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Key trends you can’t ignore for better SEO in 2019

By Alexandra Gavril - December 18, 2018

Every year, search engines keep getting smarter and more skilled at producing highly specific results that are tailored to users’ queries. 2019 is no exception.

So if you want to increase visibility for your small business in the search engine results pages (SERPs), you need to plan ahead. This means getting familiarised with the upcoming trends and using them to your advantage.

Below you can find the most buzzworthy SEO trends to get ready for in 2019, to ensure your website ranks high and is quickly found by your target audience in the SERPs.

Adhere to E-A-T quality signals

In the past few years, Google has been performing numerous updates that seem to focus on Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness (E-A-T) signals.

In fact, according to Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, E-A-T is among the top three considerations for page quality. Why? Because the search engine giant is aiming to provide more credible content in the search results.

But here’s the thing: E-A-T doesn’t just refer to creating content that’s high in authority and gives trustworthy advice from experts in the field.

It refers to an entire website’s value and whether or not users feel comfortable reading, sharing and recommending that content.

In other words, visitors need to feel like they’re getting a good experience on a site and that the content meets their standards.

So, implementing E-A-T principles on your site won’t just help to increase your rankings, but it’ll also secure more trust with your visitors. This builds a solid foundation for the rest of the customer’s journey with your business.

While this is important to any business, it’s critical to what Google calls “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) pages. YMYL pages refer to pages in the financial, legal or healthcare industries, or any other industry that can have an impact on a user’s happiness, health and wealth.

SEMrush lists a few examples that Google considers categories of YMYL pages:

  • Shopping or financial transaction pages
  • Pages that offer financial information, e.g., investment or tax information
  • Pages that offer medical information about specific diseases or conditions or mental health
  • Pages that offer legal information about topics like child support, divorce, creating a will, becoming a citizen, etc.
  • Any page that has the potential to be dangerous or detrimental if it possessed low levels of E-A-T (car repair and maintenance, for example)

If your business falls into one of these categories, there is a greater risk for publishing low-quality content. This means that following the E-A-T guidelines will be especially crucial. The wrong advice given in a piece of content could be detrimental to a reader and, as a result, diminish all trust they may have once had in your brand.

Bottom line: following E-A-T principles can improve your chances of ranking well in the search results.

Let’s look at a few ways you can start doing that right now.

Expertise

Who are the people creating the content on your site and/or blog? Are they qualified or knowledgeable enough to offer advice and information?

According to Google’s search quality guidelines, there are two types of expertise:

Formal: If you’re in the medical, financial and legal industries, a certified professional is the most reliable source of information. Considering the type of information you’re sharing, which can put users at risk, you need to make sure your writers are qualified to give advice.

Everyday expertise: The guidelines state that “for some topics, the most expert sources of information are ordinary people sharing their life experiences on personal blogs, forums, reviews, discussions, etc.” For example, this type of expertise is acceptable for topics such as recipes, humour and house cleaning.

Authority

Here are a few simple ways to build authority:

Include author names and bios for all your editorial content. This allows users to get to know your contributors and see that they have the necessary or the relevant experience and qualifications to share that information and advice. In addition, consider adding a picture next to the name to promote transparency with your readers.

Conduct and cite research and studies. If your content creators aren’t experts, they can make up for it by doing proper research and linking to reputable sources. This can help build trust because it shows that you care about delivering accurate information.

Manage your online reputation. Monitor customer reviews, comments and feedback on both your site and outside of it. Respond to all comments, whether they’re negative or positive, and show that you care about providing a stellar customer service.

Trustworthiness

Create purposeful content. Make it your mission to create content that’s useful, relevant and accurate. Avoid writing fluff content that doesn’t provide value or serve your visitors.

Make your contact information visible. There’s nothing that screams “fake” more than the lack of contact information. Make yours visible and not just on your About page. Add your phone number, email address, physical address where visitors can see them so they can quickly get in touch with you if they need to.

Make users feel safe. Everything about your site should make users feel safe while they’re visiting. At the very least, you should add an SSL certificate to your site to reassure visitors that their personal and financial information is secure while on your site.

Bottom line: in 2019, make it your mission to create useful, accurate, relevant and engaging content.

Improve mobile user experience

Google has always emphasised the value of user experience (UX). So it’s no surprise that it’s been making changes to its ranking algorithm to reflect that and to reward sites that provide a flawless user experience for both desktop and mobile.

However, over the past two years, Google has shown that the focus is increasingly on mobile, considering that more than half of all search queries are now done on smartphones or tablets.

Since March 2018, Google has started the process of moving sites to the mobile-first index. Basically, it means that Google’s bots will check out the mobile version of a site first when deciding how to rank it in the search results.

This is not to say that the desktop version will no longer matter. There’s still a single index with both mobile and desktop versions. The problem is that while the desktop website can still be indexed, the lack of a mobile version can mean a lower position in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

So what should you do next?

If you have not yet optimised your website for mobile devices, you should do so as soon as possible. Don’t know how? Read this article to learn how to develop a mobile-friendly website.

This is critical to your online business success as not having a mobile-friendly site can have a negative impact not only on your rankings but also on user’s experience on your website.

You know what else can hurt user experience and, as a result, your rankings?

Page speed.

Google’s mission is to deliver the best user experience and to deliver it fast. While desktop page loading time has been a ranking factor for a while, this July, mobile page speed has become a ranking factor for mobile.

So, what does this mean for you?

It means that you need to fix all the issues that are preventing your site from loading fast. Start with simple fixes like hiding unnecessary elements or switching up your image file type from PNG to JPEG.

Google has provided a handy list of page speed recommendations that you can use to improve your mobile site’s loading time.

Tighten your website security

These days, users aren’t likely to stay too long or risk giving out personal information to a website that doesn’t have an HTTPS, or a green “secure” sign before the web address.

To most users, HTTPS means that a website can be trusted to share sensitive information like passwords, contact or credit card details.

Google values users’ safety and privacy, which is why it has been takings steps to crack down on security issues and it will only get more thorough in 2019.

For example, in July 2018 it released a security update urging site owners to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure).

So what should you do next?

You should take your website’s security more seriously because it’s something that both your visitors and Google care about.

Think about it: if a visitor enters your site and sees the “not secure” alert in the address bar, they’re likely to hit the “back” button in search of a more secure website. This leads to a high bounce rate that can cause your rankings to drop.

But it’s not just your visitors’ security that you should care about. It’s your site’s, too. HTTP websites doesn’t just leave users’ data more vulnerable to being accessed or manipulated by hackers, but your site’s too.

If your website gets hacked, it can destroy your reputation and your business altogether.

All things considered, it’s no surprise that Google shows preference for HTTPS in the SERPs. That’s because sites using SSL certificates are considered more secure, so they’re more trusted, which means they also deserve to get a small boost in the rankings.

So make sure you take the steps to tighten your web security. This is not just a trend for better SEO in 2019, but a necessity. Get started by reading this article to learn how to make the switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

Emerging trends

There are also a few emerging trends that are clearly growing in popularity and power over ranks.

Linkless mentions

Linkless mentions may play a big role in 2019.

Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, has stated at Pubcon that Google uses online brand mentions in its search algorithm.

This is not to say that backlinks aren’t still a strong ranking signal. They are but you shouldn’t force them. Instead, only work to build links when you have a natural opportunity.

Going forward, your focus should be on building mentions of your brand naturally across the web, even if it’s not accompanied by a link.

You can do that by investing more time into building relationships with prospects and customers, and by monitoring your brand’s online reputation.

This means paying attention to what people are saying about your brand on sites, blogs, forums and social media channels. It means engaging with your audience, answering their questions, and addressing their concerns and pains.

The idea is to get people talking about your brand and to show them that you’re invested in helping them in any way you can.

The higher the engagement and the more positive mentions you get for your brand, the higher the chances that Google will want to recommend your business high up in the SERPs.

Need help getting started? Here are seven social listening tools that you can use to keep an eye on your online reputation.

Voice search

The increasing use of digital assistants and smart home devices has naturally led to a dramatic increase in the number of people using voice search to look up things on Google.

In fact, Google found that about 70% of queries now include natural language. Google also revealed that 72% of people who own voice-activated speakers say their devices are used as part of their daily routines.

What does this mean for you?

It means that you need to optimise your content for voice search. Going forward, you’ll need to focus more on conversational, longtail keywords as these have a greater chance to express a searcher’s intent and resemble how people talk in real life.

Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Make a list with the most frequently asked questions that you get from customers via email, chat, phone or social media. Then create pages to further optimise them for such longtail, conversational queries.
  • Give clear and relevant answers to popular questions in your industry. This can increase your chances of showing up at the top of the SERPs when people search for an answer to a question.

In conclusion

It may seem like there aren’t too many SEO trends compared to past years. But here’s the thing: they’re all significant.

So if you want to boost your site’s visibility in the SERPs in 2019 and stay ahead of the competition, you need to take the time follow the action items that accompany each of these trends. Good luck!

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