With a close rate that’s eight times higher than traditional marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) is a trusted digital marketing strategy. It’s constantly changing, however. That’s why, if your company wants to succeed at SEO next year, you need to understand the biggest SEO ranking factors of 2019. Ready to learn more about the six most influential SEO ranking factors of 2019? Keep reading!
In 2018, Google launched more than 10 major algorithm updates, including a significant patch to its web browser, Chrome. The update allows Chrome to alert users to unsecured sites, which are websites that have an “HTTP” versus “HTTPS” URL. This update motivated many business owners to invest in an SSL certificate.
An SSL certificate not only grants your website the HTTPS designation, but also ensures your site protects user data. For users, as well as Google, this update was important. For companies that haven’t invested in an SSL certification, this update is deadly to your SEO strategy.
Since 2014, Google’s used HTTPS as a ranking signal. This recent update, however, has a direct impact on user behavior. When a Chrome user visits your website, they now receive a full-screen alert from Google, indicating that your site isn’t secure.
Next to your URL, Chrome also displays a “Not Secure” tag. These notifications can drive any user away, which can have a direct impact on your rankings in search results. A recent study even found that 85 percent of people will not browse an unsecured site, which isn’t good news for a business with an HTTP URL.
How can HTTP impact your ranking in search results, though? If a user clicks on your website in a search result, but then receives Chrome’s warnings, they’re motivated to return to their search results. Even if you have a professional, well-designed site, these warnings are enough to scare off any user.
This action can make your bounce rate skyrocket. For Google, a high bounce rate is a direct indicator that your website doesn’t meet the user intent. People are leaving your site at record speeds, so why should it rank at the top of search results?
It won’t, instead, Google will lower your ranking, pushing your company to the back of search results. How can you counter this 2019 SEO ranking factor? Take the simple step of investing in an SSL certificate.
Your team will need to purchase the license, as well as configure it on your server. If you use website builders like WordPress for your site, there are plugins available to streamline this process.
2. User intent
For search engines like Google, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming critical tools for determining not only search intent, but also the context of content. With these advanced technologies, Google has a greater understanding of what users want. If your company wants its SEO strategy to succeed beyond 2019, you need to start thinking about user intent sooner rather than later.
You must transition from optimizing a piece of content with a specific keyword to researching what a user wants when they use that keyword. Take the search “dirty chai latte” as an example. For this search, the results all discuss how to make a dirty chai latte.
In the case of the third search result, it highlights how you can get a dirty chai latte by ordering one from Starbucks. Each result captures the user intent of wanting the drink, though. Get ahead of this 2019 SEO ranking factor by reevaluating your SEO strategy.
Look at your most valuable keywords, as well as their content, and determine if they match the intent of users today. If you’ve experienced a recent drop in rankings, it could signal that your content doesn’t provide users with what they want. Before you start writing that next blog post or service page, look at what’s currently ranking for that keyword.
Then, think about why a user may search that term. If you search that keyword, what would you expect from a piece of content, and what would you want to know after that? Build your SEO strategy from the perspective of your target market, and you can maximize your results.
3. Mobile page speed
In 2018, Google also launched its mobile speed update. This update supports the company’s previous switch to a mobile-first index, meaning Google now crawls websites from the perspective of a mobile, rather than desktop, user. What is the mobile speed update, though?
This update means that Google now uses page speed as a ranking factor for mobile results. While this doesn’t mean slow websites can’t rank at the top of search results, it decreases the likelihood that a slow site will rank at the top of search results. For companies with a slow mobile website, page speed optimization is a top priority.
Get started with Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool. With PageSpeed Insights, your team can assess the speed of your mobile and desktop website, plus receive helpful tips for how to increase the speed of your site.
4. Click-through rate
For Google, it’s critical to provide users with relevant search results fast. That’s why search results on Google have evolved to feature more than organic search results. Now, a search result can include a variety of items that go beyond organic and paid search results.
A few examples of these elements include:
- Featured Snippets
- People Also Ask boxes
- And more
Your website must compete against these elements, which have effectively reduced the click-through rate (CTR) of organic mobile search results by more than 40 percent. Keep in mind, more than 50 percent of the world’s Internet traffic comes from mobile devices. What does a low CTR have to do with SEO, though?
Like bounce rate, CTR can have a direct impact on your ranking in search results. When Google sees that your website has a low CTR, it’s considered a signal that your website isn’t relevant to the search. In response, it decreases the position of your site in search results.
A lower position results in less traffic, which doesn’t help your company earn more leads or sales. How can you increase your CTR and make this 2019 SEO ranking factor work in your favor? The answer is to make all the elements taking traffic away from your website drive traffic to your site instead.
For example, if your website ranks for a keyword with a featured snippet, optimize your content for that snippet. You can also use questions from the “People Also Ask” section to expand or develop a piece of content. Keep in mind that SEO requires some time to work.
If you optimize a webpage for a featured snippet, for example, it may take a few weeks or months for your team to see results. Based on those results, you can plan your next move.
If you’re familiar with Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, then you know that Google values expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, also known as E-A-T, when it comes to any type of content on the Internet. According to Google, E-A-T is extremely important for sites that can influence a user’s:
- Financial stability
- Future happiness
With the Internet housing more than 5.5 billion webpages, however, it’s difficult for Google’s team of quality raters to grade and assign a score to every website. That’s why Google views its E-A-T standards as more of a goal for its search algorithm, rather than a ranking factor for websites. That doesn’t mean your business should ignore E-A-T, though.
Like Google, you should use E-A-T as a reference when it comes to content creation. Aim to write and publish content that provides readers with accurate, up-to-date information. Make your content user-friendly, too, answering a reader’s initial question before providing additional information.
In 2018, a series of updates emphasized Google’s growth in Natural Language Understanding (NLU). With NLU, Google aims to understand not only words but also concepts. Advancements in NLU have allowed Google to detect minor differences in syntax, which have revolutionized search results.
For example, Google can determine the difference between the search, “signs of arthritis,” and “early signs of arthritis.” While these searches share a similar intent, Google’s algorithm can recognize the slight difference between the two. That recognition can lead to updates in the search results. If your website appears in search results for both terms, for instance, but the content focuses more on the early signs of arthritis, you may notice a decrease in your ranking for the keyword, “signs of arthritis,” as Google grows its NLU.
Due to NLU, companies need to pay attention to search engine results pages (SERPs). Via the SERPs, your team can monitor the syntax of keywords, as detected by Google. You can also see what kind of content meets user intent, which can influence your company’s content strategy.
Plus, you can determine whether existing content that targets a keyword needs revised or reoptimized. Get ahead of this 2019 SEO ranking factor by making the SERPs a part of your internal SEO processes. Before creating content, for example, look at the actual search results and ranking pages, versus analyzing all this data through a tool.
With this proactive step, you can create relevant content that drives not only traffic to your website but also conversions, sales, and revenue. Your company can also get ahead of competitors that aren’t focusing on the SERPs or NLU. That results in an SEO strategy with a foundation built for the future.
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