What to Expect in 2019

What's Next?

We are edging ever closer to the end of 2018. To maintain your search visibility in the New Year, we need to look ahead at what’s likely to be in store for the SEO world in 2019. At SonicSEO.com, here’s what we see as the drivers for search engine performance:

Shrinking Organic SERP Space

Like the algorithm used to deliver search results, the layout of those results on the page evolves, too. We’ve already seen organic search results (the blue links) get pushed down the page by sponsored ads and other search engine-owned properties. This is not going to change, and in fact, those search engine-owned properties are likely to get bigger and present more useful information that keeps users on the search engine’s landing pages (not yours).

So, how can you get or keep search engine visibility if your link is, by no fault of your website’s performance, slipping further and further down the page?

Be visible in the snippets. To do that, you need to provide and present the information that search engines want to deliver to their users at a glance or with minimal clicking so that the algorithm selects your information to populate its snippets.

Places you may want to include in your SEO efforts are:

  • Google maps
  • Google Knowledge Graph cards
  • Google Quick Answer
  • Google People Also Ask

Getting seen in these spaces may entail optimizing other online presences, like:

  • Google My Business listing
  • Yelp profile

Appearing in these above-the-fold spaces may also entail presenting information in easy-to-consume formats, like tables and graphs, FAQs, infographics, etc. Implementing search engine-preferred data structures will also increase the chances that your website will be featured in these high-visibility boxes, drop-downs and carousels.

User Experience and Rank Brain’s Learning Curve

Google has moved beyond just mathematically-driven algorithms to implement machine learning to deliver better results to its users. Google’s AI, Rank Brain, translates search terms into concepts in order to find relevant results (some of which may not even contain the keywords used to perform the search!). But that’s only the beginning…

Rank Brain takes cues from user behavior to find out if/how human users find the results relevant. With Rank Brain, the link between user behavior metrics and ranking performance is more transparent. So, to maintain or improve ranking potential, you need to develop a strategy to:

  • Increase organic click-through rates (CTR)
  • Increase time spent on page
  • Decrease bounce rate

These metrics are driven by UX factors like:

  • Fast page loading speed
  • Intuitive navigation
  • Value-added content

All meta elements on the page should also be optimized.

The Preference for Video

Today’s internet users prefer video content. Cisco estimates that by 2021, 80% of all content on the web will be video. So, if you’ve been relying on the written word, it may be time to embrace moving pictures, too.

To be clear, video does not have to (and should not) replace your textual content, but rather complement it. In fact, some of your textual content can actually be video-ized to allow for easier visual consumption.

Although the content format itself is not a ranking factor, the format heavily informs user behavior and experience…and that means video content may end up performing better under Rank Brain.

Only time will tell if these trends will take on the SEO significance we predict. But, while our fortune-telling may leave something to be desired, our ability to keep pace with what actually does happen in the SEO world doesn’t. You can count on SonicSEO.com to know about and adapt to search engine updates and user trends to preserve your ranking potential.

 

SEO Is Never Done…and What That Means For You

SEOYou have a website…check.

You’ve had that website designed and engineered by SEO professionals…check.

So, you’re search marketing is done, right?

Wrong.

Search engine optimization is an ongoing process, one that never really ends. Search engine algorithms and user behavior are always evolving. But what does that mean for you, a SonicSEO.com client, the small business person looking to expand your market share through the internet?

There Are Always New Strategies to Implement

Search engines are always updating their algorithms to deliver better results to their users, and they are not telling search marketers how to achieve those better results. So, search marketers must identify, adjust and test various elements to find out what works to help clients climb organic search results. That means our SEO professionals are always busy analyzing data, looking for trends and identifying new techniques to help ranking potential.

New techniques may be implemented alone or as part of an overall revamped SEO strategy to get better results. It doesn’t matter which approach we take. The point is that there is always something else coming down the pike that may affect your ranking and adaptations to protect and improve your ranking—i.e., SEO is never done.

It Takes Time to See Results

There are always new strategies to try, and every single one will take some time to see how it affects your search visibility. There are some (very few) techniques that can deliver instant results—like correcting a “Do Not Follow” command so that search engines index pages you want them and human users to find. But most SEO techniques and strategies take time—weeks, even months—to yield results. And there’s good reason for that…

The results you want are to get found and clicked, have users stay on your site and ultimately convert to paying customers or quality leads. Even if you immediately rocket to the top of organic search engine results pages (and beware of SEO companies who promise that you will), it will take time before human users see you there, click through your site and decide to choose you. You simply cannot speed up their search process or buying cycle.

The Latest Fads Are Likely Not the Right Solution

There are some ranking factors that just don’t change, so there are some SEO strategies that just don’t change, like delivering quality content and complying with search engine-preferred data structuring. However, because search engine algorithms are continually evolving, SEO tactics must change. But, in the scramble to gain immediate ranking boost or maintain rank after an update, search marketers often stumble upon some interesting work-arounds and tricks.

Some of these adaptations show lasting results, so they become part of SEO best practices. Most, though, end up being fads that either have short-lived performance or end up hurting your ranking potential. An SEO company with years of industry experience is better positioned to recognize fads vs. evolutions in how SEO is done.

The takeaway of all this is really simple: find an SEO company you trust, and then let them do what they do best. The professionals at SonicSEO.com stay current on algorithm updates, search trends, evolutions within the industry, and they apply this knowledge to your website to maintain your search visibility. Because it is your website’s and business’ performance at stake, you are welcome to ask about your search performance and inquire about SEO stuff you’ve come across. We proactively keep you informed with monthly metrics and are happy to answer your questions. All you have to do is contact us.

5 SEO Myths Debunked

SEO mythsSearch engine optimization is not an exact science. Search algorithms change frequently, and with them ranking performance. But since search engine companies are not providing inside glimpses to how their algorithms rank sites, the vacuum is filled with best guesses, anecdotal information and, unfortunately, just plain misinformation.

Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation about SEO persists, leading companies to make bad decisions about their websites and internet marketing strategies. To boost your SEO success, these are some of the most pernicious myths you need to steer clear of:

Myth #1: Loading Speed Doesn’t Matter

Honestly, we’re not sure who would make up such a boldfaced lie. Page loading speed most certainly does matter especially in a mobile-first environment. If you can believe it, mobile users are even less patient than desktop users when it comes to page loading. That is why Google has been public about its preference for AMP (accelerated mobile pages). Whatever you can do to speed up page loading, do it!

Myth #2: Links Don’t Matter

Happily, the black hat SEO technique of link buying has significantly declined, but not because links are not important. Inbound links are still a ranking factor…and that makes sense because 1) inbound links facilitate indexing of your site as it points search engine bots to your content from a number of sources and 2) access to your content from multiple sources is a popularity signal. However, to positively impact your ranking, links need to be from quality relevant sources. Create sharable content and be proactive about getting/asking for links from industry influencers.

Myth #3: Content Is ALL that Matters

Content matters. That’s not debatable. However, content is not the only aspect of your website that does matter. Re-read the above sections—page loading speed and links matter, too…as does metadata and data structuring. In other words, your ranking is not solely (not even mostly, in some cases) determined by on-page elements that viewers see or read. You need the off-page technical elements for top ranking potential.

Myth #4: Keyword Density Drives Ranking

Arising from the “content is all that matters” myth is the myth that the number of times you use a keyword phrase (per total words used) directly affects your organic ranking. In the old (like, decades-old) days of search engine ranking, this was true. But algorithms are a lot more sophisticated now. They can “read between the lines,” so to speak, so content can rank for key search terms without actually having an exact keyword match in the content!

We’re not suggesting you abandon keywords. Rather, we’re suggesting that you focus on the usefulness and quality of the content you publish. Keywords and topic relevance will arise naturally (and that’s especially good for voice-activated search performance).

Myth #5: All Content Needs to Be Fresh

Years ago, Google (and other search engines that followed suit) introduced the “Query Deserves Freshness” criterion. This factor rewarded new and/or newly updated content, and that sparked a lot of content revisions as people scrambled to freshen up all of their content everywhere on the web. But that’s not necessary, and in many cases, not SEO-beneficial.

QDF does not and was never intended to be applied to every search. And making nominal changes to key pages on your site is likely not enough to be rewarded for content freshness. Plus, too many changes will just confuse your viewers, spiking your bounce rates, which tanks your ranking potential.

A better approach is to continually add new content to your website through a blog.

Want to make sure you’re doing SEO right? If you’re a SonicSEO.com client, then your work is already done. If you’ve fallen prey to SEO mythology, then call in the experts for help. Contact SonicSEO.com for a free SEO consultation.

How Social Media Affects SEO

Social MediaYou do not need to be an internet marketing insider to know that social media marketing is important…and that its importance is going to continue to be a factor to companies’ search marketing success into the new year (and many years to come). But, what you may not realize is that social media in itself—the presence on any platform, how many likes or followers you have, etc.—are not actually ranking factors for your website. So, how exactly does social media affect your SEO?

It’s All about the Traffic

No matter how many iterations any search engine’s algorithm has gone through, a site’s popularity has always been (and will likely always remain) a ranking factor. And one of the best, most powerful or accurate indicators of popularity is traffic—the number of unique visitors to a site. So, when you can increase the number of new viewers clicking on your site, the better your ranking potential.

Social media has HUGE potential to drive traffic your way, thereby indirectly boosting your organic ranking.

How to Use Social Media to Increase Website Traffic

For many internet users, social media is often an end in and of itself. In other words, users have to be compelled to leave the platform and their network to explore your website. So, the first way to make your social media work for your SEO is to post content that inspires curiosity and/or promises to meet a pressing need.

But do not just post content that gets users curious about you with no outlet for that curiosity. You need to include a quick portal to get to your site—links—so that viewers bypass search altogether. It sounds counterintuitive, but when you are attracting new viewers from social media platforms, you do not want to run the risk of them finding your competitors in organic search results.

But you aren’t that new to social media. You’ve probably already done this. So, what else can you do to generate website traffic via social media?

Be proactive but not pushy. Here are two approaches:

Tap into Relevant Conversations

Conversations relevant to your brand or industry are happening beyond your own Facebook page or Twitter feed. Find them and join in. There are a number of tools you can use to search the web—social media and other forums—for keywords relevant to your products and services. These tools allow you to find where users are asking for product/service recommendations, giving informal reviews or simply sharing who/what/where/when info that helps you keep the pulse of your target market.

When you find conversations going on about/around/in your industry, jump in. Do not push your products or services, but genuinely engage with your audience. Be helpful and informative. Make those with whom you’re engaging curious about your brand. Make them want to know more about you…and give them the link to where you want them to find that information.

Build in Links and Linking Opportunities

When you tap into conversations relevant to your products, services and/or industry, pay attention to names/handles that pop up frequently—these are likely industry influencers. A mention/link from these individuals can send scores of new viewers to your site (the inbound link itself—if from an authoritative, relevant source—has SEO value). To get a mention or link, first link to the influencer’s content. That may be enough to inspire a reciprocal gesture. If not, make the direct ask.

The success of your social media marketing by itself and as a website traffic generator depend on quality content, and producing that alone can be a full-time job. If you do not have the resources to maintain an engaging social media presence, let the professionals at SonicSEO.com help. Contact us to schedule a free social media marketing consultation.