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In 2019, the best SEO strategies take new approaches to consumer outreach.

SEO Strategies That Actually Lead to ROI

David Bosley

It seems like there are innumerable digital marketing strategies in 2019. Between inbound marketing campaigns, social media content rollouts, mobile app marketing, and landing page ads, it can be difficult to pin down a leading strategy.

Few digital marketing approaches come close to the potential of a solid SEO strategy—and today’s startups, SMBs, entrepreneurs and big businesses alike are racing to find the best content marketing approaches around. Sure, SEO isn’t an exact science. It’s always changing. It needs consistency to work. It’s also highly dependent on constantly shifting consumer mindsets.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of white noise surrounding SEO strategies. Which ones work? Between obscure lead generation tactics and time-tested-and-true—albeit possibly outdated—legacy campaigns, the modern marketing environment is packed with irrelevant, or even misleading, information. Still, some strategies outclass others. Let’s take a look at the real strategies—the ones that work. Some might be familiar, and some might surprise you.

SEO Marketing in 2019

First, it’s important to understand the current digital marketing landscape. SEO strategies in 2018, and even 2017, were very different from those of today. Primarily, they focused on keyword research. Keyword research identifies sets of queries likely to enhance website rankings in short periods of time.

Considering that there are 6,586,013,574 searches per day, it’s understandable that digital marketers prioritized Google rankings above all else. Google, alone, sees 4.5 billion searches—about 91.4 percent of all Internet searches.

Because the SEO industry was worth about $72 billion in 2018, marketers doubled down on their search ranking capabilities. However: In 2019, there are a number of hurdles to be jumped. It isn’t enough to simply rely on these rankings. The number one type of search CTR is non-branded search, these days, accounting for roughly 35 percent of all searches.

What’s the deal? Businesses and organizations are still benefiting from SEO—but are they shifting away from search-primary campaigns? Well, not necessarily. They still use them, but they’ve switched gear in terms of acquiring the coveted spot of Google’s first page. There’s less of a focus on website architecture, which makes it easy for Google to locate, crawl and index a site’s important pages.

There are, however, new focuses which have taken the spotlight as 2019’s most effective SEO strategies. Let’s check them out.

Strategy One: A Solid Website UI

While website architecture isn’t in this spotlight, effective website UI has taken its place. Overall, consumers are opting for more organic, personalized experiences. They’re less likely to embrace a high-ranking business on Google if its website isn’t intuitive. Rather, they look for the following:

-Ease-of-use

-Appealing layout

-Maneuverability

-Friendliness

Ask yourself this question: If you were an external user, would you feel invited to stay on your website? What about mobile access? What about on a tablet? Would you be confused by the landing page’s layout? Or, would it be easy to find what you’re looking for?

Experts agree that a well-designed user interface can boost a website’s conversion rate by up to 200 percent, assuming the regular SEO practices are adhered to. This is a breath of relief, as one of the best secrets to modern SEO effectiveness isn’t bland and entirely based on metrics. It’s based upon the sincere handshake between brand and consumer.

Strategy Two: A Speedy User Experience

You can increase SEO power by being faster on the pickup.

As you can imagine, it isn’t enough to satisfy search intent to net high-ranking target keyword phrases. Successful SEO strategies are about quality, in 2019. Not quantity. As per the solid-UI approach, having a quick website experience is vital to successful SEO practices.

Consider this for a moment: The average website visitor leaves within 20 seconds. According to research conducted by Time Magazine, most users leave within 15 seconds. What does this mean? It means you need to do everything in your power to keep them on your webpage as long as possible.

A longer consumer “dwell time” on your page implies they’re not only interested in your page, but engaged. Engaged users are more likely to convert into:

-Customers

-Newsletter subscribers

-Leads

-Social media followers

Here’s the kicker: Increased dwell time improves SEO performance. If a consumer sticks around on a single page—or even visits more than one page—it sends a positive signal to Google. It’s an easy factor to miss, as many marketers don’t consider the linger-to-SEO-power link.

But consider this: If you’re using a Google Analytics script to examine your website’s efficiency, Google is tracking user behavior as well. If a consumer is using Google Chrome, the browser will track their behavior. If they’re using a mobile device with Google technology, Google will track their behavior.

By boosting your website’s dwell time, you can give your SEO keywords more potency. Not only will they attract visitors due to relevancy, but they’ll be given a higher priority by Google due to longer visitation.

To increase user linger time, you need to increase your website’s loading speed. Many users ditch a website if it annoys them. They simply don’t think about it. If your website is speedy, however, they’ll click through more pages, consume more content and trigger Google’s brand relevancy scores—thus giving your SEO keywords more relevancy.

Strategy Three: Frequent SEO Audits

These surprising website pitfalls can sink your SEO strategy.

So, we’ve pinned down the first two powerhouse strategies to effective SEO. Interestingly, they’re not direct approaches to keyword quality, itself. This is because the practical application of search-relevant keyword linking is commonplace, these days. It’s rather easy to find the most effective keywords likely to garner consumer attention. It’s also easy to place effective keywords in website headers, menu links, landing pages, and e-commerce shopping cart checkouts.

What isn’t easy, however, is identifying—and eliminating—hidden factors which make these main pillars of an SEO campaign useless. Strategy Three is about eliminating hidden weak points. These are the lesser-known issues which may very well make your SEO efforts useless. Too many marketers fall into the pitfall of assuming they’re not relevant enough, or not reaching out enough—or even not badgering customers enough.

Sadly, they never consider the micro issues which, in tandem, take them out of the game from nigh invisible angles. The following micro issues are critical; they’ll pull your SEO strategy underwater even after it’s attracted consumers:

-Redirect issues

-Duplicate content

-Thin content

-404 errors and broken links

Let’s take a basic look at the evidence: Website content over 1,000 words receives more links and even social media shares than short-form content. Meanwhile, if Google’s algorithm finds unnatural, broken or shady links, they can degrade a webpage—or even an entire site—in their rankings, slashing traffic. Violating sites are almost never featured on Google’s first page. Some violators won’t even hold top rank for their own name.

How often should you do an SEO audit? As a rule of thumb, perform one when:

-It’s a new business quarter

-You’re beginning a new campaign

-You bring in a new client

-You extend your campaign to new channels

-You create a branded app

-You change your website in some way

As for the audit itself, it’s mostly technical analysis. To find SEO-related website issues, make a checklist. Here’s a basic one:

-Meet your speed benchmarks. Ideally, get your website to load in under one second. Check out Google’s website speed tool to reach this benchmark.

-Check for keyword cannibalization. This happens when two pages compete for the same keyword. This confuses Google, forcing it to make decisions about which branded page is the “best” for search queries. Understandably, this can also lower Google’s perception of your website’s quality. Check out some solid strategies to reduce keyword cannibalization.

-Make sure you have original, comprehensive and thoughtful content. Don’t rely on short, thin articles which don’t cover a topic sufficiently. Thin, underdeveloped content may trigger Google into thinking you’re manipulating long-tail keywords.

-Check for redirect issues which hurt your website’s SEO power. There are five types of redirect issues: redirect chains, 302 redirects, unnecessary 301s, non-secured domain versions not 301ing to a secured version and non-preferred domain versions not 301ing to a preferred version.

-Check for duplicate content, which leads to search engine penalties. E-commerce stores are particularly susceptible to these—as they often copy manufacturer product descriptions. Double-check for cookie-cutter meta information on these pages, which can create massive duplicate content issues.

-Check for 404 errors, which tell Google to remove the page from its index. Check out this guide to locate and remove these errors.

-Make sure you have a strong website architecture. Is the navigation too cluttered? Are the internal links utilizing effective anchor text? How can you improve site navigation?

Once you’ve done the primary audit, it’s a good idea to check for general keyword stuffing—especially in your URL. This will hurt your website’s overall performance, and it can even flag it for a lower ranking.

Strategy Four: Optimize for Mobile Searches

One of the time-tested-and-true SEO approaches remaining from pre-2018 is mobile search optimization. For this reason, let’s change focus on the why’s of mobile SEO to the how’s of solid mobile strategies in 2019.

Before we do so, however, let’s take a look at some intriguing statistics which necessitate such a change in focus:

-73 billion phone calls are generated from mobile search alone.

-Google shows about 8.5 organic mobile search results on its first page.

-80 percent of Google searches feature “near me” tags.

-While 48.7 percent of Internet users prefer desktop, 51.3 percent prefer mobile.

Let’s dig a little deeper. Back in November 2016, Google created its mobile-first index. In the past, Google prioritized desktop website version crawling—using it as its primary index resource. Now, they’re putting more weight on mobile search.

Here’s the main gist of mobile SEO marketing in 2019: You can’t get away with desktop SEO approaches when appealing to consumers on smartphones. Research shows that mobile users even use different keywords than desktop users. Mobile has a different level of engagement—as smartphone users are highly-focused. They’re also less interested in scrolling than desktop users. Mobile search also utilizes a different ranking algorithm which alters search results on mobile based upon a user’s location.

Experts believe there will be over 2.87 billion mobile users in 2020—so you can’t ignore the importance of keyword efficiency on smartphone search results. How should you approach the mobile SEO game? As per Google, itself, you should have an equivalent markup, and primary content, across both your desktop and mobile websites. If you only have a verified desktop website in search, make sure you verify a mobile version, too.

It should be noted that businesses with different primary content and markups between the two should make some changes. Serve structured markup for both platforms, and verify that your mobile version can be accessed by Googlebot. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test as a starting tool. Then, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check your mobile website’s performance. PageSpeed Insights grabs your URL twice—first via a desktop user agent, followed by a mobile user-agent.

As for content, going a bit shorter than 1,000 words isn’t a bad thing. Shoot for around 700 to accommodate for small screen users. Include related phrases and keywords which support your desktop SEO. Don’t make long meta descriptions or titles, either, or else Google will truncate them.

As a lesser-known tip: Optimize your content and SEO keywords to accommodate for voice queries. Voice queries make up about 20 percent of smartphone searches, and 22 percent of these queries ask about local information. Make sure you don’t use the same keywords in external links, though. Google may interpret this information as available on externally linked sites, which can confuse its analysis of your content.

When browsing mobile search results, users are more likely to pick results which have rich snippets, stand out and are rated by other users. As such, your first result should have some sort of star rating, review numbers and price ranges.

As with desktop, prioritize speed above all else—as mobile users are particularly quick to ditch clunky website loads. To boost your mobile site’s speed, do the following:

-Minimize redirects to other pages.

-Minify and Optimize JS and CSS files.

-Place CSS at the top of HTML files, and JS at the bottom.

-Reduce file sizes with compression.

-Avoid flash content, as most browsers don’t support it.

Another useful tip is to use Accelerated Mobile Pages to create high-performing, fast and beautiful ads which will complement your SEO strategy across platforms. Accelerated mobile pages have light HTML and CSS code; they load about 30 times faster than regular pages—increasing your click-through rates and mobile ranking alike.

Strategy Five: Evolve Your Media Strategy

Visual media has changed the SEO game, and marketers are adopting new strategies to win it.

Video, images and infographics are powerful SEO-boosting tools. In fact, studies suggest that 83 percent of website traffic will be generated by visual media. If your webpage features a video, especially if the video comes from YouTube, the probability of it being ranked on Google increases drastically. Make a video for your post, publish it on YouTube and then place the embedded code in your normal text post.

As for images, it’s good to include them as much as possible. Research found that most websites ranking on Google’s first page have images. Properly optimized images, that is. Google knows that visual media is relevant with search queries, and it’ll give priority to branded sites which have pictures. How does this relate to SEO directly? The answer is a simple one: You can make an image’s Alt Text match your SEO needs.

Regardless of the visual media you post, you need to compress your images—always. Compression reduces an image’s file size while maintaining its quality. This makes your page load faster, use less space and meets mobile-first SEO campaign needs in a single stroke.

The Takeaway

This year, the SEO game has changed a lot. To stay effective, intriguing and relevant, you’ll need to prioritize new factors. Increasing website traffic isn’t a keyword-blast game, anymore. It requires a sincere approach to consumers, a fluid website design and—most importantly—a quick, decisive user experience. Take charge with an evolved SEO strategy, and reap the benefits of high-ranking pages, more social media shares and a consumer-base which loves your products and services.