question clearly and quickly.
- The question and answer need to reside together on a page that is semantically relevant to the topic at hand.
Searchers Getting Answers Directly From Search
Featured snippets are undeniably useful from a user’s standpoint but the more conversion-minded amongst us may see a problem on the horizon.
”People are getting their answers without clicking through to our site!”
Yes, you’re optimising your site for something that may not always result in a click! What’s the point in that?
Answer boxes and other rich content features are referred to as “Ranking Zero” for a reason. They appear pride of place above all other organic search results. If you answer a given question particularly well, you have the opportunity to leapfrog sites who may have spent years vying for the SERP top spot. Answer boxes are great places to be in terms of brand awareness.
But what does this mean for SEO? Provided Google continues to support rich content results like answer boxes and knowledge panels, we could see SEO moving away from the transactionality of clicks and conversions in favour of an overall search history/journey. Just how we’ll record and analyse this kind of activity in a timely and affordable way? Time will tell…
The Mobile Web – Going From Strength to Strength
During 2018, 78% of all adults used mobile phones or smartphones to access the internet (Source: ONS, 2018) And with 5G set to roll out over the next few years, a fast and responsive site is essential – regardless of the device being used.
However, PayPal recently found that only 18% of UK small businesses have a mobile friendly website! (Source: PayPal, 2017)
So, if you’ve not made any progress on optimising your site for mobile, then 2019 is absolutely the year to get started. From 2016 onwards, Google has favoured “mobile-first” indexing, so when it crawls websites for search, it pays more heed to how the site performs on mobile than on desktop. Having a website that isn’t mobile friendly can significantly harm your search ranking.
Start by running your site through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see how your site stacks up. This tool may provide some insight into what issues to tackle first. Depending on what your site does and how your visitors use it, you may also want to look into using mobile-friendly technologies such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) or Progressive Web Apps (PWA).
Convenience & Speed Above All Else
Designing your site around the average user experience continues to be a strong focus in 2019. It’s essential that desktop and mobile users have an equally positive experience with your site regardless of device.
An omnipresent factor when it comes to user experience is the speed at which a website loads. When internet speeds were slower, we were a little more forgiving, but now we have access to ultra fast internet speeds even away from our desks, we’re getting quite discerning.
Just how discerning, you ask? Well, Akamai found that a 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7% and that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. Pretty discerning.
But what does this have to do with SEO? Google rolled out its “Speed Update” for mobile searches last year. Though site speed has been used as a ranking factor since 2010, the 2018 update only affected the slowest of the slow. However, it served as a reminder to all of us to keep an eye on our site’s speed and the user’s experience across devices.
For pointers on increasing your site’s speed, run your site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
Optimise Your Other Platforms!
When we think about the concept of SEO, our minds naturally turn to optimising our own websites for search. But if you publish content on other platforms such as YouTube or indeed if you sell through external platforms like Amazon, it’s essential to optimise that content with search in mind.
YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, so familiarise yourself with the concept of YouTube SEO if you publish video on the platform. Providing a clickable and keyword-rich headline is a given, but also be aware of the SEO potential hidden in your description and even by providing a CC subtitle track.
If you maintain a Facebook Page for your business, this is another opportunity for search optimisation. Filling in all of the available information such as correct contact details, opening times, a custom username, and an accurate map pointer gives search engines a lot to work with – not to mention your clients.
So if you interact or share content over a channel other than your own website, it may be well worth looking into how to optimise that platform for search effectiveness.Check out these 5 #SEO hot topics for 2019! Click To Tweet
Now it’s your turn! What SEO practices are you keeping an eye on in 2019? What SEO activities do you focus on generally? Let’s start a discussion down in the comments!