With 2019 just around the corner, several marketers are starting to formulate their SEO plan for the new year right now. After all, by figuring out your strategy in advance, you’ll be much better placed to deal with and capitalise on those inevitable Google updates.

But what exactly is Google planning for 2019 and which direction will SEO head in? Here’s our top five predictions for the coming months

Mobile-first indexing

Ok, so mobile-first indexing isn’t exactly a new trend for 2019. In fact, Google started the process of migrating sites to mobile-first indexing in March 2018 (several webmasters received a notification from Search Console that Google would now use the mobile version of their site for indexing and ranking).

That doesn’t mean to say Google is adopting a ‘mobile-only’ approach though, as there’s still a single index with both mobile and desktop versions. However, its clear Google will start using the mobile version for ranking once your site’s been migrated.

For this reason, you need to ensure mobile friendliness is at the forefront of your SEO strategy. Ideally, you should migrate your site as soon as possible, with Google Trends Analyst John Mueller stating: “If you want to go responsive, better do it before the mobile-first launch”.

Other actionable yet essential tips include:

  • Avoid m-dot and responsive for the same page, as it confuses crawlers.
  • Crawl your site with a mobile bot to see how search engine spiders see your pages.
  • Track your mobile pages’ loading speed.
  • Double-check you’re delivering the best user experience you can

Page speed

Even though desktop page loading time has been a ranking factor for quite some time, mobile speed only became a ranking factor in July 2018.

This change to how Google analyses a site is rather significant, as two different metrics – optimisation and speed – are now being taken into account.

So, which metric has the strongest impact on rankings? Well, SEO PowerSuite notes that the correlation between the page’s optimisation score and its position in SERPs is strong (0.97). However, there is no correlation between the page’s position and its speed score.

Over time this may change, but what matters now and for 2019 is optimisation. Thankfully, Google is forthcoming with its recommendations for site optimisation, which can be easily tested and tracked too.

Brand mentions

Late last year at Pubcon 2017, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes revealed that Google uses online brand mentions in its search algorithm.

“Once you start getting mentions, we start learning that, yes, this is an entity. We can start linking to that entity different properties,” he said.

“For example, you are a marketing company. I don’t know what other properties we are linking to you. But, we definitely start learning based on what mentions you’re getting. And, of course, plain mentions are good, structured mentions are even better.”

In order to ensure you’re on top of your brand mentions, try to cater to your reputation by engaging with both happy and unhappy customers or clients. Mention your brand name whenever you have a natural opportunity and track all of your ‘linkless backlinks’, as they could turn out to be just as valuable.

GDPR

You’ve no doubt seen the initials ‘GDPR’ pop up in your inbox time and time again this year. GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation passed by the European Union, which aims to regulate who owns the data created by user interactions online i.e. the user, not the companies that collect it.

As a result, users can now ask to see what personal data a company has about them and ask request its correction or export. Failure to comply could lead to fines of €20 mln or 4% of a company’s annual profit.

In terms of SEO, Google has introduced changes into its analytics so that all personal data expires 26 months after it was collected. This can include demographic data but not sessions or goal completions.

Businesses with non-European customers can simply switch to the “do not automatically expire” option in Google Analytics. However, everybody else should review the sources collecting data on their site and ensure it doesn’t get sent to Google Analytics.

Another highly recommended action is to update your privacy policy file to GDPR requirements including a cookie consent form detailing the information you collect, why you collect it, and where you store it.

Also, if you use Google Tag Manager, activate IP anonymisation. You’ll still be able to find out where traffic comes from, but it will be a little less accurate.

Amazon search

Yet another SEO trend that might not have a direct impact on your Google ranking. But with more and more people going straight to Amazon to do their online shopping, its search facility is well worth investigating further.

A recent study found that 56% of consumers look on Amazon first before any other online site. Furthermore, 51% say that even if they find something that seems right on another site, they will usually look on Amazon to find alternative ideas, compare prices, or gather more information before making a purchase.

In other words, Amazon is becoming the Google of e-commerce. Even its algorithm works in a similar way as the search engine giant. So, if you sell any item featured on Amazon, you’ll need to adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.

Start with some keyword research using Amazon autocomplete for more relevant, industry-wise results. Try to make your listing user-friendly with efficient titles and descriptions as well as high-quality images.

Don’t overlook the importance of “backend keywords” either (the equivalent of meta tags on Google). These tell Amazon that a specific item targets a specific keyword on the site.

Last but not least, respond to reviews and complaints for better reputations, enhanced exposure, and more brand mentions.

Here at SEO and Web, it’s our duty to stay on top of the latest and greatest industry trends. Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help your business remain one step ahead of the curve and your competitors.