As with any industry, it is our responsibility as an industry-leading SEO company to stay aware of emerging SEO trends so that we can incorporate them into our strategies and ensure we are providing our clients with creative, sound business advice. As SEO professionals, it is our duty to keep our clients informed of these industry trends as well.
While SEO at its core will remain relatively unchanged (build an awesome business, an awesome website and killer content), it is clear that the best organic search strategies of 2019 must cater to Google's increasing preference for websites that value speed, security, mobile-friendliness, and usability. Before we review the year in SEO, let's take a look at the SEO trends that occurred in 2018 and review the year.
Also, learn more about Google AdWords trends.
Featured Snippets started appearing in 2017 and have only become more and more prevalent. It's estimated that around 30% of all search results now show a featured snippet. Originally it seemed there was only one format that would display, but multiple versions of the featured snippet rolled out in 2018 including featured brands, bullet pointed lists and featured snippets with multiple images (this seems to show up more often on mobile). With featured snippets becoming so prevalent, it's important to code your website in a way that encourages Google to consider it for this spot.
Do note, most websites being pulled into the featured snippet result are already within the top 5 of organic results, so getting into that position is the first step. Once you're at the top of the first page, be sure to tackle landing "position 0."
In an attempt to protect Google users, Google rolled out a new update nicknamed YMYL and EAT. The websites affected most were websites focusing on Your Money (the YM) or Your Life (YL). The Your Money side was focused on scam websites that would try to sell you something you may not need or may not work (think work-from-home scams or shady investment opportunities) while the Your Life side seemed to mainly hit the health industry. It makes sense, Google wants to be sure a website providing health information is delivering quality content that will not negatively impact someone's health. When this rolled out there were some MAJOR shake-ups.
As an example, check out the chart below of DrAxe's organic search traffic. Ouch! From 250,000 keywords in the top 1-3 positions down to 50,000.
As with any algorithm change, there are winners and losers. It seems the winners in this update are major hospitals and true "authorities" in Google's mind. The billion-dollar companies have taken back the lead over the smaller healthcare and health information websites!
See the example below of the Cleveland Clinic website.
In the middle of September rankings started bouncing all over the place. Google announced that there wasn't a major change, just tweaks to the algorithm like normal (these happen ALL the time, over 500 times per year), but it sure seemed like more than that. With instant traffic movements of over 30%, we'd guess it was a larger core update than may have been thought. This left some businesses scrambling heading into their busiest time of the year, the holiday season. When our phones start ringing off the hook, its a clear sign the change is real!
Over the years quality content has been a theme of Google updates, but this year many SEO's have taken it to a new level and seen major gains. Articles, like the one you're reading now, have more words than the typical 500-1000 word page. We've seen these types of articles drive traffic to the most popular websites. The new theme: build long, really well-written, thorough content and publish less often. Instead of writing three blog posts or articles a week, write one awesome one.
Sites like the one below are drawing a huge amount of traffic with just over 100 pages of quality content.
When traffic has dropped, disavowing links has always been a strategy to combat the fall. We've seen some major impact from getting a disavow file in place with results in as little as two weeks and 100% plus traffic gains. We suggest disavowing a set of links at a time and submitting them about a week apart. This helps to see the impact of the initial list and make an informed decision as to how to handle the next set. If you're not an SEO expert, don't try creating a disavow file yourself. It can have major negative consequences if done incorrectly.
A set of disavows, over the course of a month, helped the client below get right back to the top after a 70% traffic decline.
If you've read the previous sections of this article it may go without saying, but poor content got hit hard. Google has been looking for authoritative content from industry leaders. Long-form content is winning and poor, short, SEO filler copy is getting hit hard.
Google started pushing sites to switch to secure connections to help protect visitors' personal information and data. In 2018, providing your users a secure connection was a large part of the Google search algorithm. Having a secure website served over HTTPS gives websites a boost in the algorithm, and gives secure sites a "bump" in the search results over unsecured sites. Google has proven this commitment to a secure web by rolling out unsecure warnings in their Chrome browser in October 2017.
We have moved multiple clients to a full HTTPS website with great results. One client, an eCommerce business, saw a traffic increase of 35%. Another client, a lead generation software company, saw a traffic increase of over 175% after moving to full HTTPS (year-over-year).
Google rolled out the name change for AdWords, switching it over to simple "Ads" as they now target a wide-array of advertising options. As a shout out to paid ads, we thought we'd also mention that you now get an extra line of copy. So, go for it! Try some ads and get your extra text!
With over 57% of traffic coming from mobile devices, Google knew it had to make a change. For all the talk of "mobilegeddon" and the mobile-first index, it didn't seem like it created a major shake up. Throughout 2018 messages were sent via Search Console to let website owners know when their website was switched over to mobile-first indexing. Some websites received the message early in the year while we're still seeing them come through in Sept-Oct.
In August Google rolled out the new version of search console. While the old Search Console has an outdated appearance, it seemed easier to use than the new version (much like the rebuild of AdWords). There are some major pros to the new Search Console, one of the biggest being that data now goes 16 months back. Using this expanded data it is possible to compare CTR and other metrics year-over-year.
Other features include search performance, AMP status and Index Coverage. You should have received a message that the new Search Console is ready. Also, you can still, for the time being, switch over to the previous version if you wish. I still think it's easier to submit a URL for index in the older version!
Google released RankBrain in 2018 and it has been automating rankings changes ever since.
So, what is RankBrain?
The simple over is RankBrain is AI and machine learning for Google's algorithm. Its goal is to understand what is happening and make changes in real-time (or close) to search results. One of the easiest examples to understand is how RankBrain can easily use CTR (click-through-rate) to change rankings and better serve a Google user.
If a keyword is searched 100 times in a day and result 3 is clicked more than results 2, giving result 3 a higher CTR, RankBrain may make the determination to move result 3 above result 2.
It's common sense right? Give the people what they want!
Throughout 2019 we expect Google to use this data and power to make changes on the fly at an even more rapid pace, meaning it is becoming even more important to stay on top of your website and search marketing in real-time.
RankBrain also looks at metrics such as bounce rate, time on site and even potentially if someone is getting to a conversion source.
We anticipate RankBrain will look closely at eCommerce websites to determine if visitors are going from search result through checkout, hence placing an order and converting. This is a huge metric for Google to use as an indicator that the websites they serve up are what their customers were looking for. So, be very conscious about boosting your conversion rate by having competitive pricing, free shipping and an all-around awesome user experience!
Note: Google users are 30% more likely to click on a result that has rich data, so use schema to boost your CTR.
Google is all about delivering quality content and with quality content comes including the correct words. No longer are the days of keyword stuffing, but the days of including relevant words. Latent Semantic Indexing is looking for words that are around your main topics. There are tools to help with this such as LSI graph. While this isn't the end-all be-all to SEO, it's worth considering when writing quality content, but don't try stuffing LSI keywords into your already existing copy.
With more and more devices utilizing voice search, we have a few big things to consider.
1) How weird will search terms get?
Even now they say around 30% of searches on Google are unique, meaning the first time they have been searched. But, chances are, these are not terms people are using to find your products or services; they're searches about local events and news. Think about search for your daughter's softball game time, where to get tickets for a school play, or the dress code for a local charity event. When you begin to think in that way, it's understandable how 30% of search terms are new.
But with voice search becoming more and more popular, we believe that the expansion of key-phrase people "search" will expand greatly. There are two main reasons:
2) How do you rank for voice searches?
FAQ pages are a big driver of voice search results as people search in question form more often with their voice than they do when typing. Many users are So even though they may be looking for a time a restaurant closes, they'll just search the restaurant name because they know the hours will appear. In voice search, though, it's different. A user will simply say, "What time does X restaurant close tonight?" If you're an eCommerce business or service business, it's imperative to consider what main questions your customers have about your industry and begin to develop content pages, blog posts and articles to answer these questions.
3) Does voice search matter in your industry?
The adoption of new technology varies greatly across industries. As an example, we still see websites in certain industries have less than 25% of their traffic from mobile, while others may be at 75%. So its important to consider who your audience is and what they are doing in their moment of need for your products and services. You know your business best, so put yourself in your customers' shoes. Would your user use voice search, and how would they use it, if they did?
On July 20, 2018, Google released its new general guidelines, topping out at 164 pages. It's recommend reading for anyone serious about SEO. This came right around the time the Google EAT update was released (Aug. 1), which saw the biggest rank movements since 2012.
EAT stands for:
The updated affects healthcare website mainly, with eCommerce website being the second hardest hit (around 15-20% of all eCommerce sites were majorly affected).
Throughout 2019 it'll be a trend to follow the new guidelines and make updates to your website per the document that Google released. With a huge emphasis on authority, identifying authority signals and implementing those into your website will yield big gains. Just remember: You can always try to scam the system, but becoming an actual authority in your industry (delivering awesome products, services and content) will always win out in the long run.
Brands mentions are now part of Google's algorithm and are becoming a big part of SEO campaigns. While it's understood that links are probably more value than a brand mention, Google is tracking how many times your company name is mentioned online.
Using some common sense, it makes sense that Google isn't only looking for links but also looking for people talking about brands on social media and other outlets.
Adding video to your content pages, product pages and any relevant pages within your website can have huge payoffs. As referenced above, RankBrain looks at how long someone stays on a page, and adding video can be a big way to keep people on the site even longer.
Google also owns YouTube, so serving up content on this platform would seem to be a preferred method.
Video can also be used to drastically increase your conversion rate, so it's important to add video to your main landing pages, articles and top-visited products. Again, converting someone into a lead, contact or customer could be a huge ranking signal to Google while immediately boosting your revenue.
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