As the year comes to a close, marketers have begun to wrap up their current campaigns and set their sights on the new year. And if 2018 has shown us anything, it’s that the rapid pace of advancements in marketing tools and strategies won’t slow down anytime soon.

To keep pace, marketers need to know what to expect — especially in the world of search. Don’t get me wrong. Staying up-to-date on the latest marketing trends and changes in audience engagement is essential, too. But search engines can change their algorithms overnight, and it can be tough to keep up if you’re not paying attention. The companies that fail to stay on top of the changes usually find themselves banished to the second page of results. To stay competitive and effectively use content marketing to improve your search rankings, watch out for these five SEO trends in 2019


1. Voice search is on the rise

Increased voice capabilities from devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo allow users to engage with content in new ways. Smart homes are getting smarter, and many smartphone users now rely on their phones to read search results out loud.

Clearly, making sure your content is optimized for the various ways your audience searches and expects answers is essential to getting your message seen (or heard, really). To optimize content for voice search, think about how content sounds out loud. Does it get to the point quickly? Is it conversational enough to engage? Is it easy to read and understand? These are essential questions to ask if you want your content to be found via voice search. And speaking of being found via voice search …


2. Snippets are more impactful than ever.

Featured snippets are those standout bits of text appearing at the top of certain search results that quickly answer your question. When you perform a voice search, many times the result you’re hearing comes from the featured snippet.

By some estimates, nearly a third of searches return a snippet. As Google gets more advanced, snippets are going to become more popular. The thing is, snippets can really eat up your search traffic. Think about it: Why would users scroll through the results page and click through to a website if they can get pretty much all the info they need right there or just click the snippet for more info?

Over the next year, optimizing content to appear in those snippets should be a priority. Google displays different snippets based on the search query, so marketers need to consider how bites of their content will look (and sound) when users search for different topics.


3. Topic clusters signal a shift from keywords to topics.

Just as Google is getting smarter about snippets, it’s also learning how to address users’ questions about broad, relevant topics, not just specific keywords. This is a continuation of the trend toward smarter search results. Marketers must prioritize relevant, informative content that answers audience questions and concerns comprehensively — not keyword-stuffed content that attracts clicks first and maybe provides good information second.

Audiences no longer search for one or two keywords. They’re looking for answers to their questions, and they trust search engines to address the reason behind their search — not just the literal keywords they used. Content that’s equipped to fully answer questions on a topic will do much better than call-and-response content geared to targeting isolated keywords. This topic cluster model of content optimization will become even more popular over the next year.


4. Linkless mentions are getting more weight.

Back links are one of the strongest signals to Google of the quality of a website and how trustworthy it is. For years, earning a feature or press mention by a trusted journalist in a reputable publication was great, but if it didn’t also include a link to your site, it felt a little bit like a hollow victory.

That’s changing. Now that Google is getting better at assessing the value, quality, and relevance of content on a page, it’s getting better at knowing when companies are mentioned in reputable places, even without a link to solidify the connection. This doesn’t mean that backlinks aren’t still valuable, but it should be a good reminder to everyone that actual content quality and relevance are key. With that in mind, marketers should work to bolster their brands’ authority by pursuing strategies to earn online brand mentions that are helpful and relevant, links or no links.

5. Long-term vision remains vital.

One of the biggest SEO trends for 2019 isn’t exactly new, but it bears repeating. Optimizing your content for search is a long-term process. Not only does it take time to execute a strategy, but it also takes time to see the biggest results of that strategy. Gone are the days of jumping on trendy keywords and gobbling up one-off traffic. Over the next year, marketers will need to focus more on generating steady streams of quality content that position their brands as trustworthy experts.

None of this is to say that short-term tactics don’t have their uses — only that replicable results demand long-term mindsets. Marketers must look beyond monthly and quarterly goals to develop steady online presences that drive more interest, leads, and revenue over time.

As the internet gets more crowded, the key to SEO success will not be to win the battle for one-off keywords but to generate forward-thinking content. Keep these trends in mind to craft an SEO strategy that will keep your brand top of mind (and top of SERPs) in 2019 and beyond.