I sat in on a webinar by Searchmetrics on 2019 SEO Predictions. From Searchmetrics was Chief Marketing Officer Doug Bell. On the panel was Adam Edwards, SVP, Head of SEO, at Reprise Digital, Eric Enge, General Manager, at Perficient Digital, and Harrison DeSantis, Associate Director, SEO, at 3Q Digital.
I was eager to hear what these experts thought would happen in 2019 with SEO, and the conversation and debate did not disappoint. Here’s what we can expect for voice search, RankBrain, mobile, and search engine results page (SERP) revolution this year.
This was by far the hottest topic. Voice search is hot. It was “the year of mobile” for a while, and now it’s “the year(s) of voice.”
There’s skepticism around voice search because we do not get direct data and numbers that link back to voice, but there is no denying many voice assistant devices have sold, and it’s our job as marketers to find ways to use them. Between the two primary platforms, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, over 27 million devices have sold, and that’s just the U.S.
People use the two main platforms differently. Amazon is promoting Alexa primarily for driving transactional events and downloading skills, and Google is positioning its Assistant mainly for informational queries.
Voice is in its “Wild Wild West” early stage. The panelist thought voice would have a single-digit percentage of search volumes by 2020. It’s going to take some time to learn how to do voice right. Furthermore, actions also depend on industry and budget.
Voice is currently for early adopters, and the panelists think this is a time when you want to be an early adopter, since that will give you a first mover advantage in defined markets.
Adoptions are more common when they make actions fundamentally easier.Voice interactions are 40 times more likely to be action-oriented than traditional typed searches. Click To Tweet
You know voice has made online purchases easier to make when you hear of a 6-year-old who ordered themselves a dollhouse and cookies via their voice device. Even if ROI isn’t immediate or measurable, it’s valuable to plan voice as part of your SEO strategy. Optimizing for voice is similar to optimizing for the web. Pay close attention to this new trend. Voice search is a likely channel to help your organization, but it’s going to take time to optimize the user interfaces.
Google algorithm updates
Companies concerned with search rankings must keep an eye and an ear out for Google algorithm updates. Ranking focus will shift from keywords to user intent.
Companies need to build content beyond researching and writing about the “most popular keywords.” Understand your target personas and their buyer journey.
Marketers need to think about the niche needs and questions each user has. Talk to your customer service reps and compile lists of the questions customers and prospects are asking. Type in questions into a Google search and see the other questions that Google think is related and important in the drop-down query bar. Answer those questions in your content stack.
It’s important to remember these updates happen so that Google can improve their search engine performance, not just to make marketers crazy and wonder how website rankings will fluctuate.
Piggybacking off of Google algorithm updates, the panelists started discussing RankBrain which they think Google will use to measure sites versus the old domain authority scores. For anyone that doesn’t know, RankBrain is Google’s name for a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results.
The RankBrain system asks and measures “Are people getting what they expected to get via search?” Google weighs users expectations versus the page where they actually land.
If users don’t end up where they expected and you have unfavorable usability (UX) metrics, then creating content won’t help you with rankings as much as it should. An important, highly-measured factor for “speed site” is how long it takes for the website to be interactive. A site becomes interactive when the page has displayed useful content. Here’s a guide to the Google RankBrain algorithm.
To rank well in an AI-guided environment, write quality content that is easy to understand and uses words you pronounce every day in speaking with people and optimize usability.
Mobile versus desktop
While desktop is still most common for users in many industries, many desktop visits and purchases originate from mobile. However, 75% of conversions are happening on desktop because it’s easier, and desktop will be important for e-commerce conversions for a long time.
Map out smartphone-sized wireframes for website design at the same time as desktop. You need to think about the user experience in both environments.
We can expect to see lots of testing this year, with Google prioritizing click-throughs. They want to incentivize people to be more interactive on search engine ranking pages (SERP). One of the panelists predicted that click-through rates (CTRs) will decrease, so perhaps this is Google’s proactive way of trying to prevent that from happening.Even with paid search, 75% of clicks still go to organic results. Click To Tweet
The experts anticipate that pattern to continue.
Will Google kill URLs?
There was a side conversation about Google taking steps towards “killing the URL.” They hope to make it harder for scammers to capitalize on user’s inability to decipher a legitimate link from a fake one. Overall, the capacity to test new things and gather meaningful data has gone up significantly, and testing will happen faster and faster.
Are you keeping up with digital marketing trends?
Digital marketing is an ever-changing field, and we must stay on our toes to keep up with the latest changes and updates. We stay up-to-date by reading the latest top marketing books and newsletters, and participating in webinars like this one.
It’s our job to keep up with ranking algorithm changes, social media platform creations and deletions, and other marketing trends. If you’re having trouble keeping up with your marketing, hiring an outsource marketing agency could ease that stress and make sure you are complying with best practices. If this sounds exciting, let’s have a conversation!