SEO IN 2019: 3 THINGS TO KNOW TO STAY AHEAD

You’ve heard it said, “SEO is always changing;” but it’s rare when any change is a welcome one.

All too often, today’s SEO “dos” are tomorrow’s SEO “don’ts”.

It’s a familiar story to hear about someone who implemented “that SEO trick” a few years back, and now, that very trick is the ball and chain shackled to their site’s ankle. We understand why this is frustrating for publishers.

SEO: A FICKLE FRIEND

Even though SEO is like a fickle friend who goes through lots of “phases”, they’re a friend worth keeping.

The reason SEO is like a fickle friend is that neglecting them often comes with unwanted and vengeful consequences. They take away just as fast as they give.

However, adapting with them despite the fact they seem to never make up their mind about what they want, comes with a lot of benefits. Not everyone is as patient as you, and when this friend comes around, they’re going to reward you for being loyal.

So let’s talk about what 3 things you need to know to keep this volatile friend rooting for you and not against you in 2019.

1. YOUR BRAND IS A CRUCIAL PIECE OF HOW YOU RANK

Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes of Google, mentioned in an interview (paraphrasing) that online brand mentions help Google learn about brands and what should be associated with them.

In a nutshell, Google has begun crawling the web much like “the new kid” attends his first day at a new high school. Both Google and the new kid look around and listen to conversations trying to understand who is popular and what it is that makes them popular.

The new kid can tell that football is what has made Chad so popular simply by looking at his letterman jacket and great jawline. He didn’t have to see him play football to know this… The same is true for Google.

When Google sees the name of a food blog brand in connection to words like, “delicious”, “recipe”, or “cooked” on other sites, these mentions let Google know this brand is associated with food, and people are saying great things about it. Google can’t taste recipes and know if they’re any good, but they don’t need to. They can simply rely on what others are saying about them to know if they should rank them or not.

In 2019, building your brand, creating a buzz, and getting people in and outside of your community to talk about you is going to be crucial to how well you rank.

2. OPTIMIZING FOR USERS IS OPTIMIZING FOR SEARCH

Imagine giving your spouse or significant other a birthday gift. Except when you give them the gift, you’re wearing a blindfold and have earplugs in. This really takes the fun out of it, doesn’t it? How are you going to tell if they liked your gift?

For years, this is how Google was serving your search results. They would rank something #1 and cross their fingers that their algorithm got it right. Google’s algorithm was not yet smart enough to “see” or “hear” your reaction when you clicked on a result.

In 2019, Google’s blindfold is off and the earplugs are out. The way Google can “see” a user’s reaction, is by looking for specific kinds of click behaviors on your site-

  • Are users pogo sticking?
    • Searchers “Pogo stick” when they click on your result in search, quickly realize the page is not what they wanted or expected, so they click the back button, and select a different result. If this happens to your page over and over again, it probably means your page is no longer very relevant for that keyword, or perhaps it didn’t load fast enough. This is not good for your page’s rankings.
  • Are users spending time with your posts?
    • Google understands that someone looking at a recipe, a travel review, or a DIY craft instruction needs to be on your page for more than a few seconds to digest all that content. If users move on or exits from your page without scrolling very much or reading for very long, this is an indication to Google that your content may be too thin or isn’t as relevant as it once was. If this happens too frequently, it’s not good for your page’s rankings.
  • Are users interested in more?
    • If a searcher clicks your result in Google and they don’t just stay there for a little while, but they actually explore your site and click on other links, use the search bar, maybe watch a video, this sends a signal to Google that your page and your site was engaging to users. This is good for your page’s rankings.

So how do you optimize for these things? You improve the user experience.

Now, able to understand users reaction to your content, Google is prioritizing rankings according to these reactions. This is why optimizing for the user experience is optimizing for search.

3. FOCUS LESS ON KEYWORDS & MORE ON TOPICS & EMOTIONS

While keywords and keyword research still play a vital role in SEO, the limelight is shifting to optimizing for topics and emotions. As Google gets smarter, the less they have to rely on simplistic measures of relevance like word count, or keyword density.

A. KEYWORDS VS TOPICS

Today, I did a search for, “spicy bean dip”. In position #4 I found this result-

Notice, nowhere in the title or the URL of this page do we find the word, “spicy.” In fact, the word, “spicy” is only mentioned one time in the body content.

So how did they get this page ranking #4 for “spicy bean dip”?

In 2019, Google understands that words have a semantic relationship to one another. After analyzing billions of pages, Google has made the connection that jalapeños are indeed spicy, thus, a recipe like this, that uses Jalapeños must then also be spicy.

What we can take away from this?

It’s our prediction that as Google gets smarter, simply using the right words won’t be enough. Rather, speaking to your audience in a way that answers their question and resonates with them is already beginning to outweigh factors like, how many times you use a keyword or total word count.

In 2019, as publishers, we can start to focus more on the topics we’d like to rank for as opposed to just the keywords we’d like to rank for. We predict that “persona research” will grow in popularity and eventually supplement our keyword research (if it’s not already).

Persona research will answer questions like,

  • “What types of people will care most about this post?”
    • Consider the demographic information of your readers – Age, location, family size, occupation, etc.
  • “What voice should I use in order to resonate with the types of readers who are interested in this topic?”
    • How advanced are your readers?
    • Would this audience better resonate with a casual/informal tone or a professional/ formal tone?
  • “How can I strike more at the goal behind the user’s search?”
    • What does the audience of this post value? Is the reader looking to impress friends or family? Mend a relationship? Feel accomplished with themselves? Looking to maintain basic humans needs: food, money, connection?

It’s answers to questions like these that allow us to write and create a post that’s truly impactful to our searchers and therefore, worthy of ranking.

B. KEYWORDS VS EMOTIONS

Say you’d like to rank for the term, “how to write a book fast”. Given your interest in ranking for this keyword, you might conclude, it would make sense with what you’ve learned to make a title tag like this-

As opposed to this-

You might then, be surprised to learn that the first example actually ranks #4 for “how to write a book fast” and the second example ranks #2.

In 2019, if you pay close attention, you’ll see this phenomenon happening almost everywhere.

What we can take away from this?

The key takeaway here is- write your title tags and meta descriptions to inspire emotion.

The title tag, “10 Ways to Write a Quality Book Quickly” gives your reader far more information and reason to click than, “How To Write A Book…Fast.”

In 2019, when it comes to your title tags, your list of priorities should look like this,

  1. Be compelling and informative
  2. Put the right Keyword(s) in

If you can only do #1, so be it. If you can do #1 and #2, give yourself a high five. If you can only do #2, see priority #1 again. 😄

URLs
A similar rule of thumb is true for URLs. In 2019, having a memorable URL is going to prove better than a long, keyword rich descriptive URL-

Yesterday’s Standard – example.com/10-easy-tips-for-cooking-with-a-crock-pot-or-slow-cooker
Better – example.com/tips-for-cooking-with-a-crockpot
Best – example.com/crock-pot-tips

IN CONCLUSION

I said it last year and I’ll say it again, SEO is not something you just check off your to-do list, it’s a journey. SEO is a process that you will continue to improve and build month in and month out every year. These are just some of the most important factors to consider as we enter the new year and start thinking about what needs to be done to find success. We can never be too sure what Google’s next update will be, but their end goal has always been the same…to satisfy the user.

Here’s to a successful 2019!


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