Hopefully, 2018 was a successful year for your search marketing efforts but there’s no time for patting ourselves on the back. Now it’s time to get those 2019 campaigns in full swing and simply repeating what you did this time last year isn’t going to get the same kind of results.

As always at this time of year, there’s a lot of talk about marketing trends for the year ahead but we’re not here to talk about those. In this article, we’re looking specifically at what you’re going to need to do differently in 2019 if you want to build upon your existing search presence.

#1: Stop link building

Well, kind of. Links are still one of the most important (top three) ranking factors but the premise of link building doesn’t work in 2019. Search marketers are still clinging on to the idea that there are hacks, deals and magic sauce that can build valuable links out of nothing.

There aren’t.

Sure, you can build links with all kinds of back-handed techniques but they’re not going to be the kind of quality links that Google wants to see. So what should you be doing?

Well, you need to be aiming for high-quality links from sites with a higher domain authority than yourselves, for one thing. And then you need to be publishing content that earns links – forget about “building” them.

If your content isn’t good enough to deserve those links, you’re not going to get them.

#2: Don’t buy into the voice search hype (yet)

You’re going to hear this a lot in 2019 and this has been the next big thing in search for a few years now already. It’s one of those of those things you have to take with a pinch of salt, though.

Yes, people are using voice search in much larger numbers now and this is something that’s going to become incredibly important to brands – but people aren’t buying things with Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, they’re checking the weather, setting alarms or asking who won X Factor in 2016.

Source: recode; Adobe Digital Insights

We’re not saying voice search isn’t important (or going to be) but it’s not the marketing channel it’s being hyped up to be at this stage. Think about it: how can people compare flight prices, hotel rooms or read reviews about that TV they saw on sale this morning?

Voice search doesn’t offer up the kind of business opportunities that warrants heavy investment at this stage and the likes of Google haven’t even figured out how to turn it into a monetized marketing channel.

Keep an eye on developments but don’t get carried away. Chances are it’s going to be a case of optimising in the same way as featured snippets and “People also ask” boxes and then bringing voice searchers over to mobile or another device where they can actually take a closer look at products/services before making the purchase decision.

#3: Start optimising for featured snippets

One of the most common optimisation techniques being touted for voice search is featured snippets – and this is something you want to be targeting. One of the biggest problems with voice search is there’s not really anything to optimise for at this stage but at least featured snippets are a format that works with voice search, unlike the traditional list of 10 results.

Start optimising for featured snippets now and you should be in a good shape to optimise for voice search when it becomes a more valuable proposition.

In the meantime, featured snippets will also get you to the top of results pages for informational queries and you’ll naturally be targeting conversational keywords and creating relevant content for them through this process.

The key thing is to identify which of the queries hold value to your brand. Is answering that question going to increase your brand visibility, boost awareness or generate leads?

#4: Optimise for ‘people also ask’

The “People also ask” box often shows along with featured snippets but it’s increasingly turning up on its own, too. What’s interesting is that most of the questions showing up in these boxes are queries that show featured snippets when you manually type them in – so it seems the two are linked algorithmically in some way.

The thing with “People also ask” boxes is that when users click on one of the suggested queries, the box expands into even more questions.

Click on another question and the list grows again – it just keeps on going. Users can also click the “Search for” link to bring up a fresh results page with the query they’ve chosen and it all starts over again.

This makes “People also ask” boxes an incredibly powerful research and optimisation tool for SEOs, who can use it to identify conversational queries, searches that show featured snippets and target queries that show in the “People also ask box” alongside featured snippets.

#5: Get on top of structured data

Relevance is the key to everything Google does these days and this started with Hummingbird, all the way back in 2013. The more Google knows about your content, the better it is at matching you with the right target audience. Structured data allows you to give Google a wide range of information about your content, which increases your relevance and drive higher quality traffic to your site.

Recipes are just one of the rich formats available with structured data

Structured data also makes your listings more visible in the SERPs and this gives you an advantage over the competition – hopefully boosting your click-through rates even further.

#6: Get your page speed in order

Source: Think With Google

If your web pages aren’t loading within 2-3 seconds, you’re losing a bucket load of leads and conversions. Google research shows the average UK website is painfully slower than this benchmark and this isn’t something that can continue in 2019.

Source: Think With Google

Mobile page speed is now a ranking factor and this is where most consumer journeys start so you’re really crippling your chances with slow loading times.

Get them in order.

#7: Automate your SEO strategy

SEO is getting more demanding every year and your list of things to do is only going to get longer. There are only two brands and marketers are going to be able to cope with this: build a larger team or automate as many tasks as possible to free up more time for the tasks that need your attention most.

Luckily, automation technology is finally coming along and there are a whole bunch of tools you can use to automate tasks like keyword research, link audits, technical SEO reports and all kinds of repetitive processes that would otherwise bog you down.

Make the most of this technology because it can free up a lot of time and resources for tasks that make a real impact.

While all the usual SEO principles apply in 2019 we’re starting to see new opportunities arise and get a view of where search is heading over the coming years. Things are only going to get more competitive as time goes by so you need to move quickly when these opportunities arise because it’s getting more difficult to overtake the competition – a good thing if you move quickly enough.

Keep an eye on voice search in particular but don’t get caught up in the hype. The opportunities are going to come but they’re not really there in the businesses sense (not yet).

In the meantime, focus your efforts on the opportunities that are there and fix any of those lingering performance issues that might be getting in your way – page speed, broken links, etc.