Google’s heav­i­ly invest­ing to be the best. SEOs are try­ing to adapt to changes that fol­low. That’s how SEO trends are born. Let’s view what trends will make a dif­fer­ence in 2019.

To be atop the waves, think about your SEO strat­e­gy in advance. A short­cut to suc­cess: get to know the upcom­ing trends and work out an action plan for each.

This year, Google’s shak­en the world with its mobile- and speed-relat­ed efforts. As a result, most of next year’s SEO efforts are expect­ed in this direc­tion. How­ev­er, some “non-Google” game-chang­ers will also influ­ence how we build our SEO cam­paigns. Let’s explore these trends and ways to embrace them.

1. Mobile-first indexing

In a nut­shell, mobile-first index­ing means that Google uses the mobile ver­sion of your page for index­ing and rank­ing. Since March 2018, Google’s start­ed the process of migrat­ing sites to mobile-first index. It might hap­pen that Search Con­sole has already noti­fied you about it.

Bear in mind, a mobile-first index does not mean “mobile-only.” There’s still a sin­gle index with both mobile and desk­top ver­sions. How­ev­er, the whole “mobile-first” buzz means that Google will be using the mobile ver­sions for rank­ing once the site’s migrat­ed.

You get it, right? With your mobile ver­sion being the pri­ma­ry one for rank­ing, there’s no excuse to pro­cras­ti­nate with mobile-friend­li­ness.

Action plan:

  • Any mobile ver­sion type is fine. Just take into account a few moments. Google’s Trends Ana­lyst John Mueller men­tioned: “If you want to go respon­sive, bet­ter do it before the mobile-first launch”. So, if your site hasn’t migrat­ed yet, and you’ve been think­ing about switch­ing, do it now. Plus, Google strong­ly rec­om­mends against m‑dot and respon­sive for the same page, as it con­fus­es crawlers.
  • To under­stand how search engine spi­ders see your mobile pages, crawl them with a mobile bot.
  • Track your mobile pages’ load­ing speed. It’s easy with Page­Speed Insights.
  • Reg­u­lar­ly check whether your pages deliv­er impec­ca­ble user expe­ri­ence. You can use Web­Site Audi­tor and its mobile per­for­mance sec­tion for this task.

2. Page speed

Google’s nuts about deliv­er­ing the best UX and deliv­er­ing it fast. Desk­top page load­ing time has been a rank­ing fac­tor for a while. In July, it got a twin sib­ling – mobile page speed’s become a rank­ing fac­tor for mobile.

This cru­cial change calls for under­stand­ing which met­rics mat­ter for Google in terms of page speed eval­u­a­tion.

His­tor­i­cal­ly, when ana­lyzed in Page­Speed Insights, a site was eval­u­at­ed just on the basis of tech­ni­cal para­me­ters. Now, both for desk­top and mobile, it’s grad­ed accord­ing to two dif­fer­ent met­rics: Opti­miza­tion and, a new one, Speed.

The game-chang­ing part here is how Speed score is gen­er­at­ed. The data for the metric’s tak­en from Chrome User Expe­ri­ence report, the real users’ per­for­mance data­base. It reflects how your site loads for each vis­i­tor. It’s obvi­ous­ly hard to mea­sure how fast each visitor’s device loads your site. As a result, the metric’s impos­si­ble to get through local tests.

As for Opti­miza­tion score, you can total­ly con­trol it by fix­ing all the issues pre­vent­ing your site from load­ing fast.

So, which met­ric has the strongest influ­ence on rank­ings? Accord­ing to the mobile page speed exper­i­ment by SEO Pow­er­Suite, the cor­re­la­tion between the page’s Opti­miza­tion score and its posi­tion in SERPs is strong (0.97). And there is no cor­re­la­tion between the page’s posi­tion and its Speed score. In oth­er words, now Google can rate your site as slow, but your rank­ings stay the same.

How­ev­er, Speed met­ric is some­thing new, so it’s clear Google’s test­ing it. With time, those cor­re­la­tions may change.

Action plan:

Opti­miza­tion score is what mat­ters now for rank­ings. Luck­i­ly, site opti­miza­tion and result track­ing are total­ly in your hands. Google’s nice­ly pro­vid­ed a handy list of rec­om­men­da­tions. You may also refer to the even more detailed guide on improv­ing the Opti­miza­tion score.

3. Brand as a ranking signal

Gary Illyes, Google Web­mas­ter Trends Ana­lyst, has stat­ed at Pub­con that Google uses online brand men­tions in its search algo. There’re two ways it can use a brand as a rank­ing sig­nal.

First of all, through unlinked brand men­tions, the search engine learns that your brand’s an enti­ty. By fur­ther ana­lyz­ing all the prop­er­ties men­tion­ing it, Google gets a bet­ter pic­ture of your author­i­ty in a par­tic­u­lar field.

Sec­ond, each component’s sen­ti­ment and con­text mat­ters: rep­u­ta­tion, trust, adver­tis­ing, com­plaint-solv­ing, etc. Through con­text, Google learns to tell the good from the bad. For exam­ple, its Search Qual­i­ty Guide­lines state that rep­u­ta­tion mat­ters for rank­ings. Con­se­quent­ly, the sen­ti­ment around brand men­tions can affect the site’s rank­ings.

Action plan:

  • Back­links are still a strong rank­ing sig­nal. How­ev­er, build­ing links fast is rarely a white-hat busi­ness. Use the pow­er of lin­k­less back­links then. Men­tion your brand name online when­ev­er you have a nat­ur­al oppor­tu­ni­ty.
  • Cater to your rep­u­ta­tion. Try to address the cus­tomers’ pains with your brand. Engage with hap­py clients as well. For that, track men­tions of your brand online. Try the mon­i­tor­ing tool Awario for find­ing such lin­k­less men­tions all across the Web.
  • Find influ­encers ready to talk about you (but who haven’t real­ized it yet) or who are already talk­ing about your brand. Awario tool has every­thing to help you here as well.
  • Look at your com­peti­tors. By reverse-engi­neer­ing their strate­gies, you will look at your own SEO efforts holis­ti­cal­ly, not sin­gle-point­ed­ly. For that, look at the com­peti­tors’ brand men­tions to see how they grow aware­ness. Or go for a deep analy­sis of your com­peti­tors’ strengths and weak­ness­es.

4. GDPR

Let’s bet you got annoyed this spring when your inbox got filled with GDPR and Pri­va­cy Pol­i­cy mails. What’s this thing?

GDPR is the Gen­er­al Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion passed in the Euro­pean Union. It reg­u­lates a very nag­ging issue – who owns the data cre­at­ed by users’ inter­ac­tions online. From now on, it’s users who do, not cor­po­ra­tions which col­lect it. Con­se­quent­ly, users can now request to see what per­son­al data the com­pa­ny has about them and ask for its cor­rec­tion or export. If a com­pa­ny doesn’t com­ply with the reg­u­la­tions, it can be hit with severe fines (€20 mln or 4% of the company’s annu­al prof­it).

This reg­u­la­tion affects the EU com­pa­nies and cus­tomers. How­ev­er, inter­na­tion­al com­pa­nies should also com­ply with GDPR. As a result, Google’s decid­ed to intro­duce changes into its Ana­lyt­ics. Now all per­son­al user data expires after 26 months since it was col­lect­ed. Such data includes demo­graph­ic and affin­i­ty data (ear­li­er kept per­pet­u­al­ly) and doesn’t include ses­sions and goal com­ple­tions. How­ev­er, each site own­er can change this data col­lec­tion default peri­od. Plus, it’s now pos­si­ble to delete the data of indi­vid­ual users upon their request.

Action plan:

If you have no Euro­pean cus­tomers:

  • You can switch to the “do not auto­mat­i­cal­ly expire” option in Google Ana­lyt­ics. Beware that this way Google shakes off the user data pro­tec­tion respon­si­bil­i­ty on you. Plus, these user data con­trol efforts can extend well out­side the EU. Just wait for it.

If you have Euro­pean cus­tomers or plan to:

  • Review all the sources col­lect­ing user data on your site. Make sure you don’t acci­den­tal­ly send some pri­vate data to Google Ana­lyt­ics;
  • Update your Pri­va­cy pol­i­cy file by GDPR require­ments;
  • Revise your cook­ie con­sent form. It should have the fol­low­ing con­tent: what infor­ma­tion you col­lect, why you do it, where you store it, affirm the info’s pro­tect­ed;
  • If you use Google Tag Man­ag­er, acti­vate IP anonymiza­tion. Don’t wor­ry, you will still have a gen­er­al idea where your traf­fic comes from. It just will be a bit less pre­cise.

5. Amazon search

First things first, Amazon’s not a uni­ver­sal search engine. It’s an algo sim­i­lar to Google’s, but used for inter­nal search with­in Ama­zon pages. What’s the fuss about then? Well, more and more peo­ple go straight to Ama­zon to do shop­ping. Accord­ing to a study, 56% of con­sumers vis­it Ama­zon first if they have shop­ping in mind. 51% check with Ama­zon after find­ing some­thing else­where.

These fig­ures tell us that Amazon’s becom­ing Google of e‑commerce. It means that if you sell some­thing and you’re not on Ama­zon, you are miss­ing out on all those 56% of poten­tial cus­tomers.

Thus, if you’re a sell­er of books, music, elec­tron­ics, etc., include opti­miza­tion for Ama­zon into your SEO strat­e­gy.

Action plan:

  1. 1. Run key­word research. To be more indus­try-wise, use Ama­zon itself. Rank Track­er, for exam­ple, has Ama­zon Auto­com­plete key­word research tool:
  2. Make item’s title&description effi­cient and user-friend­ly (+ smart use of key­words);
  3. Pro­vide high-qual­i­ty images;
  4. Cater to “back­end key­words” (or meta tags, if in Google’s terms). They tell Ama­zon algo that a spe­cif­ic item tar­gets a spe­cif­ic key­word on the site;
  5. Track cus­tomers’ reviews and address com­plaints.

Looking at the year ahead…

Few trends, but big changes. While all things mobile are going far, we still have to keep an eye on Ama­zon and GDPR’s con­se­quences. This list’s still a pre­dic­tion, we’ll sure­ly have zil­lions of things to dis­cuss in 2019. What are your thoughts on an SEO land­scape for the next year?

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