A new year brings new goals for both people and businesses.
If one of your company’s resolutions is to finally maintain a blog, you’ll want to read this post before making any plans.
Google and other search engines update their algorithms many times each year, affecting whether your website shows up in results. Being aware of these changes allows you to optimize for them—leading to more targeted traffic, more leads and ultimately, more clients/customers.
If you write for your own company’s blog, you’ll want to know how you should change your writing and tactics this year. If you’re already paying a freelance copywriter, you may be wondering how your budget should change and what they should be focusing on.
In this post, you’ll learn 20 takeaways from the 5 blogging changes expected in 2019.
#1 Writing for Voice Search is Important—But Maybe Not as Much as You Thought
You may have heard the shocking statistic that 50% of all searches will be done through voice by 2020. That fact is popularly attributed to comScore; however, the prediction was first made in an interview and includes both voice and image search. Since this stat seems wrongly attributed and incorrectly stated, that prediction is likely over exaggerated.
With that being said, voice assistants are steadily gaining traction and as the technology becomes better at recognizing voices, people are likely to use it more and more. Voice searches tend to be different though. If you think about the last time you used voice search, it was probably for a straightforward question with a black/white answer, such as a definition. You’re probably not using it to do in-depth research on the best affordable cars to buy in 2019. Since we’re usually looking for quick answers, this means that even if they’re using a device with a screen, a user is less likely to click through to your website because they’ve already found what they’re looking for. However, that could change if Google reads out entire web pages in the future, similar to an audiobook.
To sum it up, voice searches will continue to increase, but it’s unclear how much. It will make sense for some businesses to focus on the change more than others.
- Physical location businesses benefit from local voice search. According to the Mary Meeker 2016 Internet Trends Report, 22% of voice searches were for local information. If you have a physical business, that means setting up a proper Google business listing with details and encouraging customer reviews is the first step. You should also aim to rank your website for your business type + “near me” or “city/neighbourhood” (ex. “what is the closest natural health stores near me,” “natural health stores in north Etobicoke” etc.).
- Aim for the featured snippet by answering questions. When people use voice search for a direct answer, a snippet box sometimes appears or is read. This box answers the question concisely. When you want to rank for a question, simply state the answer before going into paragraphs of detail about why the answer is the answer.
- Mobile-friendly sites. Since many searches are done through smartphones, your site should be mobile friendly if it isn’t already.
- People talk differently than they type. People tend to say things differently when they’re speaking versus when they’re typing into Google, so keep that in mind when trying to rank for phrases. For example, you may type “CBT definition” but say “what is CBT?” or “what does CBT mean?”
- Write blog posts to answer questions about your product/service. If there’s a question you get a lot, it’s likely people are using voice search to find the answer too. You can try to rank for it by dedicating an entire post to that question.
#2 Blog Posts Should Still Try to Please Real People
It seems like Google is always throwing people off by updating their algorithms. Although the updates are unpredictable, year after year, Google is putting more weight on people’s experiences with your website. This can be measured by:
- How long someone stays on your site (do they just jump back to Google?)
- How often people click on your search result
- How often people search your company name
You can improve the above measurements by:
- Making your website load as quickly as possible. You can use the Pingdom speed test to check. Here are some tips for making your site faster.
- Making it visually attractive. If your site looks like it’s from the 90s and your content was copy-pasted without proper formatting or images, it may turn off the reader, causing them to click back.
- Laying out info properly. Similar to above, if you aren’t formatting subheadings, people won’t know where to look when they’re skimming and their frustration will drive them back to Google.
- Understand keyphrase intent. Before writing a post to rank for a keyphrase, consider what people are actually thinking when searching it. Next, aim to answer that specific question—first quickly, then in-depth. If you’re aiming to rank for “is X product safe?” but end up rambling about the benefits of X product, that probably isn’t what the user is looking for, so they’re likely to click off.
- Make SEO titles interesting. What makes people click on your search result versus another? A title that’s intriguing and trustworthy will get clicked more than ones that are boring or overly clickbait-y.
#3 Longer Content Continues to Rank Better
You probably hear that people don’t have attention spans and skim through information online, so why are longer posts necessary? Google sees long content as authoritative and, as a result, tends to rank it better than short content. When 500-word posts used to be the norm, a 1,000-word post would seem all-encompassing. But now that 1,000-word posts are typical for many topics, the bar is set even higher in many industries.
This may seem like bad news because you’ll probably either need to spend more time writing or spend more money paying a copywriter. The bright side is that as long as you make your content evergreen, you’ll be able to use it for ages. For example, check out 12 Ways to Save Money by Effortlessly Repurposing Blog Content.
- Write longer content. How long? That’s a good question and different studies have different answers. For example, Moz and Buzzsumo say a minimum of 1,000 words is ideal while Hubspot found 2,250+ words was the best length for their content. There’s no one answer because it depends on the topic and what information is already out there about it. Are you competing against 300-word or 3,000-word posts? Can you write 2,000+ words that are relevant and useful? If you’re overexplaining or going completely off topic to meet a word count, that’s not valuable for a reader.
- Use subheadings and photos. You can have the longest piece of content out there, but if it’s not broken up by visual cues, people aren’t going to skim every line in each long block of text. That means they’ll click off and your time or money spent developing the content was wasted.
- Can still write short posts. Longer content is generally better, but that doesn’t mean you should outright avoid short posts. Depending on your industry and audience, some topics don’t lend themselves to full-on guides. Sometimes, short and fun posts can do well on social media, too. Experiment with post lengths and check your Google Analytics to see which content people are reading and enjoying the most.
- Update old posts. Don’t set it and forget it. Update old posts with new facts or relevant information. If your business is new to blogging, make a point to update your current posts at a future time to help improve or maintain the search traffic from it.
#4 Improving SEO by Blogging is Harder
Blogging is still an essential part of many businesses’ marketing plans. However, since there’s so many professional and non-professional blogs on the web, ranking will be more difficult. While it’s effective, it can take longer for Google to trust you enough to rank you decently.
- Be patient. Be prepared for content to take longer to rank than usual, especially if you’ve just started your blog or website. SEO hasn’t been a quick fix for a while, but even more so this year. If you’re expecting or need quick results, consider if Google Ads or social media ads are right for your business.
- Play around with social media. If you’re not getting as many clicks from Google, you’ll want to look for other ways to promote your content and business. Actively growing the most effective channels for your business and sharing posts there can garner more clicks.
- Improve CTAs. Since it’s harder to rank, you’ll want to convert the users who do land on your site. You can do this by playing around with your call-to-actions (CTAs) at the end of your blog post. This can be a subtitle-sized line with an in-text link, button or a clickable graphic (like I have at the end of this post).
#5 Consider Ranking with Other Content by Repurposing Posts
I’m going to be a hypocrite here. You won’t see a video version of this post because video really isn’t my thing. But if you have a large team of people, one of them is bound to be less camera-shy.
Blogging to rank on Google will still be effective for many, so you shouldn’t stop. However, it is becoming more complicated. Other platforms, such as YouTube or Pinterest, may require a shift but can present added and growing opportunity. The good news is that since you’ve already done the research or paid for information in blog posts, putting together another form of content can be a lot easier for you or cheaper for your copywriter.
- Transform posts into YouTube content. Use subheadings to generate talking points and present it in a more conversational tone. Consider which blog posts would be good explained visually. It can be worth the added effort: 70% of millennial YouTube users watched a how-to video in the past year, according to Google.
- Transform posts into Podcasts. While people can’t directly click your CTA like they can on a blog post, podcasting can be a good way to build brand awareness. This may or may not make sense depending on your target demographic. Podcast listeners are 68% more likely to have postgraduate degrees and 45% more likely to have a yearly income of $250,00 or more.
- Try different social media. Maybe you built your success off Facebook but your Likes mean nothing now that organic reach has plummeted to a near useless low. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other social media channels, such as using blog posts content to create visually appealing pins for Pinterest. Just remember: You can’t rely on one tactic or channel because their reach and costs are bound to change as their user base grows.
2019 magnifies the SEO changes we’ve seen in previous years. Voice search and optimizing for real users is growing in importance. As it becomes more difficult to rank, companies may want to consider making blog posts longer, easier to read and repurposing them into other forms of content for added exposure.