No matter how much traffic you got this year, I’m sure you want more high quality search traffic to your website in 2019.

However, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Improving organic rankings and traffic can be a complicated affair. Especially if you have little knowledge about SEO in which case we would suggest reaching out to an SEO company for advice.

This guide is going to prepare you for things to do in 2019 to get those precious visitors from search engines.

You may be asking: is it really important to rank high in Google and get more search traffic?

Yes, it is. Most of your potential visitors and customers use search engines to carry out research before they engage with a brand or buy a product.

According to HubSpot, 81% of online shoppers use search engines before making their purchase. 71% of B2B researchers conduct an average of 12 searches before engaging with a brand’s website.

Average shopper conducts 12 searches before engagement

Without a strong presence on search engines, you’re losing a huge number of customers and revenue in the process. But how can you change that?

We’ll go through some steps to help you achieve a high search engine ranking and traffic in 2019.

1. Conduct a keyword research

While you’re happy to show up on search engine results, showing up for the wrong keywords will do little for your business.

The main point about your website showing up for keywords is to be able to convert that traffic into leads and customers.

You can only achieve this when visitors come to your website through keywords with the right intent.

Maybe you know 1 or 2 keywords that show the right search intent for your business. Keyword research can help you to discover many more of these keywords.

To perform keyword research, you should have 2 or 3 keywords in mind. This could be a general keyword for your industry or preferably keywords showing the intent you want.

Keyword Research

Carrying out effective keyword research requires tools to help you out and potentially even a digital marketing agency to give you insights into the results these tools will dish out.

Some popular tools, our Atlanta SEO Company is using, to help with keyword research are SEMrush, Ahrefs, Cognitive SEO, KeywordTool.io, Ubersuggest, etc.

Let’s check both KeywordTool.io and Ubersuggest. Because you can use these 2 tools without a subscription.

KeywordTool.io provides keyword suggestions using the Google autocomplete feature. However, it gives you more keywords than you get on Google search box. To use the tool, navigate to the website. Enter your keyword and select the country you’re targeting.

Google Autocomplete Keyword Research Tool

When you click on “Search,” it brings you keywords similar to your keyword that searchers have used in the past. You can get many keyword suggestions that you’re unaware of.

Google Autocomplete Keyword Suggestion List

To use the Ubersuggest tool, navigate to the website and enter your keyword and select the country. Click on “Search.”

Ubersuggest Keyword Research Tool

This will show you details about your keywords like the search volume, SEO difficulty, paid difficulty, and cost per click (CPC) which is also used in PPC Management.

When choosing keywords, alwyas choose more relevant and less competitive

Furthermore, you can also see keyword ideas similar to your keyword. You’ll find those details about the suggested keywords too.

Ubersuggest keyword tool

Also, you can check the SERP analysis to see the pages currently ranking for your target keyword. This will show you the competition you need to beat. Likewise, you can visit these pages to see what they’re doing.

SERP Analysis Report

You must note that keyword research is a vital part of ranking high in search engines and making it count. If you get every part of your SEO right but rank for the wrong keywords, what’s the point?

2. Produce Long-form Quality Content

In the past, you could just add as many keywords to your post as possible. And then, your post would rank high. Not anymore. Your website posts need to be detailed.
This is, however, easier said than done.

According to Google’s search quality guidelines, high-quality content requires a significant amount of time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill.

A high-quality page is expected to have features like a high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, a satisfying amount of high-quality main content, and other features.

Characteristics of High Quality Pages

Having said these, one question you might still have is: how long should your content be to rank high on search engines? It depends. After a study of 1 million Google search results, Backlinko found that an average number 1 result on Google had 1,890 words.

Long and Quality Content is one of the most important ranking factors.

This number will not make your content automatically rank. But it increases your chances. A short post will rarely have a high rank.

The length of your content will depend on the topic you’re writing about. Generally, a wide topic will require a higher number of words than a narrow topic.

In another study of 1 million articles by MOZ and BuzzSumo, they found that longer content tends to have more social shares and backlinks than the shorter ones.

Longer content tends to have more social shares and backlinks

To give your content a better chance of ranking, you should add LSI keywords to your content. LSI stands for latent semantic indexing. These are keywords that are related to your main keyword. They could be synonymous as well.

For instance, having words like fruits and trees in a post about Apple will tell Google you’re talking about the fruit.

Meanwhile, having words like the smartphone, iPhone, or Tim Cook in a post about Apple will tell Google it’s the smartphone company.

You can use the LSI graph to find LSI keywords for your target keyword.

Using LSI Graphs to find LSI Keywords

How often should you publish a post?

As often as possible. In a study by HubSpot, they found that companies that published over 16 blog posts monthly had 4.5 times more leads than those that published between 0 and 4 posts.

Number of blog posts and indexed leads ratio

This is not a fast rule. Having detailed quality content is usually more important than just publishing posts every day.

It’s necessary to keep a schedule to publish content. This could be twice a week, or once a week, or once in 2 weeks.

Add visual content

To make your content better, it’s necessary to add visual content like images. In another sense, you can have your content in other forms like infographics, podcasts, and videos.

Content continues to be an integral part of a Search. And many people go to search engines for content. According to a study by HubSpot, 52% of consumers catch up on news, business, and lifestyle stories online through a search in Google or other search engines.

Google and Facebook are preferable platforms

By creating quality content and building backlinks to his website, Felix Tarcomnicu increased organic traffic to his website by 210%.

Quality content and backlinks can improve organic traffic

3. Submit sitemap and robots.txt file

Your website sitemap is a file that presents the URLs of your website to search engines. Your robots.txt file tells search engines what content to index on your website and those to exclude.

This helps your pages to get indexed on search engines. Without your pages in the search engines index, it’s impossible to appear in search.

To avoid such an occurrence, it’s vital to add your sitemap to Google Console and also add the a robots.txt file to your website.

To add your sitemap to Google Console, navigate to the dashboard and click on “Sitemaps.”

Google Search Console, Sitemap

This will lead you to a page where you can enter your website sitemap address.

Adding Sitemap

It’s also necessary to add robots.txt file to your website to instruct search engine bots the pages to add to the Google index and those to leave out. If you use WordPress, you can add your robots.txt file or edit it through the Yoast SEO plugin.

To do this, go to your WordPress dashboard and click on “tools” under “SEO” if you have the plugin activated.

Yoast SEO Plugin

This will take you to a page with options. Click on the “File Editor.”

Yoast File Editor

If you’ve never created one, you can click on the “Create a robots.txt file” button.

Creating Robots File via Yoast SEO

You can then save your changes.

Robots text file

It’s also important to know the number of your pages indexed in the search engines. To do this, navigate to your Google Console dashboard and click on “Coverage.”

Google Search Console - Coverage

This will lead you to a page where you can see the number of your pages with errors, valid pages with warnings, valid pages, and excluded pages. Here, you can easily find a page with an error or one that’s not indexed.

Report on Indexed Pages

When your page is indexed, there’s a chance it can rank for your target keywords.

4. Optimize for Rankbrain

Over the years, Rankbrain has become an important ranking signal. In fact, according to Google search quality analyst, Andrey Lipattsev, Rankbrain is the third most important Google ranking signal.

But what is the main function of Rankbrain?

It helps to rank pages based on users’ interactions. One of the main factors that affect this is the dwell time. How long do visitors from Google search engine spend on your website before leaving?

To optimize your website for Rankbrain, you need to reduce your website’s bounce rate and increase the time on site.

One thing you also need to do is increase your click-through rate (CTR) on the search engine results page (SERP).

A CTR study found that search rank is correlated with CTR with the number one result having a CTR of 31.52% on desktop and 24.05% on mobile.

Page search rank and CTR ratio

It’s important to note though, that a high CTR won’t help your page if it has a high bounce rate.

5. Optimize your website for mobile

If you want to get more traffic from search engines, then you need to pay more attention to mobile devices.

This is because more of your potential visitors from search engines are coming through mobile devices. In fact, about 60% of Google searches are done on mobile according to a report.

Share of online searches initiated with mobile device, by industry

The shift in search traffic from desktop to mobile has also led Google to mobile-first indexing. This means that Google will index the mobile version of your website before the desktop version.

With a poor mobile site, it becomes difficult for your website to rank on search engines.

Is your website mobile friendly? You can find out by using the Google mobile-friendly test. Enter your website address into the tool and click on “Run Test.”

Mobile Friendly Test Report

This will show you whether your website is mobile-friendly or not. You’ll also be able to check other issues with your page when you click on “View Details.”

Mobile Friendly Test report - issues and tips

If your website has a responsive theme, it’ll adapt to any device accessing it.

However, if you have a separate mobile version of your website, you should always test if it’s mobile-friendly. If I’ll give you an advice though, forget about a mobile version and just use a responsive theme.

By making the transition from a non-responsive mobile site to a mobile-responsive site, Offspring got a 25.59% increase in organic traffic and 102.58% year-on-year rise in mobile/tablet revenue.

Switcing to mobile optimized websites, that are fast, responsive and easy to use would increase revenue

6. Improve your website speed

With the improvement in internet connections and technology generally, your website visitors expect a fast site. Having a slow website will increase your bounce rate.

Obviously, this means your page isn’t providing value to visitors and it will be pushed down the rankings to be replaced by faster websites.

In a study by ThinkWithGoogle, a faster page speed leads to a lower bounce rate.

Page Speed Bouncy Rate Relation

But if you don’t know your website speed, how can you improve it? Some tools you can use to find your website speed are Pingdom, GTMetrix, Google Page Speed Insights, etc.

To use Pingdom, enter your website address into the tool and select the location of the server to test from. The location of your server should be the closest to your ideal visitors. Click on “Start Test.”

Selecting Server Location on Pingdomain Tools

Pingdom will show your performance details like load time, page size, number of requests, performance grade, and other details.

Pingdom website report

Apart from this, you can see your website’s detailed speed analysis. You’ll see areas to improve to increase your website speed.

Hints on improving website speed

To improve your website speed, there are some steps you need to take. These are:

i). Compress images and videos
One of the main contributors to a heavy page is media content. Having heavy images and videos on a page could slow your page considerably.

When you reduce media size through compression, it goes a long way to speed up your page. An example of a tool you can use to compress your images is JPEG Optimizer.

Use JPG Optimizer to optimize images

ii). Use a content delivery network (CDN)
A CDN helps you to host your media content. This means your page can load faster. Some content delivery networks you can use are Cloudflare, MaxCDN, Amazon CloudFront, etc.

iii). Use a fast host
A slow host could make your website slow. To improve your website speed, you should consider using a premium host that will offer better speeds.

iv). Use accelerated mobile pages (AMPs)
To improve load speeds in mobile devices, Google initiated the AMP project which works with various web design& development elements to get pages to load faster. These pages are lighter than traditional pages and load much faster. An average AMP loads in less than 0.5 seconds.

Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) median load time

By increasing his website speed, Nicholas Kinports increased organic traffic to his website by 70% in 3 months.

Increasing website speed leads to better organic traffic

7. Invest in Video

For a few years now, videos have been increasing in popularity. That’s only set to continue in 2019. According to forecasts by Cisco, 82% of consumer IP traffic will be video by 2021, up from 73% in 2016.

Video popularity share

Do you have a strategy for creating videos?

If you don’t, you need to know that YouTube is the second largest search engine. And according to data from Jumpshot compiled by Rand Fishkin, YouTube has double the number of searches on Bing.

Web search share

Whatever service you offer, there’s someone looking for it on YouTube. It can also be an edge if your competitors currently have no plan for videos.

Added to this, videos are showing up more in searches, mostly videos from YouTube.

You can see a series of videos in the search results for some search terms. According to research by Searchmetrics, 55% of Google search results contain a video. 82% of these videos are from YouTube.

More then half google search results contain a video

In some cases, Google show snippets of a video as the top result. This part of the video will help answer the searcher’s query.

Snippets of video as top search results

One way to optimize your YouTube videos for search engines is to include your keywords in your video title and also channel keywords to improve your channel’s visibility.

8. Optimize your content for Voice search

Voice search has been increasing in popularity in the past few years.

One of the reasons is due to the accuracy of voice algorithms meeting up with that of a human. Voice search algorithms now have an error rate of 5.1% which is on par with a human.

Google machine learning word accuracy

With the introduction of Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod in recent years, voice search traffic will only continue to increase.

With these smart speakers, users can now carry out many functions in their homes like regulating temperature and others.

Added to that, users can search through their voice to find important information. They can also shop, add products to their carts and order products.

The catch here is that these smart speakers only use voice. And they’re becoming more popular. According to a study by NPR and Edison Research, about 1 in 6 American adults have a smart speaker. This about 39 million American adults. You can’t ignore such a huge number.

16% of american population older then 18 own smart speaker

Just 2 years ago, voice search accounted for 1 out of 5 Google searches on Android devices. That will only increase as the years go by. But if you want to optimize your website for voice search, you need to know some of its characteristics.

Mobile queries made with voice on Android

Voice search tends to be conversational as most people talk to their devices like fellow humans. It also tends to be longer than typed search as it’s easier to speak than type a query.

For voice search results on smart speakers, the answers are usually taken from the featured snippets on the search results page. Usually, a page that has the user’s question has an edge to be the answer to that query.

If you’re targeting a keyword for voice search, you should think of the most likely question a searcher would ask. Include this question in your content.

Below is an example of a page that features in the snippet for a question it has on its page.

Targeting voice search query

However, before you think of targeting voice search queries, your website needs to be on the first page for that search term.

According to an analysis of 10,000 Google Home results by Brian Dean, over 74% of search results for smart speakers are taken from the top 3 results and less than 10% are from the fifth to tenth position.

Voice search result trends

9. Build backlinks

Gaining backlinks from other websites is a sign of trust in your website content. Backlinks have always been one of the most important ranking signals. And it will continue to be into 2019.

In fact, backlinks are one of the 3 most important ranking signals with content and Rankbrain as the other two.

One fact about backlinks is that both the quantity and quality of the backlinks you gain matter.

Building backlinks illustration

For instance, getting a link from the New York Times will do a lot more for your search ranking thank a link from a website nobody has heard of.

Having said that, getting many links from authoritative websites also beat getting one. In Backlinko’s study, the number of backlinks to a web page has a correlation to their position on the search results page.

Website positioning on google search results page perfectly correlates to site backlinks

The bad news though, is that getting backlinks is a difficult task. So what can you do to get more backlinks for your website?

i). Guest blogging
One of the factors that affect the quality of a page is the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of its author.

One way to show these traits is through guest blogging. This helps you to have access to a wider audience than your website.

More so, you get a backlink to your website in the author bio section of the post. This is an example of a guest post by Dr. SharonroseSamelak on “Bodies for Birth” and a backlink to her website.

Gaining links through guest blog post

ii). Posting in forums
Many times, people look to forums to ask questions. Sometimes, it could be as a result of not finding a suitable answer on search engines.

A forum also provides an opportunity to build relationships with potential customers and fellow professionals.

While answering a question, you may give a brief answer and link to your web page that answers that question in details.

This is an opportunity to provide value and also gain a backlink. This is an example of a question on Quora:

Forum Question

Neil Patel answered this question briefly and also added a link to his website that answers the question in details.

Answer forum question to gain backlink to your website

iii). Getting featured in Podcasts
This type of content is becoming popular with website visitors. According to the infinite dial study by Edison Research and Triton Digital, 26% of Americans listen to podcast monthly.

That’s up from 24% in 2017. And 26% represents 73 million Americans!

Featuring on a podcast is an easy way to gain a backlink to your website. This podcast could be an interview or a discussion about your area of expertise. Most times, it would take you less effort than writing a guest post or link building outreach. And you’ll get a backlink. This is an example of a podcast featuring Brian Dean and a backlink to his website.

Earn a backlink when featured on podcast

iv). Carry out research/study
In every industry, writers and other professionals are always looking for data to back up their points.

When you carry out a study with results that prove this point, websites will link to your website most times they use statistics or results from your study.
An example is a study about YouTube videos by Brian Dean. That study had 342 backlinks in over a year and a lot of search traffic.

Performing research study

v). Tracking mentions

If you have gained some popularity online, some websites will make reference to your name or business name. In some cases, these websites may fail to add a backlink to your website. You can reach out to the webmasters to add a link to your website.

A tool you can use to find these mentions online is Mention. You’ll see your mentions online and those without links.

Tracking mentions

You can also set up alerts for when your name is mentioned online.

10. Optimize your website for Local SEO

If you sell a product or provide a service, you want to attract more customers from your locality. To do that, you need to improve your local SEO. According to think with Google, about 4 in 5 consumers carry out local searches.

4 in 5 consumers conduct local searches on their smartphones, tablets or computers

Furthermore, people who perform local searches take action quickly. The study found that 50% of people who perform a local search on their smartphones and 34% of those who do the same on their tablet/desktop visit a physical store within a day.

Consumers act quickly after they perform online local search

To improve your local SEO, some steps you need to take are:

i). Add your business to local listings
Having your business on local directories helps to confirm the credibility of your business at a particular location.

For search engines to produce local search results, they have to check the number of local listings your business appear to authenticate it.

According to a study by BrightLocal, businesses that appear in top 3 locations of local searches have an average of 85 local citations.

Add Business to Local Listings or why citation matters

Your business should appear in general local business listings like Google My Business, Yelp, Bing Places for Business, Foursquare, etc. Likewise, your business should appear in directories related to your profession.

For instance, a doctor should appear on local directories like RateMDs, ZocDoc, Wellness.com, HealthGrades, etc. or a lawyer on Arvo. Added to that, you should have your business on listings that are present in your city.

Adding your business to these local directories will improve its chances of ranking for local keywords.

It’s also important to note that your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) should be consistent across all your local directory entries.

When you have varying information on different platforms, it causes confusion to search engines as your business may start looking like 2 entities. This could see your local search rank drop rather than go up. Below is an example of a local listing by Dr. Shoshany on ZocDoc.

Appearance in popular local listings like ZocDoc is an example of a quality citation for a doctor

i). Create a Google My Business Page
This is one of the most popular local listings your business should appear on. With this page, your business can appear on Google local map pack where 3 businesses appear on the front page for searches with local intent.

Apart from that, it also allows you to have all the important information a searcher needs to get in touch with your business.

To create a page for your business, visit Google My Business and click on “Start Now.”

Creating GMB Page

This will take you through the pages to provide your business details. When you’re done, you can verify your business through the options Google will provide for you.

Creating google my business page, success message

After verification, you’ll have full control of your page. It’s necessary to add details like images, opening hours, website address, and other additional details. You should also update your Google My Business page with posts.

This could be new developments in your business or promotional offers. Below is an example of a Google My Business page by Dr. Shoshany.

Google My Business Page

ii). Encourage User reviews
When you say your business is good, it may be a lie. But when an external source, who has nothing to gain, says it, it’s more trustworthy. This is why user reviews are powerful tools you should employ to improve your local search rankings.

According to a study by BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. But the reality is that not every satisfied customer will drop a review.

When searching for product or service, customers tend to trust personal recommendations and online reviews.

Because it doesn’t cross their minds. You need to remind your satisfied customers to drop a review for your business. This will make your business look more authentic to a potential customer and help to boost your local search ranking.

Below is an example of reviews on Dr. Shoshany’s Google My Business page. You can see that he even gave replies to some reviews to further explain some of their services.

Google my business page reviews and owner replies

Final thoughts

2019 is another opportunity to meet your lofty business targets. But to do that, you need more leads and customers. One of the best sources of both is targeted traffic from search engines.

When you follow these steps, you have a great chance of ranking higher for your target keywords. I wish your website and business the best in 2019.

Alex Membrillo Cardinal CEO

Alex Membrillo

Founder and CEO

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal, a digital marketing agency focused on growing multi location companies. His work as CEO of Cardinal has recently earned him the honor of being selected as a member of the 2018 Top 40 Under 40 list by Georgia State University as well as 2015 and 2016 Top 20 Entrepreneur of metro Atlanta by TiE Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year,and the Digital Marketer of the Year by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).