The evolution of SEO has prompted business owners and marketers to refine their skills and resort to more sophisticated techniques to rank in search engines. While SEO changes in a technical sense, the underlying principles, and concepts of ranking in SERPs are practically the same.
In an article in MOZ, Bridget Randolph wrote about the unchanging fundamentals of SEO. According to the article, these basic principles include crawlability, site structure, keywords, and backlinks.
- Crawlability – The possibility of search engine robots finding and crawling through your site.
- Site Structure – The way your website is organized and prioritized by search engines.
- Keywords – What your content tackles.
- Backlinks – The way search engine determines the authority and relevance of your site and content.
These basic principles have not changed over time and have no signs of changing anytime soon. They also serve as the basis of all techniques you should employ to drive your site to rank in SERPs.
Ranking Factors to Watch for
This year, not much has changed in the SEO landscape and that includes the ranking factors you need to look out for. Essentially, what have always been the basic requirements for a site to be considered SEO- friendly are practically the same—perhaps, only a bit more refined.
Knowing and understanding these ranking factors can help you map out your 2019 SEO tactics or reinforce your current strategies for a more penetrative effect.
1. Website Security and Accessibility
The point of having a website is to be found online and lacking necessary features to ensure security and accessibility defeats this very purpose. Having a URL that Google bots can reach and crawl is imperative. Accessibility means allowing Google to find and look into your site and for them to understand what it is all about based on the content.
To help these bots do their job more effectively and for the benefit of your website, you must ensure the following:
- A well- coded website
- A robots.xl file
- A site map
Sites that run on WordPress can use Yoast SEO to create a sitemap. There are also those that use online SEO generators like this one:
While HTTPS is not a necessary factor for Google to index a site, it is highly recommended. John Mueller of Google hinted that “it is a light-weight factor” and that having it is great for users.
2. Website and Mobile Speed
Speed has always been an important ranking factor, especially for Google. Search engines are “big on” user experience, and site speed greatly affects that.
Sites like Pagespeed Insights allow you to test your website speed and provide performance assessments to help identify which parts of your site require fixing to improve your website speed.
Common ways to improve website speed include:
- File Compression
- Reduce redirects
- Leveraging browser caching
- Improving server response time
- Use of a content distribution network
- Optimizing images
3. Mobile Friendliness
On July 2018, Google announced that mobile page experience and speed will, from then on, be used as a search ranking factor. This move was prompted by the increased use of mobile phones in search, purchases, video streaming, and much more.
Optimizing for mobile has become a necessity rather than an option. Sites that are not mobile- optimized run the risk of lagging behind in terms of SEO. Optimizing for mobile means the following:
- Responsive website that enables resizing to fit the device.
- Navigability and accessibility with menus and other buttons easy to tap.
- Readability of content
- Lesser, if not absence, of intrusive ads.
Striving to increase your mobile conversion rate is necessary for ranking. The conversion rate for mobile is often influenced and improved by:
- Improving Site Design for all devices.
- The use of attractive images
- Enabling Autocomplete
- Using Urgency
- Opt-ins, especially for Mobile Use
- Good videos and other forms of content and using CTAs
- Convenient shopping, checking out and payment for Ecommerce sites
4. User Experience (RankBrain)
As early as October 2015, Google confirmed the existence of RankBrain—a component of the core Google algorithm that utilizes machine learning to identify the most relevant results of queries in search engines. The main concept of RankBrain is to use artificial intelligence to identify the intent of every query.
What influences RankBrain are signals that help identify the quality of user experience based on the activity that transpired when people visited your site. These signals are:
- The rate at which users visit your site after an entry comes up in search results or clickthrough rate.
- The rate at which people immediately leave your site; indicating that your site was not able to provide the needed information or bounce rate.
- The average time people spend on your website upon visiting or dwell time.
Considering these rates and metrics when optimizing your website is necessary and often it is the content that commands these signals.
5. Content Optimization
Speaking of content, while it might be the king of SEO, if it is not optimized, it may not be of much help when it comes to ranking. Good content and content optimization are a must for optimum SEO benefits.
This is a combination of creative and technical capability—content creation and production on the creative side and content optimization on the technical side.
The quality of content is the foremost requirement in content optimization. An optimized content that lacks quality is basically a form that lacks substance. There is good content and then there is great content. Great content has two basic characteristics:
- it engages the audience and
- it provides value that is relevant to them.
This comes with other characteristics depending on the intention of the content.
Content Optimization has several components designed to adhere to search engine’s accessibility and relevance requirement.
LSI Keywords and SEO Ranking
Optimizing your content is not just about the use of a main keyword, but the inclusion of terms relevant to main terms users utilize during search. These relevant terms are referred to as Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords. This helps Google decide which results to show by using word association.
For example, when searching for “ranger”, the content is more relevant to a model of truck rather than a profession.
The understanding and use of LSI keywords are very important as more users today use voice search.
Optimizing for search intent is also necessary and important for ranking. Search intent means understanding what users are looking for when they looking for a particular term.
The keywords “San Francisco real estate” could be tricky and must go through several considerations when ranking for it. You may put in content that features various real estate properties for sale in the San Francisco area, thinking people who use the search term are looking to buy, but what about those who use the keyword looking to sell?
There are four ways that keyword intent is described and must be put into consideration when writing content:
- Informational – when users are looking for answers to questions.
- Navigational – when users are looking for particular sites.
- Investigational – when users seek information with the end goal of closing a transaction.
- Transactional – when users intend to purchase.
Understanding these intents and using keywords fit for such a purpose is essential to establishing the authority of your site.
After so many arguments, it has become clear over time that content length is indeed a factor for ranking. A report from Lean Labs indicates that content consisting of more than 2000 words ranks better in Google results.
It also indicates that long content gains more links and shares.
One important aspect of content optimization is using the right codes. This must be observed upon making your content available online. Technical SEO aspects include the following:
- Use of keywords in page titles
- Use of header tags and H1, H2, and H3 formats
- Meta description
- Keyword Phrase in Alt images
- Use of Schema mark-up when necessary
6. Use of Video Content
In an article from Mario Peshev, he cites the different reasons why video content is becoming very important content for 2019. The reasons include oversaturation of text, limited information, reward on effort, growth of video services, new video upload features and integrations, interactivity, better connectivity, and Smart TVs.
More reasons why video is becoming an important content form when ranking for SEO, include the following:
- Video watching is popular among different demographics.
- More people prefer watching a video than reading text.
- Video influences online purchasing decisions.
7. URL, Domain Age, and Authority
Domain name matters for websites that want to rank. In the past, Google has penalized exact-match domains or those domains that include the target keyword in the URL but it was mainly for spammy websites. Otherwise, exact-match domains that use relevant and valuable content gain a ranking boost.
However, this should not be a reason to change your URL name. In fact, your URL must reflect what your business or site is all about. This is because Domain age is also an important ranking factor.
A study from Ahrefs indicates that more than 60% of Google’s Top 10 URL rankings are already 3 years old or more. This study includes two million pages and reveals that only a few “less than one-year-old” websites achieve a ranking boost.
As mentioned earlier, site authority is important and it is influenced by content quality and off-page signals including inbound links and social shares.
Using the Moz Open Site Explorer allows you to determine the authority of your domain.
8. Off-Site Signals
Links and social shares are offsite signals that are significant in boosting your website’s SEO rank.
Links are essential because it is how the “web” concept of the internet is derived. Google determines the relevance and authority of your site based on three link types: inbound, outbound, and internal.
Thus, you need to work on cultivating and building these links to signal to Google that your site is indeed an authority and relevant to the keyword(s) you are trying to rank.
While Google denies the role of social shares as a direct ranking factor, it is hard not to notice that sites and links that have a significant number of social media shares are those that are on top of SERPs.
The Bottom Line of SEO for 2019
If you look at it, SEO for 2019 only means two things:
- Adherence to search engines’ rules
- Improving user experience
These two pretty much sum up everything that must be done to help boost your site’s ranking in search engine results. This also means that you need to work harder to comply with these two categories and employ new strategies leading to them.