In 2018 we saw significant changes in search results in four main areas:
- Localised search
- User intent
- Site usability
Google implements changes to its ranking algorithm on a daily basis, all intended to improve the relevancy and quality of its search results.
We observed last year that the main areas above were where Google appeared to be making significant strides and possibly creating the most disruption.
Localised and personalised search
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about “personalised search” but most personalisation is location based.
Search on your phone for “co-working space” and Google will direct you to the nearest space to where you are now, without you needing to specifically search with a location in the search query.
2018 has only further enhanced location-based searching with mobile results heavily focused towards localised results.
As search results are now based on the mobile version of websites, with nearly all sites on a mobile-first index, a major change that happened in 2018 this means that optimising for local searches is an absolute priority for most businesses.
How Google perceived the intent behind a search query is evolving continuously.
We may not always agree with how the intent is being perceived, but websites need to adapt their content accordingly.
Whereas in the past the plural of a search term will have yielded similar results to the singular version, today, even the plural version can yield very different results as Google sees the intent behind the search terms to be different.
Freshness signals continue to get stronger.
As the internet is flooded with millions of new pages every day, having outdated content on a website can quickly make it start to slip in the rankings. We saw in 2018 that Google was tending to favour fresher content much more so than in the past.
Usability – user experience UX
And finally, a major area of change has been in website usability.
With the advent of the mobile-first index, the focus on mobile usability was very new but also very significant. Websites that were not well set up for users and, as a result, for search engines lost rankings in 2018 and will continue to do in 2019.
Google is increasingly using data from Chrome browsers to assess the user-friendliness of a site. There’s no escaping the fact that every site needs to offer users a good experience on mobile devices.
This is a direct consequence of the change to the mobile-first index.
So what can we expect in 2019?
We know for sure that there will be some significant updates to the algorithm; there are some each year. We don’t know what those updates will be but we can be prepared for them by understanding the direction that Google is taking with search.
We see the following areas of the utmost importance in 2019:
As mentioned above, local search is going to continue to evolve. We are going to see more influence from external sources in rankings, such as reviews and user-based feedback and local results will be further enhanced.
Google is constantly asking Maps users to give feedback everywhere they go. This information will be fed back into the local search ranking algorithm.
Matching users’ intent is the secret to successful marketing.
What Google understands as the intent behind a search query is going to become even more important as Google continues to better understand what users want. This may mean different pages of content for similar search queries but targeted to different intents and aligning to the search results.
The limited screen size on mobiles has required a complete rethink as to how content is displayed on website pages. Google is adapting its search results based on how mobile pages are set up. As Google’s understanding of how users interact with mobile pages improves, an increased focus on mobile usability is absolutely fundamental for search success going forward.
With its Chrome browser, Google has usability data across all pages of a website. Usability is a key factor in 2019.
Content freshness and quality
Even for search queries that are not time sensitive, Google is now regularly showing fresher, more up-to-date content in the search results than it used to.
Freshness signals have always been important for searches that change over time, such as news related searches, but we are now seeing this increasing for what has often been regarded as static search results. Freshness signals appear to be increasing in influence across all search results and we expect that to continue to grow in 2019.
High-quality relevant backlinks
Backlinks are still very important. However, not all links are created equal.
During 2018 we saw that links from relevant and authoritative websites had the most impact on rankings. This seems obvious but it means that “regular” links are losing value over time.
As Google can see which links are clicked, through its Chrome browser, it is links that are actually clicked or could potentially be clicked that have value. With links, it’s always been about the value of the website but in 2019 we will see even greater influence in terms of the value of the link itself to the user.
Those are the main areas where we see search heading in 2019.
There will be many other factors that come into play, such as increased refinement of results using AI, more integration of featured snippets and FAQ type suggestions in results. Search is evolving quickly it’s important to ensure your website is always at the cutting edge of Google’s algorithm changes.
The article was written by John from John Kramer Marketing. A bespoke SEO and digital marketing agency based in Málaga. They help ambitious companies grow faster with modern marketing, remarkable content and growth-driven design. Contact them today, they’d love to hear about your business and how they can help you achieve your marketing goals.