Latest Ranking Factors and Organic Search Trends
How to appear organically in Google search is a constantly evolving process. New features appearing directly in search results, more results page real estate going to ads, and continuous algorithm updates keep marketers on their toes. Let’s look at the SEO trends to watch for in 2019.
7 Important SEO Trends in 2019
- Machine learning / RankBrain
- Intent based content and keywords
- Featured snippets
- Crawler optimization
- Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E-A-T)
- JSON-LD schema
- Site usability
1. Machine learning / RankBrain
From Moz (a major SEO software compay), “RankBrain is a component of Google’s core algorithm which uses machine learning (the ability of machines to teach themselves from data inputs) to determine the most relevant results to search engine queries.”
Google is now utilizing artificial intelligence to improve search results for users. RankBrain is likely using a lot of user data – like the location of the searcher, personalization, and how users interact with the search results – to influence rankings.
Example 1, let’s say a lot of people search for, “SEO site migration checklist” and click on emfluence’s SEO site migration checklist article ranking 5th. People read through it, their need was met, and they close out of their window without returning to the search results. Google will note this great experience and may improve the ranking of that article since Google knows it will likely satisfy people’s search.
Example 2, let’s say a lot of people search for, “Royals”. Then without clicking anything update their search to “KC Royals schedule”. They click on the first result, are satisfied but back out to Google again and search, “KC Royals tickets” and click on the first result and never go back to Google. Google will take note that when people search “Royals”, they intend to learn about the schedule and tickets. They will then favor ranking pages that satisfy one or preferably both of those intents when searching any of those queries.
With RankBrain, you can’t just target the right keywords – you must provide a great experience and ensure the user leaves satisfied.
2. Intent based content and keywords
If you want to rank for high search volume keywords with unclear intent, your content should cover a topic in-depth and satisfy all the potential needs of the searcher.
A high volume but unclear intent keyword would be a keyword searched often but you are not entirely sure what the searcher is looking to discover. Let’s use the keyword “vacuum cleaner” for example.
When a user searches “vacuum cleaner”- what specifically is the user looking for? What is their intent upon searching that? Are they looking for reviews? Are they looking for retailers? Are they looking for the latest news on the subject? Helpful tips and tricks? Images? How to videos? Google isn’t entirely sure either.
So, if your page satisfies a lot of those intents by covering as many subtopics as possible (or you can introduce the subtopic and link off to a page that covers the subtopic in more detail if needed) – Google will want to rank you highly because they know odds are that your page will lead the user to the information they are seeking.
3. Featured snippets
Around 10% of all search results now have a featured snippet, according to SEMrush.
A featured snippet is the ‘quick answer’ you often see at the top of search results. Here is an example of a featured snippet we received:
Featured snippets are a great way to increase your visibility and organic traffic. Here is the traffic spike we saw after stealing this fairly low search volume answer box:
4. Crawler optimization
Optimizing how search engines crawl your site can have a huge impact on your site’s perceived value and overall rankings.
You want to ensure search engines don’t waste their limited time crawling your site on pages with no organic value. You want search engines crawling your new and high priority pages, not your organically useless pages. Quick example, if you have a ton of unique thank you pages that search engines have been wasting their time crawling – block those pages in your robots.txt file.
Kill zombie pages
If your site has a lot of old and outdated pages that no longer receive organic traffic, they can be lowering your site’s overall perceived value in the minds of search engines.
Example 1, your site may have a lot of old blog posts about a similar topic no longer receiving traffic. You could consolidate those posts into one new in-depth post.
Example 2, your site may have a lot of old pages discussing a certain service you offer. You could just 301 redirect those outdated pages to your existing service page.
Image and Video URLs
Another issue I commonly see that bloats the site with low quality pages are image and video URLs. These are pages with no content outside of just a single image or video attachment. When your site has hundreds or thousands of images, that is a hundred or a thousand low-quality pages lower your domain’s overall value. I recommend that the attachment URL gets 301 redirected to the attachment file itself.
5. Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E-A-T)
The latest Google broad core update to their algorithm happened on August 1, 2018. The update appeared to have a stronger focus on point 3.2 of Google’s quality rater guidelines – E-A-T, or Expertise, Authority, and Trust. This section says:
For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important. Please consider:
- The expertise of the creator of the [main content (MC)].
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
You can see the guidelines here.
Your site content should be written by an industry expert, preferably not a freelancer you pay a few bucks. Your content should limit bias, reference and link out to external sources.
This also means off-page factors will continue to play a strong role in your site’s ability to rank highly in search engines. Search engines will continue to look at how trustworthy other sites see you – backlinks, how trustworthy your customers see you – reviews, and they may look at how positively or negatively people mention your brand online or even your Better Business Bureau rating.
What does E-A-T mean for you?
- Create exceptional content
- Focus on a content strategy that aligns business objectives with your customer needs
- Optimize your company profile online
- Provide robust information that showcases your expertise, authority, and trust
6. JSON-LD schema
JSON-LD schema is additional coding added behind the scenes that helps search engines better understand content on each webpage.
Since search engines will have a better understanding of your page, schema gives you a chance at ranking higher for relevant queries and receiving rich results like imagery, star ratings, or product prices appearing directly in search results.
7. Site usability
Your website needs to be secure, fast, accessible, and easy to use.
The percentage of searches happening on mobile devices vs desktop devices are on the rise. 60% of Google’s traffic now comes from mobile devices. Source.
Google has recently been moving sites to their mobile-first index. This means Google will be seeing your mobile site as the primary version of your site. Ensure that your site is easy to use on a mobile device – if it’s not, it can impact your site’s rankings.
Your site’s content should be consistent across devices. You shouldn’t remove certain content from mobile that is available on desktop.
Page load time
When a page loads within two seconds, it has an average bounce rate of 9%. When a page takes five seconds to load, it has an average a bounce rate of 38%. Source.
Your site should load quickly. It’s a better user experience and page load time is a signal Google uses to rank pages. Not only is page load time a ranking signal, a slow loading page can lead to poor user data with searchers bouncing back to the search results page.
Common issues with page load
- Unoptimized images
- Excessive HTTP requests
- Not using caching
- Not using gZip compression
- Unclean code
- Bad hosting environment
Site security is a ranking signal and can create a better user experience.
Starting July 24, 2018 – along with the launch of Google Chrome 68 – Chrome started to display “Not Secure” on the left of the address bar for non-secure, HTTP sites. Learn more about this not secure warning here.
Ensuring that your site is mobile-friendly, loads quickly, and secure is nearly a requirement to perform well organically in 2019.
Creating great content, helping search engines properly crawl and understand your content, and ensuring users can properly access your content are the top SEO items to watch out for in 2019. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about your site – contact us here.