1. Featured Snippets
If you look at the search engine result pages (SEPRS) today, you notice they have received a lot of “competition”. On the one hand, AdWords ads take up a lot of space in commercial search queries. Depending on the type of search query, shopping ads with pictures or a block of four spots with text ads are also placed in front of the organic search results.
Your other “competitors” for the top rankings are:
- Local Packs
- Knowledge Graph
- Featured Snippets
- “People Also Ask” Boxes
- Google News
- Google Images
- Youtube Video Pack
Here is an example for a featured snippet. In this case, the image on the snippet comes from a different website than the one supplying the text.
Featured Snippets will continue to play an important role in 2019. They satisfy the user’s need for simple answers to a question. The displayed excerpts come from websites that Google interprets as suitable for answering the user’s question.
However, it remains to be seen how Google deals with the trustworthiness of the pages used. Google has already started to create a knowledge graph for many queries, using data from Wikipedia to do so. In the English-speaking world, Google is far ahead when it comes to answering questions. This is where the search engine shows its “People So Ask” Boxes, which can be clicked directly by users.
Practical tip: In 2019 it will be even more difficult to be visible in the top positions of the SERPs. For the optimization of your website, you need to be even more strategic about which goals you want to achieve and which are achievable.
If you want to be top-ranked with your content in Featured Snippets, especially when it comes to knowledge questions, consider putting question & answer sequences on the page. Tables with structured information can also provide a listing above the organic results. Even if the competition for the top positions will become more fierce, with regard to featured snippets, “smaller” sites also have a good chance of high rankings if they provide well-structured answers that Google can use.
So in 2019, you should increasingly ask yourself what your target group wants to know when searching the web or what they want to cover with their search. The more you meet this need with your content, the better your ranking chances will be.
2. Structured data becomes more important
With the evolution of SERPs, Google is accessing more and more data material. Today, Google is also able to create its own meaningful meta-descriptions from existing content. In addition, the search engine giant uses structured data to create rich snippets. Since the available space has become smaller due to a change in the arrangement of the advertisements, you should make sure to create eye-catching snippets.
For example, our lawyer seo page appears like this in Google:
Note that homepages cannot get review snippets, only inner pages do. Rich snippets can significantly increase the click-through rate (CTR) for your website. Some sources say this can increase by up to 30%, but we have never seen such high changes on all websites in our care.
Google needs structured data so that rich snippets can be displayed at all. Here are more examples of such snippets:
- rating stars
- opening hours
- event data
Practical tip: Mark up your content in the best possible way. Here you have different possibilities at your disposal, the main one being Google’s own website at schema.org.
3. User experience
Who speaks today of “search engine optimization” is actually anachronistic. After all, we do not optimize for search engines, but for users of search engines and websites. For this reason, the user experience plays an increasingly important role.
The following starting points for OnPage optimization should therefore also be on your to-do list in 2019:
Loading speed: With tools like gtmetrix you can check the loading times of your web pages. You can also use the free PageSpeed tool from Google to measure the performance of your site. We have created a guide for you how you can optimize the loading time of your page.
Technically flawless websites: Users are becoming more and more demanding and should be able to rely on your pages being usable in 2019 as well. Don’t use Adobe Flash anymore, for example.
Mobile optimization: In most areas, more than half of all search queries are now done on smartphones or tablets. This makes it all the more important to meet this user need.
4. AMP: Page Speed Boost
Mobile Optimization is the standard for creating new websites today. With Accelerated Mobilie Pages (AMP) and Progressive Web Apps, Google shows you how to make your mobile page even faster.
AMPs are already an integral part of Google SERPs. It is expected that the “AMP” theme will gain even more momentum in 2019, but not all website should use it, due to its limitations. AMPs are often devoid of images and structure and consist of pure text, which is why these pages load so quickly. We have applied AMP before and removed it later, but news websites absolutely need it today, because it gets news articles into Google’s news carousel at the top in mobile devices.
5. Content matters
Although Google’s algorithms are getting better and better, it still needs content in the form of text to determine the relevance of web pages to a search query. Google has made enormous improvements in the analysis of textual content in recent years and uses the latest technology with Rankbrain to better understand content.
This leap in quality is going to continue in 2019 as the system learns on its own. Your goal should, therefore, continue to be to offer the best content on your “topic” on the web.
Practical tip: Check your texts continuously and make sure they remain unique and offer added value. Word counter analyses can support you in the analysis and writing of texts. These show you which terms your text should contain so that it becomes as relevant as possible in relation to a search term. Make sure you do not stuff keywords in your texts – we still see a lot of websites that do this.
6. Voice search
As early as 2014, Google determined in a study that over 40 percent of respondents use voice-controlled web search. For teenagers, the rate was even higher than 50 percent. According to Google, every fifth search query on mobile devices is now made via voice input. Due to the increasing use of digital assistants and smart home devices, users will probably use features such as “Voice Search” more frequently in 2019.
Practical tip: Because users communicate directly with the search engine in voice-controlled searches, you should focus more on longtail keywords when optimizing content. At the same time, it can be helpful to anticipate possible user questions that your content will answer.
Useful tools are here:
- Google Trends
- Google Suggest
7. Google’s Mobile First Index
Over the past two years, Google has shown that the focus is increasingly on mobile. This is not surprising since the number of users on the mobile Internet has risen significantly and exceeds the number of desktop users when it comes to web searches. For example, mobile optimization was only introduced as a ranking factor in 2016. In 2017, Google finally drummed up advertising for accelerated mobile pages and improved its mobile update. In summer 2018, the “Mobile First Index” has finally been implemented. Google prefers to show the version of a page in the mobile index in the future, which is optimized for mobile devices.
If you have not yet optimized your website for mobile devices, you should do so by 2019 at the latest.
8. Links remain important
Every year there are alternating calls that “SEO is dead” or “Link building is dead”. But in fact, even in 2019 backlinks will continue to play an important role. In 2018, Gary Illyes from Google said at a conference that the good old PageRank is still an important ranking signal for Google internally. And link power, or authority, is achieved via backlinks.
In fact, so-called “linkless backlinks” may play an even bigger role in 2019. This consideration is based on the fact that Google can also consider mentions of websites or brands on other websites, although no direct link refers to the target page.
Practical tip: For SEO 2019, you need to understand that link building via third- and fourth-class article portals or unmotivated guest posts will no longer work. Instead, you should invest in unique content that users enjoy consuming or sharing.
You should also be careful with guest posts in general. Two years ago, Google warned against low-quality posts of this kind, so make extra sure you the quality is on point.
A simple rule that you can also follow in 2019 when building links: Each time, think about whether the link to your page really offers the user added value.
9. Stronger focus on image search
Google significantly upgraded its image search in 2017. Many websites even had to struggle with traffic losses because users no longer have to leave Google to view images and can click their way through them like in a picture gallery. By improving image search Google has certainly responded to a trend.
Practical tip: The fact that users are increasingly searching for images should give you the incentive to optimize your visual material. Try to use better pictures than your competitors. In 2019, just like last year, you should think holistically in terms of content. The content of your website is a harmonious interaction of image, text, or video material, which should be geared to the added value for the user and cover a topic as comprehensively as possible.
10. Rankbrain: machine learning
With Rankbrain, Google introduced a new self-learning algorithm in 2015. Since then, artificial intelligence (which has not yet been fully developed) has been responsible for answering the type of search query that has never been made before. Apparently, that constitutes about 15% of the daily search queries on Google.
In the meantime, Rankbrain has learned a lot more and Google is better able to answer even complex questions. We can, therefore, expect search engines to become even better at understanding us humans in 2019.
This is good news for everyone who works hard every day to create fast websites with great content with added value for users!
Conclusion: Your checklist for 2019
- Add markups to your website so Google can use structured data for rich snippets and you can increase your CTR in SERPs.
- Create a technically perfect site that is absolutely mobile optimized and can easily be crawled and indexed by search engines.
- Try to make your website as fast as possible.
- Concentrate on optimizing your content for mobile devices.
- Don’t think primarily of backlinks when publishing content on other websites.
- Always try to satisfy the user’s need at the best of all top-ranked websites on a search term or topic.