If 2018 taught us anything, it’s that search engines are changing more rapidly than ever, and SEOs must change with them. More searches are being completed within Google’s search results or via voice search, meaning fewer clicks for individual publishers. Changes to ranking algorithms will require companies to stop thinking in terms of desktop and start thinking in terms of fast, functional mobile pages – a test that many will fail. Most importantly, improvements to natural language and image processing will make search engines think more like humans. Here are the top 4 trends we expect to make a big impact on SEO in 2019:
Sites must take mobile-first to heart
The mobile-first index was a big deal in SEO – but it changed very little about the way most SEOs did their jobs, with most still working and thinking primarily in terms of desktop. Sites that manage to put mobile first – not just in terms of responsive design or pagespeed, but in terms of content structure and formats – will pull ahead in the SERPs.
Sites that manage to put mobile first will pull ahead in the SERPs.
With much smaller screens, more scrolling, and a different input method, mobile users view and interact content much differently than on desktop. For informational queries, short, condensed blocks of content with the most important information prioritized at the top of the page will help mobile users find what they’re looking for quickly (and will also boost chances of a rich snippet or audio result). Also, don’t forget about the usefulness of non-text media – on mobile, an animation or image can get the message across much more quickly than with words.
Competition for rich results will heat up
While individual result types come and go, we’ve seen an increase in the overall presence of non-blue-link results in the SERPs. With more queries being resolved fully within the SERPs via quick answers, embedded tools, and other "rich" features, organic rankings will no longer be enough – you will also need to think about how to capture rich snippets, and, more importantly, how to make them valuable for your site.
Give readers a reason to click through to your site from your rich snippet, such as ensuring that your snippet doesn’t give a searcher all of the information they need at a glance.
While some rich snippets draw tons of clicks, users may not click through to a results page if all the information they need is readily available within the search results page. Give readers a reason to click through to your site from your rich snippet, such as ensuring that your snippet doesn’t give a searcher all of the information they need at a glance, requiring them to click through to your site to get the full picture. While you’ll have to balance your usefulness against your mysteriousness, small changes to your rich snippets can have a huge impact.
Backlinks will become less important
That one probably got your attention. While backlinks will still be very important, improvements to the scale and variety of content that can be indexed will result in a much more natural distribution of rank equity. A wider variety of authority signals will begin to gain weight in the ranking algorithms. Is your brand’s logo spotted on a banner at a popular event? Did your product get mentioned in a popular video? Are people on social media talking about your brand? All of these things are great indicators of authority for a brand, but Google is not currently able to crawl, index and effectively parse this content – yet. Google’s mission is to make everything indexable – which means that the traditional in-text backlink will become less relevant.
Search engines will get better at thinking like people...
...which means that SEOs need to stop thinking like search engines. SEO will become less about individual keywords and much more about understanding search intent and delivering results. What this means in practice is that SEOs will be less able to rely on keyword lists, and be forced to truly understand their audience’s motivations, goals, and desires – not just churn out content focused at a single keyword.
If you can give searchers what they’re looking for in the format they prefer most, you’ll immediately be ahead of 99% of the content published on the internet.
The flow of content on your site will become very important – when someone is searching for this topic, what are they trying to do? What content should be included within the article, and what should be suggested at supplemental reading? If you’re speaking to a "beginner" audience, are there goals or needs the reader doesn’t yet know they have? My local supermarket put stain-removing erasers right next to the children’s art supplies – anticipating needs before the customer knows they have them is a great way to provide true value. If you can give searchers what they’re looking for in the format they prefer most, you’ll immediately be ahead of 99% of the content published on the internet.
Have any SEO predictions for 2019? Share them in the comments!