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A Look at the 2018 Ranking Changes & How They Will Impact 2019

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We’re already a couple of months into the New Year, and it’s the perfect time to assess current search and SEO trends, and speculate the direction the industry will take in 2019.

It’s common knowledge that Google currently uses more than 200 ranking signals, and keeps on refreshing and tweaking its algorithm, changing priorities and adding new ranking signals every year. For instance, in 2014, we saw the introduction of HTTP as a ranking signal, and in 2016, RankBrain emerged and rewrote the book on content development.

In that sense, 2018 was also no different. We saw a host of significant search engine ranking changes that are set to impact the industry not just in 2019, but over the next few years at the very least.

So without further ado, let’s dive into some of the most significant ranking changes in 2018, and how they will impact the industry in 2019.

Utilizing Artificial Intelligence to Power an Increasing Number of Search Aspects

It’s been nearly 3 years since RankBrain first emerged. For those of you who aren’t familiar with RankBrain, it’s Google machine learning artificial intelligence system that was developed to aid Google in processing search results. In just these 3 years, RankBrain has progressed from managing just 15% of search queries to all of them.

And, Google has no plans to limit its AI interest to just RankBrain. The world’s leading search engine introduced a new AI system, called Cloud Vision API, in 2018. This new system has the capability to recognize a vast number of objects.

You thought Cloud Vision API was it as far as Google’s interest in AI goes? Well, think again. Google is working on AutoML, an artificial intelligence system which can effectively generate its own AIs (and do it better than humans).

How it’ll Impact 2019

As search engines like Google continue to integrate AI in their search algorithms, you can expect search engine results to become less predictable in 2019. This may not always be a positive thing, but nevertheless, it’s something to prepare for.

In terms of long-term SEO strategies, AI doesn’t have too much of an impact. As the purpose of machine-learning algorithms is to imitate how human’s make predictions, optimizing your web content for AI is basically the same as optimizing for humans.

Cracking Down on Manipulative & Misleading Guest Posts

In May of 2018, Google cautioned Webmasters against using article marketing as a tool for wide-scale link building. Since the SEO community was already aware of this, Google’s warning indicates that it’s going to add new signals to its algorithm that will target manipulative guest posting.

But how do you define manipulative guest posting? Well, if you consider Google’s own guidelines, manipulative guest posts are those that are specifically designed to boost search engine rankings, but do little in terms of sending referral traffic or boosting brand awareness. What’s ironic is that such tactics rarely improve search engine rankings, and are likely to do more harm than good in the long-term.

How it’ll Impact 2019

Google’s warning is the wake-up call that a lot of people in the industry needed. Hopefully, it’ll lead to content marketers taking a more sustainable approach to guest posting in 2019.

Prioritizing Mobile

It’s been almost 4 years since mobile searches overtook desktop searches on Google. Since then, the gap has only widened in the favor of mobile searches. In 2017, BrightEdge revealed that 57% of its traffic came from mobile devices.

Search engines have obviously been keeping track of this change in user behavior. In response to this change, Google launched mobile-first indexing in 2018. This new signal ranks listings on Google’s SERPs based on the content’s mobile version. This even applies to listings that desktop users see.

How it’ll Impact 2019

Expect 2019 to be the year when mobile-friendly sites become a must. Signals that only influenced mobile searches in the past are now impacting all searches, which means that sites that don’t support mobile might soon become redundant.

Increasing Featured Snippets

In 2016, Google revealed that 20% of search queries were coming from voice search. When you consider the growing popularity of Android and other devices which feature Google Assistant, the percentage of voice queries is probably much higher than 20% in 2019. Google and other search engines are obviously aware of this trend.

In 2018, Google increased the number of featured snippets, which it frequently uses to source voice query results. According to a study by Stone Temple Consulting, the number of featured snippets is growing. Out of the 1.4 million tested queries, featured snippets appeared in around 30% of them.

How it’ll Impact 2019

2019 may well be the year when featured snippets begin to compete with top organic listings as the primary medium to use for getting noticed.

Be Prepared for 2019

Considering the increased integration of innovative AI systems into search algorithms, and renewed efforts to crack down on manipulative content in 2018, 2019 is shaping up to be a year of change for the SEO and content marketing industry.

In order to stay competitive, content marketers and SEO specialists need to stay up to date with the latest changes in search engine algorithms and ranking signals. Furthermore, they also need to focus on adaptability, long-term strategies, and most importantly, a sustainable approach to content creation.

Author Bio: Joseph Dyson is a small business local SEO expert at Search Berg, an award winning digital marketing firm that specializes in white label link building services, content marketing and data-driven white-hat SEO. As an online marketing and SEO aficionado, he regularly shares his thoughts and opinions on popular online publications.

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One comment

  1. Glad that Google is taking into account the needs of users and providing them the most accurate search results

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