Blogging actions to keep ahead of SEO competition in 2019 and beyond

Before we go to the tips for keeping the blog optimized for search engines while avoiding penalties for wrong or excessive SEO, let us see how the search engines are behaving in recent years and how they would in future. If you want to jump to the tips section, use this link: SEO strategies for 2019 and beyond.


IN SEARCH RESULTS, ADVERTISEMENTS WIN OVER CONTENT


Whether it is desktop or mobile, the organic search results on search engines are preceded by paid results and/or advertisements. This is not a new trend, but paid content is going to be more intrusive in future. You as a consumer will continue to pay this price for getting search results for free, in 2019 and beyond.

If you are an ordinary website owner or blogger, you will also have to bear with all sorts of premium results, e.g. featured snippets, knowledge graph etc alongside the search results. Moreover, with the strong muscle that corporate houses have, most of top results will be from them only. Even if Google and Bing do not look as greedy as Facebook in giving prominence to ‘premium’ (which often is synonymous with 'paid') content over organic one, their opaque algorithms seem to be favoring the mighty for paying keywords. All their concerns about quality results come only after their commercial interests.


TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE HELPS A LOT FOR GETTING ON TOP OF SERP


In earlier days, we learnt, observed and advised others that ‘content is king’. Now that Google etc have automated everything relating to search, your technical presentation of content matters a lot. All your content is some form of data – and so, if it is ‘structured’ well and can be picked up by their artificial intelligence (AI) or other tools better, your webpages have much higher chance of showing up – and showing up with snippets, recommendations, likes/ stars etc. Small businesses and individual bloggers who do not have the expertise or can’t invest in search-friendly technical features such as rich cards, AMP etc are likely to lose to others more than earlier.


MOBILE-FIRST OPTIMIZATION


Since the smartphone is becoming the first – and sometimes the only – device on which people browse the web, search engines are now giving a lot of importance to searches on mobile phones. That means, content that is in short form and visuals that are ‘responsive’ have much higher chance of being served to searchers. Once a webpage is served in response to a query, such type of content is also likely to be read/ viewed more, which in turn upgrades such webpages in terms of SEO.


QUALITY AND RELEVANCE ARE STILL IMPORTANT FOR THE USER


The searcher of today is pampered as well as impulsive. He demands search results of high quality and the ones that are related closely to the search query. That forces search engines to look for content of high quality. That also makes search engines devise ways to better understand search queries and then suggest related queries and also serve relevant results. And that is the saving grace for small website owners and bloggers.

Bloggers and website owners who continuously dish out quality content are at an advantage due to this craving for good content. All things being equal, Google (and perhaps Yahoo!, Bing, Amazon) would put a webpage with high-quality content over the ones with poor-quality content.


SOME SEO IS A MUST EVEN FOR GREAT CONTENT


Since quality content need not automatically become relevant to search queries, web publishers (that would include bloggers and other website owners) MUST put in place some SEO, however much they may be wary of it. If they fail to do so, there is no chance of their appearing anywhere in the search results due to competition and factors mentioned above.

When RankBrain was announced by Google in 2016, some predicted that it would annihilate SEO. But instead of doing that, it has made some new factors (e.g. data) more important than others. The ethical SEO has remained useful, though overtaken by new factors on one hand and commercial interests on the other.


SEARCH ENGINES’ NEW TOOLS SEEM TO FAVOR THE WINNERS


Quality-cum-relevance becomes highly volatile in the hands of search engines. With the help of their tools and how searchers respond to search results, search engines keep upgrading or downgrading webpages. Google’s RankBrain is the case in point. This machine learning tool keeps picking up signals based on how a result was received by searchers: whether searchers read it, quit it immediately, clicked on links within it, etc. That means, if you are low in search results, you have much higher competition from toppers than what mere quality would dictate.

We don’t think, Google would be filled with remorse for having ignored your top-class article that was highly relevant to a search query. Together with their thinking on the search intent and the quality of a webpage, their focus would perhaps be on NOT serving irrelevant and superficial content. If you have a very relevant and top-class piece of content but another one has similar relevance and lower quality, that one might rank higher than you if that gives signals that the search engine loves. Your webpage not coming high up is not at all a loss for the search engine because the searcher would never know about it and also because the www is full of content.


WHAT SEO STRATEGIES TO ADOPT IN 2019


Keeping the trends that we have been seeing in 2018, we would recommend the following SEO strategies for 2019:

1. Keep writing good content regularly.
2. Link subsidiary internal pages to top-quality pages within the website/ blog.
3. Write articles that solve problems and answer questions. Anticipate questions and try to put a few keywords related to those questions in the title, description and body of that post.
4. Adding to the above point: major search engines have started using artificial intelligence (AI), search on mobile and voice search. Voice and mobile searches mean, people are typing out or speaking out as if they are asking questions to a person in front of them. Use of AI by search engines means, they are getting better at what a large number of people are asking. So, if you can anticipate people’s problems and queries and you (i) answer them and (ii) put keyword related to these questions, your webpages are likely to be served more than others’.
5. Optimize webpages, not website, for keywords.
6. Try to implement tech aids that help in Google etc marking you as important: rich cards, localization, AMP and site speed, etc. However, do not be too concerned if you cannot implement them.


right SEO for 2019

7. Write occasional posts with over 1600 words. Sprinkle useful long keywords in such posts. (Of course, take care of pointw 3 and 4 above.) Also link tthese posts from other related smaller posts.
8. Follow best practices for blogging/ online publishing. These are also the best organic SEO practices.
9. Do not overdo SEO or do SEO that might raise search engines’ suspicion: do not have too many links on webpages, do not carry bad external links, get rid of backlinks from bad sites if you can, do not copy-paste from others’ websites… We recently carried a full post on Google penalties, which you might like to visit.