I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
What worked in 2018 may not always work in 2019.
For example, with launch of Google Chrome 62 in October 2017,
visitors could see the “Not secure” badge on more HTTP pages.
From AI-powered robot microscopes to clean up the world’s water supplies,
to blockchain and crypto-anchors to address counterfeiting…
From Lattice cryptography to take on quantum-powered hackers,
to Quantum computing moving from the lab-world to the real world…
Last year saw a number of radical and powerful developments that could shape our future, business included.
Well, with a little information on your side,
you can ride on the
top marketing trends and ensure
you get the most out of your business.
And in this post,
I am going to talk about
the top digital marketing trends for 2019;
and how you can use them to your advantage.
Let’s get started.
Optimize for Voice Search For Better Rankings
Does the term Artificial Intelligence ring a bell?
But what does it have to do with
Internet marketing and business growth?
I recently wrote a post on how artificial intelligence affects digital marketing.
Check that out to see the relationship between AI and online marketing.
Google has been working relentlessly
to improve their speech recognition.
The importance of AI can be seen from Google’s decision to rebrand its Google Research division as Google AI.
Google rolled out an important update to the Google Assistant which they call “continued conversation.”
How much, you ask? 95% English word accuracy rate!
Why should you care? Look at this data:
# of Voice-First devices shipped across the U.S in 2015= 1.7 Million
# of Voice-First devices shipped across the U.S in 2016= 6.5 Million
# of Voice-First devices shipped across the U.S in 2017 = 24.5 Million
Over 20% of the U.S. adult population, or 47.3 million U.S. adults use voice-powered devices.
And that’s not all.
By 2020, around 30% of searches will be without the screen.
When we use the smartphone,
it is easier to voice search than to type a few words.
Next time you are using your mobile device,
and you want to search for cafes near you,
which would be easier-
voice search or the regular Google search?
How does the voice search work?
When you go to Google,
you will see a microphone icon in the search bar.
Once you click there,
you will see a microphone icon, which will prompt you to speak.
Let’ say I say “coffee shops near me”
So Google Voice Search would return the results:
Voice search works best when the input is in form of a question.
The Hummingbird update marked the beginning of
Google’s efforts to optimize search results for voice search.
The focus of this update was on the semantic search.
According to Wikipedia,
Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent and the contextual meaning of terms…
Pay close attention to the terms highlighted in the quote above.
Why do people use Google Voice Search?
Thanks to smartphones and
Amazon’s cloud-based voice service “Alexa”,
more and more users are using voice search over typing.
Cortana now has 133 million monthly users.
According to Seattle Times,
Amazon.com sold more than 11 million Echo devices.
These numbers are strong evidence to support the
theory that Voice Search is going to be BIG in times to come.
This brings us to the ACTIONABLE part of this topic how to optimize your website for voice search.
- Optimize for voice search queries- these are generally longer than text keyword search queries.
- According to the Internet Trends Report 2016, 22% users use voice search for local information.
This means you should focus on local voice search.
- Claim and optimize Google My Business.
- Use conversational search terms when optimizing for voice search.
Try to mimic how a user talks and asks questions verbally.
- You can use structured data markup (more on this later in this post) to give voice search devices more intel about your website content.
If you have not been putting mobile first,
it is time to change.
In November 2016,
Google announced the mobile-first indexing.
Back then, Google talked about how its algorithms
would crawl a site’s mobile version to rank its pages,
understand the structured data,
and even show rich snippets in search results.
The search engine made it clear in December last year (2018)
that the mobile-first indexing has already started.
If you have not considered optimizing for mobile,
you are still in luck as this process has NOT yet gone global.
Regardless whether the mobile-first indexing
is officially rolled out or not,
you should proactively put mobile first.
According to a study by StatCounter,
Mobile and tablet internet usage surpassed desktop’s
for the first time worldwide in October 2016.
Just like you focus on SEO for the desktop,
it is time to optimize SEO for mobile as well.
Because the way keywords rank on mobile devices
is NOT the same as they rank on the desktop.
Focus on context (personalized, relevant answers)
when developing content for mobile users.
Optimize your business for mobile
for local users to get the most out of mobile SEO.
Site speed will be an important SEO factor this year.
In fact, Google announced this month
that beginning July 2018,
page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.
Google refers to this as the “Speed Update”.
This update will affect the pages that render exceptionally slow.
Damien Jubeau has written a good post on this.
You can read it here.
There are more than 2 billion Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Consider developing a mobile AMP friendly
website to target mobile users.
You can check if your AMP page is valid
using this free tool.
That brings us to our next important factor
that will greatly impact SEO in 2019: Site speed.
Be Fast! Lightning Fast
If you have to catch a flight, and there are two routes:
One that takes 10 minutes, and the other,
that involves heavy traffic, ETA being at least 30 minutes.
Which route would you take?
Online shoppers expect a fast mobile experience. Period!
I would say load speed is one of the
most important factors for websites in 2019.
It’s not rocket science to understand
that a user would prefer a fast-loading website
over a slow-loading site.
We live in a fast-paced world. Time has become a luxury.
Hence, expecting your visitors to wait patiently,
while your website loads at snail-pace
is impractical and detrimental to your online business.
In other words, slow sites = high bounce rates (more abandonment)
Fast sites = Higher user engagement = More revenue
Think of this like this-
every time a user leaves your
website (exits/abandons/bounces), you lose a prospect.
That is, you lose the “opportunity” to make money.
Website speed is a major UX (User Experience) factor.
And that is why it affects the ranking.
So what is the benchmark to define “fast” for website speed?
Under THREE Seconds!
Google did an extensive study, evaluating over
10,000 mobile web domains;
collecting data from Webpagetest.org,
Google Analytics, and DoubleClick.
The research aimed at understanding the
causes behind a slow mobile site,
and determining the impact of load time
on user engagement and revenue.
One of the major findings was that
more than 50% of the mobile-website visits
are abandoned if the page doesn’t load within 3 seconds.
And if your mobile website loads within 5-seconds,
your mobile ad revenue could be 2x
than those websites that don’t.
How can you make your website fast?
When I say, optimize for speed,
I am talking about both desktop and mobile.
Head over to Google’s page speed test website,
and enter the URL of your website and hit “Analyze”.
The tool will return insights into the Mobile
as well as Desktop versions of your site.
Pay attention to the Optimization Suggestions
to understand the issues and how to fix them.
Out of curiosity I checked for google.com in that tool, and this is what I got:
SERP Personalization: Google Personalized Search
Google (as well as Bing and Yahoo)
has been improving its algorithm
to show personalized search results.
When you perform a search on Google,
it takes into account your browser cookie record.
That is, the search results you get are based on both
- Relevance of the web page to the search term
- The websites you visited through previous search results
First introduced in March 2004,
Personalized Search became available to
signed-out users worldwide in December 2009.
An example of Personalized Search? Google Assistant
Check out the video here.
Google Now (now phased out)
could gather data about your workplace,
your meeting locations, travel plans, your interests, sports and more.
Along the lines of Alexa, Siri, and Cortana,
Google Assistant took personalization
to a new level through a wide-range of voice control.
For example, when I asked Google Assistant,
where do I live, it returned my exact address.
Your location is an important Factors factor that affects personalization.
Google knows it all! Creepy isn’t it?
You can check out all the places you have visited on Google,
given that the location tracking is ON on your mobile device.
Google would show the physical businesses and places closest to the user.
These would also show higher up in the organic results.
Local businesses can use to their advantage.
For example, if I am located at Street A
and search for “coffee shops”,
the results I get on Google would be different from those
that I get if I search the same from another place,
say Street B in the same city.
Since SERPs are based on the user’s location,
it is difficult to get accurate rank tracking.
Alright, so if you are a local business,
here are some things you can do:
Ensure your physical address
is listed in the city you want to target.
Google My Business
Google My Business offers free tools
to update your business listing and engage with
your customers from any device (phone, desktop, tablet).
Here are some of the things you can do
to optimize for Google My Business:
- Consistent Branding: Google suggests that you
represent your business
the same way people know of it in the real world-
signage, stationery, and another branding.
- Accuracy: Ensure accurate and precise address.
- Categorization: Try to choose the least number of
categories to describe your business entity.
Search Engine Friendly HTML: Structured Data
Structured Data is a code that you add to your site
to help search engines such as Google and Bing provide
more informative results to searchers.
Structured data provides information
about a page and classifies the content of the webpage.
Since structured data labels each element of the recipe,
a user can search for the recipe by
ingredient, calorie count, and cooking time etc.
While there is no word from Google that
structured data affects rankings,
experiments do suggest that search results
containing rich snippets command a higher CTR (click-through rate).
You can use this tool, to test structured data on your website.
Note: In order to get rich snippets and rich cards, structured data markup is mandatory.
However, if you do not see rich snippets and rich cards
even after implementing structured data, do not worry.
They may or may not show up.
No guarantee there!
When I search for “orchids’ on Google,
it returns a variety of results that could be “relevant’ to me.
You can see (figure below),
it shows me a Nursery near me that sells orchids;
online shops that sell Orchids;
and a Wikipedia Page about the flower.
Google covered almost everything that I could ask for.
Google has been trying to offer
unmatched web browsing experience to users.
For example, Google prefers websites that are trusted and certified, aka, HTTPS websites.
You will see more and more websites
migrate from HTTP to HTTPS encryption.
The search engine also looks for websites
that best match the search intent of the user.
That is, relevancy of the content on your website
will be quite important (and rightly so)
for SEO in 2019 and beyond.
Google recently mentioned that the
“intent” of the search query
is still a very strong signal;
thus, even a slow web page may rank higher provided it has great, relevant content.
How does Google do that?
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).
Google (and other search engines) use this concept
to understand the relationship between terms and concepts in content.
The search engine would crawl the contents of a webpage,
and collate and detect the most common words
and phrases as the keywords for that page.
LSI was the perfect answer to keyword stuffing
when users would stuff hundreds of random keywords
into Meta keyword tags, Meta description, and webpage content.
Research the content on the top websites
in your niche and observe the common factors.
The idea is to get a list of relevant terms
and phrases shared among the top sites.
You can use this tool called BuzzSumo
to find the top content in any niche.
Here, I looked for “makeup tips”,
and the tool returned a list of articles
with the highest engagement.
This shows you which articles are performing
the best in any domain.
You can get a lot of useful insights from this info.
Don’t judge me yet!
I am not saying link-building is dead.
While link building continues to be an
important SEO factor in 2019,
your focus should be on quality links and
Hence, you shouldn’t just chase backlinks;
go after PR and guest blogging.
You might not get a backlink from these immediately,
but even a mention counts.
In 2019, make sure you are monitoring backlinks
as well as mentions (linkless backlinks).
You can use a web monitoring tool such as Mention for this.
Natural language Search queries
While keywords still hold significance
in the digital marketing world,
you should optimize content for
natural language search queries.
These include words and phrases that a
user is likely to type or say (voice command):
- long-tail keywords
- full sentences: “What’s the latest action movie” over “latest action movie” questions
One of the best ways to optimize content
on your website for these is by preparing a list
of questions you want your website to show up on Google.
For example, if you sell soccer shoes,
you might think about what questions people ask
that could lead them to soccer shoes.
Your content should have a conversational tone as well.
That is, how people in real life talk and ask questions verbally.
Featured snippets/Answer Boxes/ Position Zero
When you search on Google you would see the following sections (in most cases):
- Google Adwords
- Google Maps
- Google My Business listings
The fourth spot in the SERPs is what we want to
focus on here- position zero or featured snippets.
Position zero? What does that mean?
Since the featured snippets show before
the organic search results, they became popular as “position zero”.
When you ask a question on Google,
you might see a highlighted search box in the result.
Since it is placed above the organic search results,
it makes the content “stand out”.
There are two benefits of getting your content as a featured snippet:
- Helps generate more traffic
- Establishes you as an authority on the subject
When I searched for “how to fix a blown fuse” on Google, I get this result:
You can see that the featured snippet (image above) appears
as a list, and has an image as well.
Here are some useful tips to help you write content for featured snippets:
- Prioritize keyword research
- Structure your content
- Write in a way that you are answering a question
- Make your content useful
- Use lists and subheadings
- Use structured data markup
However, do not expect every search to return a featured snippet.
UX optimization is a must for every brand.
How about a proof worth $80 Million?
Microsoft pocketed an additional $80 million in annual revenue for Bing by simply tweaking the color.
After testing several hues of blue, it settled for (#0044CC).
Yup, that simple change brought in millions!
You have a few seconds to impress a visitor to your website.
Optimizing for UX would help you gain the trust of users on your site.
This would also translate into brand recognition,
which means, more revenue in the long run.
In my experience, sometimes it is difficult to convince
leadership of the importance of UX optimization.
Since they are often focused on numbers,
they tend to ignore the little nuances that can have a bigger impact.
Industry research shows that 68% of visitors
leave a website because of poor user-centered design.
Does UX affect search engine rankings?
Yes, and NO
Let me explain.
Search engines such as Google and Bing
consider keywords, links and site structure (among others)
as primary ranking factors.
Thanks to machine learning,
linking patterns and user engagement metrics
allow Google (and other search engines) to get a better understanding of the site.
While UX and usability are NOT direct influencers to rankings,
they do demonstrate a “positive” feeling about your site.
This, in turn, can impact rankings.
A better UX = More Engaged Visitors & Higher Traffic = Better Rankings = More Revenue
Here are some tips to help you optimize the UX:
- Optimize your website for speed.
- Focus on Readability and Navigation Structure: the content, images, CTA buttons, and menu items should be easy to locate; and of the right size.
- Try dynamic personalization based on device type.
- Keep the user registration Process simple and minimal for mobile.
Relevance and personalization will be the
most important SEO factors this year;
and User Experience (UX) would play a major role in that.
Check out my post on growth hacking success stories to learn how some brands have leveraged simple-yet-powerful hacks to achieve massive success.
Google has come a long way in the visual search technology domain.
Recall those days when the search engine could
only recognize text, even for Image Search.
In order to catch up (and even lead) with Pinterest and Bing,
who have been working relentlessly on advanced visual search modes,
Google announced the Google Lens
(AI-powered visual search tool) in 2017.
The aim was to turn smartphones into visual search engines.
Google Lens can not only identify the photo
but also dole out details about the picture.
In the picture below, you can see a restaurant’s image.
With Lens, you can also get details about the restaurant,
including reviews, phone number and more.
Recall how Facebook would recognize your friend’s photo
using the tagging option!
That’s a simple example of the visual search.
What can you do to ride on this trend in 2019?
One of the most important things you can do is to ensure that your visual content is optimized.
- Using descriptive alt-text to images
- Optimizing the image-size and file-format
- Submitting images to an image sitemap
- Optimizing image titles and alt-attributes with targeted keywords
- Using image badges and processing them through a structured data test
- Optimizing Schema Markup
- Optimizing images for different devices- mobile, desktops, tablets etc.
And search engine giant also added AI-powered fixes like B&W photo colorization, brightness correction and suggested rotations to Google photos last year.
AI and machine learning
I have observed that AI and Machine Learning
are often used interchangeably.
They are not the same though.
Calum McClellan’s take
on these two is simple-to-understand.
AI involves machines that can perform tasks that are characteristic of human intelligence.
At its core, machine learning is simply a way of achieving AI.
Both these concepts are proving
to be effective in changing the way search engines rank results.
Google (and other search engines)
are using AI and Machine Learning
to help users find contextualized search results.
Check out Olaf Koff’s article titled
“The Role of Machine Learning in Google Search”
to know more about this.
For you, this means focusing on quality,
useful content, that users can enjoy and share.
Stay proactive and analyze data and search behavior of
your users across different search (and social) platforms.
Doing this would help you create ‘targeted content’
to motivate users, which can then
drive site traffic and rankings.
Content Marketing Still Rocks!
Content Marketing is critical to success
in the digital world
(and for that matter, even in the physical world).
An infographic published on Inc. by Laura Montini
suggests that 70% of users prefer learning about products
through content rather than through traditional advertising.
Given the lesser costs associated with content marketing,
it makes sense to focus on this area
to market your product/service online.
What kind of content should you create?
First, understand your target audience.
Thereafter, evaluate the demand and supply of your
product/service in that market.
If the market is already saturated (too many established players),
you cannot afford to be ‘mediocre’ in your content strategy.
For example, suppose you want to start a pet training business.
A Google search shows 45 Million results!
The top websites for that search term are the ones
that offer “relevant” content for “pet training”, among other SEO factors.
As you see, the market for pet training is saturated to some extent.
Now, what you can do to promote content in that niche?
Create BETTER, PRACTICAL, and ACTIONABLE content.
Think of the reader. Are you solving his pain-point?
Does your blog post answer his question?
Don’t publish posts that sound like blah blah blah to the reader! Else this could happen:
Instead of publishing 10 average blog posts
(although quantity is also useful),
focus on posting 2-3 awesome posts that beat the competition.
Think how you can improve upon the
existing top ranking articles on the keyword you want to rank.
On the other hand,
If your niche is not saturated (untapped),
you can focus on both frequency and quantity of content.
That does not mean you should post crappy articles
that have no purpose and use to your target audience.
Remember, relevance is key to better visibility
on the World Wide Web.
Advertising trends 2019: TV and Beyond!
Television streaming has been there for some time.
But Facebook, Amazon, and YouTube
are all foraying into this market.
According to Statista,
subscription video-on-demand (VoD) users
in the US reached 124 million in 2017.
And this could hit 160 million by 2022.
Here is a chart representing the
most popular digital original television shows
based on audience demand in the United States
from November 27 to December 3, 2017.
Add to this the fact that more people are watching video
on their mobile devices,
and we can safely say that this trend
is going to rise this year.
Another report shows that 81% online adults in the US
were using the second screen (smartphones, tablets or computers) while watching TV.
According to Adometry, during the 2016 Super Bowl,
82% TV-ad-driven searches happened on mobile.
How do you use all this data to grow your business in 2019?
When users watch a show on TV, they use their mobile devices
to search for information triggered by what they are watching.
Hence, if you are advertising on TV,
you should also consider how to engage users on the small screen.
It is about being there in those micro-moments.
Live Streaming (Live Video)
We are gradually moving to a video-first world.
According to HubSpot, 4X as many users would prefer
watching a video over reading a post about the same.
Also, video on social media sites generates
1200% more shares than text and images combined together.
Cisco predicts that IP video traffic will be 82 percent
of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021;
and Global IP video traffic will grow
threefold from 2016 to 2021.
What can you do to use Live Video for business promotion?
People love watching behind-the-scenes videos since it makes them feel like getting the inside scoop.
For example, BBC News posted a behind-the-scenes
Facebook video; and it generated 425,000 views.
For example, if you sell a product,
you can do a video showing how it is made;
showcasing the manufacturing plant, factory etc.
Host a Promotion Offer/Sale
The Funky Fairy, a UK-based online store,
took the Facebook Live route to do a sale.
Performance of the first sale encouraged the owner
Vicki Stewart to do two more sales.
The Live Post generated over 20,000 views.
Ask Me Anything (AMA)
Check out this video where Sephora invited
Jen Atkin of Ouai Haircare and Christophe Robin Paris
for a 30-minute session.
In this video, they talk about beauty tips, trends, and products.
The video generated 87,000 views.
The AMA technique attracts a large number of users,
and also increases watch-time, since everyone wants to know
if their question was picked.
The key to promoting a live video is “engagement”.
The more you engage the users, the better the results.
Some other ways of using Live Video include offering a
private Q&A session, and building buzz with a pre-live party.
Facebook retains its title of being the most widely used
social media platform this year as well,
with 79% of American internet users.
Around 1.37 billion active users visited Facebook
on a daily basis in the third quarter 2017.
Well, that explains why you should use Facebook
to promote your content.
Talking about why you should consider using
different social media platforms
as against putting all your eggs in one basket:
A Social Media Survey by RBC Capital Markets
revealed that when teens were asked to choose
one social network if “trapped on a deserted island”,
44% chose Snapchat, ahead of Instagram (24%) and Facebook (14%).
Another thing to note here is the usage of mobile devices for social media.
A majority of social media users are using the social media apps
This brings us back to the topic mentioned earlier-
creating mobile-first content.
Generation Z in 2019: Millennials on Steroids
Until now, we have been talking about marketing
to Millennials, aka Generation Y. Right?
Well, it is time to focus on another group called the Generation Z.
According to Wikipedia,
Generation Z (also known as Gen Z, iGeneration, Post-Millennials, or Homeland Generation) is the demographic cohort after Millennials.
Put simply, this group has been using the Internet
since a young age;
and they are comfortable using technology and social media.
That is, the Z’s have digital in their DNA!
Ryan Jenkins has written a wonderful article about how the Generations Y and Z will transform the workplace.
Colorado State University has put together an
easy-to-understand comparison sheet
between Millennials (Gen Y) and Gen Z:
If you start marketing to Gen Z now,
you can have an edge over your competition.
So there you are.
You made it!
Now you know these 17 powerful digital marketing trends
to look out for in the year 2019.
Share your views on these strategies.
Leave a comment to let me know
which of these do you think will affect your business;
and how you plan on using them!