With the onward development of search engine algorithms, website owners everywhere will need to make changes in how they conduct their SEO. Today, with advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning at their disposal, search engines can better understand the intentions of a user and provide results which accurately meet their needs. In addition, the changes in how we use the internet, mobile searches, for example, are also affecting the way we optimise our sites. With these developments in mind, here we’ll look at how this will impact SEO in 2019.
Changing content to match algorithm updates
RankBrain is Google’s machine learning, AI-based algorithm. Although it has been around since 2015, its use of machine learning means that it is continually discovering how to produce better results. One of its key abilities is to ‘understand’ the content of a website. Rather than rely purely on things like keywords to discover whether a site was relevant to a search query, it is able to consider the entire content to give it a more in-depth understanding of the subject matter being discussed.
It does this by analysing the pages for subject-related terms and other content that help it identify the topic and purpose more precisely than ever before. For example, it can understand whether someone is searching for a web hosting product, information about web hosting or a technical web hosting knowledge base and can differentiate between these different types of content to ensure the right pages show up in the user’s result.
What does this mean for SEO? It means that rather than focus simply on putting keywords in the right places, you’ll also need to ensure your content includes information which contains all the other related terms that the algorithm will look for.
Optimising for ‘Mobile First Indexing’
Since the numbers of mobile searches overtook desktop searches, Google has moved its focus even further towards mobile devices. Last year, it introduced Mobile First Indexing, essentially using the mobile rather than the desktop version of your site as the one it uses to rank pages in results.
As a consequence, the focus of your SEO should now be on your mobile site. While the content may be the same on both, things to consider will include navigation, ease of use and, very importantly, loading times.
The latter will mean more webmasters using caching, CDNs, minification and image optimisation to speed up their sites, as well as a shift away from shared hosting to the much faster VPS. It will also see an increase in the number of sites using accelerated mobile pages (AMPs).
Structuring content for the way search results are displayed
As you may have noticed, when you type a question into Google, it is now able to produce an answer directly in the search results in the form of a knowledge graph. The knowledge graph is a detailed excerpt from a web page that is presented in a box right at the top of the search results.
Another change that Google has introduced is putting a list of related questions underneath the knowledge graph before showing the list of other ranking websites. Clicking on each of these questions produces a featured extract from other websites that answer those questions.
The rest of the top results also have features snippets which, in some way, give an answer to the question too. To get these most prized ranking positions, it means reconsidering how you present the information on your websites – such as in the form of questions and answers, lists and structured tables.
Providing search engines with structured data
Search engines have been calling for increased use of structured data markup for quite a few years and this year will see an increase in websites doing just that. The reason is simple, the more structured data you add to your HTML, the better a search engine can understand the content and structure of your site. Doing this enables the search engine to see your page’s relevance to a search query far easier and thus helps you rank for the right queries.
The other benefit of markup is that it can be used to highlight content that appears in the actual search results and which can help increase clickthrough rates – such as user ratings and meta descriptions.
Adapting to new search behaviours
As smartphone keyboards are an effort to use accurately and typing queries on smart speakers like Amazon Echo is impossible, more and more people are using voice search. Indeed, our fondness for it on these devices has increased the numbers of people using voice on PCs with Google Assistant and Cortana.
These types of searches have a consequence for SEO as we use different forms of language. When we speak, we use natural language, e.g., ‘find me a builder in Leeds,’ whereas with a keyboard, we’d just type ‘builder Leeds’.
This has obvious implications for websites that have heavily focused on keywords in the past. Natural speech is more likely to use longtail keywords and content which features them is likely to rank better in voice search results.
SEO is a dynamic process that constantly requires website owners to react to developments in search engine algorithms and to changes in the way people search the internet. Hopefully, the trends we have discussed here will help you make the right changes to your SEO strategy in the coming year, improving your rankings and increasing your organic traffic.
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