Every day, the landscape of online marketing seems to shift.
As the first month of 2019 draws to a close, digital marketing experts make forecasts about where the industry’s variable winds will next blow. While some urge companies to embrace new innovations, others caution that abandoning fundamentals could be a huge mistake.
We’ve gathered the advice of 11 experts to help you and your website thrive in 2019. Here are a few major takeaways:
Diversify Your SEO Skills
Search engine optimization has always been a multistep process. Most businesses use a plethora of strategies to help their website rank. However, Nick Stone, founder of Charlottesville SEO Web Development, says that as Google increases the number of ranking factors under consideration, SEO resellers need more tools in their toolbox to achieve results:
“Achieving and maintaining top rankings for high-traffic keywords requires the expertise to impact an increasing number of ranking factors as Google decreases the weight of individual signals. Achieving results requires a multidisciplinary approach. In this evolving arena, SEO resellers can provide an essential gap-filling role for small agencies and independent consultants.”
John Locke of Locke Down Design makes a similar observation, explaining that at every level, companies throughout the digital marketing industry are transforming and expanding their toolsets and platform preferences:
“At the lower end of the market, I see more people implementing DIY SEO. Existing SEO software in tools can help people get part of the way to their goals. In the midmarket, I see people putting less effort into Facebook and Pinterest than in previous years, and more effort into Instagram and YouTube. More midsize businesses are exploring ongoing relationships with SEO companies.”
While small and mid-size businesses might be seeking both individual SEO growth and growth with outside companies, even high-end, large corporations need partnerships with SEO companies. By offering a wide variety of services, an SEO company can appeal to bigger business that need extra help here and there.
“At the high-end of the market, we are seeing companies look at SEO, social, and other digital marketing as mature channels in their overall marketing strategy,” Locke says. “Large companies usually have in-house development and marketing teams, but are partnering up with specialty agencies that have expertise in skills they lack in-house.”
Overall, Locke believes that companies of all sizes need the help of outside agencies with in-depth knowledge. He says that “across all markets, specialized SEO insight is valuable. Many sites were hit by the Google updates in August, September, and October 2018. Companies that are focused on improving content, UX, and brand awareness will do well in 2019.”
Dean Cacioppo of One Click SEO agrees that companies need to expand their skill set and change with the times, particularly when it comes to localized rankings.
“We expect Google to become more cohesive in 2019,” explains Cacioppo. “We are now seeing a direct correlation between the success of a Google My Business listing and traditional SEO. Before, you could rank a GMB account locally without even having a website. In addition, you could organically rank a website without a GMB listing. Those days seem to be numbered. To effectively rank in traditional SERPS or in Maps you really need to maximize both sets ranking signals. Google will be looking closer at the authority of your website even for localized map searches and vice versa.”
Find Your Niche
Any successful marketing campaign requires finding and defining a target audience. In 2019, however, a company’s audience must be even more specific. Sony Surana of Creative Web Mall elaborates:
“Targeting a niche segment is the business success mantra for 2019. With growth of multiple competitors daily, you must build the need for your product or service to the users. Concentrate on making your USP strong. SEO is the most trusted and sustainable way to get online business.”
Though Surana believes in the importance of a niche market, he also believes in a simple, two-step approach to SEO:
“Two main criteria to get your website on top of Google search is, firstly, increasing website traffic by providing informative unique content and promoting the same in various social media platforms. The second is getting as many quality backlinks for your website as possible.”
Edward Winslow of metrocrete.com agrees that as time progresses, SEO success will require further niche specialization. Winslow believes that a niche can be found in either a small geographic area, or through offering a very specific service. He says:
“The future of search engine optimization success is with an authority site in a narrow niche. In local markets there are two options: geographic focus (for multi-business) strategy, or narrow niche in a broad geographic area such as state, regional or national.”
Winslow believes that finding a niche helps all kinds of small companies stay competitive. “Large sites are consuming the prime Google real estate,” he says. “Local businesses in most cases will not be able to compete with authority sites. Facebook ads are an option for small businesses, but to be successful small businesses need to build their brands with Prime Google My Business ranking and Facebook ads.”
Embrace New Directions Voice Search
When it comes to the future of SEO in 2019, David Prian of Phoenix Online Media has succinct advice:
“Two words. Voice search. Voice search continues to grow in popularity every year as more and more people are utilizing it to get quick answers from their cell phone and personal assistants, like Google Home and Alexa. Some sources even estimate that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice search.”
Optimizing content for voice search is a new arena for many SEO companies. Prian advises exploring FAQ pages and embracing more concise phrasing to keep up with voice optimization.
“One thing that has been working really well is FAQ pages,” Prian says. “We collaborate to come up with about 10 relevant FAQs. The questions we pick will be based on industry and keyword research, but more importantly, gained from actually having a discussion with the business owner and asking them what are some questions they tend to get asked more often than not… We generally keep the questions around three to 10 words tops, and provide a one or two sentence direct answer before going into more detail if needed. The more concise and ‘non fluff’ your answer is, the more likely Google is to serve it.”
Mike Carson from itdwebdesign.com also acknowledges that while trends from years past will continue to play out, voice search is a key trend to watch through 2019:
“Links and long form content will continue to prevail through 2019; however, we will see more focus on optimizing on-page SEO factors for user intent, featured snippets, and of course voice search. We are getting more and more inquiries about how voice search works and how our clients can optimize for it. Website owners are getting more savvy about what they should be doing with regards to optimizing their content for showing up in featured snippet results as well.”
… But Don’t Forget the Essentials
Voice search has certainly transformed the SEO landscape by making search queries more conversational. However, some tried-and-true SEO methods beyond voice optimization and snippets remain effective. In fact, Matthew Edgar of Elementive warns other SEO companies not to abandon the basics:
“As we start 2019, there are a lot of bright shiny SEO objects we could focus on, like snippets or schema. There is some potential there, but the websites that routinely get the best results are instead focusing on the fundamentals.”
In Edgar’s eyes, sticking to traditional SEO checklists can help companies find ways to improve their rankings. He asks, “are title tags written in the best possible way to drive clicks? Is the website easily crawlable and does it load fast? Is there thin or duplicate content?”
According to Edgar, “the most effective 2019 SEO strategy is recognizing there are always opportunities to review and strengthen the fundamentals.”
Focus on User Experience
Melissa Lushbaugh from South Made Marketing doesn’t necessarily recommend using old or new SEO tools– instead, she argues that personalization and user experience will make or break an SEO campaign in 2019.
“Focus your efforts on user experience,” Lushbaugh urges. “Whether it’s your website or your social media, you need to engage your audience.”
Lushbaugh makes a few recommendations for creating a more unique and personal customer relationship:
“One way to engage your audience is using custom images. These will perform better than stock photos. Also, use your data. Your posts should revolve around data, and not just posting to post. Think about the purpose of each caption, each picture. What do you want this post to do? Drive traffic to your website? Answer a question? Invoke a reaction? Buy a product? Ask a question?”
Keyan Taji of Approach SEO agrees that successful SEO can no longer appeal to Google’s algorithms alone. Instead, he recommends “holistic” methods that put users first.
“Digital Marketing has rapidly developed over the years, originally starting off as a one-eyed approach to building links, achieving rankings and waiting for leads to come flooding through the gateways,” Taji explains.
“However, with the rise of Google’s latest algorithm comes a change in focus to now favoring websites that provide actual value for the readers, rather than just content optimized for search engine rankings. This new holistic approach has set the foundation for several years to come. Marketers need to focus on not just the standard building blocks of creating an aesthetically pleasing site, but also on creating an entity and brand which can be deemed by Google as being an authority.”
Al Gomez of Dlinkers also urges SEO strategists to prioritize user experience, quality content, and personalization.
“Nowadays, we can see that our clients are more interested in customer connection,” Gomez says. “They are asking how to get connected with their current and future customers. And this deals with the application of customer outreach and engaging content. Customer outreach through social media and personalized emails is still on the rise.”
Gomez believes that newer digital marketing platforms will shape customer interactions in 2019, especially video and chatbots:
“Chatbot use will increase. It is the answer nowadays for 24/7 and responsive customer support. We can also see the value of consistent use of awesome content. Videos are also a must. Following the fundamentals of good video production can make an impressive impact.”
As these 11 digital marketing leaders make plain, 2019 will be a year of exciting changes and challenges. Diversify your skills, find your niche, and prioritize users in 2019, but don’t slack off on SEO fundamentals. To keep your strategy fresh and effective, aim to strike a balance between innovation and stability. Armed with this advice, 2019 might be the year that your business and your rankings truly soar.