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As a business owner in Virginia Beach, you should already be aware of the value of SEO. Things like brand awareness and local searches alone enough to justify a full-blown SEO platform.
There’s a lot to be said about search engine optimization, more than could be stated in 1,000 articles. In order to keep up, though, we have to learn whatever we can in small pieces.
You should do your best to understand the principles of SEO before you start digging into the more advanced stuff, but we know that it can be hard to cover all of the bases.
We’re going to cover some of the top SEO trends to expect in 2019, and we’ll do our best to bring you up to speed on any terms you might not be familiar with.
Top Trends to Expect in 2020
Whether you’re operating your own SEO platform or you’re working with a digital marketing team, these tips should help you prepare and capitalize in 2019. Unfortunately, some of these trends might suggest that you do a little work to adapt.
That’s the laborious part, but it’ll feel really good when you’ve prepared for changes and your competition hasn’t.
Let’s get started.
1. A Shift in Indexing
It might be helpful to have a little overview of indexing before we dig into how it is changing.
Sites like Google catalog all of the online information they can by doing something called “crawling.” Crawling is how Google can catalog trillions of sites on the web without having to manually enter each site.
Crawlers move through the web by following links. When one site has a link to another site, crawlers can enter into that next site and catalog all of the information they want to. Typically, that information only has to do with the search engine algorithm.
The search engine algorithm is (you probably already know) the mechanism that sifts through trillions of sites and compares them to the search terms. If you search “cute kitten video,” Google will run those terms against the sites in its database and bring up those sites that it feels are most relevant to your search.
It does so by using some 200 search criteria and running those metrics through the algorithm which ranks the sites that come up. All of the information that the algorithm uses is accumulated through crawling. When a site has been crawled, it has been indexed.
What’s Going to Change?
Historically, Google has used desktop-first indexing which catalogs the desktop version of a website before it does the mobile version. That suits the needs of most users, as a lot of users are totally fine with the desktop version of a site.
Even when you’re searching for a site on your phone, the desktop version is good enough to read through and get the information you need. If you really need to use a site, you can download its app if it has one and operate from there.
Desktop sites are simply not as good on mobile phones as mobile sites are, however. As users are beginning to move toward a mobile-based relationship to search engines, Google is implementing a mobile-first indexing strategy.
Google does not have two indexes for mobile and desktop. They use one index to catalog all of their information, so this could actually change things significantly.
You’re Not Going to Lose All the Work You’ve Done
It isn’t as if all of the optimizing you’ve done on your current site will be lost, and your ranking will be subjected to new sites who operate entirely on mobile. Your optimization is still your optimization, and Google will see you in the same light.
The shift primarily relates to how Google indexes your site’s pages. So, if you have only a desktop page, nothing will change. However, if you have a desktop page and a mobile page, Google will prioritize the mobile one.
With this in mind, it might be a good idea to start optimizing your mobile pages more heavily, as they will be the ones that stand out. Your mobile and desktop pages are both in the same race against all competitors.
If the slower horse (your desktop) is going to lose by default, give the faster horse more of your attention. Additionally, it stands to reason that the mobile trend is here to stay. If Google is making the effort to shift toward a mobile-first indexing method, who knows where they’ll stop?
The point is, it might be smart to start incorporating mobile into your site before mobile optimization overshadows all other forms.
2. Speed as a Ranking Factor
Your page speed has always been a ranking factor. This falls in line with Google’s desire to provide an excellent experience for its users, which entails delivering sites that load quickly and get you on your way.
Interestingly enough, though, your mobile page speed wasn’t a factor until this July. This also falls into the trend of Google valuing mobile experience more highly than it once did.
So, now that page speed is a ranking factor for mobile and mobile is indexed first, what does this mean? It means you have to fix any bugs your site has that prevent fast loading times and optimize for the Chrome User Experience report.
Two Ranking Factors for Mobile
The way your mobile page speed ranks is dependent on two factors: page speed and optimization. The speed of your mobile page is indexed based on the Chrome User Experience report, which takes down information on each user that visits your site.
Luckily, speed in terms of the Chrome report isn’t a huge element in the scheme of your ranking. The real key to optimizing the speed factor is just sticking to traditional back-end optimization.
There are a number of things that Google checks for, and they list them all out here. It’s estimated that these sorts of optimization account for a great deal and the Chrome report affects your ranking very minimally at this time.
3. Your Reputation Matters
Of course, your reputation has always mattered online. Now, though, Google has upped its game in response to hordes of black-hat SEO efforts to accumulate backlinks.
Before we go further, we’ll give a little rundown of backlinks:
Backlinks and Brand Recognition
Backlinks are links to your site from other sites. The site that links to you is important, as some sites hold more weight than others.
You can think of Google’s search results as a flawed democratic election. People cast their vote by giving a link. Each link has an effect on the total outcome of the search results.
Now, a large corporation casts its vote in the way of a link, and that link has a lot more weight than the link of the average person. In the same way, getting a backlink from Ford’s website will do you a lot more good than getting one from Dale’s Auto down the street.
Google typically used, and still uses to a degree, backlinks as a way to measure the social worth of your site and brand. It stands to reason that the more people there are linking to you, the more likely it is that you’re a site that has valuable content.
You will then rank higher than sites who don’t get voted for in the way of backlinks.
How It’s Changed
Google’s Artificial Intelligence has advanced to a point where links aren’t necessary for Google to see the social value of your brand. Googlebot can take references to your brand in the context they’re found to make assumptions about what people think of you.
Backlinks are still important, but you’ll also get an SEO boost if you have people talking about your brand in a positive way. The only way to do this is to provide great service and make your customers happy.
You could also suggest that people mention you in online forums or social media or their own websites.
4. Data Retention
Laws passed in the European Union state that requires sites to provide cookie data that has been collected on specific users.
This doesn’t apply too much to American sites, but Google is an international company and has an interest in data protection. What you should do is set your data retention to expire after a small period of time like one year or less.
Do this, and you won’t have to do a whole lot of work when those laws move over into the United States (if they do).
5. Branching Out from Google
As user trends shift, we’re finding that people are going directly to some specific sites rather than Googling general products.
You can see this in sites like Youtube, Pinterest, Facebook, and, most importantly, Amazon. It’s essential that you set aside independent work to optimize for social media, but Amazon is one that many people don’t think of.
If you sell a product online, you should be optimizing for Amazon searches. Don’t, and you’ll lose a significant chunk of sales.
6. User Preferences
Users are being given such a wide range of content that they have the luxury of breezing past information that isn’t pleasantly presented. Sure, one thing is pleasant to one person and abhorrent to another.
Do your users prefer video, text, imagery, interactive interfaces, or something else? It’s going to be essential that you optimize for your users as well as your search engines.
7. Site Structure
As Google shifts its indexing policies, it will begin to heavily favor those sites that are structured to be indexed.
Site architecture has always been something that was important. Not only does a clear site design and structure make your users happy, but it also makes it easy for crawlers to gather information from your site.
It’s like walking down the grocery aisle and grabbing what you need compared to crawling through a maze to find a scrap of bread. Google needs to index billions upon billions of sites, so it’s naturally going to want sites that have good, simple architecture.
8. Google Is Smarter
Think about it, Google can take random references of your name and use them to make judgment calls. That’s some futuristic stuff, and it’s all done by artificial intelligence.
This makes one thing clear: poorly written or created content is going to be snuffed out a lot quicker now. If Google goes through your content and notices that it’s been written by a computer, or someone who has fluffed up the articles to fill space, you will rank poorly.
We don’t know exactly how artificial intelligence does it, but it’s doing a good job. The point is, create great content that poses a benefit to your users.
9. Credibility in Content
Because of the contextual clues that Google’s crawlers are now privy to, the authority with which you create content will really matter.
While creating great content that’s well-optimized and relevant will get you places, it’s going to mean a lot more if it’s written by a professional with credentials. By hiring and communicating with the best in your field, you’ll get better rankings.
Users will clearly prefer this content, but we aren’t even looking at that end. Google knows users will prefer that content, and its artificial intelligence is now trained to look for it.
That means when you have content from an expert, make sure you give them written credit on your page, otherwise, it won’t do as much damage in the search results.
Want to Learn More?
It’s crucial that you keep up on SEO trends as well as solidify your knowledge to benefit your site. There’s a lot to learn, though, and we get that.
Visit our site to learn more about small business SEO services and what search engine optimization can do for your site.