After a year like 2018 with significant algorithm changes and updates, Google doesn’t seem to want to settle down. We have learned in the SEO community that these updates are making search engines even better at answering user’s queries. Let’s spend some time in this article looking at the upcoming trends for 2019 in the SEO sphere and how to stay on top of Google.
Get indexed on mobile first
This will be definitely be a trend this year. Mobile-first indexing means Google will predominantly use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Before, Google indexed the desktop version of page’s content first when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user’s query. It doesn’t mean only mobile indexing will be considered, Google continues to use only one index for both desktop and mobile versions.
You have to concentrate on optimizing your content for mobile devices, since the majority of users now access Google via a mobile device. Any technique to make your website faster is a must, especially on mobile devices with slower cellular network connections, such as 3G.
Take a look at Lighthouse, a tool built by Google and that was initially meant to audit Progressive Web Apps (PWA) but also gives you an overview of the performance of your website. While testing, Google Lighthouse simulates visiting your mobile via a 3G connection. In order to ensure both good search engine optimization and user experience, make sure that your page loads fast over a simulated mobile network in a reasonable amount of time for your mobile users.
Optimize your crawl budget
Decades ago, SEOs found it difficult to even get a website indexed. Today, websites are getting indexed ‘too’ well, making it so that your domain's age isn’t relevant anymore in domain authority. The idea now is to optimize your crawl budget since bots are becoming so smart at indexing your website quickly. This requires special skills in SEO.
A recommendation would be to audit your website’s content and spend time around controlling and reducing the number of pages. That can be content-driven but also has benefits from a crawl and internal link perspective.
Voice search revolution
Voice searches focused on AI-based bots and location-based intent research (i.e. near me) are going to dominate in 2019. Make sure you optimize for local voice search and conversational keywords.
Google sees the future of search in the conversational search platforms such as voice and assistant search. That’s why data sets around Q&A are robust and that recent Google algorithm updates are changes to their understanding of language.
Install Secure Sockets Layer on Your Website
You should convert your website link to HTTPS protocol for adding a security layer. That is, you should install an SSL certificate on your website. Google has been pushing webmasters to make the change to non-secure web sites a for years now – including hinting at small rankings boost to further incentivize the shift.
On-page using Natural Language Understanding
In 2018, Google offered updated guidance called ‘Quality Raters Guidelines’ supposed to help you rank better by following broad updates. Of course, understanding Google’s structure and current priorities should help your future SEO strategies. But in 2019, the SEO community should stop focusing only on quality raters guidelines. Ben Gomes, long-time search quality engineer and now head of search at Google said during an internal Google meeting:
“You can view the rater guidelines as where we want the search algorithm to go. They don’t tell you how the algorithm is ranking results, but they fundamentally show what the algorithm should do.”
Natural Language Understanding (NLU), the next generation of Natural Language Processing (NLP) is making an impact on what type of content is more relevant for a given query. Google has been focusing this year on updates to their understanding of language. Google now shows relevant results even when the keywords aren’t an exact match. It instead is focusing on user intent and contextual relevance. The algorithm tries to deliver results based on what you mean instead of just looking for keywords matches.
That’s a reason why you want to focus on long-form pieces of content such as pillar pages next year. Do not forget the user experience in questions matching long documents. You want to attract the user with the right question and so they instantly know they came to the right place. Then you have to convince them that it’s the ‘right’ answer to their query.
Don’t forget off-site optimization
Quality backlinks still play a major role in success in 2019. For off-page optimization in 2019, it will most probably be sticking to niche relevant backlinks and social media visibility.
Don't focus your SEO strategy only on links and PR. Links may get you to the first page but relevance, intent optimization and engagement will get you to the top of page one. And while speed is important (particularly to conversion and engagement), content is vastly more important. If you are struggling to get links, chances are you're having a hard time showing your audience enough value for them to link back or share the content you're creating.
Wrap up: Your checklist for 2019
- Concentrate on optimizing your content for mobile devices first. Take a look at Lighthouse to check your site speed and performance.
- Optimize your crawl budget and learn how to control Google bots with a technically perfect site.
- Search for conversational keywords and optimize for local voice search.
- Install SSL certificates on your website and get HTTPS.
- Learn more about Natural Languages Processing and how it can help you content strategy.
- Always try to satisfy the user’s need at the best of all top-ranked websites and you will earn white hat and valuable backlinks.