The Google Monster is out to get you. It’s just looking for a reason to slap down your traffic. That may be something of an exaggeration, but it’s how search engine optimization can seem sometimes.
SEO is constantly evolving – traffic to your site could be flowing strong today, and then slow to a drizzle overnight. That’s something that you cannot afford in the business world, so you need to anticipate changes and get ahead of them.
To give you a head start for 2019, we’re going to give you an idea of what changes to expect. That way, you’ll be way ahead of the pack when they are actually implemented.
SEO is difficult enough when you’re ahead of the game. It’s almost impossible when you’re trying to play catchup. Google and its cronies give you an idea of what to expect, but they’re in the business of serving up the best possible search results for their clients. They don’t want webmasters to know how to game the system.
Fortunately for you, we’re also in the business of keeping our clients happy. It’s our business to create the best website for our readers, so we’re going to fill you in on the SEO trends, SEO techniques and marketing strategies that could make waves in digital marketing this year.
This has been in the works for a while already. Google has emphasized over the last few years the importance of mobile-friendly sites. This is the next stage in that evolution. Starting in 2018, Google started indexing sites for its mobile-first index.
Basically, it means that having a mobile version of your site is essential. According to Statista, 60% of Google searches in the third quarter of 2018 were run from mobile devices. It’s estimated that by the end of this year, 63.4% of mobile users will access the internet from their phones.
You cannot ignore the mobile revolution any longer. We’ve already seen that Google has been prioritizing mobile-friendly sites in searches run from mobile devices. Do a quick experiment yourself – run a search about anything you like on both your mobile and your laptop. The results are going to be different.
Now’s the time to audit your site and get it ready for mobile-first indexing. Mobile-first indexing simply means that Google will view your mobile site as the primary site from which to gather ranking data. Instead of starting on the desktop version of your site, and working out, it will start on your mobile pages.
This makes mobile-readiness more essential than ever. What is mobile-readiness? Essentially, it’s how well your site displays on a mobile device. Is the site as clear and easy to use on a mobile device?
You cannot assume so. Something simple, like having a three-column layout on a desktop site, doesn’t translate nearly as well on mobile because multiple columns mean that people have to scroll side to side and up and down.
Other design elements, like images, might be cut off. Fonts that are easy to read on a big screen may not be as simple to read on the smaller screen.
And. Of course, there’s the site load speed to consider. For mobile users, the faster the site loads, the better. These are all user experience aspects that you’ll need to consider when checking how well your site plays on mobile.
At present, there are two main options when it comes to mobile-readiness. Either you can have a separate mobile site, or you can ensure that your primary site has a responsive design. Sites with a responsive design will display well on any site because the site detects the device the user is using and displays accordingly.
In the past, responsive designs tended to be more expensive to set up and so many companies opted for a separate mobile site. With mobile-first indexing, the separate mobile website could be problematic because the two sites could rank differently, depending on what device they’re viewed on.
It is better in the long-run to switch to a responsive design. That way, mobile-indexing is not something that you need to worry about.
Unsurprisingly, the KPIs you’ll need to track when it comes to mobile SEO are very similar to those for desktop. Let’s look at some of the KPIs that you’ll need to track for both.
Are your pages ranking well? If so, where? How well is your site optimized technically? Have you used Schema markup and rich snippets so that search engines can more easily see what your site is about? Is it easy for the search engines to crawl it? Can they crawl it fast?
When it comes to mobile KPIs, it becomes important to know how and when your pages are being crawled by the search engine’s bot. In the case of Google, the Googlebot. This is important because it gives you an idea of how Google views your site.
If it finds it “interesting” it will be crawled more often. Monitoring how often your site is crawled can give valuable insight into problems on the horizon. If the number of times its crawled decreases, it could be an indication that Google is starting to see your site as staler or that there is a broken link or something else wrong on the site.
You can check Googlebot’s activity by logging into your Google Console and checking the Crawl Stats Report.
If you thought that Google was neurotic about page speed before, you haven’t seen anything yet. As part of Google’s ongoing process of improving user experience, it has highlighted the importance of having a great loading speed.
Initially, it focused more on the loading times on desktops. Now it started incorporating load time on mobile devices into the ranking factors as well. In addition to how long it takes your site to load in full, you’ll also want to track the following KPIs:
Time to First Byte: This will show you how long it takes for the first byte of information to be loaded from your web server to the browser. Naturally, the faster the better.
Time to Interact: This is something that you may not have heard of before, but it is equally important. This metric measures how long it takes for the first interactive content to load. What’s important here is that it doesn’t measure how long the page takes to load in total.
Tools like PageSpeed could help you to check your site and see how it measures up in this regard.
Ideally speaking, you want a load time of three seconds or less, whether the site is loading on a mobile or a desktop. Fortunately, Google does provide recommendations in terms of creating an optimal website.
Further to that, work on creating a pared down site. Anything that doesn’t directly contribute to the value of the site must go.
Analyze the following:
What search engines want to find are the best possible quality results. They want to give people access to authority sites. This is actually great news for you if you play your cards right.
Creating a solid brand identity is going to work in your favor here. You need to prove to the search engines that your company, and consequently website, is the authority on the topic the searcher is interested in.
That means that it has never been more important to maintain your site’s reputation and to create a cohesive picture across all online activities.
You need to make sure that your brand name comes up whenever possible. Search engines will look at all the places that your brand name appears and the context in which it appears. This is something to think about when creating an outreach strategy.
Do make sure that the blogs or sites that you reach out to are related to your particular industry. It’s also more important than ever to choose sites that have a good reputation. This means regularly checking your backlinks and ensuring that the links are from legit sites.
It also means not relying solely on backlinks to establish your site’s authority. So, if there’s a discussion on a forum about something related to your company’s area of expertise, then do mention your company name. You don’t have to put in a link; the name is just fine.
You’ll need to take things one step further, though. With search engines becoming adept at understanding the context of content and brand mentions, you’ll need to get people talking about your brand in a good way.
This means getting on top of any client complaints in a hurry, preferably before they’ve decided to trash your reputation online. Where possible, ask clients to review your business – positive reviews will help build your online reputation with search engines and with prospects.
Finally, consider speaking to influencers in your market about promoting your brand. You want to create as much buzz as possible and increase brand recognition. Partnering with the right influencers are good ways to do both.
You’ll want to keep track of the following KPIs to monitor your progress in this area:
Brand Equity: It’s not the sexiest metric, and it’s one that has begun to fall out of favor of late. And, while it’s true that brand equity is a measure of past performance, rather than a predictor of future behavior, it gives you a starting point.
The present year is set to be an interesting year concerning SEO. It’s time to up your game and work on improving your site’s performance and establishing your business as an authority online. Are you ready to take the internet by storm? Where will you start first?
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