- With each passing year the state of play for the SEO industry shifts
- In 2019, these changes will be more fundamental than ever
- Here’s everything you need to know about how to rank in Google in 2019
Towards the end of 2018, Google rolled out a fairly important change to their core algorithm. The update took several days to fully deploy, yet for most content creators and most websites the August 2018 update passed by largely without consequence. In fact, for many readers, this might even be the first you’re hearing about it. But for certain industries, primarily healthcare and finance, the algorithm change was fundamental.
The algorithm changes reflect a shift in the direction SEO is travelling in. Whatever industry you are in, you’ll need to pay attention if you want to continue achieving high rankings for your website as and when these changes occur.
The Medic update
The August 2018 algorithm change was nicknamed by many the ‘Medic update’, because of its focus on changing the metrics by which the quality of health and financial related websites are judged. Since the change, websites that post content related to your money and your lifestyle (YMYL) are judged by much harsher SEO metrics. For these topics, Google assumes that false information has worse consequences than for others, so the bar for ranking content should be equally higher.
The algorithm change is just one part of a wider drive for Google to rank content based on its actual value to the end user, rather than how well it matches the words used in their search term. Even if the ‘Medic update’ didn’t affect your website or your content, there’s a good chance this wider drive in search rankings will – if it hasn’t already.
The change in initiative has been brewing for some time, but 2019 will be the year that it will start to make the biggest changes to rankings. Here’s a look at some of the main trends that this change in focus will influence over the coming few months.
Google have been tight-lipped about their algorithms since the search engine first launched. The SEO industry is a success story in educated guesswork. The only advice Google has ever given on how to rank is ‘write great content’. In their defence, most Google algorithm changes have been aimed towards making the search engine better at judging this – but it’s certainly been a work in progress.
With the rise of machine learning, however, Google can reliably claim to be having some success analysing the deeper, semantic value of a piece of content. Increasingly, the algorithms are geared towards analysing content based on its ability to fulfil ‘the semantic intent of a user’s journey’. To debunk the jargon, this means keyword targeting is going to become increasingly less important, in favour of content that genuinely solves problems and answers questions.
Classic keyword tactics
Most classic SEO tactics are based around keyword placement; what keywords to use, what combinations, where to put them and at what frequency. In the past, however, this has contributed to content that’s stuffed with search terms that aren’t relevant to the content or the user. Nowadays, fulfilling the intent of the search term is as important, if not more so, than including the search term itself.
This doesn’t mean that all your keyword strategies are now redundant. But keywords for the sake of keywords won’t do much for your SEO strategy any more – particularly if they’ve got nothing in particular to do with the surrounding sentence or article. Generally, if keywords appear naturally in your text, you’ll find yourself ticking these boxes without really trying.
Voice optimised SEO
Since the early days of Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana, the SEO world has paid quiet attention to the prospect of voice optimised SEO content. Until now, it’s been slow to get going. That all began to change in late 2018, with the advent of Google’s speakable mark-up, and it’s only set to get more important over the coming year.
The Speakable mark-up lets you mark sections of your content that would be a relevant oral response to a voice search. Think of the voice response as an award, and the mark-up is the tool you use to nominate your own content. From there, Google’s algorithms will analyse the content and select the most relevant contender. Currently, the system only applies to news-specific content, and eligibility is judged against the same guidelines that govern Google News content. There’s every chance that as 2019 progresses, this will expand to more types of content; specifically, those that answer quick and easy questions in a digestible format.
As far as SEO is concerned, publishers can rest assured that things won’t change overnight. In fact, marking text up in your post for voice searches isn’t much different from marking it up for a featured snippet. But as the total ratio of voice to text searches continues to rise, there’s every chance that the focus of SEO will shift far more fundamentally than it already has. 2019 is the year this SEO steamroller really begins to roll.
Searching in a multi-device world
The rise of voice searches is one part of a wider trend that’s been underway for many years. People now interact with Google on a wider range of platforms. The search giant can’t simply tailor all search results to those with keyboards and computer screens anymore.
Content written for desktop screens doesn’t look exactly the same on mobile or tablet devices. For logistical reasons, there’s often less ‘space’ on the mobile version of a webpage than the original desktop.
Much recent discourse on mobile SEO optimization suggests that because more mobile searches are being made than ever before, publishers should optimise towards them. While this is true, it misses an important bit of nuance.
It was once the case that website-optimised content would rank better on all devices, regardless of how well-suited to mobiles it was. It is now the case that mobile-optimised content ranks better on all devices, regardless of how well suited to websites it is.
Why is this distinction important?
Without understanding this, organisations who receive proportionately less mobile traffic could happily convince themselves they didn’t need to worry about mobile optimisation. But the success of your mobile rankings influences your web rankings – even if you have barely any mobile views on your website.
B2B websites are among those that receive less mobile traffic, since people tend to access these websites at work, from desktops. It’s understandable that B2B websites may not have been as quick to the mobile optimization trend as other websites. However, it’s no longer important how many visitors to your site are on mobile. Google has decreed that mobile optimization is the way forward, and websites that want to stay ahead in the rankings will need to ensure they pay attention to the changes.
With all this focus on mobile and voice optimised content, you might think that lengthy, detailed articles and blogs are about as outdated as keyword spamming. Quite the contrary. In fact, Google algorithms now favour long-form content over their shorter counterparts – concluding that the extra length means that the piece is more likely to have more detailed, quality answers in there.
That doesn’t mean you should start writing extra paragraphs just to drive up the word count. If the content is worth the length, and the information is sufficiently complex, detailed and nuanced enough to justify the length – then readers will stay. If not, cut it out.
How to rank in Google: User experience optimisation
Google have always said that their first priority is to the user, and content that best serves their needs will always perform the best. Despite their best intentions, this hasn’t always been the case – and it’s taken many years to get to the point where the algorithms are intelligent enough to properly deduce the best content for a user’s search query.
Whether it’s optimising content to voice and mobile searches, or choosing detailed content that fulfils the deeper, semantic requirements of searches, the changes in Google algorithms are all aimed towards creating this experience.
Keep it genuine
There are plenty of ways that SEO will change over 2019 – and much for businesses to pay attention to if they want to continue attracting attention to their websites. But in 2019, the most important thing to remember is that the content you create must first and foremost fulfil the user’s requirements on a number of levels. Content should answer genuine queries, with reliable, detailed and well-researched information.
The days of content for content’s sake are slowly beginning to pass. In 2019, optimising for the user experience will become a far more valuable part of a successful digital marketing campaign than it has ever been before.
The SEO experts here at Fifty Five and Five keep are keeping constantly up to date with the latest trends and changes in the world of SEO to create the best possible campaigns and improve rankings for our clients. Get in touch with us to find out more.