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2019 has been another busy year for SEO professionals. As in previous years, we have seen numerous updates that have reshaped the SEO landscape in a variety of different ways. Below are some of the best and worst developments for SEO in 2019.
Google’s Communications Around Updates
While Google is technically getting better at communicating regarding algorithm updates, it still leaves a lot to be desired. The web design community is still noticing ghost updates pushed out by Google with little to no fanfare. In many cases, Google simply does not comment in situations where a stealth update is suspected.
Needless to say, the lack of communication around many of these updates has frustrated website owners across the board. Many of the changes that Google makes to improve its search engine usability for human users can have unintended consequences for SEO.
For example, as Google's natural language processing improves and search engines become more capable of understanding complex queries, the way that people search will change accordingly.
Google is continuing to dial up the pressure on those that use black hat techniques for artificial link building. Some websites who were engaged in spamming activities several years ago, but have now cleaned up their act, are now being penalised for the decisions they took in the past. Google's disavowal feature has given website owners some degree of control over the problem of low-quality websites dragging their SEO score down by linking to them. This continues to be an effective way for websites to control their link building.
An Emphasis on High-Quality Long-Form Content
Over the years, Google has gradually been increasing its emphasis on long-form and high-quality content. However, updates to the Google SEO algorithm this year have seen this process accelerate. Traditionally, it has been best to keep articles in the 500 to 1000-word range in order to optimise their search engine performance. Google is now becoming much more amenable to longer content than this, provided it is well-formatted.
We are also starting to see a shift towards an emphasis on infrequent high-quality articles, rather than a constant stream of media content.
Receiving links to your website from high-quality sources will boost your SEO score. Conversely, if lots of low quality and spammy sources link back to your website, then this can negatively impact your score. A consequence of this in the past has been that low-quality websites can link to authoritative sources and end up lowering their SEO.
Link disavowing enables website owners to submit a disavow file to Google and have certain links ignored when establishing their SEO score. This gives website owners some degree of control over whose links are counted towards their SEO.
Fewer Star Ratings
Star ratings were once a common appearance across Google's search results pages. However, updates this year have dramatically decreased their presence. This is unsurprising given that by adding a few lines of code to any website, webmaster could make it look like they had a 5-star rating with tens of thousands of reviews. Now that the star ratings are disappearing, malicious websites will not be able to use this loophole.
The field of SEO moves at breakneck speed, and it can be difficult to keep up. The developments above are just a small selection of the many developments over the last year.
Written by Alex Mungo.