Higher Education Marketing: Search Engine Optimization Trends to Watch for in 2019


By: Christopher Tashjian Nov 05, 2018

Higher Education Marketing: Search Engine Optimization Trends to Watch for in 2019

1. Technical Health is More Important Than Ever The basics of having a quality website will never be an unimportant factor in SEO. A technically healthy website is the foundation of SEO and will continue to be important if you want to be ranked high on the SERPs. It’s good practice to regularly perform audits of your website’s health, including a close look at your redirects, mobile friendliness, page load speed, and robots.txt file, among other elements. If you’re using Javascript on your website, make sure Google and other search engines are even seeing your website. The Google bot hasn’t caught up and newer versions of Javascript aren’t readable (and even some older versions, too). We also can’t forget about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which will become increasingly important next year. While Google isn’t going to penalize sites that haven’t implemented AMP code yet, implementing the code has plenty of benefits. While AMP alone is not a ranking factor, engagement, including bounce rate, is, and will be even more important in 2019.

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2. Voice Search Isn’t Going Anywhere

In 2019, the popularity of smart home technologies and digital assistants – including Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Amazon Echo, among others – will continue to rise, resulting in much more use of voice search.
In 2018, voice searches made up 40% of all search engines queries and it has been reported that by 2020, voice search will make up at least 50% of all search queries (source). With more people – including potential students – relying on voice search, longtail keywords will become more important.
Many websites are likely to succeed in 2019 by using a more question-and-answer format to their content in order to satisfy these voice queries with longtail keywords.
The rise in voice search will also lead to a focus on the context of the query – not just the keywords that are included. The importance of voice search and context in search next year will also affect two additional trends: featured snippets and artificial intelligence.
To succeed in this area, do an audit of your website and see where you can incorporate longtail keywords, if you’re not already. Also, take a look at your content calendar and see if your upcoming blog posts could be formatted in a question-and-answer type of post to satisfy voice search.

3. Featured Snippets are the Ultimate Goal

Speaking of question-and-answer formats, Featured Snippets put pages in position zero. However, these pages are featured via a question-and-answer box, which is directly answering the search query.
In order to have a webpage become a Featured Snippet, you’ve got to set up your content (think: blog posts and FAQ-type pages) to answer these direct queries, while also matching the query’s intent.
Because Google is likely to continue to jeopardize organic spots on the SERPs, featured snippets and AMPs are going to be important in 2019.

4. Artificial Intelligence Makes Intent a Ranking Factor

In 2015 and 2016, Google admittedly started relying on artificial intelligence to interpret searches it hadn’t seen before. Many of the queries being turned over to artificial intelligence are those coming from digital assistants or any form of voice search.
In 2019, artificial intelligence will be tasked with helping search engines understand the intent behind voice queries, instead of just relying on keywords. Website content must reflect this same intent in order to rank well on the SERPs.

5. Content Relevance Means You’ve Got to be Genuine

The increased focus on voice search and artificial intelligence brings us to content relevance. It’s not going to be about how many target keywords you’ve got on a webpage or a website, it’s all about the intent behind the keywords and content.
Pages that rank well on the SERPs are going to be those that house content relevant to the query, as it’s understood by the search engine. Relevant content will also have to have related concepts included in it.
This should also be a consideration when editing websites for featured snippets – including related concepts (such as contact information) within the featured snippet so the information gets relayed even if the user doesn’t actually visit the website.
In other words, very personalized queries are expected to have equally personalized content to satisfy the search engines (and the user, of course).

6. User Experience is Still Important

While user experience has always been one of many ranking factors, it’s going to be more of a focus next year. The time it takes to load a webpage continues to be a big factor, since many users abandon a site if it doesn’t load after five seconds (sometimes less).
In 2019, we’ll see more of an emphasis on engagement metrics, such as bounce rate, pagers per session, and time on site, websites will have to be built with the user in mind.
So, while the foundation of higher education SEO isn’t changing any time soon, it’s becoming more and more important to really satisfy the user instead of just the search engine or bot. By satisfying the user, you’re doing yourself (and your website) a favor because that’s what the search engines continuously look for: sites that offer unique, useful, relevant information in a format that’s understandable, fast, and digestible.
If you’re feeling behind on next year’s trends already, have no fear. Instead, make it a point to complete an audit with your target audience in mind. Before you know it, you’ll have a student students can easily find and navigate.
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