As search engines and algorithms advance, so too will the way we conduct SEO. Now that Google and Bing have adopted AI and machine learning, it means they’re not as reliant on keywords to provide their search results. Instead, they are learning to understand their visitors’ intentions and are matching these up to the content of individual web pages. Also changing is the way we surf the internet, with many people now using voice search. With all these changes taking place, here’s how we expect SEO to develop during 2019.
Creating content for the new search results
The way search results are displayed has changed. Where once there were Google Ads followed by a list of websites, today, we have a wider variety of information provided. This includes knowledge graphs (where the answer to a user’s question is displayed in a box at the top of the results), featured snippets (which show a relevant excerpt under the pages title and URL) and, where users have searched for a product, an image of that product, plus pricing information, from an advertiser’s website.
To rank highly in 2019, the aim should be to have your content featured in the knowledge graph or displayed with a featured snippet. To do this means writing content that answers the search queries that users are making. It means discovering their questions and providing the answers in a format that Google likes, such as FAQs, headings and paragraphs or structured tables.
Working with RankBrain
For a successful SEO strategy to work on Google, website owners really need to understand RankBrain, the search engine’s AI algorithm. It is now so advanced that it is capable of learning a user’s intention, enabling it to provide more pertinent search results.
Rather than rely simply on keywords, it is able to drill down into the content and search for related terms that give a comprehensive understanding of the topic being discussed. The more related terms it discovers, the better it can see whether the page is relevant to an individual search. Those pages which have the most relevance are the ones which will rank highest.
If you want a page to do well in search results, your SEO must focus on more than keywords. It must also use subject specific, topic related terms. If it was a landing page for house extensions on a builder’s website, for example, you may wish to include terms such as planning permission, building regulations, contract, pricing, construction, foundations, etc., which would give a clear indication of what the page was about. Getting your SEO in tune with RankBrain means ensuring your content has all the relevant terms included, not just the same keywords used over and over.
Getting to grips with structured data
While a website’s HTML merely tells a browser how to display content, using structured data enables a page’s content to be understood by search engines. The markup vocabularies that structured data uses enables Google to identify the different forms of content on your site, such as titles, headings, tables, testimonials, review ratings, meta descriptions and so forth. This gives search engines a better grasp of the site’s relevance to a query and increases its chance of ranking.
Just as importantly, structured data enables you to create rich snippets (meta descriptions) that can be featured as part of your listing in a search result. If the content of these snippets is well written and relevant to the user, it increases the chance of your listing being clicked on. This is critical because even if you always appear on the first page of Google, there is no guarantee that anyone will visit your site. A well-crafted snippet can be the key to getting the user to click through.
The dominance of mobile
Mobile is now the predominant way we use the internet. We spend two-thirds of our internet time on mobile devices and we use them for over half of all searches. As a consequence of this shift in behaviour, Google has now initiated Mobile First Indexing. In essence, this means your mobile website is what Google uses to rank you in search results.
If you have paid little or no attention to your mobile site over the last couple of years, Mobile First Indexing means 2019 is the year when it needs to be the focus of your SEO. After ‘Mobilegeddon’ in 2015, nearly everyone adopted the use of responsive websites, however, things have moved on since then and now there are other SEO actions that you need to consider.
One of the main requirements is that your site will load quickly on mobiles. While this can be achieved through the use of CDNs, caching, compression and image optimisation, it might not work effectively for those with poor connections. To ensure all mobile users get a site that loads quickly, Google is keen for websites to adopt accelerated mobile pages (AMPs). AMPs are stripped down pages that can be loaded quickly on older devices and those using slow 2G and 3G networks.
Optimising for voice search
Thanks to the trend for Amazon Echo and Google Home, voice search has become widespread. Indeed, its popularity on these devices has seen an uptake in the number of people using voice searches on mobile phones and even on computers. It’s also leading to the development of many new voice-activated devices that can search the internet, such as smart speakers and smart TVs.
The thing we need to consider for SEO is that we use language completely differently for voice searches than we do for text searches. When using text, we often rely on simple keywords (e.g. chiropodist Leicester) whereas with voice search we’ll often use full sentences (e.g. Find me a chiropodist in Leicester). As a result, we may need to move away from the type of keywords we use in text searches and rewrite content that is more in line with the language we use in voice searches. Essentially, this means using more longtail keywords, though the biggest challenge will be discovering the actual terms voice searchers use.
The task of optimising our websites for search engines is unending. There will be constant updates to algorithms, changes in user behaviour and innovative technologies that change how we search or how search engines work. In this post, we have shown you what are likely to be the main developments to SEO during the coming year. Hopefully, these will help you focus your efforts so that your optimisation strategy during 2019 will be more effective.
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