1.Invest in Technical SEO
Websites continue to grow in complexity every year, making technical SEO a major area of investment in 2019 and beyond.
Some key areas of focus on the technical side of SEO will be:
- Speed: “Sites will finally start to become simpler and faster as SEOs discover that Google is rewarding sites more than once thought for [first meaningful paint] speed,” according to Jon Henshaw, founder of Coywolf Marketing and senior SEO analyst at CBS Interactive.
- Progressive Web Apps (PWAs): “For 2019, you should start thinking about how your website could live on as a PWA in the future. How can your PWA become a keepable experience your users would like to put on their home screen?” Tandler said.
2. Win with On-page Optimization
On-page optimization will continue to be important in 2019, said Tony Wright, CEO and founder of WrightIMC.
“We are still seeing incredible results from nothing more than on-page SEO tactics for many companies that come in the door,” Wright said. “Links are still very important, but the biggest bang for most companies’ SEO bucks is ongoing on-page optimization. Because on-page SEO isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it tactic.”
Alexis Sanders, technical SEO manager at Merkle, also shared some key website optimizations:
- Content that answers common user questions.
- Ensuring internal site search is providing relevant results.
- Shortening conversion process.
- Ensure that repeat customers can restock commonly purchased items simply.
- Customer support responds to questions related to the business.
- Consider use of chatbots to lighten the load for basic, common questions and procedural tasks.
- Users are easily able to navigate to physical locations.
- Providing users with their stage in fulfillment funnel (think: clear, visual process forms).
3. Get Ready for Voice Search
Last decade, “the year of mobile” became a kind of running joke. Every year, the experts predicted that this, finally, would be the year of mobile. Year after year. Until hype finally matched reality around 2015.
Well, is this year the year of voice search? Once again, not quite.
As Wright put it:
“In my opinion, the ‘juice isn’t worth the squeeze’ yet for most companies when it comes to showing up in voice queries,” Wright said. “However, I think more companies will look into a voice optimization strategy next year. As I said last year, voice search is coming, it still just isn’t quite there yet.”
Although voice search got lots of attention in 2018, Aleyda Solis, international SEO consultant and founder of Orainti, said voice search is just a piece of a bigger shift, from specific “results” to “answers” as part of a longer “conversational search journey.”
“This will only gain more prominence and importance in 2019 – and the shift has already started,” Solis said. “While ‘voice’ might be an easier way to request answers in some scenarios, it certainly isn’t the ideal format to fulfill the intent in more complex answers (e.g., when comparing services or products).”
All that said, Michael Bonfils, managing director of SEM International, said voice search is a game changer for multinational and multilingual websites.
“Hopefully, marketers will realize in 2019 that the effective use of voice response can’t be done by translators (machine or human). The use of voice is, and can be, very different from country to country, region to region, dialect to dialect, social class to social class, etc.,” Bonfils said.
4. Watch Machine Learning
Dave Davies, CEO of Beanstalk Internet Marketing, said machine learning is about to explode in 2019.
“While we’ve seen machine learning in search with RankBrain, Google News groupings, etc. we haven’t really experienced the true power of what it can be. This is the year that changes,” Davies said. “We can see the prep work coming with some of the layout changes the engines are pushing out and their drive to answer intents rather than questions. This is the root of machine learning’s impact on search.”
But machine learning won’t just be something to watch on Google and the search engines, said Jenn Mathews of Jenn Mathews Consulting.
“Companies need to adopt machine learning to develop unique content for SEO, beginning with a set of data based on specific variables,” Mathews said. “Machine learning, coupled with the need for analysis and reporting, as testing new strategies and implementation is imperative to understanding successes and failures.”
5. Optimize for Featured Snippets & Other Google SERP Features
In addition to optimizing for your own website, you must also optimize for the Google search experience in 2019.
“Answer boxes, recipes, the knowledge graph, carousels, and who-knows-what-else will take an even bigger bite out of organic traffic,” said Ian Lurie, CEO and founder of Portent. “That makes SEO even more important, because exposure is as much about visibility in the SERPs as it is about clicks.”
That means optimizing for featured snippets (a.k.a., position zero) and other Google search features will continue to be an important trend – and more important than ever – in 2019.
“We have been able to achieve many answer boxes for our own site and client websites,” said Jim Bader, senior director of SEO at Vertical Measures. “Every time this happens, it results in a significant spike in organic traffic.”