It can sometimes be hard to know what to think when it comes to SEO and how to improve your site’s ranking. Especially in 2019, when Google is becoming more and more advanced and the days of dodgy, underhand SEO techniques are behind us.
But, that doesn’t mean SEO is no longer needed, in fact it’s quite the opposite!
More than ever you need to be at the top of your SEO game in order to even have a chance of ranking…
And that’s why we created this ultimate guide so that you can learn exactly what you need to be doing in order to make the most out of your SEO campaigns in 2019!
And we thought we’d start out with what is STILL the number one most important factor….
Link building continues to be possibly the most important ranking factor for Google
As we’ve said before. You can create all the great content that you like but without links, you WON’T be getting to the first page. And without getting to the first page none of these other ranking factors below matters, because Rankbrain won’t be judging your sites dwell time or bounce rate if no one can even see your site. If you look on any site that ranks on page 1 for a given keyword they WILL have A LOT of backlinks to those pages!
A lot of people say content is king, and sure it is, but link building is the coronation – because without it the king wouldn’t exist!
Look at this study, it is a perfect indication of WHY backlinking is still so important in 2019. The higher the amount of referring domains (backlinks) the higher the Google position. The graph could not be clearer if it jumped off the page and hit you round the head with it 🙂
A study by Stone Temple and Moz earlier this year ALSO found the same results!
They found that there was a higher than expected correlation between SERP position and the number of backlinks a page had.
They had originally hypothesised that the correlation score could be no higher than 0.2
With -1 meaning that the factors actually have an inverse effect on one another. 0 meaning there is no clear correlation whatsoever, and 1 meaning there is a strong correlation, so that say when X increases as does Y.
The result they actually got was 0.293, meaning nearly a whole point higher than they expected.
It might not sound like much but that’s still a big leap for one of only hundreds of ranking factors!
Essentially you can do everything right in SEO but if you don’t have links you won’t be getting anywhere near the top of Googles rankings!
How do we know where to get backlinks from in 2019?
Many SEO professionals now espouse the importance of NATURAL backlinking in 2019, but what does this mean exactly?
To be clear, it does not mean that you cannot pay for links.
Many will say that paying for links is a spam technique, but how does Google know that you’ve paid?
If you have paid for quality, relevant backlinks in content that is relevant to your own site then that is natural!
Also, every SEO professional that ever says this, IS paying for backlinks! They just don’t want to upset their Google ‘masters’ by admitting it!
The introduction of the Page Rank patent in 2018, increased the importance of RELEVANT backlinking and gave the chance for smaller sites to potentially outrank the big dogs such as Amazon.
You can read more about what it does exactly in our Googles update guide.
But what this image below shows you is that Google now views the distance between a trusted seed site (a well-known, authoritative site on a given subject) and the sites at the bottom of that pyramid.
Basically, you want to get as high up that pyramid as possible, by getting links from the most authoritative sites that are relevant to your business. This is something that we can offer here!
However, having a varied backlink portfolio
is also very important!
Only having backlinks from high DA sites can look suspicious to Google so it is important to also have a bunch of lower DA sites linking to you also.
If you think of natural backlinking, you wouldn’t only get links from high DA sites, you would get them from a mixture. Therefore, it’s important to do the same for your backlink profile you create. We also offer backlinks from websites with varied DA (you can pick and choose). Which, when used in conjunction with our high DA backlinks gives optimal results.
All in all…
Backlinking is here to stay. Without backlinking the other ranking factors that we will discuss after this are pretty much all useless! Backlinks are still the bread and butter of any SEO campaign in 2019.
Rankbrain was the first of its kind for Google when it was released in 2015! And its importance has only continued to rise in the past 4 years! Google has even now confirmed that it is the THIRD most important ranking factor, behind content and links!
So why is RankBrain so important to SEO?
Rank Brain is its own algorithm learning AI system; meaning that it learns from what users input so that it can them make better decisions for future results!
It was a follow on from the Hummingbird update also, in that it tries to look at the more conversational way of speaking, rather than just viewing search terms as a string of keywords! This also means that it is important for voice search (which we’ll get to later)!
So, what does this mean in action?
Well say for example you search for a brownie recipe:
You decided to click on the third option we highlighted above but instantly you realise the site is American (so doesn’t use the same food measurements) and you click off it instantly back to Google.
You then click back to the homepage and find another result.
This time it is exactly what you want and you keep it open for a while.
This means this second sites bounce rate will be low, and its dwell time will be high.
This teaches Googles algorithm learning system – Rank Brain that this second result probably answers the question better and deserves to be pushed up the ranking!
What is dwell time?
Dwell time is the amount of time spent on your page and is directly linked to Rankbrain in that its algorithm learning system will understand that a page that has low dwell time probably does not offer valuable information.
Google has confirmed that dwell time is a ranking factor for pages!
A study found that the average dwell time for a site in the top 10 rankings on Google was 3 minutes ten seconds! Which is a sizeable amount of time on average!
How to improve dwell time?
- Create an engaging well-separated piece of content. Break up your content regularly with subheadings that make your reader want to keep reading. Show them the benefits right there in the subheadings and they’ll be more likely to stick around.
- Leave each paragraph with a cliff-hanger – something that teases the reader and makes them want to read more – it can be a rhetorical question, or something snappy that grabs their attention like: ‘But why is this important?’, ‘But wait, how does this help you?’ These entice the reader to read a bit more!
- Put videos on your content regularly; if users stop to look at videos, the amount of time they spend on your page is going to go up. Make sure the videos are relevant and offer something valuable to the reader.
- A well-known technique in the SEO community is ‘Agree, Promise. Preview’ as a way of structuring your content. In the first paragraph, you will show that you UNDERSTAND the problem or frustration they may be having. You would then go onto ‘promise’ by showing a sneak peek of HOW they can fix their issue. And then at the end, you can close by ‘previewing’ the way that they can fix their issue.
This technique works incredibly well as you are showing the reader that you not only understand their problem or question but that you have a solution that they can enact now!
What is bounce rate?
Also known as pogo’ing, as it’s like a pogo stick when people bounce from one site to another. Bounce rate is when users click on a result only to see it does not satisfy their query.
This is why providing quality content that actually offers value on a subject is SO important.
Bounce rate is obviously linked to dwell-time as if a user is bouncing off pages quickly – their dwell time will not be very long!
Actioning the steps, we gave above to improve dwell time WILL help this issue, and is a key part of any SEO campaign in 2019!
So, what does this mean for SEO in 2019?
We can argue that in fact, Rankbrain isn’t a ranking factor, but it is a learning system that then puts ranking factors such as dwell time and bounce rate into effect. It also encourages webmasters and writers to create a more conversational, natural tone in their writing!
Therefore, to keep ahead of Rank Brain create engaging, well thought out content which encourages people to stay on your page longer!
And of course, make sure that any content you’re creating follows the above advice in order to increase dwell time! 🙂
CONTENT AND KEYWORDS
The way Google views content has changed dramatically since the days of keyword stuffing! And in 2019, more than ever the focus HAS to be on great quality in-depth, long content!
We’re talking at least 2000 words!
The way Google views keywords has also undergone massive changes and has meant developing a new (and better) strategy when creating content.
Keep reading on to learn more…
Context is key
Before Google only understood Google searches as a string of keywords, they would then look in the;
- H1 tag
- Title tag
- Image alt text
- Description tag
For the keyword in order to discern whether that site was going to offer the best answer to the user’s query. This, of course, was open to massive amounts of manipulation and keyword stuffing.
And whilst having your keyword in all of those above areas is still important, Google has got smarter and now wants to make sure that the piece of content written is relevant to the topic, and they do this by looking at the context of the content.
If you want a great example of how to utilise the above to rank certain images for queries that return images, then make sure to check out how the most handsome man in Ireland did exactly that in a few simple, easy steps.
Using LSI (latent semantic keywords) in your content
Wait, what does that mean?
LSI are keywords related to your main keyword you are attempting to rank for!
As you can see when you type in ‘dog toys’ on the LSI website you can see other related keywords.
You can also look on Google at related keywords for the topic:
Including these words in your blog post or article about dog toys would then help you potentially rank higher…
But why is that important?
Well, it shows Google that you have covered a topic in an in-depth way, and therefore are likely to offer a valuable piece of content to a user.
This will help satisfy the ‘context’ aspect of their algorithm.
And of course, if you are creating great in-depth content, the chance is you will be including LSI keywords anyway, but these tools are still super handy for making sure you’ve covered as many of them as possible!
Create evergreen content such as ultimate guides
Creating in-depth content has never been more important than in 2019. We’re talking about 2000+ words, that analyse a given topic from every single angle.
Take this blog post that we’ve written for example or our Ultimate Guide to Google updates. These cover the topics of SEO in 2019 and algorithm updates in a multifaceted way!
We haven’t just written one small blog post on using ‘snippets’ as a way of ranking in 2019 or a small article about one Google update.
We compiled them into huge guides because;
- It offers more value to users by giving them one place to read in-depth content on a subject.
- It is great for SEO and showing you have covered the topic in an in-depth manner!
You can read more about evergreen content vs seasonal content here.
Don’t believe the power of in-depth guides/ long content – look at the statistics!
That’ a pretty clear correlation between long content and ranking well on Google.
But not only this;
Getting rid of any short content pages and merging them into bigger content is also well worth your time and energy
Also known as ‘zombie pages’ these pages can actively be pushing you down the rankings! Look at these results from one SEO company that helped a client get rid of their zombie pages and create one bigger piece of content;
As you can see they compiled much of the information into one big guide on VPN usage.
And this was the results in the SERPs for their organic traffic!
Within 30 days the sites organic Google traffic had improved by 16.23%
Within 2 months the Google organic traffic increase was 29.13%
This shows us that getting rid of any zombie pages is a super useful tool in boosting your sites organic traffic!
How do I find zombie pages?
Look in your Google analytics at your pages that are performing the worst and see If you can recreate that content by putting it into one big ultimate guide or just cut your losses!
Remember though: a few zombie pages are NOT a bad thing! The issue is if you’ve spent years creating content just for content’s sake and have amassed an enormous amount of stagnant, lifeless pages!
THINKING MOBILE FIRST
Want to know why mobile is so important?
Well, Google now indexes your mobile page FIRST! That means the way that it judges your site, takes in all the resources and information is from a mobile perspective!
This is a huge game-changer and means that you now have to be thinking about making mobile usability as your first priority!
But what does mobile usability really mean?
1. Think Speed
Page speed is an enormous ranking factor, and mobile page speed is slower than desktop page speed! This means you HAVE to be thinking about optimising your sites speed as much as possible.
Because if a page loads in 1 second on desktop, chances are it’ll load in triple or quadruple that on mobile.
Now there are ways of fixing that issue! But it involves time and know-how on the best ways to optimise your sites speed, no matter if you’re sharing a server or have your own dedicated one!
A way of checking your sites speed is by going to tools.pingdom.com.
You can check your site speed from servers all around the world, and of course the further from your server the longer the speed time, but there are ways around that if you haven’t already optimised for them!
Check out what we’ve done, even for our own site!
Here is one example, using San Francisco as the server base, considering we are in the United Kingdom, which is about 5334 miles away, the need for optimisation is incredibly important in order to avoid slow speeds.
Below is the sites speed in San Francisco before any optimisation.
Below is the speed with basic caching put on:
As you can see there has been a marked improvement of 0.87 of a second. Nearly slashing the time by a third. But there’s more:
As you can see now, we’ve managed to slash well over a second off of the initial load time. This is with a more optimised caching system. But there is one final step you can take to greatly improve the sites speed worldwide.
As you can see from, the initial load time of 2.91 seconds we were able to cut off 2.234 seconds of load time.
Just think if the site had been left at 2.91 seconds on desktop, it could have been closer to a ten second loading time on mobile! That just isn’t acceptable nowadays, and certainly not for mobile-first indexing!
However, this isn’t just super important for usability reasons BUT Googles indexing bot will only allocate a certain amount of time to indexing each page on the internet.
IF your site loads too slowly it will only load SOME of the resources on the page, meaning you may have put in a lot of hard work into your site’s design to optimise it for mobile but Googles bot will not spend the time loading those resources – which yet again can then have a negative effect on rankings!
If this is something that you’ve been affected by or you think your site isn’t as fast it could be! we offer a speed optimisation service for your site, as you can see above we have had great success in improving the speed by over 430% on our own site, as well as many others! If this does interest you drop us a message in live-chat!
2. Use Google search console and Googles mobile-friendly test to see how your website is doing!
Here is an example of a site that is suffering from a few ‘mobile-friendly’ issues that we looked at. These issues have come from the fact that their site wasn’t optimised for speed and therefore Google was missing resources when indexing it, as it took too long to load.
As you can see here it says that not all page resources could be loaded, but they do give indications on what the issues are so you can fix them.
Here are examples of what you may see on Googles mobile-friendly page dependant on whether your site is friendly or not:
This will be what you would see if your site is mobile-friendly
And what you will see if your page is not mobile-friendly.
Google offers advice on this site too on how to improve your sites mobile quality here.
3. Don’t have a separate mobile and desktop version of your site
Google recommends against it as it now ranks mobile first!
4. Make sure every piece of information is visible on the mobile site
Try not to use any hidden tabs or accordions like this:
This study found that hidden content such as these accordions will devalue mobile pages!
Mobile-first was a big change when it was first rolled out, but when we think that nearly 60% of all Google searches worldwide are done on mobile we can understand why Google started to go in the direction they did! We just have to stay out in front of the curve!
If you’re interested in learning more about our speed optimisation then drop us a message in live chat!
RANK IN SNIPPETS
At the time of writing in 2019 snippets accounted for the top result of 13.7% of all searches on Google.
This essentially means if you can create the right kind of content, you could be in spot 0 on Googles SERPs!
But how do you do it?
That’s what we’re going to break down here for you!
1. Find your opportunities to rank
From AH refs you can set your search to show your keywords you rank for with a featured snippet as a filter
This will then show you all your potential opportunities to create content that will work in the featured snippet!
2. How to work out what to rank for?
This study showed us the question words that were most used and most popular in featured snippets. If you can try to fit these into your snippet paragraphs, you would have a greater chance of ranking;
‘How’ was the most popular choice for returning list snippets at 46.9% of results.
With ‘Have’ returning 17.71% of results
For comparison (also known as table) snippets the most popular question was ‘which’ with 16.2% of results.
These results show us the kind of words we should be including in our order to rank for featured snippets.
But there’s more…
The study also found that the most common length of featured snippet was between 40-50 words.
Meaning if you create small paragraphs with the perfect title question and response with 40 to 50 words you will have the best chance of being featured in the snippet.
3. Do remember to take advantage of both the list snippet and the table snippets also
Dependant on what your site is about.
There are plenty of opportunities to get featured on these two types of snippet too.
It mainly depends on the type of content you are putting out.
For example, if you have a baking website, chances are you could rank for
“how do I bake a cake”
Whereas if you have more of a comparison/ informative site, you may have more opportunities to rank in the table (or comparison) featured snippet:
Just remember what sort of question keywords rank best for the featured snippet you’re trying to rank for, and have that in mind when creating your featured snippets on your pages.
4. Using the right formatting!
- For list featured snippets use H2 or H3 for every item on the list
- For table snippets, use a clear and easy to understand table, like the one we featured above.
For example, above, this is what we see on the Google results page.
And then this is what the table looks like on the site. As you can see it is simplistic and is perfect for Google to be able to read, understand and therefore put into a featured snippet.
Good luck implementing these new snippet ideas! If you have great content already ranking on the first page of Google then you have many opportunities to boost yourself up to positon 0 in 2019.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU E.A.T
We don’t know why more SEO professionals aren’t spending time talking about this. Since the YMYL update last year it has been clear that E.A.T is a big part of Googles ranking factors.
But what is it?
Well E.A.T means Expertise, authority and trustworthiness.
Basically, they want to know that your site will provide a valuable, reliable and useful result to its users! And the way they can judge this is by looking at the quality of the authors or creators of the web pages.
Why was the YMYL (medic) update so important last august?
It was one of the biggest updates we’ve seen in its effect on certain web pages, in the medic industry, with some sites seeing massive fallouts. Look at this graph that showed us the disproportionate effect on the medic industry:
It showed us that E.A.T really is an important factor in Google’s ranking system, especially in industries where ‘bad advice’ can lead to potential health issues!
This also came at a time when Google had updated its Search quality rater guidelines to include some pretty specific information on E.A.T!
They then released further information this year on E.AT in their Google white paper on fighting disinformation, which only solidified what we had already thought about E.A.T
Now, this isn’t to say that E.A.T wasn’t a ranking factor before last year.
It has been a factor for years, but since 2018 its importance has increased!
And when we think that we’re now in an era where ‘fake news’ is being disseminated all around the internet, it would make sense that Google would want to show they’re getting out in-front of false information on their platform!
So how do you improve your sites E.A.T in 2019?
There are a number of actionable ways you can help yourself and your site in 2019 to show off its E.A.T!
1. Show off your authors expertise (or if you don’t have any – hire them)
You can do this with author pages including information on their experience, where they’ve worked, awards they’ve received, papers they’ve published etc, links to their Wikipedia pages (if they have them 🙂 )
2. Be as transparent as possible on your site
This means having easy to see ‘about us’ pages with clear information about what the company does, any awards they’ve won, reviews, papers published etc!
Also, have a clear way to contact the site owner – e.g. live chat, email, contact-us forms etc! This shows Google that you are a responsible and contactable site owner!
3. Create great, insightful, long content
We won’t delve into this point too much as we spoke at length about it already but if you create longer, quality content, that is well referenced out to other authoritative pages that back up what you are saying (like you would with an essay) this looks more trustworthy to Google!
4. Don’t use meta titles with overly-pushy sales tactics
We spoke about this in our E.A.T blog post, and gave the example of Peachy – a financial payday loan company in the UK:
They had been ranking well before August 1st with meta titles such as; “short terms loans at Peachy (Get up to £1000 today)”.
However, Google viewed this as trying to coerce the user into parting with their money when it may not be in their best interest! When they changed the title back to; “Short term loans at Peachy (trusted by 2 million customers” they saw increases in their CTR from 7.3% to 10%. This was because the title played on the TRUST of the user rather than pushy selling tactics!
5. Don’t sell a bad/dishonest product or service and expect to do well with E.A.T
This is what was said by Google in its quality rater guidelines:
As you can see, even if you write all the right stuff on your page, if external sites are saying otherwise and talking about your product, even with mixed opinions, you will be likely to be penalised for it by Google.
ESPECIALLY if you’re in a more high-risk industry such as the medic or financial industry!
Voice search seems to be the next big thing in SEO, how do we know this?
Well look at these statistics put out by Google recently:
Pretty impressive right?
It’s clear that voice search is getting more and more popular every year! A study also found that the amount of voice searches performed has gone up by 35x in the last 10 years!
So it’s clear that we should be trying to optimise our content for voice search, but how?
1. Your content MUST rank highly
Just like with featured snippets, Google will only really take an answer, most of the time, from the top 3 ranking pages for the query!
2. Is your content in a featured snippet?
For queries that return a featured snippet – chances are Google will take the response straight from it!
3. Include a question and answer in your content
As most voice queries will be questions this can be a useful way to rank for voice search. Look at some of these examples below:
I asked Google: How do planes fly?
This was the first result offered:
As you can see this result included the EXACT question I had asked in the first place.
Now the hard work is up to you implementing some of these great ideas for voice search 🙂
Now it’s your turn!
You should have learned by now some of the best ways to improve your SEO game in 2019. If you implement ALL of these points you WILL see improvements in the SERPs for your business.
And if you don’t have time to implement everything (I mean there’s a lot) then we’re always on hand to help with gaining you high quality and relevant backlinks, because as you know backlinks are still the only way you ever have a chance of getting on that first page! Great content on its own just ain’t gonna cut it!
We can also offer speed optimisation for your site. This has literally never been more important than it is in 2019. We spend a lot of time agonising over how to get ours, and others sites to the peak speed they can possibly be, and that can mean hours and hours over days of trying to optimise absolutely everything. But we’ve now created a fool-proof method as you’ve seen above that can get your site to be the fastest it possibly can be, and with mobile-first indexing that has never been more key to any SEO campaign!
We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, is there anything we’ve missed? Any nuggets of gold SEO information to add then we’d love to hear it 🙂