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January has always been a tough month. Recovering from the excesses of the festive holidays. Getting back into a groove at work. All those new year’s resolutions to break. Well, there’s another January tradition — in the content marketing world, at least — that involves predictions. What are the 2019 SEO trends? What’s this year’s next big digital marketing “thing?” What’s on its way up? What’s on its way out?
So, to save you some time and a lot of clicks, we’ve compiled some of the more insightful “2019 Digital Marketing Prediction” posts that we’ve read. Specifically, we picked out four of the most important digital marketing trends we think will legitimately affect businesses and their SEO in 2019.
Securing the Web with HTTPS
Security has always been a concern when it comes to the internet. Creating a website has never been easier; website builders like Wix, Weebly, and WordPress.com removed the need to have advanced coding skills to successfully launch a site. This is great in many ways. But it does mean there are a lot of websites cobbled together by non-professional web designers. Experienced web developers understand the security underpinnings required to keep a website safe — for the visitors who browse/transact on the site as well as to keep hackers out.
So what is HTTPS?
HTTPS is essentially a certificate saying that your website has made some basic security provisions to protect your website visitors. If you want more information you can dig into the nitty-gritty in this How-To-Geek article. Setting up HTTPS is simple; speak with your website host and they should have a process in place. It may cost a few dollars, but that’s the painless route. Or, if you want to do it yourself without becoming an NSA-level computer hacker, read our overview article and following Search Console’s step-by-step guide.
Google’s Not Secure Warning
Google now strongly urges websites to run HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) rather than HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Their suggestion comes by way of displaying a “not secure” warning on all websites that are not running HTTPS. So, if your website isn’t running HTTPS it will show as “not secure” in Google’s Chrome browser. We anticipate that this warning will become more visible to searchers over time.
While there are other browsers available, Google Chrome now commands ~ 70% market share. Business owners and Webmaster should heed this warning. It’s not about personal preference between Safari or Edge. It’s about the majority of searchers that use Chrome who will see this message and go elsewhere. Plus, it’s an issue with an easy fix.
HTTPS is not a new 2019 SEO trend, per se. We’ve been writing about it for the last two years in light of Google’s official HTTPS July 2018 deadline. However, we still see a large percentage of websites not in compliance. If your website is among those with a warning, making the switch should a priority. In-browser warnings aside, we predict that website security is going to have more influence on organic search ranking than ever this year.
Scheming for Schema
Schema tops our 2019 SEO Trend list not because it’s new but because it’s gaining traction in the wild. Originally launched in 2011, Schema.org is a collaboration of several search engines — Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo!. Schema strives to improve the web by creating structured data markup Schema supported by major search engines. Markup Schema helps search engines better understand the content contained on a website so it can then serve up those results in organic search.
First, I want to acknowledge that Schema is extremely technical SEO. That said, I believe Schema will help brands improve their organic search visibility because it speaks directly to search engine bots before they index (parse search phrases/keywords) a website’s content.
Following the efforts like AMP (accelerated mobile pages) which deliver pages fast to mobile devices, Schema aims to standardize certain aspects of a website’s content or structure to make it easier for search engines to understand and correlate keywords associated with a brand. In theory, a page that has been correctly marked up with Schema will quickly inform a search engine bot (via markup tags) with data that conveys a page’s topic and intention (e.g., product information versus an event’s time and location details). The Schema markup language provides search engines what they need to know in order to match content with search queries (search terms/phrases). Ultimately, brands get better search term matches and searchers get better and faster search results.
Is Schema one of the 2019 SEO Trends?
Schema gives you a way of tagging different aspects of your website and assigning them to certain, pre-set, categories. A simplified example would be you can tag a blog post as a blog post or a product listing page as a product listing page. You can even get more granular. There are literally thousands of Schemas categories all designed to help search engines better understand a website and its content.
If Schema catches on, as we think it will, websites with markup tags will see that Google and other search engines index their pages more quickly and more accurately. Thus, pages are better matched to searches resulting in more useful traffic for everyone.
If you want to set up Schema for your website you have a number of different options at the moment. A good place to start is with Google. They have created the Structured Data Tool which allows you to test if Schema is already set up on your website. This tool also links to some guidelines on how to set up specific aspects of Schema if you haven’t already.
If you’re using WordPress for your website, there are a number of plugins you can use to make setting up Schema easier. In some cases, it can automate some of the processes for you. We use a plugin called Schema designed by Hesham; it has helped us create basic Schema but it lacks the granularity needed to really take advantage of this customized technology. It’s a place to start for a DIY option. Most of Schema pre-packaged plugins barely go beneath the tagging surface. For best results, we recommend customized markup for a website.
Voice search has been on the edge of becoming a ‘thing’ for a while now without really catching on. But as sales of Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa continue to move steadily, it doesn’t seem to be a flash in the pan. So with the applications of voice search and its impact on marketing, it’s time to start preparing for it hence why it’s on our 2019 SEO Trend list.
Early applications of voice search have been slightly gimmicky. Asking Alexa to tell you what the weather is like or to tell you a joke is interesting and a bit of fun. However, it doesn’t really improve your productivity. While you’ll occasionally hear stories of people’s pets ordering things over Amazon, it seems that so far many human users don’t actually use their voice search devices for much more than turning their lights on and off. However, if the prices of the associated technologies like voice-controlled plugs drop (currently $24.99 on Amazon for 1 smart plug, almost the same price as Alexa itself), then voice search will become interesting to companies.
So how can marketers stay ahead of the voice-search curve?
The big difference between voice search and traditional search is simple. Voice search is spoken. The way we talk is different from the way we type, and this is reinforced by the way that we currently address our voice devices. Saying “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google” automatically puts you into a conversational frame of mind. And we tend to ask questions. “Where’s the nearest [fill in the blank]?” So it goes to follow that the majority of voice searches carried are more ‘conversational’ and use different keywords than typed searches.
If you want to optimize your content for voice search in 2019, look at longer-tail search terms that are more natural sounding and less buzzword or jargon-packed. So instead of “cheap flights NY to LA” you might consider something like “where can I find the cheapest flight from New York to LA”. AB test long tail keywords like this could help you get a jump-start on voice searches.
Looking even further ahead we may even see a split index, where voice searches are kept separate from typed searches. This is similar to how Google split out mobile and desktop indexing. We’ll see how everything shakes out but testing keywords specifically for voice search could be a strategy worth adopting in 2019.
Automation has been “stealing” our jobs since the 1800s. 2019 may be the year where conversational AI (artificial intelligence like chatbots) really disrupts the digital marketing world and takes our jobs. Ok, not really. AI is seen by many as the next step in how we interact with our electronic devices. With AI already in use in some aspects of our daily lives, chatbots become more sophisticated and efficient both online and offline.
Tools like Predictive Text and Google’s web page translation app are examples of automation that have come from crowdsourcing data. While we don’t know a great deal officially about what goes on behind the scenes at Google, AI is helping how their search algorithm develops. 15% of searches are new, so their algorithm has to learn at a staggering pace. From helping Google to quickly understand a web page’s content to presenting a searcher with better search results, AI will be behind the next big leap forward.
One aspect where Google is leveraging AI’s role is Google Ads. Throughout 2018 there were a number of AI advances, specifically with how Google decided what you should pay for certain ads. Explained simply, Google has a number of tools that will try to pick the right time for you to bid for a keyword, depending on what outcome you want. So, Google will spend your money only when it thinks there’s a high chance of you getting a click, a video view, a conversion, etc..
These tools have been around for some time, but they were, until recently, an option rather than the default setting. So, midway through 2018 when Google decided to make smart bidding the main bidding option, they were showing confidence in the AI behind the tool.
We think that this trend is going to continue: AI taking an even bigger role. As companies like Google collect more and more data, it will allow them to feed this information into machine learning tools, and then push out more efficient tools at the other end. People may not like the idea that their data being collected and mined. Could be worthwhile if it makes finding what they need easier and faster? Privacy on the web is an illusion. 2019 will mark another year where big data is used to predict and influence digital behaviors.
Guessing what’s coming next is always difficult. Yet we’re confident that every business is going to be touched by the four 2019 SEO trends we’ve mentioned today. Sometimes digital marketing, and SEO especially, can feel like running on a treadmill. You’re putting in the miles but still staying in the same place. But we think that getting involved with Schema now will give you a boost as it’s still in the early adoption phases. Setting up HTTPS is a must do, if you haven’t already. While thinking about how voice search could impact your business should definitely be on your to-do list. And keep your eyes open for digital tools using AI to give you an edge, especially with Pay Per Click (PPC)
We’ll check back in mid-year to see how these 2019 SEO trends are shaping up. In the meantime, comment below and share what you think should have made it on this year’s list.
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