Listen in as Jordan and Ben kickoff the new year with our 2019 SEO Predictions Week as they review how Google is likely to adjust its search Algorithm to reflect the growing importance integrated search and external signals.
Ben: Welcome to 2019, SEO predictions week on the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering our bold SEO predictions for 2019. But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complementary digital diagnostic, a member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic, go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.
Ben: Okay. Joining us for SEO predictions week is Jordan Koene, who is the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics, Inc. and today, we’re going to start off SEO predictions week talking about how Jordan thinks Google will change their search algorithm in 2019. Here is the first installment of SEO predictions week with Jordan Koene, CEO of Searchmetrics. Jordan, it’s great to have you back on the show.
Jordan: Thanks, Ben. I think everyone should hold onto their seat. This is going to be a fun five episodes here.
Ben: I’m excited. Happy New Year. And let’s kick off the content, the recording for the beginning of the year by talking about what we think is going to happen. Tell be about how you think Google’s algorithm is going to change in 2019.
Jordan: Great question, Ben. So first off, the reality is that Google always likes to state that they make all these changes, that they make hundreds of changes throughout the year. But reality is, there’s a handful of core updates throughout the year. And when we look at the core updates, what we can expect to see is a continuation of focus on content updates in the beginning of the year, understanding and refactoring certain elements around content. And then maybe towards the back half of the year, I think one of the key predictions that we should really highlight is Google’s likely focus on linking and back linking and the authority of back links.
Ben: So why do you think that the content update and refactoring is going to come at the beginning of the year as opposed to at the end of the year, you think that there’s going to be restructuring of the purpose and value of back links?
Jordan: So, part of it is just tradition. Typically, we see some big content related or what you would consider Panda-related updates in the beginning of the year. And then the other part of it is that, what we would expect to see is that Google will likely focus on understanding what are the key external signals to rank content more aggressively towards the back half of the year. It’s something that Google hasn’t been adjusting quite as much in recent years, but I also think that as Google … and again, this is a crazy bold prediction here, is Google sunsets Google+ and their social media efforts, which is a known thing that’s been out in the news already. Google’s probably going to be looking at, “Hey, what are some of these signals? As we take this resource away, what should we be looking at as external validation of content or ranking?”
Ben: Interesting. So as Google end the life of their social network, they’re potentially going to be looking at other social networks and signals of what could be ranking?
Jordan: Certainly. Other social networks, they could be looking at reestablishing category dominant TLDs like they used to do with .gov’s or .edu’s and links from those being more valuable. They may be even looking at what will likely happen … and this is the more likely outcome, is they may start looking at different machine learning and AI technologies that can help them determine the mention or the presence of certain brands within content and content sources that are non-traditional. Like, say, video or, hey, how about this, podcasts. How many times do we mention the word Google or we mention some other brand in this podcast? If Google can start to determine that and highlight that, they can use that data to determine the quality of certain brands in online presence of companies.
Ben: Okay, so at the beginning of the year, you’re looking at a content refactoring, and the back of the year, you’re looking for a change in the external factors that Google prioritizes, specifically because Google+ is going to be ending. So we might be looking at non-traditional content sources like social networks and podcasts and videos and Google starting to sort of suck the data out of these other mediums to point people to more relevant content.
Jordan: So, go into a little bit more about what you mean with the content refactoring.
Ben: The reality is that there is a lot of debate over what is content quality and what is a useful piece of content and how to determine the usefulness of the piece of content. And the reality is that Google’s probably going to be looking at a variety of different data points to prioritize how one piece of content should outrank another piece of content if all other factors are seemingly equal, which obviously is really how it works. And one of the things that probably is a nice connection point here is Google using data from integrated search or universal search elements to understand if one piece of content is, say, better than another.
Ben: And so, one of the things that Google could look at is, when we, say, embed the video of this page onto the SERP in our video carousel, should we also then rank that page higher? And to some degree, Google already does this, right? But most of us as search experts, what we think about all the time is, we think about, “How do we add stuff to our content to become prevalent or relevant in these different integrated search experiences?” But the unique thing is that, Google’s likely using that exact same data to then understand, “How do we adjust our rankings?”
Jordan: So let me give them the layman’s understanding of what you’re saying. There’s all these ways that you can get these special UI’s to pop up in Google search, right? Your featured snippet, Twitter has an integration, you look for something and Wikipedia sort of posts a snippet about it at the top of the page. And by creating formats on your pages that can be sucked in by Google as part of integrated search, not only … your prediction is, not only will that help you secure that specialized user experience, but that will also factor in how your pages are evaluated as a whole.
Ben: Bingo. Absolutely.
Jordan: So talk to be about some of the integrated search. I mentioned the featured snippet or Wikipedia or Twitter. What are some of the other integrated search experiences that you think could have an impact on rankings in 2019?
Ben: So the number one change that you should expect to see in 2019 is a higher prevalence of integrated search and extended search experiences in mobile. And what I mean by that higher percentage is, if you had a hundred keywords, and if ten of them had a mobile element, a universal search element on mobile, next year you can expect to see 12. If you’re looking at that same pool of a hundred keywords. So the reality is that, what Google’s going to be doing is, they’re going to be investing in different ways to highlight content within mobile experiences so that they can surface, A, more options and selection for users, and B, better understand what should rank higher in search by using data from these universal and extended search experiences. So these are things like, say, image carousels or the map integration or direct answers or the Twitter card. So these all will become more prevalent. There’s going to be a higher percentage of content showing up in these elements in 2019, specifically in mobile.
Jordan: It’s interesting. So it gets onto the topic that we’ve covered a fair amount on this podcast, and we spent an entire … we do an entire month on position zero. But basically, the race above the top of search results is going to become increasingly important.
Ben: That’s right. And I think there’s going to be a couple of key places where this takes place. I think that where we’re going to see a huge dominance here is in news and news-related integration. I also think that we’re going to see a big, big increase in what you consider the direct answer box. I also believe that we’re going to see an evolution of the direct answer. So can Google become a bit more sophisticated in the way that they showcase a direct answer?
Ben: And for all of those individuals out there that have been using search for a long time, which I hope is all of you, and for all of those who’ve been working in search for a long time, think of this as the evolution of the Wikipedia knowledge graph showing up on the right-hand side of Google. Right? At first, it was just kind of a single box with a sentence of text. And now, you have birthdays and release dates of albums and the cities that these people were born in, and you have all kinds of data inside of that knowledge graph. And that, I believe, is going to be the same evolution that we should see in the direct answer. You’re going to get choice, selection, depth within the direct answer.
Jordan: This all feels very much like Google is working its way towards what ends up being a great solution in voice search. They’re trying to come up with the quick, on-demand answers and the single piece of content or the single answer as opposed to having an experience where you have to come through all of the listings. So, you’re essentially saying they’re going to take a step forward in providing different experiences for basically people to get whatever information they’re looking for provided by Google above search results.
Ben: Yep. Exactly.
Jordan: And then in the second half of the year, you mentioned that we’re looking at how links are evaluated and some of the external factors. How does that tie into this integrated search change?
Ben: Well, I think it’s a little limited in how it’s connected to the integrated search aspect. What it should so for all of the search marketers out there is really start to elevate the gameplay that you have with Google in terms of making your content more prevalent. And it also, in one way, does connect to integrated search in the sense that these external factors will likely have a much more significant impact on who’s present in these integrated search experiences. And so, today, it’s really more about, as most of you probably heard in integrated search week … or was it week or month?
Jordan: It felt like forever.
Ben: Yeah. So integrated search month, you probably heard a lot about the tactics around what content you need to use, how you’d display the content, different technical elements behind it. But you didn’t really hear a lot about how frequently this content is being mentioned, or is this content very popular? And I believe that Google, if they really want to get to a place where they’re truly creating a competitive ecosystem for these placements in the SERP, they’re going to have to take into account those factors.
Jordan: Yeah. I think my take-away for the SEOs that are listening is, you might want to go back and listen to some of the previous podcasts that we’ve published talking about integrated search, voice search, how to get to position zero. It seems like that suggestion is that understanding the mechanisms for ranking above search results is going to become increasingly important in 2019.
Ben: You got it. That’s right.
Jordan: Great. Any last words on your predictions for any changes to Google’s algorithm for 2019?
Ben: Maybe a quick summary for those of the folks who maybe had a hard time following this one, since this’ll be really useful for you. Beginning of the year, we’re going to see some big changes to the algorithm around content and content quality. End of the year, we’re going to be looking at factors on how Google ranks pages based on external mentions or external validation like links, for example, or social media presence. Also, one of the big take-aways from our conversation here is that you really need to be thinking about integrated search and how integrated search is going to evolve, in particular around mobile. And that, I think, is going to be probably the most significant change that we see from Google in terms of their layout is, how frequently they show results, integrated search results, excuse me, inside of mobile.
Jordan: I think that’s a great recap. There’s lots to look forward to in 2019. And that wraps up this episode of The Voices of Search Podcast. That’s for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, the CEO of Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his bio in our show notes, or you can contact him on Twitter where his handle is @JTKoene. If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can tweet me @BenJShap.
Jordan: If you’re interested in learning about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to Searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complementary advisory session with our digital strategies team. If you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to discuss Jordan’s predictions for how Google will refactor and evaluate your content in 2019.
Jordan: Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we would love for you to leave us a review in the iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.