11 SEO trends you need to follow in 2019
SEO is an ever-changing industry that’s for sure. Every year, there are new technologies, algorithm updates, new types of features in the search results and billions more webpages created to compete with the content we are trying to rank at the top of the Google search results.
That’s what makes search engine optimisation such a demanding industry, but such a rewarding one when you can keep on top of all those changes and make a real difference for your clients. Search engine optimisation here in New Zealand is no different. Everyone is competing for their slice of the search pie and it’s our job to ensure our clients continue to perform at the highest level.
We’ve taken our time this year to really review the things that we think will matter the most in 2019 when it comes to SEO. There has already been a raft of posts published covering some of the trends you need to follow in 2019 so we’ve taken the time to digest everything out there and put our own thoughts into the mix.
So, better late than never, here are our top 11 SEO trends for 2019.
Nope. We’ve not time-travelled back to the start of 2018. Mobile-first indexing has now finally rolled out to the majority of websites around the world and remarkably, we are still seeing sites that are either a) not mobile friendly or b) not mobile optimised.
Whether it’s the former or the latter, your rankings are going to be impacted. We first wrote about mobile-first indexing way back in November 2016 and have written further posts since then including details of how to optimise your site for the mobile-first index.
If you still haven’t taken the plunge and committed to a mobile-first strategy and approach to your website, don’t delay. Those sites that are mobile-first optimised are already starting to reap the benefits and those who aren’t will soon be left behind.
2. Page Speed
Nope. We’ve not time-travelled back to 2015 when we first started writing about the importance of site speed. It’s just that it’s still as important in 2019 as it was back in 2015. In fact, it’s possibly even more important today given the increased number of people accessing sites through a mobile device rather than desktop where we know attention spans are much shorter and the wait time for a site to load is under 3 seconds.
3. Brand Search as a Ranking Factor
At Pubcon in 2017, Gary Illyes from Google let something pretty major slip – Google uses brand signals as a ranking factor. In an in-depth interview with Eric Enge of Stone Temple, Gary talks about how brand mentions help Google to understand more about your site and what it is you do/sell.
This includes things such as branded search but also unlinked brand mentions across the internet. If you are a company getting a lot of coverage in the press, in blogs etc, even if those mentions are unlinked, Google can still learn from those mentions in the context of the pages those mentions are appearing on.
That’s why it’s important to focus on brand and help to raise brand awareness. Of course, if you can turn those brand mentions into links back to your site, that’s going to provide an even stronger signal to Google and is, in fact, one of the tactics we recommend implementing as part of a link-building programme.
For those of you who don’t know what Rankbrain is, it’s a machine learning system that helps Google to sort their search results. Importantly, it uses engagement metrics, how users interact with your content, in order to rank content accordingly.
Rankbrain is perhaps one of the most important elements to consider in 2019. Google has previously announced that it’s their third most important ranking factor so if you want to do well in 2019, you need to start optimising for the things that matter to Rankbrain:
- How long someone spends on your page (dwell time)
- The percentage of people that click on your search result (Click Through Rate)
How long someone spends on your page is super important to Google (they did in fact confirm in 2018 that it was a direct ranking factor). Searchmetrics also carried out a study that confirmed that the average dwell time for a top ten ranking page is 3 mins and 10 seconds.
This all makes sense.
If your content is engaging, you are going to get users spending more time reading and engaging with it. Brian Dean from Backlinko created this great video showing you how to improve the dwell time of your webpages:
In terms of CTR, this is another one that makes sense. If no one is clicking on your result, why would Google keep showing it on page one? Equally, if your site is generating lots of clicks from the search results, why would that page stay buried at the bottom of the search results?
Improving your page title and meta description can have a real impact on CTR and it’s good practice to take a look at the AdWords results for relevant search queries. These often undergo vigorous testing to find the CTR sweet spot so copying patterns with those Title Tags can help to drive more clicks to your own organic listings.
Even though we already covered CTR in Rankbrain, it’s important for factors other than Rankbrain so is deserving of its own spot on the list.
Basically, organica CTR has been falling significantly over the past 3 years as you can see from these joint research piece with SparkToro and Jumpshot:
Google AdWords Ads, Carousel results and featured snippets. These SERP features are all contributing towards less clicks for organic search results. That means you have to work harder in order to ensure that when people do get past the SERP features, they have a reason to click on your organic listing.
Your result has got to jump off the page and once again, Brian Dean has a great video and something he calls the ‘Click Magnet Method’. Check it out below:
6. Featured Snippets
Having just mentioned the impact of featured snippets on organic click through rates, it seems like the perfect time to talk about why you need to be targeting results with a featured snippet in order to drive both clicks to your site and brand awareness.
With over 10% of all search results now presenting a featured snippet, there are plenty of opportunities out there across many sectors and niches. Identifying the current keywords you are ranking for and then identifying which of those search results have a featured snippet is the best place to start. You can use tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to identify the keywords you already rank for and then highlight which have a featured snippet. If you have ranking software like Stat, you can then track these dynamically, sorting by owned and unowned features which will help you to track your efforts.
We have already written a detailed piece on how you can win featured snippets as well as how to identify them and what type of content ranks for the different types of featured snippets.
7. Voice Search
This is another topic we seem to have included in our ‘trends to look out for in 20xx’ for the past 5 years but we think it’s finally time to really start doing something about it.
According to Think with Google, voice search is having a huge impact on consumer behaviour. Not only are more people engaging with their voice search powered devices, they are actively using them to carry out day to day tasks that may have previously required a traditional Google search using a screened device.
According to Google, 44% of those who regularly use a voice-activated speaker say they order products like groceries and household items at least once a week. That’s a massive shift in buyer behaviour and it’s only a matter of time until this rolls out to other day to day activities.
Getting your news via your voice activated device instead of reading it on your phone will become the norm. Getting answers to questions is already something that is on the rise. According to research by Brian Dean, an average answer to a voice search question is 29 words. That means, if you are targeting questions with your content, keep your summary answer at the top of the page to 29 words and then add more details below – that way you are given yourself the best possible chance of getting your result read out by a voice-activated device.
We have already written an in-depth piece on voice search, its rise and three tips for optimising your site for voice search so make sure you check that out.
8. EAT – Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness
Back in August when Google updated their broad core algorithm, there was a huge impact on the search results (almost as big as when Penguin hit in 2012). At first, it was called the ‘Health Update’ as it appeared to only impact health related sites (which was true to some extent with 41.5% of sites hit reported in the health niche by one survey.
Interestingly however, there were more than just health sites impacted by this core algorithm update and evidence seems to point towards an update to the Quality Rater Guidelines at around the same time as a potential cause for the issues these sites were seeing.
There was only one major change within those guidelines compared to the previous year: a focus on E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness). Whilst EAT has been a part of the guidelines for years, they were brought to the forefront in this latest update.
So, 2019 is the year to work on these three areas. If you’re not an expertise in your field, hire someone who is. Freelancers are not going to cut the mustard. If you are writing a research piece, is there a University lecturer that you can interview to add more depth and expertise as well as authority?
Transparency is also important. Make sure you let people know about your business, when it was formed, who founded it, who are the key employees etc and make sure you are as transparent as possible with any information you add to your website (so reference external sources etc).
9. Schema (Structured Data)
Whilst this has been an important factor for some time now, it’s becoming increasingly so given the changing nature of the SERPs and the competition for clicks. This ties in nicely with the CTR and Rankbrain points above as you need to be doing as much as you can to encourage people to click on your result from the search results.
Structured data (or schema markup) is a great way of making your results stand out as well as letting Google know more about your content. With the type of scheme markup constantly changing, make sure you carry out regular audits and research to make sure there are no new opportunities you are potentially missing out on.
- Review Stars
- Event Data
- Opening Hours
- Calories (where relevant)
These should all be a must for all sites, but there are new opportunities for businesses across a number of niches. Using voice markup, especially for news sites, can help you to ensure your headline news stories are read out by voice-activated devices and whilst this is not the equivalent of a click, it helps to build up brand awareness as well as the fact that a link to voice-read results are sent to your phone so you can read the full article later.
Ha. We really have time-travelled back to the early 2000s! No not really. Links are still an important part of SEO heading into 2019 so ignore them at your peril.
Whilst Google has got smarter at understanding signals, even from unlinked mentions, there is nothing that provides as strong a signal to Google as a link from an authoritative and relevant website.
It comes back to trust. If you get a link back from a major news site (such as the NZ Herald here in New Zealand), this is a very clear signal to Google that the NZ Herald trusts your site and has deemed it important to link to content on your site. It’s no wonder links are still important when you look at it like that.
This is why we still place a lot of emphasis on the importance of links even now as we head into 2019. You can read some of our top free tips for getting more links to your website this year in our recent blog.
Another old school tactic making its way onto our top tactics for SEO in 2019 is focussing on images. Google has made significant improvement to its Image Search over the past couple of years and in a recent Tweet, Google’s John Mueller stated that Image Search is going to be even bigger in 2019. Whilst the Tweet was fairly vague, John encouraged webmasters to think of images as a way of enabling users to find your content through Google Images/Image Search.
We will be writing more about this as we get more information, but we can say that images are something you need to be thinking about as a way of enhancing the UX on your website and driving better engagement. Whether these images are going to be used more for transactional, educational or search related tasks remains to be seen so watch this space!
So there you have it. Our top 11 SEO trends for 2019. Hopefully these are areas you are already covering, however if there is something on the list that you’re not already working on, or something you need some help with, make sure you drop us a line. We’re always happy to head into the city for a coffee or a beer to chat through anything and everything SEO.