My Digital Predictions For 2019

It’s been a while.

2018 was a busy year – new baby, new house and being knee-deep in client work meant there wasn’t much time for writing here. Any spare time I had for writing was put towards articles for the Made to Engage blog (take a look here – I’m lucky to work with lots of smart people who share their bright ideas here).  

It’s the time of year when the internet is coming down with marketing predictions for the year ahead, so that feels like a decent place to get started again.

Without further ado, here a few of my digital predictions for 2019.

  1. Brands will still want to scale their SEO efforts, but won’t cover the basics
  2. Google to start exposing more specialist in-SERP results with structured data
  3. A big brand will get hit with a GDPR penalty
  4. Google will make moves to begin rendering JavaScript when crawling webpages

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail…

Brands will still want to scale their SEO efforts, but won’t cover the basics

This isn’t really a prediction per se, but ties closely to the idea of chasing fads. From an SEO perspective if you aren’t covering the basics that are easily controlled / optimised on your site, there isn’t much point chasing the latest must-have strategies.

There is a world of opportunity at your fingertips that can help search engines understand and rank your website better – title tags, on-page content, internal links, structured data, site speed, sitemaps, etc.

Take some time to identify opportunities that can be maximised with internal tweaks and get them nailed down as early as possible in 2019.

Google to start exposing more specialist in-SERP results with structured data

Some of the biggest changes in search in recent times has come in the shape of Google providing answers to search queries directly in the search results.

If someone searches for ‘What date is Easter’ they won’t need to click into The Sun’s result which ranks first for that query – in principle that’s bad, but it is The Sun after all…

I have a few issues with this:

  1. This content is typically scraped from other sites and displayed through Google. When the shoe is on the other foot, this is usually a breach of Google’s T’s & C’s.
  2. Website owners who have worked hard to rank well for the search query can end up with very little traffic as searchers no longer need to click through to the site ranking well to get an answer.

But, Google owns the game so there’s nothing to be gained from bitching about it.

In recent years a more sophisticated search results has emerged around specific industries (flights and job searches), where Google now displays a special search result feature that pulls in results from multiple brands within the relevant industries.

Job listings appearing directly in search results due to structured data

These results are wholly driven by structured data. If you don’t mark your content up correctly, you don’t get in.

I believe Google will expand this out to other industries at some point in the future (perhaps not 2019, but I’m throwing it out there anyway) – it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine this being rolled out for property listings or car sales. If you work in an industry with similar structures to those that have already been affected by structured data, I would advise to keep a close eye on future developments and to mark-up relevant content as soon as possible if schema already exists.

A big brand will get hit with a GDPR penalty

For most brands GDPR preparations most likely took up a good chunk of the first half of 2018. As 2019 begins there are still plenty of grey areas where it’s not 100% clear what is compliant with GDPR and what is not.

From a personal point of view, I signed up to very few emails requesting I opt-in for future emails prior to May 25th, when GDPR policy came into effect.

The reasons for this were 2-fold – I receive a lot of crap emails that I never read so this represented a good opportunity to disappear off those lists for good without having to do anything. I also wanted to see what happened after May 25th – would my daily emails be condensed down to the very few that I had opted into?

Hell no.

I noticed barely any difference in the amount of rubbish emails I received from May 26th onwards. I was still receiving GDPR opt-in emails a few months after May 25th. Oh, the irony.

And yet, there hasn’t been any crack-down on dodgy email senders since (that I’m aware of at least). Which leaves the question what was the point in the whole exercise?

I’ve a feeling there was a grace period post GDPR where companies were given time to get their ducks in a row. 6 months on and they may start to turn the screw. Will 2019 be the year we see a big brand get hit with a GDPR fine?

Google will make moves to begin rendering JavaScript when crawling webpages

Google announced at their I/O developer conference back in May that their long-term plan is to move rendering webpages closer in line to when they are crawling the page. Have a watch of the last few minutes of the video below if you missed it at the time:

Why is this important?

Currently, search engines aren’t great at dealing with content that is delivered through client-side rendered JavaScript. Search engines were designed to interpret HTML; to crawl and index the content on the page and to discover hyperlinks that will lead to new URLS, content and inevitably more links. When content is delivered through client-side rendered JavaScript, there is no content or hyperlinks on the page when search engine crawlers come to visit.

Barry Adams has been very vocal on this topic over the years – check out his post on State of Digital which gives more detail on some of the key challenges between SEO and JavaScript.

How far Google goes to make changes to their JavaScript rendering capabilities in 2019 is anyone’s guess. The video above does loosely indicate that we may begin to see some progress in around 6 months (which is about now), so we will hopefully see some developments in that space as we move through 2019. If we do, it will be a fundamental change to how search engines work which could have a huge influence on the work of SEO’s and developers.

That’s my lot.

To conclude, don’t get carried away with chasing a silver bullet in 2019. Re-double your efforts in optimising what you can easily control / change where required, learn more about changes in search, and digital marketing generally, that are most relevant to your niche and scale where appropriate.

Finally, go do some stuff. Stop planning and over-thinking – pull the trigger on those changes you’ve been meaning to test and see what happens.

Here’s to a great 2019.


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