SEO Themes for 2019

Eli Schwartz is a growth consultant who helps enterprises increase their organic visibility at scale. In that capacity he has worked with brands like Shutterstock, BlueNile, Quora, Zendesk, G2 Crowd, and many others to unlock their potential from organic channels.

Before setting out on his own to work with select companies on scaling organic strategies, he was a director of growth at SurveyMonkey where he led the SEO team in building SEO from nearly zero to one of the largest growth drivers as the company went public on the NASDAQ. During his tenure at SurveyMonkey, he also launched the company’s first APAC office in Singapore, and oversaw international growth across the globe.

Eli’s writing has appeared on top digital sites such as Huffington Post, the Y Combinator Blog, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal. He has presented at digital conferences across the US, Asia, and Europe and regularly appears as a guest on top industry podcasts. You can read more about him on his blog: and follow him on LinkedIn:

Year after year, many have been predicting the of impending death of SEO and there were some years, I almost believed it. Now, not only do I not think SEO is on any sort of death bed, I think that its brightest years are still to come.

For years, organizations big and small have been underinvesting in SEO in favor of allocating budgets towards paid channels. For user acquisition, paid marketing offered an easy channel for growth, so other channels like organic and referral received less attention. Now that paid costs are rising with the reduction of targeting data due to privacy regulation, I believe there will be a resurgence in demand for SEO, so here are some of the themes that I think will be popular in 2019.

1) Google has been rapidly expanding their Google Assistant capabilities which powers voice search on phones and Google Home. This past year, Google moved the goalpost once again with the launch of the Google Home Hub which now adds a visual display to a voice assistant. I expect to see position zero (the very first spot on Google) matter more than ever as an increasing amount of searches are conducted on these assistant devices. Smart content writers who optimize their writing towards ranking on these top positions will win in this new paradigm of multi-platform search. From the tests I have conducted even if there’s no click that results from a position zero, the value of the brand increases similar to a display campaign.

2) For years, shady marketers have been peddling links as the secret to high rankings on Google. This is no longer the secret to success.  Google AI is good enough that this year Google will commence their autonomously driven taxi service. A company that produces technology which can make life and death decisions millions of times per day should have no problem figuring out which links are unnatural or gamed.

I think that this year backlinks will start to matter less as Google simply discounts unnatural links, and the minority of websites that used these tactics will have to work on generating natural links. Search engine rankings will be based on QUALITY links and QUALITY content as determined by human mimicking technology that underpins Google’s core algorithm.

With links no longer as valuable a factor as they have been in the past, technical architecture and uncovering the unique ability for each site to be successful in search will be critical. Essentially marketers need to focus on the basics of good marketing rather than finding shortcuts.

 3) Google isn’t the only company with a smart assistant that allows users to search by voice, and while search isn’t their core competency Amazon and Apple likely will cut into Google’s search dominance as an increasing amount of users adopt their devices over Google’s. For years, nearly everyone ignored every engine that was not named Google, but that party is about to end.

I believe that 2019 will be the year that once again organic marketing will not just be about how to optimize for Google, but we will have to take into account these other “engines” as well. This new reality will make things a lot harder for websites as the rules for ranking will not be the same. Now, marketers will need a strategy on how to best rank on each engine.

I may be wrong about the specific themes for next year, but I am quite confident that by the end of 2019, SEO as a channel will matter more than it did at the beginning of this year. Hiring for organic roles have been accelerating all through 2018, and I believe that if the economy slows as many are predicting this channel dues to its lopsided ROI potential will become even more critical.

Eli Schwartz