SEO in 2019

The Era of User Signaling, Image Optimization & Google My Business

It’s that time of year again when we break out our crystal balls, put on our wizard hats and give our predictions for what the year 2019 will have in store for search engine optimization and digital marketing! Let’s rock.

User Signals: Rewarding Websites for Good Behavior

In 2019, search engines will pay more attention to how organic search visitors interact with your website, especially as it pertains to the keyword or phrase they used to find you.

Example: If a user finds you in the #3 spot for SEO in Columbus Ohio, clicks on your site and clicks-to-call from mobile/submits some form of information to your website, you’re either going to hold steady at that ranking or move up. Why? Because you’re answering a question so well that a user is willing to trust you with their call or submission.

The inverse will also be true: If users habitually click to your site from a Google listing and bounce from that entrance page, you’ll start to fall down the list for that search phrase.

How Did We Come Up With This Theory?

Over the years, SEO and user experience have become one and the same. If you do something to proactively appeal to your audience, you’ll see some upward movement in the rankings. Rarely can you do something for SEO that won’t help a user. Which got us thinking: not every UX modification or website design is going to work with every audience. Sure, there are some SEO universal truths out there, but we’re missing something huge here.

In 2018, we added better calls-to-action and a cleaner lead generation form for one of our long-term SEO clients. This client was already doing well in terms of organic search growth, seeing an average of 15% increases year-to-year, but this form helped them almost double their leads – and after a month, with the same concerted off-page SEO effort, we saw their organic search numbers surge 36% on a monthly basis and their search engine exposure jump 58%, according to the Moz rank tracking system.

Anecdotally, we did some digital marketing consulting for a client outside of our own backyard. They did repair work in a small town. We do digital marketing in a huge city. Our call-to-action placement and design needs to be drastically different than theirs! Our audience wants more info, imagery and case studies. Their audience wants a quicker load speed and a “Call Now” button RIGHT NOW.

The Snowball Effect: The Rich Will Get Richer (If They’re Proactive)

What might be right for you may not be right for some – and if you find out exactly what layout and experience works best for your audience, you’ll get more leads initially. Then you’ll get more organic search traffic, which will result in an exponential growth in lead generation.

Note: This is the first year that we aren’t putting “Quality Content” into our predictions. Why?

  1. Everyone already knows quality content matters; and
  2. What may be “quality” to your audience will be trash for another, as noted above.

More Lead Opportunities: Increase the Number of Paths to the Promised Land

Conversion Path Optimization for SEO

More forms and lead generation paths will help boost leads, which will boost your SEO thanks to user signaling. Not only that, but more personalized forms with more fields (oh, we said it) will bring in both more and better leads.

For the longest time, we were firm believers in having only 1-2 key conversion pages on a site – usually a Contact Us and then either a Make Appointment or Get a Quote page. That simply won’t cut it now! 2019 will see greater use of click-to-call CTAs, along with the return of form submission fields in the footer and, when the situation calls for it, sidebar forms – these will be especially great for service-related websites, like the repair shop we talked about at the beginning. People will still use the Contact Us page, but if they can have their voice heard on the page that is most relevant to them, they’re going to convert at a higher rate.

Finding a New Balance for Your Form Fields

The old consensus was “The fewer form fields, the better.” However, we’ve seen our own site garner better quality submissions when we add just 1-2 more fields that make a user feel like they’re actually being listened to. Instead of just name, email, phone and message, we’ve worked to add “Budget Range” into the mix. This eliminates the extremely low-budget leads, but increases our quality submissions because it boosts our value.

A Prettier Picture: The Keys to Advanced Image Optimization

Advanced Image Optimization

In late 2018, Google PageSpeed Insights underwent a facelift. The update incorporated more functionality from Lighthouse and provided much greater detail when it comes to improving your site speeds on both mobile and desktop.

Now, we’re pretty great at launching hyper-fast websites! However, when we pushed our own site into the digital ether, we noticed some ranking slippage. It wasn’t the content, backlinks or on-page SEO – all of those things were improved. So we turned to site speed and found (the majority of) our answer in one of the newest metrics the app offered! And it is…

Improve Site Speed by Serving Images in “Next-Gen Formats”

Previously, as long as you added relevant image alt. text to your image and the file wasn’t 2+ megabytes big, you’d be in pretty good shape. But things are different now. In our audit, we found the biggest culprit to be “Serve Images in Next-Gen Formats.” What the heck did this mean? We had to convert our images to JPEG 2000, JPEG XR and WebP formats to load faster on mobile and eat up less data – without losing any of that beautiful resolution to compression!

Lesson: Less is more when it comes to image size.

(Oh, and keep putting in alt. text.)

Reviews & SEO: The Google My Business Takeover

Google My Business and SEO 2019

Last year, we predicted that Google My Business would push Yelp out of the picture and become a major review platform. In May, GMB deleted anonymous reviews and screened some thin ones, which helped improve the quality of reviews. A few months later, Forbes reported that billions of Facebook’s users were fake, which spelled trouble for Facebook when it came to being an impartial review platform. Since then, Facebook has adopted a binary suggestions-based system, thus handing GMP the keys to the 5-star review rating car.

How Can You Update Your Google My Business Page in 2019

  • Create the page
  • Add all Name, Address & Phone Number (NAP) information to match your website
  • Litter that bad boy with high-resolution photos
  • Update your hours for accuracy
  • Kick out a monthly business post – more if you have the time
  • Answer all business questions in a timely manner (don’t have user-generated questions? Ask a few with your personal account & answer as your business)
  • Create a GMB-first review generation battle plan

One Continued Trend: Cybersecurity as an SEO Signal

Cybersecurity as an SEO Factor

Perhaps our biggest victory last year was calling 2018 the Year of Cybersecurity. GDPR became a major player, forced websites to edit their privacy policies to be more detailed and made businesses update their Google Analytics data retention settings. SSL certificates became an even bigger deal around April. We even noticed that sites with a Privacy Policy page in the footer tended to do much better than those without.

Expect more of the same throughout 2019. If you don’t have an SSL now, you absolutely need one – that little lock means so much to so many, including search engines. Create a privacy policy to cover yourself and stick it in your footer. Minimize third-party plugins in favor of hand-building site functionality. You’ve already got the great information. You’ve built the perfect user experience for your audience. The only way to improve is to protect user data – at all costs!

Have additional questions about SEO in 2019? Think you’ve got an idea of what will make the search algorithms tick this year? Get in touch with ForeFront Web today!

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