2019 will be the most significant year yet for search engine optimization (SEO). As in years past, SEO continues to serve as an invaluable stepping stone for small enterprises keen on competing with large corporations online on a near equal footing.

As part of their overarching digital marketing strategy, small companies need a coherent, consistent and well-thought-out SEO plan. Small enterprises must strive to appear in local search results. We are already halfway through 2019 but it’s not too late to take a look at the most popular SEO trends sweeping the market today.

1.    Voice Search

Voice search is certainly not making its entry in 2019 but it hasn’t yet made as big an impact as one would expect it to. 2019 looks like the year that will start to change. Google’s speech recognition technology is fast approaching 100% accuracy and is the bedrock on which Google voice search is going to run on especially since mobile internet use is surpassing desktop use.

But what does voice search mean for SEO? Voice queries tend to use more complete sentences or conversational keywords as opposed to text search where users will simply type in the 2 or 3 most relevant keywords.

2.    Content Matching User Intent

Someone wants to find information on a given subject. So they do a quick Google search and click on one of the websites that show up in the results. But it turns out that the content they find isn’t what they were looking for so they have to return to the search results and click on a different link.

Sometimes, this is because the keywords the person searched for weren’t the most relevant in the first place. Often though, it’s because a website’s content isn’t consistent with the keywords it’s optimized for. In 2019, small businesses are paying greater attention to how their content matches their keywords as a means of boosting user experience.

3.    Rapid Delivery

There’s arguably never been a time in human history where customers have had higher expectations of businesses than they do today. Online users aren’t willing to wait even a couple of seconds longer than they expect to. One study found that 2 in 5 internet users will abandon a web page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

Delivering content quickly has always been a big deal for SEO but 2019 is seeing the standards of rapid delivery rise even higher. Whether users are accessing it on a desktop computer or a smartphone, businesses must ensure their website loads in the shortest time possible. That may be achieved in multiple ways including getting rid of apps, plugins and elements you don’t need.

4.    Social Presence

Social signals play a major role in SEO. A quick look at the top 10 most popular websites and mobile apps in the world shows why. Facebook is the largest social networking app and has more than 2 billion active users. WeChat, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger each have over a billion users. About a dozen other social apps have hundreds of millions of users.

With users spending ever more time on social media, small businesses can create active social media business pages and direct the traffic they receive on these pages onto their websites via inbound links. Social media marketing and optimization isn’t new but 2019 will see a clear distinction emerge between the small businesses that take social media seriously and those who are happy to just get by.

5.    Longer Tail Keywords

If you search for the words ‘commercial bank’ or simply ‘bank’ on Google, the first page results will feature well-known local or international banking brands. Typically, large established businesses have huge marketing budgets and can afford to target generalized keywords.

Small businesses cannot compete on these keywords. They can however find opportunities for growth in more conversational long-tail keywords. So instead of ‘commercial bank’, something more local or niche like ‘sacramento small business banking’ would have less competition and still deliver relevant leads that have a higher likelihood of getting converted.

6.    Online Reputation

For many people, the Internet is the first place they check when they are thinking of making a purchase. That is irrespective of whether they intend to make their purchase online or at a brick and mortar store. In this regard, making sure your website ranks highly on search results is important.

But this won’t matter if your business or product has a bad reputation. A good reputation all starts with having a good product. After that, keep an eye on customer complaints and seek to resolve them quickly and conclusively. Provide excellent service consistently as that’s what will keep your Google and Facebook reviews highly positive.

Ride these trends through 2019 and give your small business the edge over your competition.