Search engine optimisation (SEO) is as changing as Australia’s list of prime ministers. It’s come a long way since keyword stuffers, paid link clickers and backlink scammers were able to trick the algorithms.
Today, SEO is more difficult than ever (probably why you’re reading this article right now).
The good news (no, the great news) is that the searcher wins in the end. Yup, search engines are better than ever at predicting searcher intent. Better than ever at providing relevant, helpful and interesting content in a matter of milliseconds.
Which is why SEO involves a lot of common sense: Useful, helpful, engaging content...
However, as you know: there’s a lot more to it than that. In recent times, there’s the rise of voice search, the fall of keyword rankings, the continued domination of mobile search (just to name a few trends).
Without a doubt, SEO strategies will need to adjust to algorithm and societal changes in 2019. But predicting the future is fun, and we thought we’d give it a go ourselves.
Let’s get into it.
Here’s 5 predictions for SEO this year (and beyond):
1) Conversational SEO
Everyone’s talking about it (see what I did there?). Just do a quick search and you’ll find countless articles discussing the implications of voice search now, and into the future.
We’re only at the beginning. Gartner reckons that by 2020, 30% of web searches will be completed without using a screen. Others predict that voice searches will account for 50% of all searches by the same year.
Most agree that it’s only going to increase. So what does this mean for those of us trying to dominate search-engine results pages (SERPs)?
Well, in the future less searches will look like this:
“Cheap haircuts North Shore”
Instead, they might look more like this:
“Cheapest haircuts near me?”
Notice how the second search doesn’t mention a location? Search engines are already using geo-targeting. And they’re only becoming more accurate.
The more searchers use voice search, the more they’ve come to rely on it (and trust it to provide accurate responses). From there, their voice search habits begin to change.
For example, do you speak to your friends in the same way you speak to strangers? Nope.
As users get more and more used to searching by voice, so will their language change.
2) Voice Keyword Research
There are already some handy keyword research tools out there. Some of which aren’t directly keyword-related tools, but still very useful. We expect the big players in SEO software to soon catch up and offer more ‘voice-specific’ keyword research tools.
FYI: I just typed, ‘voice search keyword research tool’ into Google and found no relevant search results…
In the meantime, here’s some of our favourites for conversational keyword research:
A great tool for finding long-tail keywords. It crawls the web and gives you tonnes of keyword data in the form of questions that people ask, prepositions that people search, plus it gives you a list of related terms.
The main advantage of ATP is it gives you long-tail keyword ideas in the form of questions that people actually ask. An obvious disadvantage is it doesn’t give you information about keywords competitiveness, volume or content ranking.
Enter Ubersuggest. This is a great tool for long-tail keywords, and it goes without saying that voice searches are usually long-tail rather than broad keywords… Use this tool to cross-reference your ATP research with awesome data such as SEO difficulty, keyword volume and ranking content. Not to mention, you get all of this for free!
Quora is another good tool that is more of an indirect (rather than direct) voice search tool. It’s great for finding the answers that people are searching for (in the form of questions). It’s an awesome tool for content marketers and those who are wanting to create original and helpful content. It won’t be quite so helpful for local SEO or geo-specific research as it’s a forum open to the entire internet community. Hint: Try reddit for finding local online communities.
3) Impressions and CTRs will be more important than keyword rankings
Keywords will always be important. Keyword rankings, less so. Let me explain:
Search engines now deliver more dynamic and personalised SERP results than ever before. With these changes in how search engines prioritise content, so must our approach to analysing our SEO efforts.
As keyword rankings become less important, organic impressions and CTRs rise. Why will these factors be more important this year?
Because impressions and clicks don’t lie. They either happened or they didn’t. Keyword rankings can be more deceptive...
For instance, a keyword ranking score of 5 indicates that you’re on the first page. Not necessarily...
For one searcher, you’re number 3 on the SERP. For another, lowly 7. Another user doesn’t see your result because it shows up 10th (hiding on page 2). Oops...
This ranking inconsistency is likely the result of:
1) Personalisation due to individual search history
2) Device-specific factors
3) Location of the searcher
In other words, you and I are likely being served different content (even when we type in the same keywords).
Notable SEO experts such as Rand Fishkin have also questioned the importance of tracking keyword rankings. There’s an awful lot of margin for error... So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the numbers are highly variable.
Instead, pay more attention to how your organic impressions and click-throughs change over time.
4) Digestible long-form content
The numbers don’t lie (in this instance). Despite the dwindling attention spans of humans, long-form content still performs better. See below:
But let’s take a step back from this: Why is long-form content performing better in SERPs? Longer content is typically better researched, more useful and answers searchers’ questions in greater detail.
However, lots of words alone won’t see your content going straight to the top of the SERPs. Indeed, the smartest SEO bloggers are adding some nifty features that improve the user-experience for the attentionally challenged. These include:
2) Anchor Links
3) Featured Snippets
4) PDF Downloads
5) Audio Versions
As a result, searchers can still get value from your content without necessarily reading the whole article. In addition, with a staggering number of searches done on mobile devices these days, long-form content must cater to the mobile user.
5) Visuals will begin to overtake written SEO
In the past, visual media has been the poor cousin to written content in the SEO-sphere. But this is beginning to change.
Search engines are getting better at understanding visual content. With the help of AI, algorithms no longer just rely on meta data to crawl and rank images and videos in SERPs.
Pinterest, Microsoft and Google are investing in ways to improve visual recognition and visual search. At present, search engines make sense of images and videos in three ways:
Textual queries and keywords (e.g. traditional search)
Matching structured image data to find similar characteristics (e.g. Google’s ‘search by image’ function)
Searching by image pixels (e.g. Google Lens)
But this technology still has challenges ahead. However, we expect to see visual search continue to improve this year where image and video content increases in importance and new factors are included in algorithm updates.
2019 looks set to be an exciting year for marketers and those looking to get ahead in SEO. Voice search, user-experience and visual content will drive changes in algorithms and search behaviour; and marketers will have to adapt.
Thankfully, the basics will still apply. Marketers who understand what their customers are searching for and provide good user-experiences will be okay. Those who understand how their customers are searching will do even better.
Which trends you are most excited about this year?