By Jackie Maness

2019 Marketing Trends: February Update

In a “volatile” search market, stick to what works.

Machine learning. Dynamic algorithms. Artificial intelligence. Words like these might still seem a little sci-fi and theoretical, but at FUEL, we know that these trends are likely impacting how you market your business even as you read this. If you wait to understand the implications, you might find yourself behind the curve – a place none of us like to be. So, this month’s update brings you a look at how the search marketing space is increasingly being driven by technology and what the new buzzword “volatility” means for your website.

 

Highlights:

• Google performed 3 major updates in 2018
• They make 500-600 minor adjustments every year
• Search results are derived from 200+ ranking factors
• The top 10 results for a keyword have far less volatility than #11-20
• In 2018, no-click searches rose to 61% of all mobile searches
• Google accounted for 96% of US mobile search in Q4 2018 – they shape this market

Google’s algorithm thinks like a human

You probably already know that keyword stuffing and quick page optimization tricks won’t cut it in maintaining your search presence anymore. What you may not realize is that Google’s algorithm (still as secret as ever) is increasingly taking on human qualities in its evaluation of your website.
As results become increasingly intuitive, you’ll also notice more changes to Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). For instance, search engines are providing their own data-rich content snippets that provide the answers to certain queries on the search result page itself, thus requiring no click. The SERP itself is answering questions.

One way that our industry keeps track of when the algorithm is changing is through a measurement of volatility – how much movement up or down in rankings there is from day-to-day or hour-to-hour for a given keyword search. Volatility is sometimes our only indicator of a shift in the algorithm. And, while Google makes an estimated 500-600 changes per year, high volatility during a specific date range typically indicates a larger update. Much of the Internet observed just such a change in early January 2019.

So, what changed?

At this point, without an official release from Google, there’s just speculation about what may have changed – mostly surrounding shopping ads and a further shift in support of voice search. For most marketers, the question should instead be: what hasn’t changed?
Trustworthiness is still the coin of the day, based on perceived authority and expertise. These qualitative judgment calls are being made by machines today, which means that it can be measured and adapted. If you want to understand how you can increase your digital authority, these questions are still the most relevant you can ask:

What is your digital reputation? What is your perceived external trustworthiness? Which sites reference you as a subject matter expert and how trustworthy are they in turn?

We all know voice search is on the rise, but consider what that means for your content. If today’s AI search assistants are smart enough to understand our spoken queries, they’re certainly also smart enough to spot recycled, filler content. The pressure to generate meaningful, fresh, and authentic content continues to grow – an opportunity for true experts to separate from the pack in search rankings.
One additional side note to look for in Google’s recent updates: mobile-first indexing is becoming the norm. User experience is the name of the game, and they’re getting ever more serious about how that’s evaluated, including a heavier focus on page-load times and overall mobile-native or mobile-friendly structures.
While there may be volatility in the search world at the moment, it’s just that – at the moment. Long term, it’s still more important to focus on the SEO best practices that are proven to work in today’s complex, dynamic search environment.

Want to learn more?

Contact Annalynn Barnett at annalynn@fuelingbrands.com
or call 864-627-1676.