How Has SEO in 2018 Changed, and How Will it Impact Organic Sales in 2019?

Jen Saunders
Reading Time:5minutes

It seems that businesses have a love/hate relationship with SEO. The majority of the discontent and cold shoulder treatment that organic search strategies receive comes from a lack of understanding how SEO works. Companies tend to “give it the finger” because they have unrealistic expectations, and expecting unrealistic results comes from a lack of understanding how SEO works, and how it has evolved to benefit the searcher.

In order to understand how SEO works, knowing how Google’s algorithm is designed to award websites and how its technology  has evolved in recent years will help companies better understand it’s process, fresh challenged in a new year, while shedding light on why this complex strategy is paramount to business growth.

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First Things First, Why Invest in SEO if it is So Damn Tricky?

More than 92 percent of people search for products and services on Google, and more than 80 percent of those users click on organic links. This means the majority of your customers are on Google, and by ranking the right content for the right buyer audiences, you can position yourself to consistently hit high revenue targets year-over year.

SEO is also worth investing in because its effects are long-lasting. If the strategy is strong, content can rank on page one of Google for years, even a decade, well after services have been stopped. This means your CPC (cost per click) is inexpensive, and can even be free.

Content that ranks organically is also trusted more than content that appears in paid ads. The logic here is that Google awards ranking based on how other consumers engage with your content and how they favor it, whereas paid ads are shown based on companies paying to be placed on page one of Google where visibility is maximized.

However, organically ranking on page one where your paid ad appears offers tons of value, and so long as the digital marketing agency you partner with knows what they are doing, investing in SEO with paid media can improve the quantity and quality of your website traffic, and increase sales. 

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What Google Algorithm Changes Occurred in 2018 that Impacts SEO Today?

Google makes hundreds of changes to its algorithm every year. According to Moz, those that were noticeable and that had direct impacts on SEO, include the following:

Unnamed Update around February 20 –Rankings took a rapid drop across multiple industries, then settled down. This is a sign that a major update was made to the core part of the algorithm.

Brackets Core Update, March 08 –For roughly two weeks a rolling update saw drops and spikes in rankings. Google confirmed  “core” update but, as usual, offered no details.

Zero Results SERPs Test, March 14 –Google displayed zero organic results and a “Show all results” button that lasted for a week. Rankings returned to normal. However, the test had SEOs talking all over social media with predictions.

Mobile First Index Roll-Out, March 26 After several months of testing Google announced that it rolled out the mobile first index. The indexing process was slow and Google explained it was migrating sites slowly. Webmasters reported seeing shift in ranking.

Unnamed Core Update, April 17 –WEBITMD noticed a major fluctuation in traffic engagement and ranking that took place in the middle and latter part of April, which continued for about a week. Later Google confirmed a “core” update but once again provided no details.

Snippet Length Drop, May 13 – After testing an increase of 300+ characters, Google reverted back to the previous limit of 150-160 characters. Based various industry and competitor activity, some CTRs took slight hits.

Unnamed Update, May 23 –WEBITMD’s tracking tools showed heavy activity in ranking fluctuation at the same time Moz reported the issue. According to MazCast, this lasted for three days but Google never confirmed any update.

Video Carousel, June 14 –Always improving the user experience, Google moved the organic results videos (the thumbnails) into a specified carousel that caused massive fluctuations in search results. As a result, in many cases thumbnail videos that once ranked well dropped significantly in the SERPs. However, MozCast reported that, overall, video results in the SERPs increased by more than 60 percent.

Mobile Speed Update, July 9 –Google rolled out the mobile page speed update six month after giving fair warning it would do so. This made page speed a ranking factor for mobile results. The search engine announced that this would only cause ranking drops for the slowest mobile sites.

Unnamed Update, July 22 –WEBITMD saw a heavy fluctuation in rankings, but Google never confirmed an update. The likeliness Google updated its algorithm was publicized by Moz.

Chrome Security Warnings, July 24 –Due to warnings regarding full sites not being secure (non-HTTPS forms) Google Chrome made all non-HTTPS sites “non secure”. Many webmasters who failed to install the latest Chrome version and make their sites HTTPS reported drops in the SERPs.

“Medic” Core Update, August 1 –This major update to Google’s algorithm caused scores of thousands of domains to drop in rankings. While a wide range of industries were affected, the one that saw the most damage was in the healthcare vertical, hence the update’s name. Google confirmed a “broad core algorithm update”. The brunt of the update was most noticeable in the first two days of August, with verticals in wellness and health taking the brunt of the update’s impact.

Clearly, Google made a number of significant changes to its algorithm to award sites that give searchers the best experience across the board. From mobile page speed to content relevancy, and focusing on multiple forms of content to how these forms relate to one another while looking at commonalities specific to search queries, Google has and will continue making big pushes to offer searchers the best experiences on the web.

Therefore to perform SEO well in 2019, you need to take an SEO history lesson from the previous year, determine Google’s goals and reasoning for  making the changes, and put these considerations into a modern SEO strategy that will help you attract the right kind of organic traffic to content written specifically for your buyers, and that appeases Google and human searchers right now, and in the years to come.

SEO strategy for business growth

SEO Tips for a Winning Strategy in 2019

Clearly, textual content, tags, rich snippets, and video rolled into one strategy is the way to go, so long as each format is relevant to the audiences you are trying to attract, your main topic, and its multiple subjects all offer value to the overarching subject. This also means your site needs to load quickly, and if you don’t work with the best SEO agencies, you run the risk of overloading your mobile site with too much content that will make is slow, undesirable to users, and you will slaughter your SEO efforts.

SEO in 2019 must speak directly to buyers touching on their common pain points and needs while offering direct solutions to specific problems. But organic strategies like this require in-depth content written strategically for the brand’s customers, competitor’s strategies, understanding how Google’s algorithm evolves and all while adhering to Google Best Practices. Also, this should all be conducted while understanding how SEO needs to be executed based on Google’s recent algorithm update history and best practice shifts, and how consumer trends and behaviors have evolved accordingly. Organic sales will naturally increase when the quantity and quality of your traffic improves. And a carefully thought-out, strategic approach to SEO will help you hit your revenue goals.

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About
Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.