Search engine optimization (SEO) is well known for the amount of change in the industry. In fact, we (and many others) create a new blog post surrounding the topic on an annual basis (see our SEO predictions for 2018). You’ve likely heard “the algorithms are constantly changing!” This is true—it’s estimated that Google updates their algorithm between 500 to 600 times per year.
However, this isn’t nearly as daunting or revolutionary as it sounds. From 2011 to 2016, Google was dropping a major algorithm update every year to encourage quality site experience and to discourage sketchy ranking strategies. However, with all that fine-tuning in the past, not a lot seems to change year-over-year anymore. The industry is definitely evolving, just not as rapidly as it once was.
Not necessarily a prediction, but here it goes:
SEO in 2019 will look a lot like SEO in 2018
Ultimately, providing relevant content and a good website experience are the best ways to succeed in SEO. The technical aspects of SEO are still as important as ever, but there really hasn’t been much evolution to these factors over the last several years.
I’ve gathered the top factors that will have the largest impact on SEO in 2019, and they honestly don’t look all too different than predictions from years past.
In June 2018, Google began mobile-first indexing. This means that they now crawl content from the mobile version of a site to index pages for both mobile and desktop devices. Not all sites have been switched over to mobile-first indexing yet, and this process will likely take several years.
Many sites now use responsive web design that allows content to be the same on both mobile and desktop devices. Sites that use responsive web design will likely not see any impact from mobile-first indexing (none of our client sites have!). However, sites that have different content on the mobile version of the site could see a large impact from this.
The percentage of mobile searches has continued to increase every year for the past five years. Despite this, there are still many websites that are not mobile friendly. I recommend taking a look at your mobile web experience. Ensure the site uses responsive design, has the same content as the desktop site, is easily accessible, and is quick to load.
The “speed update” was released in July 2018. This update focused on deranking extremely slow, mobile websites. Very few sites were impacted by this update, but Google has now officially stated that mobile speed is a ranking factor.
Ensuring the website loads as quickly as possible will help both users and search engine rankings. There are several free tools to identify opportunities for increasing site speed and page load times, I recommend Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom.
More and more consumers are adopting voice search technology with smartphones and digital home assistants. It’s estimated that by 2020, 50% of searches will occur from voice search.
Last year, I predicted that we’d be given a solution for how to measure voice search performance—I was wrong. Historically, there have been very concrete key performance indicators for SEO: rankings, CTR, organic site traffic, etc. However, with voice search, there are no search engine result pages, no clicks, and no web traffic.
I really hope there will be reporting capabilities added to Google Search Console or Google Analytics in 2019, not only to say I told you so, but because it would make my job easier! I’m actually surprised there haven’t been any solutions to this yet considering Google implied this was something they were working on in 2016.
In summary, SEO in 2019 likely won’t be drastically different than SEO in 2018 (or 2017, for that matter), but search engines are making strides to improve, slowly but surely. At the end of the day, focusing on the user and their experience, both with the content and experience of a site, is the single most important way to succeed in search. As always, reach out to us if you have questions or are looking to improve your website’s SEO performance in 2019.