By: Matt Bare, Q4Launch
Did you know that each year, Google makes more than 500 changes to its search algorithm? Most of these updates go unnoticed, but there are always a few major changes that shake things up and keep search engine optimization an ever-changing game. If you’re interested in succeeding in the online space and growing your outdoor business’ digital presence, it’s critical that you stay up-to-speed with Google in 2019.
Google’s Major Updates in 2018
In 2018, a few significant updates affected nearly all websites. Google confirmed the Brackets update in early March which began rewarding sites with longer, authoritative content and penalizing sites with thin content. Also in March, Google rolled out the Mobile First Index which meant that search engine bots will now first crawl websites as if they’re on a mobile device.
The summer brought about two major changes — a Mobile Speed Update in July, which affected slow-loading mobile sites, and the “Medic” update in August, which most notably impacted websites in the health and wellness industries. Lastly and most recently, Google changed the way hotel search results are displayed in November, affecting how hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals are found online.
Why It’s Important to Succeed Through Google
So why do digital marketers continue to chase after Google’s seemingly endless updates? Google organic traffic is the number one source of traffic for nearly all websites in the United States. Google traffic is higher quality than most other sources of traffic and it tends to generate revenue at higher rates than other traffic sources. Fighting for space in the organic traffic realm is tough, but Google Ads and other paid traffic are going to continue to get more expensive. If you want your website to succeed in 2019, it’s best to keep up with Google.
5 Ways to Succeed Through Google in 2019
Below are five ways to successfully optimize your website for Google in 2019. As you read through this list, keep in mind that Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the best answer for its users. Customer satisfaction is at the forefront of all of Google’s algorithm updates. If you’re creating an optimal experience for your users, you’re optimizing for Google.
1.Keep RankBrain Happy
RankBrain is Google’s machine learning system that helps its search engine bots sort and rank results. Two factors that influence RankBrain are dwell time (the amount of time a user spends on a webpage) and bounce rate (the percentage of user sessions that result in no interaction with the page, or a “bounce”). Working to improve the dwell time and bounce rate on your site will help your site increase in rankings. To do so, fill your site with fresh, engaging content based on relevant keyword topics. Enrich your content with images and videos that will capture the attention of your audience. Give your users a reason to stay on your site! If Google sees good behavior from the traffic it sends you, it’s more likely to send you more.
2. Speed Up Your Page Load Time
The Mobile Speed Update in July made page speed a ranking factor for websites. The slowest websites were penalized with decreases in rankings. It’s critical that you make sure your pages load quickly. Aim for a goal of less than three seconds. A few free tools that you can use to check the speed of your website include Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Website Speed Test, and GTMetrix. These sites provide a page speed score along with a list of opportunities for improvement. Keep an eye out for large photos as they are often the main culprit!
3. Gain Consistent Google Reviews
Google’s goal is to deliver the best results for its users, but how does it know if your business is a good choice? From its users! Every positive review posted about your business is essentially a vote of confidence that your site is worthy of rankings. Following the Brackets algorithm update in March, more reviews are showing up in search results. So if acquiring positive reviews on Google (and on other platforms like Yelp and Facebook) hasn’t been a top priority for you, it should be now! If you’re stumped for ways to get more reviews, try asking for them in an automated thank you email or at the end of your email signature.
4. Pay Attention to Your SEO Competition
One of the easiest yet most overlooked ways to improve your site is by looking at what your competitors are doing. There are several tools out there such as SEMrush and Moz Pro that you can use to scrape competitors’ websites to see what keyword topics they’re targeting and what other sites are linking to them. Even without paid tools, you can visit competitors’ sites on your own to see what they’re doing well and get ideas for making your own site better. What kind of content are they providing and how frequently? How are they engaging their users? What can you do better?
5. Prepare for More Changes
If you’ve been following Google for any amount of time, it shouldn’t be surprising that many more updates are on the way. The best way to stay on top of the game is to continually focus on providing the best answers for your customers. When it comes to SEO, it’s all about the fundamentals. Avoid any spammy tactics or shortcuts, and if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is. If you keep this goal in mind, you’re much more likely to succeed and take less of a hit when Google inevitably rolls out something new.
About the Author:
Note: Search engine optimization will be increasingly difficult yet increasingly important in 2019. If you follow the guidelines above, you’re five steps closer to success than your competition and you will minimize any negative impacts from future updates. There are great resources available for staying up-to-date on the latest Google Algorithm Updates. We encourage you to follow the Q4Launch blog, check out Mozcast and SEMrush Sensor. Just remember not to panic when a new update rolls out. Rather, be patient and make data-driven decisions.