It’s never too early to begin preparing for the future. 2019 may very well be a revolutionary year for SEO. Between virtual reality and augmented reality, or blockchain and artificial intelligence, we could see massive shifts in the way we, as search engine optimizers, do things.
Below we’ve gathered over 15 of the industry’s top experts to give their predictions on what we’re going to see in 2019.
While there are many predictions that come as totally expected (hint; the experts believe in voice search!), there are also several, such as Matt’s or Yogesh’s, that come out of left field.
Here’s what you can expect to see below:
Nearly 1/3 of our experts truly believe 2019 to be the year of voice, even more than 2018.
10% of our experts believe that there’s going to be a lot of focus on mobile in 2019, as older SEOs realize optimizing for desktop is pointless.
Another 10%, well versed in the technology of the future, believe that blockchain is going to change the way SEOs relate to their websites on a technical level. Damon’s prediction here is very interesting.
Amazon Search Optimization (AMSO?) is believed to be the trend of 2019 by 7% of our experts.
For the rest, you’ll have to read on!
AI Is Going to Change How We Do Keyword Research
Jana Garanko, head of PR at the legendary marketing tool, SEMrush, believes that AI will change our keyword research practices, and rankings will depend on private demographic data even more than they do now.
While virtual reality technologies start bringing sci-fi movies to real life, I doubt that VR and AR will have a great impact on SEO anytime soon. This is a matter of years, though, and my guess is that in some 5-10 years this kind of SEO will become more common.
SERPs will get more personalized and will take into account users’ interests, hobbies, location, search history, and certainly gender. SEO specialists will also have to take into consideration a greater amount of content-related factors such as its length, quality, TF-IDF, and its structure.
Currently more than half of searches account for mobile devices, and the number will certainly go up in 2019. SEO specialists will continue to need to ensure that their websites are mobile friendly. Besides, AMP will be on the rise along with new quick SERP features.
Amazon Search and Voice Search Will Take Impressions Away from Your Site
Kent Lewis, President and Founder of the Portland based performance firm, Anvil, predicts that both Amazon search and voice search will be trends in 2019.
The second biggest SEO trend in 2019 will be voice search. The way in which consumers search with be noticeably changed by digital assistants.
When consumers search vocally, their queries are hugely different from how they write them out. The most noticeable aspect of this is that voice search produces many long-tail keyword queries. It will be a challenge optimizing for these terms. Do we create new pages to address each long-tail variation? Do we create a hub page? The additional challenge that is also relatively new is the concept of Position 0 on Google: answers to your questions at the top of the organic search results, above standard listings.
SEOs Will Put More Emphasis on Search Intent and Code Optimization
Ray Cheselka, SEO & AdWords Manager at SEO and design agency, webFEAT Complete, predicts that sites with over a two second load time will be penalized, and search intent is going to continue to grow in importance.
For example: Someone searches for “Best way to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving.” That searcher likely is looking for methods to cook a turkey, but with each method he/she may want to know why the method is optimal, how intensive the process is, and what kind of turkey is best to buy. In a way, we can do research and build helpful information into content that users did not even know they needed. This better satisfies search intent, boosts engagement, and increases rankings.
As far as new tools, methodologies and technologies go, there are a few things that come to mind:
- Data and Interpreting It.
- As time goes on, technology will make it easier and easier to interpret the meaning behind a search query. This will lead to SEOs being able to generate content and offer advice that caters to a much more specific audience and satisfies their needs more completely.
- As more of our lives take place online, it is only going to get more important that websites are secure. This means hosting on secure servers, encrypting our sites, and keeping everything up to date. Google already gives ranking boosts to sites on a secure protocol (https vs. http) and this emphasis on security will only grow as time passes. Blockchain may very well be the next iteration of this.
- The modern user has a very short attention span. If a website takes more than a few seconds to load, she/he is likely to leave. Therefore, it’s really important to make sure that site speed/load time is optimized as much as possible. Technologies within plugins, the utilization of CDN’s, caching mechanisms, and strategic organization of scripts/css files are currently effective. However, by 2019 a website loading in over 2 seconds could be penalized. Google developed AMP for a near-instantaneous load of websites when implemented properly, so we know performance is on their radar. Developers will need to tighten up code, and truly optimize JS/CSS and overall HTML.
VR and AR Will Get Their Own Sections in Organic Search; Blockchain Will Create More of a Focus on Technical SEO
Both virtual reality and augmented reality are promising technologies for search engine marketing (both paid and organic). By 2019, the way we search might not change completely, but these new technologies will definitely change the way we build links, engage users, and generate leads through content marketing.
Content strategists are making dramatic efforts to incorporate video into their plans. With AR and VR in the picture, they will surely figure out ways to leverage these. AR and VR content can also replace the role of infographics in SEO. Also, Google already favors mobile-friendly websites. Since AR and VR are becoming mainstream, Google may tweak their algorithm to favor sites with more mobile engagement or maybe come up with a new search engine section focused only on AR/VR – just like what they have for images.
As for Blockchain, the impact will be determined on the basis of scale of adoption. Seeing the current trend, many companies might incorporate blockchain and web 3.0 into their hosting, thus making it mandatory for webmasters to maintain sites on a technical side so that rankings aren’t lost. The schema community is already working to create a markup for the same purpose.
Voice Search Will Make up Nearly 50% of Searches
Dave Gregory, Content Marketing Manager from the UK based performance marketing agency, SiteVisibility, predicts that 2019, and not 2018, is going to be the real year of voice.
It appears that voice search not only contains more words, but also may be more targeted towards what a user is expecting to see. Therefore, practices such as crafting on page content will require a different approach. For example, where previously a clothes company could optimize for ‘Black T-Shirts’, they may now have to consider long tail queries such as, “where is the cheapest black t-shirt?”
We also think there will be much more intent to searches than there is currently. Terms like ‘where’, ‘how’, ‘why’, ‘when’, etc. will all be featured much more prominently. In short, we feel that SEO in 2019 will have to shift focus even more towards answering people’s questions and solving people’s problems. We also feel that as a starting point, the steps taken by people to try and rank for featured snippets will be a good place to start from to explore voice search.
We think SEO in 2019 will see a shift to focusing even more on user intent, problem solving, and hyper locality in order to capitalize on the continued rise of voice search.
Blockchain Is Going to Create New Movements in Search
Damon Peters, CMO of Auction site, Proxibid, predicts that in 2019, blockchain is going to create trends in SEO previously not possible. He also predicts a continued importance on voice, but also a new type of search: visual search.
Visual search based upon engagement with images and camera data is a big opportunity to foster relevance, perhaps as early as 2019. A user might want to take a picture of an item or environment with their phone and tell the machine “I want this” and move on with their day.
“Fake news” will be solved. Authorship attribution and authentication will win the day, or users will abandon channels with terrible content. Subject matter authorities will carry more weight over time, and our tools will assist our search for reliable content or become irrelevant themselves. Blockchain has great promise here.
Anonymity will become a premium. We’ve created our own cocoons of news and information from relevancy and preference settings online. The promise of the democratization for online publishing was to empower a broader voice and provide a platform for the authors, but the downside has been realized with sensationalism coming from the vocal minority. Sensationalism will always win, as we’ve evolved to give our attention to threats. We will adopt tools to mute personalization to allow broader viewpoints. We will have a need to travel online in the moment and be unencumbered by our breadcrumbs. Blockchain has great promise here as well.
Mobile and Voice Importance Continue to Dominate
Calib Backe, SEO Manager for Maple Holistics, writes that mobile and voice are going to continue their domination of importance as we rely on desktop less and less.
Based on this, one can safely bet that SEO in 2019 will heavily favor results that are the most mobile and voice-query-friendly. This means that companies looking to rank for search terms will need to focus on giving digestible answers, as well as posing their information in question/answer form – much the same way one would ask Google over voice-search.
Additionally, as is always the case, search engine algorithms will continue to become more sophisticated. In 2019, you can bet that White Hat SEO will have separated itself even further from Black Hat SEO, and that above all else, providing quality content will be the most important factor for businesses ranking in search.
Expect User Experience to Increase in Importance
Chris Brantner, SEO Director at SleepZoo, believes that UX is going to be the pivotal SEO focus in 2019.
So what will SEO look like in 2019?
I think user experience will prove to be one of the largest ranking factors. Google is pushing towards more and more personalized search results, so in order for you to perform well, you’ll have to ensure that you provide a better user experience that keeps people on your site. You’re going to need content that engages them, and a site that loads lightning fast to keep them from hitting that back button.
Social Channels Will See More Indexing and Social Media Optimization Will Be Very Important for Organic Search
Amy Kilvington, Marketing Executive at Custom Curtains, believes that SEOs are going to have to optimize social media more as Google indexes it and prioritizes it over their sites’ pages.
We’re expecting SEO of the future to be even more content and consumer focused. Websites will continue to produce content that’s created specifically for humans, not just the search engine. Brands will become more experimental with the content they share and the partnerships they strike up with influencers.
Social media will also play a big role in SEO of the future. Social channels will continue to integrate with search as a whole, both in terms of more content being indexed and ranked by the search engine (as Google already does with tweets from certain accounts), and users utilizing these social platforms as a search engine in its own right. YouTube is already the second largest search engine, remember!
Optimize Other Platforms for Search in 2019
Of course, there are several factors that could speed up, slow down, or even reverse this growth. YouTube monetization has undergone massive changes over the last year which have made it difficult for content creators to rely on traditional video monetization, instead pushing them towards new options like sponsorship and branded apparel. Now that Amazon has entered the brick and mortar space via the Whole Foods acquisition, Walmart has begun to push into the ecommerce space by offering solutions for third-party sellers. It’s also too early to say what the long-term future of VR and smart speakers will be, and whether either of them will have a material impact on search or media consumption.
No matter which platforms have gained or lost ground by 2019, we can expect that the recent wave of SEO ranking factor studies will carry over onto the most prominent platforms. A growing understanding of and access to big data processing means more and more publishers will reverse engineer those ranking factors, setting the state for new tools, brands, and sophistication.
Location and Voice Search for More Hyper Targeting
Teresa Walsh, Marketing Executive at automobile site, Cazana, predicts that hyper organic targeting is going to increase its importance in 2019 with more location search and more voice search.
More than 50% of all web traffic is via mobile today and 76% of people who use location search visit a business within one day. This number is huge. Location search is growing every year and we are using our mobile phones daily to search for answers and solutions locally to us.
Voice search and location search will become even more important.
Expect Searchers to More Frequently Get Their Answers Without Actually Going to Your Website – SEO Real Estate Is Shrinking
In 2019, we’re going to have to optimize voice search answers with CTAs that Google’s algorithms don’t pick up on, but humans do. Dan Mallette, Lead SEO Strategist at both InVue Digital & HearstDMS, predicts that SEOs will have to optimize for voice search and find new avenues as SERP real estate shrinks.
Being able to provide clear, concise, and accurate information will take on greater importance with more and more home assistants hitting the market. Outside of business partnerships, voice search currently puts a heavy reliance on the answer boxes in search. This puts a heavier onus on marketers and brands to be able to provide answers to the questions users are asking.
Soon, “being on the first page” won’t be good enough because voice searches do not rely on pages. Being able to answer queries across a broad spectrum of knowledge will be imperative as the market share for voice grows.
Artificial Intelligence and Technical SEO Will Be the Trend in 2019
Chris Gregory, founder and managing partner at Jacksonville based firm, DAGMAR Marketing, predicts that AI and machine learning will have a big impact on SEO in 2019 and SEOs who aren’t technical will be left in the dust.
We are already noting how engagement metrics, such as bounce rate, time on site, number of pages viewed and so forth, are becoming more of a ranking factor. This is why highly useful long form content is effective today; this type of content, when well done, naturally causes people to stay on the site longer. Google is using artificial intelligence to mimic human engagement on sites and rewarding sites that display impressive metrics of usability. We suspect that as a kneejerk reaction, some people looking for quick wins will focus less on spammy link building and more on finding ways to game engagement metrics.
As a second consideration, in a sense, all that was old is becoming new again. In the earlier days of SEO, the organic search engine optimization discipline was more of a technical skill, of making sites crawlable. Then the focus switched to creating quality content where keywords were used in a natural way. Although quality content is still important, because of AMP, schema, page speed/fast-loading pages, mobile usability and the like, the need for technical SEO skills are once again coming to the forefront. Developers who aren’t already focused on SEO requirements aren’t necessarily keeping up with these changes, which will present a challenge to brands and open up additional opportunities for developers with updated SEO knowledge and skills.
SEOs Will Have to Think More Like Their Searchers to Match Voice Intent
Jordan Harling, SEO Specialist at Roman Blinds Direct, agrees with the consensus that voice search will be the trend in 2019.
What this means is that people are starting to use more natural language when using search engines. People are more than happy to type fragments of sentences like “blinds” into Google, but saying that out loud just doesn’t feel right. With voice people are much more likely to say something like, “Where can I buy blinds?”
While this might not seem like a big deal on the face of it, it could turn out to be one of the biggest changes we’ve faced in years. Search engines are adapting and beginning to favor natural, more speech-like content, so to keep up we have to provide content in the same way. We have to think like our customers and answer the questions they’re asking in as concise and an informative way possible.
In 2019, voice-search will be the dominant way that people search. The people who will be best suited for SEO will be early adopters and those who are able to talk and think like their audience.
Integration from Paid Channels Necessary as Organic Space Is Sold Away
Head of Marketing, Matt Edstrom, at BioClarity, a San Diego based health-science company, believes that SEO is going to see a decreased importance in 2019, and SEOs should start making sure they’re competent in SEM.
Even then, your organic listing will live beneath the normal top 3 ads that look more like organic listings, as well as under the more recently implemented Google Shopping Ads.
With the depleting Organic SERP space, SEOs will have to take a more diverse approach to their overall SEO campaigns. Clients and marketers will need to begin implementing multiple forms of digital marketing tactics including paid search, social media marketing, local SEO, in addition to SEO if they hope to dominate a given Google SERP.
Utilization of Video Is Going to Be the 2019 Trend
While some may argue that video is already prevalent in SEO, Michael Lan of Glossika (a language education technology company) believes that we’ve barely even seen the beginning.
Search engine algorithms will surely crawl video content directly instead of just crawling the text based content surrounding the video. This will gradually phase out the effectiveness of using “clickbait” to draw more attention to the video.
As search engine algorithms adjust to accommodate the change in content, likely towards video, it will be important for marketers to optimize their content accordingly in order to best increase overall organic traffic. This has already happened to a considerable extent, but I do expect search engine algorithms to further zero in on smart phones and video as people become more mobile oriented.
The Trend in 2019 Will Be Voice Search Optimization
Jason Scott, Digital Marketing Specialist at Archway Cards Ltd, also believes in voice being the trend of 2019 rather than 2018. Since so many people believe in voice search being the trend in 2019, I, Nicole Bermack (this article’s author), am coining the term VSO – voice search optimization.
Home assistant devices will continue to grow dramatically in popularity meaning we’ll see an increase in conversational questions’ related searches. Currently, Google’s Home device relies heavily on featured snippets to provide answers. Businesses will need to react to this by tailoring their content to fit these queries and appear in the featured snippets.
SEO Algorithms Aren’t Evolving as Fast as Most Experts Believe
There are start-up SEO tools that purport to use AI systems, from AI word spinners that pass Copyscape and essentially write like a journalist, to those that promise to automagically update the entire site and put all SEOs out of business. I’ve tested and talked to these types of companies, and none of them are “there” yet.
I believe SEO in 2019 will largely be like SEO in 2018, with the exception of some “big” Google update that wipes out enough websites to make people believe the algorithms have grown exponentially smarter.
Not that I don’t believe things are evolving, I do, just not fast enough to leap into a new world of SEO by 2019.
Before we wrap up I want to quickly plug the agency I’m part of because we love taking on new business… If you’re looking for SEO services, please check us out. We’re based in NYC and have clients all through the Americas and Europe. We work with a ton of enterprise companies, but also SMBs. Some of our clients can be found here.
So what have we learned? Here’s a column graph of the information presented in the introduction.
2019 will truly be the year of voice.
Other technologies such as VR & AR, and blockchain could make big waves as well, but this may be with only the most savvy of SEOs.
Amazon search and YouTube & Video search need to be taken into account, as search share of voice is given more to platforms other than Google. In fact, if “Social Media,” “Video Utilization,” and “YouTube Search” are added to each other, we see that some sort of video optimization will actually tie for the second biggest SEO trend in 2019:
As for my personal predictions? I think savvy SEOs are going to utilize AI content generation (text and images especially) in 2019 to create a whole new type of search algorithm gaming, that may almost be viewed as black hat. Be on the look out for this one.
How about you? What are your thoughts on SEO trends in 2019?