Google and other search engines reiterate and reinvent their search algorithms very often. Last year, in particular, was ripe with surprises, while the zero-result SERP was one that caused panic in SEO circles. Because mobile search has surpassed the number of desktop searches mobile-first index and shorter meta descriptions where implemented. Incremental adjustments where seen with image and video search, as content creators are enticed into producing video content. All of this can give insight into what heading SEO is going.
Image search changes are aimed at protecting image copyright owners. The View Image button is removed from search results. The move was welcomed by stock image markets, though it is still possible to access the said image, and we can expect further steps toward image owner protection in the future.
Google PageSpeed Insights is a relatively new Google service which investigates your website and produces an overall score for slow, average or fast website category, with additional specific time metric measured and a number of appropriate optimization recommendations. Website speed already is and will be an even more important part of the website SEO. A website which has page loading time higher than 4 seconds in a local search will have a negative SEO impact for regional searches.
Going forward with SEO, it will be imperative to have content that is relevant to the business or industry niche you are aiming for, with content presentation suitable for both human and machine (AI) browsing. Google wants us to deliver content in the form that suits best their deep learning algorithms. This will move content creators to push content that is easily consumed and shareable, a logical next step for Google who is a big investor in the machine learning and artificial intelligence field.
The dreaded zero-result SERP was a limited experiment by Google experts that showed weakness in current website content presentation. As a sign of things to come it should be taken very seriously, website content must be adapted.
Knowledge Cards and Featured Snippets gain importance with SEO as these are powering search results on devices with smaller screen size or no screen. This means Voice UI devices and mobile will produce very limited search results, and future SERP updates may bring the same kind of results to desktop devices too. Organic search results are actively being shrunk, and where algorithms decide one organic answer is enough, Knowledge Graph results and other feature-rich content will be displayed.
Arguably, a large number of searches will have more than one definitive answer, while some searches are not a question and will produce a multitude of organic results. However, in the near future, we can expect that search algorithms will return a single definitive answer to a well-formed question, which is a very limiting opportunity for a true organic result display.
A recent update to Google image search replaced traditional video thumbnails with video carousels. Noticed by users, the number of video SERPs increased significantly. A picture paints a thousand words, and much like so, a video provides even more informational content. We can expect a rise in the video content overall quantity, though true benefits will be reaped by ones that provide high-quality.
Mobile devices range from beastly flagship smartphones to miserably cheap ones and variable mobile network speeds implement another barrier to slow websites. This is why any mobile-oriented websites must be optimized for speed and efficiency. Page speed will be a significant factor for mobile search ranking while the slowest mobile website will receive search rank penalties by Google. If you are a website owner with a large mobile audience be sure to staple this issue as one of the highest priority in 2019.
We can conclude that 2018 brought big changes to SEO. Going forward many of us will have to double down on a number of specific website optimization to keep up with algorithm changes. Those that do a better job will reap the reward of being there, in the top organic results.