Search engines are the number one place for customers to find goods and services. But how can your website keep up with the ever-expanding digital landscape that recent years have brought to the fore?

Let’s take a look at our predictions for the coming year that will keep you one step ahead of the competition – of which there’s more than ever!

I’ll start by saying Google appears to have started 2019 in a disconcertingly quiet fashion. While many worldwide sites are still recovering from August’s core Medic update and SEOs, I’m sure, will be relishing in the quiet, we’ve been researching and planning to ensure our client websites are on track to hit that page 1 ranking.

So where will we be putting our SEO efforts in the next 12 months to really make a difference?

Innovative content types

Content is still the cornerstone of any SEO strategy – no matter what level you’re working at.

Contrary to just a few years ago when the digital content sphere was rife with content creators adamant that no user wants to spend their time reading pages and pages of content on the internet, the modern world holds too many distractions, we’re all goldfish. You are not a goldfish.

Long form content is not only great for sharing but also holds a tonne of SEO value.

“What constitutes as long form content?” I hear you cry.

As with pretty much everything in the world of SEO, there is no definitive answer. I’ve read SEO experts that say “1,890 words is definitely the optimum content length” with SEO expert number 2 shouting that “2,416 words is the best content length for SEO”. That said, it’s generally agreed that 1,500 words is the bare minimum to class content as long form and everything over that is going to reap the rewards for you.

 

Voice Search

Apparently, by 2020, 50% of all searches will be made by voice. It’s not a surprising stat when you think of the spike in popularity of home assistants like Alexa and Cortana. Especially when Amazon’s Superbowl half time ad more than hinted at major innovations and expansions with Alexa:

In line with the content trends I mentioned above, voice search is all about long-tail keywords; those longer and more specific searches that come naturally when searching ‘out loud’.

In order to optimise your website for these more specific searches think about:

  • What are people who have never interacted with your business before likely to search?
  • How can you capture those users who have visited your site in the past but not converted? What kind of searches will they now be making?
  • Customers who are looking for your specific product, stock levels, and finer details

Another major factor to keep in mind with voice search is all the various devices, platforms, and search engines used to make the searches. It’s no good only dancing to Google’s drum. Make sure you’re fully covered, not only cross-platform, but cross-search.

 

Schema and Microformats

It’s not appropriate for all websites, but if you’re not already using microformats or schema mark-ups in some capacity on your site then now is the time to implement them before the competition monopolises!

The basics of SEO teach us that the more content, text or code, on your website, the more there is for search engines to ‘read’ and subsequently understand, giving you a better chance of a higher ranking. So, very simply, schema mark-ups and microformats are adding another layer to better help search engines understand what your website is all about.

But that’s not all they’re good for.

Microformats are essentially snippets of HTML that translate into rich snippets on search engines. Rich snippets are elements of structured data that not only make your search result look better, but also give your customers more information on the SERP which increases likelihood of click throughs.

Rich snippets come in many formats on Google so here’s an example of the search results when I try searching for vegan Bolognese recipes.

A regular search snippet:

 

 

 

 

Rich snippet 1:

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have the added data of customer ratings, how long the recipe takes to prep/cook, and how many calories in the dish; all small bits of information that give the user a little more information to encourage that all-important click through.

Rich snippet 2:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here, content that has been microformatted on the website is turned directly into an ingredients list on the SERP. Dominating the top spot with content and imagery, it’s inviting to be a user’s first click from the search – job done.

Recipes are ripe for the picking when it comes to microformats and schema mark-ups. But as I mentioned, not all websites are 100% perfect for rich snippet optimisation. Other content types ideal for optimising are:

  • Reviews
  • People
  • Video
  • Products
  • Services
  • Locations
  • Events

So, if your websites feature any of the above and you’re not optimised for rich snippets – what’re you waiting for?!

 

Local search optimisation

SEO isn’t all about your website in 2019. It’s time to enhance your wider digital presence and make sure you’re as visible as possible online.

Optimising your brand for geo-targeting is a great place to start with this.

Do you have a Google business listing? Is it fully optimised and up to date? Do you have enough relevant, location specific copy on your website?

Searches containing ‘near me’ have risen dramatically in recent years. Here’s the search data of just two searches in the UK from 2004 – 2019; ‘restaurants near me’ and ‘shops near me’:

 

Enhancing your location search power will not only boost your digital presence but put you in great standing on mobile search and voice search for customers out and about looking for a quick, nearby solution to their problem.

 

Page Speeds

In 2018, Google updated how they assess page speed with the integration of Lighthouse. Speed is now a major factor when it comes to the SEO of your site, most notably because it now impacts mobile search.

But how do you turn your website speed from 1 to 100?


Well, that’s where things get a little complicated. Google’s moved on from the simple days of optimisation and minification. Page speed now shows:

  • Field data using Chrome’s user experience report
  • Lab data using Lighthouse analysis of First Contentful Paint, Speed Index, Time to Interactive, First Meaningful Paint, First CPU Idle, Estimated Input Latency, with screenshots of how this looks in actuality
  • Opportunities of how to improve specific page performance
  • Diagnostics reporting on caching, DOM size, payloads, JavaScript, to name but a few
  • An audit of your website’s score on Minify JavaScript, CSS, redirects, image size, and much more

This means that there comes a point where it’s no longer a job for SEO team and it’s time to hand it over to the web developers. But that’s no reason to leave page speed to last on your list. Google especially is placing massive SEO importance on page speeds so make sure you work alongside your development team to get any kinks ironed out asap.

 

 

 

By Jess Buckley, Digital Marketer for Cornerstone Design & Marketing. Read more about our digital services here.

Cornerstone DM