So here we are at the end of another year. It’s the time of year where we typically all look forward to the future, wondering what will come next in the digital evolution that molds our everyday lives. At Edgewater, it’s the time of year that we typically start fielding numerous questions from our partners and clients about what they should look for in the coming year. So here’s our take on a few digital trends we will see during our next lap around the sun.
MOBILE OPTIMIZATION – REALLY? STILL?
It feels like we’ve been talking about this for the last decade… Oh right, that’s because we have. Here’s the deal: People are increasingly turning to their phones for online searches. Frankly, that’s old news and, if you missed it, it might be because you are still using a flip phone and can’t use Google on it.
So, why is mobile optimization going to be a trend in the upcoming year then? Well, because 2019 will be the first full year of Google’s “mobile first index.” Allow me to explain. In March of 2018 Google made the announcement that they will be predominantly using the mobile version of content for indexing, so if you aren’t prepared, you are likely going to take a hit on the website traffic side of things. (Or come talk to us, as we can help you with that.)
In short, Google will begin with your content’s mobile version when deciding where that content is placed in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). So, if you are using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) or your site is responsive (and that content happens to load fast), you will likely have no issues. However, we’ve seen a trend in websites getting heavier and slower as designers take advantage of features that don’t play well with smartphone processors and screen limitations. So mobile optimization is not just about resizing images and buttons to work on a phone, it’s a balance of mobile functionality with our next topic, which is:
SPEED BABY, SPEEEEEEED!
Desktop site speed has been a Google ranking factor for almost eight years. Again, that’s not really news, but Google is now including mobile sites in the speed ranking equation as well. So, if you weren’t already focused on your site’s performance, Google is giving you yet another reason. In July of 2018, Google started using a ranking signal focused purely on mobile site speed. They called it the “Speed Update.“ In short, they will be lowering rankings for slower mobile sites in order to help mobile searchers find sites that deliver what Google considers to be a “better mobile experience.” No big deal if your site is already fast, but if it’s not as fast as your competitor’s then things are going to get competitive, quickly.
So some people are saying things like: “I spend enough on Google Ads to not worry about search rank.” Well, not so fast. Remember, in Google Ads the quality of your landing page for an ad can affect your Ad Rank. Ad Rank is defined by Google as: “A value that’s used to determine your ad position (where ads are shown on a page relative to other ads) and whether your ads will show at all. Ad Rank is calculated using your bid amount, your auction-time ad quality (including expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience).”
What that means is that the landing page experience part is vital because, according to Google, two of the four things you can do to improve that experience is:
- Decrease your landing page loading time.
- Make your site fast.
No, I didn’t just repeat myself. Notice how Google prioritizes speed so highly that they added it twice? So, with page speed now being measured on mobile, you could be spending more money to beat a competitor with the same exact content but a faster loading page.
USER INTENT AND VOICE SEARCH
This is going to be everywhere in the upcoming year. If you haven’t noticed, Google doesn’t really want to be a search engine. They want to be an answer engine. In fact, Eric Schmidt from Google is on record saying, “The long-term goal is to be able to give you one answer, which is exactly the right answer.” Let’s look at that statement very carefully. That’s not serving you a link in which you can then go find the answer, that’s giving you an answer, up-front, without you ever having to click through to a website to read it. Let that sink in for a moment. That’s why they are so excited about the AMP project (which we’ll tackle in an upcoming post). It’s not about really making the web faster, it’s getting people to put their websites into a format that Google can then scrape content from and serve up in their search results pages to answer questions without anyone having to click through to your website. The kicker is that you are already seeing it. Does this image below look familiar to you?
That’s right, I don’t need to click on the link to get an idea of what the butterfly effect is. Google answered my question and I can move on with my life. That, folks, is just the beginning.
So, search engine optimization hasn’t been about stuffing popular keywords into your web pages for some time now. It is about integrating relevant keywords so that your site delivers an answer to the searcher’s question. For your own benefit, you want traffic from people who intended to seek out products and services offered by your website.
That’s important because intent optimization is the future of search. Why? Because the future of search is voice-based search. Hey Siri? Alexa? Okay Google? Cortana? Think about it, we’re already getting very used to voice-controlled search, and all of those services are collecting massive amounts of data in order to help companies understand intent. We all have times where we simply have to call someone or meet face to face in order to get our point across because email may not be the best approach. Why is that? That’s because our voice, and all its subtle inflections and tones, can communicate intent far faster than the written word. For most of of us, anyway.
Search is no different. Few people type in chopped versions of a search query anymore. (Think about typing in “purple umbrellas” into Google and then sifting through a bunch of sites to see where you can buy one.) We can now clearly state what we are looking for in terms of products, services or information. The same task above can be accomplished in seconds (and even while driving — not that we suggest that) with a simple statement of “Hey Siri, where can I buy a purple umbrella?” Think about what that means for the future of search.
We are going to be hearing a lot more talk about user intent and voice search in 2019 for sure as more of our devices are always on and listening to every word we say. In fact, it has been estimated that 50% of search will be voice by 2020, so the transition is already happening. Let’s put it this way, why do you think Instagram REALLY put walkie talkie style communication in their app, that’s on a phone – a device to use your voice to talk to people? Yeah, it’s not about another way to talk to people, it’s about a way to study your voice, your words, your intonation and, eventually, to serve you ads based on what you talk about, because advertising to people who intend to buy a service that you happen to offer is far more effective than any other type of advertising.
So what other trends do think (or hope) we will see in 2019? Leave your comments, questions or predictions in the comment section below and don’t hesitate to contact us directly.
Sean Rieger is Chief Marketing Officer for Edgewater Digital a boutique digital marketing agency in Houston Texas. Before taking up the torch for small businesses everywhere, he built digital teams, tactics, and strategies for Honeywell, Rice University, the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Everything else about him is kind of boring, so we’ll skip it.