Time flies as quickly as SEO trends change, and it’s fundamental we are well prepared for any upcoming developments. To help student marketers stay ahead of the game, one of our SEO Content experts, Dina Mouhandes, breaks down the top 5 SEO trends to watch out for in 2019.
In 2016, desktop search dropped to 48.7%, and the use of mobile devices for web browsing officially surpassed the traditional computer, accounting for 51.3% of online traffic.
Fast forward to March 2018, and Google rolls out its mobile-first indexing algorithm after a year and a half of testing. With smartphones now dominating the world of search, mobile-first indexing meant Google began indexing and ranking the mobile version of a website - meaning they would look at a mobile version of a site before the desktop version. Essentially, it was a wakeup call to every website that ignored how imperative having a strong user experience on mobile was to their rankability.
If your website is already responsive or you have a separate mobile version of your site, then you’re on the right track. However, it’s important that the mobile speed and load time of your site is adequate. And don’t forget that images, content, and other features must be optimised properly to mobile standards too.
If you have a mobile site separate to your desktop website, the above still applies. You’ll also want to check that the structured data, metadata, Hreflang (if applicable) and sitemap on your mobile site are sufficient. And remember, you’ll need to verify the mobile version of your site in Google Search Console as well.
Mobile first indexing has been pivotal to 2018, and will be just as important to 2019 as the use of mobile devices is not slowing down anytime soon.
By 2020, it is estimated that 50% of all searches will be conducted through voice search. This figure comes as no surprise, the rise of smart home speakers has seen a growth of 47.9% annually, whilst the majority of smartphones and tablets now feature a voice search function. So how can you adapt to this trend?
Optimising your site for voice search doesn’t have to be complicated. Let’s think back to 2013, where Google launched a major algorithmic update – Google Hummingbird. The update meant Google now considered the contextual meaning of searches and the user’s intent. So rather than keyword stuffing, it was now integral to produce humanised and meaningful content.
Voice search is conversational, personal and longer, and if the content on your site is well structured for an easy reading experience, then you’ll see positive results.
Users also use voice search because they want immediate results, for example searching for, ‘universities near me’. Trialling this, we asked Google to show us ‘universities near me in Brighton’, and here are our results:
As you can see, we are immediately shown information about the University of Brighton, including its rating, address and contact number on Google’s SERPs. So, make sure your rich snippet data and Google Business profile are updated accordingly so users can discover your institution in a straightforward way.
Video optimisation means exactly what it says on the tin, adjusting your video content to be indexed and rank on Google’s SERPs for relevant search queries. Video has become increasingly popular over the past decade, and the main player when it comes to boosting your click-through rates. Now, almost all online and social platforms feature video, with online marketers working tirelessly to create engaging and shareable video content to rank higher than competitors.
Let’s take a look at a how you can help your video rank better in Google…
First, in the same way you would place importance on optimising your page titles and meta descriptions on your website, make sure you use these practices on your video content. Both titles and descriptions can act as ranking factors, so spend time conducting keyword research and crafting them to enhance your chances of reaching your target audience.
Pick the perfect thumbnail image that is both eye-catching and relevant to your video. A person’s first visual impression of a video is really important, and this lies with how you visually choose to present it.
If your video is onsite, don’t forget the landing page hosting the video must be both optimised and relevant to the video itself. For example, if you created a video on ‘Top Tips on Revising for Exams’, make sure the content on your landing matches this and provides useful information which could stand alone without the help of the video.
Finally, don’t forget to embed your video. Although embedding a video alone will not necessarily help with ranking, doing this alongside further techniques will certainly help your video appear and rank better on SERPs.
If your SEO strategy doesn’t consider user experience, then do you even have an SEO strategy? All major Google algorithm updates have one thing in common, user experience. For example, Google Panda’s aim was to provide users with high-quality content across a site. As of April 2012, websites were penalised if they presented thin, irrelevant, duplicate and all round low-quality content. Google Penguin, another major update brought in on April 2012, targeted any websites that used link building schemes or keyword stuffing - where a website would insert a large number of keywords or repetitions of keywords as a technique to boost their overall rank in Google’s SERPs – e.g. ‘University courses at our university are the best university courses you will take. Every student values our university courses, so apply now to our university courses’. Penguin meant users would no longer land on a low quality and unhelpful site because of unnatural practices.
Every piece of content you create, your site design, optimisation, and your entire strategy, should be created with user experience at the core of it.
It has become one of the largest ranking factors over the past six years, proving to become more and more relevant every year, and 2019 will be no exception. With Google placing importance on personalised search results, performance is based largely on the experience you provide users onsite.
There are plenty of techniques to optimise user experience. First, invest your time in UX design. This type of web design focuses on building a website or creating a product, bearing user experience in mind throughout the process. The end result is to produce a finished website or product that is both meaningful and relevant to users. The better the user experience, the more likely they’ll stay onsite and the more likely you will retain them for future visits. Resulting in lower bounce rates, which sends a positive signal about your website to Google. A lower bounce rate can also lead to more enquiries.
Second, and this takes us back to our first tip, ensure your site is responsive. With the rise of mobile searches, you must ensure your site is mobile friendly. Otherwise, you’ll be struck with high bounce rates and limited engagement.
Finally, and probably most importantly, the essence and information of your site must be both relevant and engaging to users, whether that be in the form of words, video or images, ensure your content is the right content.
Every year we have the pleasure of attending BrightonSEO. And this year, the event featured special guest, Moz Blog founder Rand Fishkin, as the keynote speaker. Unsurprisingly, his seminar stood out as the biggest takeaway of the day. Rand’s seminar was focused around on-SERP SEO and how Google is creating more updates and features to keep users on search engine result pages, rather than clicking through to a site.
For example, looking back at our example on tip two, Google now gives you immediate information for your search query:
In the example above, you can see Google has pulled in information from websites to appear on its SERPs, giving users answers to their search queries without having to click on the actual site itself.
Rand explained that this shift in Google’s behaviour is the reality of search’s future. Therefore, with Google now hosting answers and solutions to users’ queries, SEO experts and online marketers must respond with strategies and tactics to drive users on their site more than ever. You can find Rand’s brilliant presentation from the event here.