It’s tough to know what the future holds but we try anyhow. We’re curious and innovative beings by nature’s design. Search engine optimization (SEO), like any other highly technical field, regular change is inevitable and as a result, we must prepare for it each year. This article discusses the top SEO predictions for 2019.
The goal of SEO has always been, still is and continues to be optimizing your web pages so that you can earn traffic from search engines. So, the fundamentals are still the same but there are more variables to contend with, making SEO much harder to do.
Businesses that rely solely on incoming traffic from search engines to acquire customers are at the mercy of Google, literally. The search giant has proven to be an unstoppable powerhouse so far and not even Microsoft’s Bing was able to slow it down.
The following is the current market share of search engines – Net Market Share
Yes, at this point, it’s kind of big G’s world and we just live in it. They own 80.83 percent of the global search market!
Do you remember that Spiderman movie from 2002 where Ben Parker looked at Peter and said, “With great power comes great responsibility”? Let’s hope that Google understands their responsibility to the world that has placed so much faith in them to always do the right thing.
Nevertheless, the future of SEO is bright for those who take action now and are willing to work harder/smarter towards achieving results. This article will prepare you to dominate SEO in 2019. Let’s get started!
6 SEO Predictions That Will Are Highly Probable
There’s a lot to think about in terms of how you’ll position your brand so that you can keep benefiting from organic search moving forward. Clever SEO experts are already adjusting the way they optimize their content. Quality is more important than ever and much more is happening on the SERPs (search engine results pages).
1. We’ll See the Real Impact of Voice Search
You’re probably tired of hearing some experts obsess over it by now. Voice search will destroy everything about SEO, leaving nothing but scraps for content creators and dead companies in its wake. Just kidding, this isn’t a doom and gloom thing, we promise!
But has voice search changed anything in terms of how you optimize your web pages?
Voice Search Won’t Change SEO Practices
Some people have begun optimizing for voice search or so they claim, but the truth is that it doesn’t change anything about SEO. Every suggestion we’ve encountered about optimizing for voice search so far, are tactics that any professional worth his or her salt is already doing.
So, here’s the thing.
There’s no need to optimize for voice because it hasn’t added anything new to the pile of tasks required for SEO, period. If your overall user experience, local, on-page and off-page optimizations are all on point, then you’re bound to appear in conversational searches.
Although the rise of voice search doesn’t alter how we optimize for search engines, it does mean even fewer clicks for content creators. Also, it’ll make some companies less competitive.
Some Retailers Will Go Out of Business
Products will do well with conversational search because voice assistants like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana mostly rely on Google search to provide answers.
If you sell products online, then you want to ensure that your landing pages are well optimized so they can appear on the SERPs for voice search. You don’t have to do anything different, just good SEO. Cover technical, on-page and off-page best practices and you’ll be just fine.
Organizations that fail to take action on SEO will inevitably fall off.
Local Businesses Will Benefit
Local businesses must be on the local map pack to benefit from voice search.
Optimize your business profile on GMB (Google My Business), build relevant citations and backlinks to ensure that you appear on the local map packs. Focus on the 8 local ranking factors to win.
2. Fewer Clicks
For a really long time, organic search results have received more click-through than PPC (pay-per-click) ads. However, we’re witnessing a shift in the marketplace that’ll likely continue in 2019. Search engines are working overtime to keep users on their websites by solving their problems with your content. The result is diminished CTR (click-through rate) for website owners. Unethical, huh?
There are two primary challenges for SEO and these are:
Effectively Getting Around SERP Features
These are killing CTR so much that being #1 isn’t appealing unless it’s a clean SERP without or with minimal features. Instant answers, featured snippets, knowledge panels etc. all drastically reduce the likelihood that a user would visit your site.
But there are situations where you’ll want to grab the number spot even though your web page may win ‘position 0’ (aka the paragraph SERP feature). Here’s an example.
In the above screenshot, you can partially see most of the quotes but in order to know who they’re from, you’ll have to click-through to the site. Targeting queries like these will earn your website traffic.
However, don’t stop at just targeting terms that are less likely to be cannibalized by SERP features. A great example of how you can further optimize around the onslaught can be seen on Rand Fishkin’s blog at SparkToro.
Look at the following, what do you notice?
All the subheadings are placed within images. Of course, it could just be a coincidence but several of their publications follow this pattern. And it’s certainly a sure way of reducing the number of times you show up on a SERP feature without completely destroying your rankings.
Done on web pages that target keywords where heavy SERP features are present, it may be a good strategy. More SEOs might follow suit and text headings may eventually disappear from blog posts completely. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
Knowing how AI (artificial intelligence) determines what to include in a SERP feature can help you optimize your web pages for organic clicks. So, we analyzed an instant answers snippet and here’s what we found.
A keyword like “crawl budget for seo”, naturally, gave us an instant answer.
Key findings were:
- All sentences chosen by the algorithm (a form of AI) had the main keyword, “crawl budget”, in them.
- The subheading, which in this case was an H2 (HTML attribute) appeared before the answer and had the keyword in it.
This is not conclusive by any means but something to think about and perhaps, experiment on further. Also, when we searched for the same keyword (“crawl budget for SEO”) using Google Voice on a smartphone, it only gave us the list of search results.
But here’s the interesting part.
When we conversationally searched for “what is crawl budget for SEO”, Google voice reads the instant answer snippet aloud. Simply framing the keyword into a question prompted the AI to read the snippet aloud.
Listen, it takes time, energy and resources to develop amazing content. Therefore, figuring out how you can continue benefiting from your content assets is necessary for 2019 and beyond.
Increased Ads on The SERPs
What is the purpose of a business?
It’s quite possible that you’ve got a totally different answer compared to Google’s shareholders. To them, the purpose of any business is to generate revenue (Allegedly).
Naturally, big G has an incentive to keep its shareholders happy. To do so, the search engine has to keep making money and loads of it. Today ads occupy most of organic search results and users have to scroll past it all before getting to your stuff.
In many cases, ads take up the entire top area of the user’s screen, similar to a full-width image. So, what can you do?
One main action you can take is re-focusing your efforts on branding. Google can carve up the pie anyhow they want but they probably can’t do anything about branded searches.
When people are actively seeking out your brand online, then you’ll win every time because big G still has to act like a ‘search engine’. That’s the value proposition or reason consumers use them in the first place.
You can’t go wrong with brand building since it correlates well with numerous ranking factors like your ability to earn more backlinks. Brand marketing works, so make sure it’s part of your focus in the coming year.
3. Go Mobile or Go Home!
Harsh, but yeah… Go mobile or go home.
Mobile friendly websites will see an even bigger boost on the SERPs. Searchers mostly come from mobile devices so Google may raise the dial on it as a ranking factor to force more sites to become responsive.
Back in 2016, Google’s official statement was that more than 50 percent of global searches came from mobile. According to Statista (present year), 52.2 percent of worldwide web traffic is currently generated by mobile phones.
Be real, common. Having a mobile-friendly version of your site is non-negotiable!
Do keep in mind that some industries still receive less mobile traffic due to the makeup of their overall consumer base. So how you approach mobile will depend on overall target audience behavior.
Companies that receive the majority of their visitors from desktop/laptop, do everything with a focus on pleasing that group first. Organizations that get tons of mobile users do things with a mobile-first approach.
In order of importance, here are the primary devices people use to surf the web.
- Smartphones/mobile phones
- Desktop or laptop
4. If You Aren’t Fast, You Last
Consider this, 53 percent of website visits on mobile devices are abandoned if a site takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Talk about demanding, right?
Several organizations have also reported that mobile conversion rates are much lower than desktop. Is it possible that site speed is the main reason consumers are converting less on mobile devices? Probably.
ECommerce mobile vs. desktop conversion rates – Invesp
An increasingly common approach to site speed optimization is by implementing AMP (accelerated mobile pages). This is an open source initiative by Google to make the web a lot faster. It allows web developers to create mobile versions of their pages that are lightweight so they load faster.
But AMP isn’t the only way to skyrocket your site’s speed. With a few tweaks, you can optimize your current web pages to improve how you serve users.
Here are some things that you can do now to improve site speed.
Minimize Those HTTP Requests
For every resource or file that you have on your site, an HTTP request is made for each one, meaning that the browser has to request data from the server.
To view the total amount of requests that currently has to be made each time a user loads a particular page, use Chrome or Firefox. For our example, we’ll be using Chrome.
Open your Chrome browser, right click on the page and select ‘inspect element’. Then click the ‘network’ tab. To get an accurate request count, you may have to reload the web page. You’ll see a list of requests and on the lower left corner, you can see the total.
The process is similar in Firefox. Use this information to trim the fat or remove any unnecessary resource guzzlers from your site.
Asynchronously Load Scripts
The browser will have to wait until those files are loaded before proceeding to the rest, causing a delay for your website visitors. However, if you set your scripts to load asynchronously, the browser will load all files simultaneously.
An alternative method that can be useful for large script files is to defer loading or tell the browser to load them last.
Reduce Time to First Byte (TTFB)
As the name implies, TTFB is the time it takes for a browser to receive the first byte of requested content from the server in milliseconds. Google recommends a TTFB that is below 600ms.
Here are some ways that you can improve TTFB.
- Upgrade your server resources such as increasing the number of requests that can be handled simultaneously.
- Switch to a VPS (virtual private server) or private server if you’re currently on shared hosting.
- Buy better hardware such as CPU and memory.
Reduce DNS Lookup Time
DNS stands for domain name system and typically refers to a server that hosts several IP addresses with associated names in its database. When you type a domain name into your browser, the DNS server is what translates the name into an IP address that can be traced.
Time the entire process takes depends on how fast your DNS provider is, which is normally also your web hosting company. Use DNSPerf’s regularly updated measurements to see how your service provider is performing in terms of speed.
Use Compression and Browser Caching
Images can be as large as 200KB or more. So compression is crucial if you’re really serious about site speed. Ideally, you want to enable server-side compression and make it a habit to optimize any image you add to your site.
Image compressors like the WP-Smush plugin for WordPress or Optimizilla will reduce the size of your images.
Browser caching is the process of storing web page resources on a user’s computer so that they can be accessed later. This allows files to load quickly since they’ll be extracted from the visitor’s computer cache.
You can enable caching by modifying the request headers of your resources or adding some code to your .htaccess file in Apache (web server software).
The image above shows the code needed for servers that run Apache. Place it in your .htaccess file and modify accordingly. Just make sure you know what you’re doing.
Leverage Content Delivery Networks (CDN)
A content delivery network is a group of servers that work together to deliver content fast. With a CDN, you can have versions of your web pages available on multiple servers. This speeds up the transfer of assets to the visitor’s device because data is being delivered from several locations.
Here’s how it works.
When the browser makes a request for a resource and the user is far from your main server’s location, files can be made available from a CDN network that is closer. Additionally, in times of high traffic where multiple requests are being received, a CDN can reduce overall workload, decreasing the time your site takes to serve visitors.
Using a CDN service like CloudFlare alone can boost your site speed and improve the overall user experience.
5. Unique/Original Content Will Win
Let’s address E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) for a moment. You’ve probably heard of it and if not, that’s ok too.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a rating in itself but rather a guide for measuring page quality (PQ), which is the factor you should care about. Nevertheless, understanding E-A-T gives us a clue as to how serious Google is about to become about PQ in 2019.
So it’s worth spending some time to read about it on their updated search quality evaluation guidelines.
The following screenshot was taken from page 19.
As you can see, they’re not done with PQ and it’s going to be another tough year for low-quality pages. They’re going to be handing out penalties. Probably silent or algorithmic ones but one thing is for sure, you must get to work on PQ. It’ll undoubtedly drive innovations in the area of content marketing too.
Here are some prolific ways that you can improve your PQ score.
Brand Like a BOSS!
We touched a little on this earlier but worth noting again. You can’t go wrong with branding because it improves public trust and if people have confidence in you, they’ll eventually acknowledge you as an expert. And since trusted brands tend to earn more backlinks, it’ll boost your authority.
Accuracy of Information
Don’t just regurgitate what anyone puts down on a blog or else you may end up publishing the wrong information without even knowing it.
If you’re known for accurate info, it means your readers trust you and if they keep coming back for more, you must be an expert. Expertise also builds authority within your industry.
Make a pledge to always verify important details so that you know they’re correct. Add your own originality to the articles you publish. Revisit older publications and improve or remove old pieces. 301 any deleted content to replacement pages or other relevant ones. Keep your information accurate!
Pay Attention to Trust Signals
Anything that’ll make your website or business look trustworthy should be included or acquired. Like getting your site secured via SSL or adding the names and biographies of authors that contribute content to your website, can help.
The goal is to foster trust. Can you join and participate in a business association within your industry? What about building an audience with something like a podcast or YouTube hangouts? You get the idea.
A genuine focus on trust building will lead to having more authority and expertise within your space.
6. Good SEO = Searcher Intent & SERP Analysis Expert
As SERP features and ads cannibalize organic search, there will be a bigger focus on searcher intent, including SERP analysis prior to content optimization.
Before optimizing your web page for any keyword, you’re better off looking at what Google’s algorithms are serving users for those queries first. This way, you can avoid losing out on organic clicks.
To be really good at SEO in 2019, you must become phenomenal at identifying user intent and analyzing the SERP.
Wrapping Up Our SEO Predictions For 2019
Google is in an advantageous position when it comes to their ability to track user behavior. Chrome is the preferred browser of choice for 65 percent of Internet surfers (source: Net MarketShare). And around 55 percent of all websites use Google analytics for tracking.
Big G has no shortage of datasets to pull from, so start taking user experience or satisfaction seriously! That’s how you make the competition eat your dust. Low-quality pages may drop completely from the SERPs.
The way users behave on your site will not go unnoticed, so focus on providing the best experience possible for your visitors. An emphasis on UX naturally leads to everything else we just discussed in this article.