Though the fundamentals of SEO remain consistent year over year, Google is constantly evolving to deliver the best search results for their users. As search engine marketers, it’s imperative to adapt search engine optimization strategies to the changing ranking factors. Read on to learn what we expect the most important ranking factors will be in 2019.
Over the past year, Google has made it known that their focus is on mobile and has started to index mobile pages ahead of desktop pages. So, if your website is built using responsive design and your content is designed to be useful on all devices, your rankings will not go down because of mobile-first indexing. If your site isn’t responsive, it is important to plan a website redesign using responsive design in 2019.
Signals like organic click-through rate, bounce rate and average session duration will signify to Google whether a user values your site. RankBrain (a machine-learning artificial intelligence system designed to help better interpret searches) looks at these user experience signals when determining rankings and is getting better at determining which sites are user-friendly. A few tactics SEO experts should focus on in 2019 are the oldies but goodies:
Optimizing title tags and meta descriptions to increase click through rate
Creating relevant, easy to read content,
Improving the usability of the site including an easy to navigate site structure and page layout.
A featured snippet is a block of text extracted from a webpage, located at the top of a Google search results page. This is Google’s approach to answering a question searched for by a user, without making them click on a search result. Featured snippets contain a link back to the webpage and are shown above the number one organic ranking, so it’s a great opportunity for search engine marketers to increase their site visibility. Adding structured data, like schema markup, to important product pages, location pages and contact pages presents Google with an easy way to read your site content and reflect it in a featured snippet. Including the query/question you want to target within the content of your page, keeping your paragraphs to less than 50 words, and writing your content in list form are also strategies you can use to increase the chances of your page to be featured.
In the past, the number of backlinks to a site was an important ranking factor for Google. Though having a large amount of links to your site from reputable websites is still important, with the rise of social media and online reviews, Google realized that putting a lot of emphasis on backlinks to determine the reputation of a site is ineffective. Because Google can track mentions of brand names and websites throughout the web even though there is no direct link back to the site, linkless backlinks are now a ranking factor. To help build a positive brand reputation across the web, search engine marketers should monitor their brand carefully and interact with customers via social media. Investing in unique and sharable content will also entice users to post about your company, whether it’s through actual links or not.
Content is Still King
Because of RankBrain, Google has become increasingly better at determining a user’s search intent and therefore ranks helpful, relevant content higher in search results. This emphasis on quality content will only increase in 2019, so search engine marketers should continue to focus on writing digestible, user-friendly content around related concepts instead of targeting a single keyword or phrase. If you focus on great user experience and meeting your visitors’ needs, the increase of your site’s search engine rankings will likely follow.
If your site has underlying technical SEO issues, all the on-page optimization in the world will not help. Technical SEO factors like page speed, the existence of title tags and meta descriptions, use of a SSL certificate, and crawlability will all remain important in 2019. In addition to desktop page speed, mobile page speed became a ranking factor in July 2018, and with mobile-first indexing, it will continue to rise in importance in 2019. It is important to constantly monitor your site’s performance in Search Console, Google Analytics, MOZ or your SEO monitoring platform of choice to ensure your site is running effectively.
If you believe you need to update your content, redesign your website or want to talk more about our ongoing SEO services, let’s chat! Our skilled SEO strategists would be happy to help you come up with an SEO plan that makes sense for your business.