SEO Best Practices for 2019 and Beyond
If you’re a digital marketer, you are well aware that the search engine optimization landscape is changing as technology and user behaviors continue to evolve. We know there are now more searches performed on mobile devices than on desktops and the format of SERPs is more elaborate than ever before. Search engines are actively shortening search paths by answering questions directly in search results and constantly testing new ways to display information. As our digital environment continues to grow and expand, user expectations escalate simultaneously.
Today, users anticipate a seamless experience. Good enough isn’t going to cut it anymore. Things that used to be exciting are now commonplace, and if you don’t deliver an extraordinary experience, individuals will take note. Think about your own experiences – how many times have you clicked on a search result only to be vehemently disappointed? Yeah, it’s happened to me too.
From cross-device browsing to the rapidly expanding “Internet of Things” (IoT), and everything in between, consumers are becoming smarter and more demanding. User signals are actually more important to organic rankings than ever before.
What does that mean for SEO? It’s time to step up your game.
Here’s my take on SEO in 2019 and the long-term strategies needed to set you up for success in the future:
I’m going to let you in on a little secret— SEO tactics that used to be beneficial are now hindering many digital marketers. Many individuals are grasping onto what used to work instead of embracing new strategies. Sure, there are ways to “game” the system and so-called “quick wins,” but these opportunities are misguided and short-lived. Google has cracked the whip on black hat SEO practices and will continue do so.
Instead, focus on those basic SEO principles that are still relevant today: original, thought leading content, quality backlinks coming from sites with high domain authority, and technically sound websites. To really get ahead, supplement these efforts with things like complete local listings, positive consumer reviews, long-tail keywords, structured data and mobile first design.
Don’t overcomplicate SEO
At its core, search engine optimization is all about the marriage between user intent and user experience. To determine where you stand, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you delivering content that meets, or better yet, exceeds your users’ expectations?
- Is your website intuitive and easy to use?
- Does your website contain information that is valuable to the end user?
- Does your website load quickly?
- Do you have a mobile-friendly website?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it’s time to take action. You might be ranking well now, but that will change. Do yourself a favor and stay ahead of the curve. The investment now will be worth it in the long run.
Content is [still] king
Yes, I said it. Content is king. Is this one of the most overused phrases when people talk about SEO? Definitely. Does that make it any less true? Not a chance. When people use search engines, they are looking for information. It’s your responsibility to deliver killer content that resonates with your core audience.
When developing content, think about your core business and more importantly, about your target audience(s). What do they value? What are their problems and how can you provide a solution? What information do they want to consume? What questions do they need answered? What type of media is most effective at communicating your message? Do you have content that speaks to your unique user groups? These are just a few of the questions you should consider when creating or revamping your content strategy.
Finally, actively work to separate your brand from the competition by adding something to the conversation. Flaunt your subject matter expertise and share your unique thoughts with the world. Get creative with your content and diversify with videos, podcasts, infographics and other types of media. I strongly encourage you to avoid the temptation to cut corners when developing content. Yes, it takes time, but it’s worth it. Use content as opportunity to position yourself as a true authority in your industry. This will pay dividends as you become a trusted source of information and your organic rankings for relevant searches increases.
Backlinks have always been a significant ranking factor, but now search engines are looking at both quantity and quality. The quality of your backlinks is becoming increasingly important. Google’s algorithm is becoming better equipped to distinguish editorial, or earned, links from manipulative links. In fact, Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, noted, “non-editorial links are more dangerous than ever.”
Instead of pouring countless hours into wild link chasing, focus on your content. Give sites something they want to link to and make sure it’s formatted in a way that’s easily accessible and sharable. Taking this approach will help increase the authority of your site without endangering your reputation in the eyes of Google or other search engines.
The recent shift from desktops to smartphones and tablets has already had a huge impact on SEO and shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, with its transition to mobile-first indexing, Google now favors the mobile version of a website when indexing and ranking pages.
Google’s requirements for passing the mobile-friendly test:
- Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices (like Flash)
- Uses text that is readable without zooming
- Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
- Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can easily be tapped
Bing’s factors for determining mobile friendliness:
- Navigation – the menus, buttons and links on the page should be large enough and spaced well apart to aid touch-based navigation
- Readability – the text on the page should be readable without requiring zooming and lateral scrolling to access specific content
- Scrolling – the content of the web page should fit within the device width
- Compatibility – the content needs to be compatible with the device
Mobile usability is already one of the most important ranking factors, so I suggest taking time to figure out how you can optimize the mobile experience on your website. Moreover, ensure that you have a strong local SEO presence by making sure your business is listed on all local listings, high-value directories and review sites. In doing so, you can capture local market share by ranking well for searches in your area.
Ultimately, I don’t know what the future of SEO has in store for us (If I did, I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this blog). That being said, we can evaluate changes, updates and trends to make an educated guess at where SEO is going. Remember that SEO is really about matching user intent with a positive and personalized experience. Focus on high-quality, unique content that provides value to your target audience. Lastly, don’t lose sight of the fact that the digital ecosystem is constantly evolving, which means that your SEO efforts must coincide to keep up.