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An effective digital marketing campaign doesn't just build "brand awareness." An effective digital marketing campaign results in the leads your business needs to grow. And one of the best ways to do that is with a top-notch SEO strategy. Of course, Google changes its search algorithms hundreds of times a year. This year, Google is prioritizing mobile-friendly websites with lightning fast loading speeds.

To ensure that your small business remains at the top of local search results in the new year, you need to follow these major SEO trends.

High quality content

Outfitting a website with relevant content has long been a strategy of digital marketers. But with each passing year, Google has gotten better at separating high-quality, thought-provoking content from low-grade spam. The better your website content, the more likely you are to appear at the top of important search engine results pages. Consumers are also more likely to trust your business when you have well-written website content boosting your brand image.

Through internal linking, great content can also be an important part of your sales funnel. Savvy SEO experts can channel visitors to key pages of your website, which will result in more conversions and an increase in "pages viewed per session" in Google Analytics.

Smarter link building

The days of overseas link farms are long gone, but that doesn't mean links shouldn't be an important part of your small business's SEO strategy. When you create content that's worth sharing, other companies and publishers will link to your website, boosting your SEO. Jeffrey Shipman, Director of Marketing Innovation at HubShout, says that the content has to be especially useful to visitors to earn links.

"Links are still the kings of SEO going into 2019. Moz recently released their 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors and 27% was attributed to link signals. The key to getting great links is to have a great asset to link back to. Once you have a great asset, start the manual outreach. If you can't do it yourself, look for a white label SEO reseller to help out," advises Shipman.

Mobile-first indexing

Google rolled out mobile-first indexing in 2018, meaning that any company that wants to be noticed online will need to adjust accordingly. So what is mobile-first indexing, and why do small business owners need to know about it?

Google has countless "spiders" crawling the web, analyzing web pages and indexing them. This determines where, and if, your website's pages appear in Google search results. In the mobile-first indexing era, these spiders will now analyze the mobile version of your website first. Ultimately, your mobile user experience will determine where your website ranks from now on.

All of this means that mobile SEO will be more important than ever. Without a mobile-friendly version of your website, your online sales funnel will suffer. Potential leads will be lost as they choose more mobile-friendly websites.

Voice search

Consumers can search for whatever they need without even touching a keyboard. 50% of all searches will be done by voice. And people will use voice-enable home assistants, like Google Home or Amazon's Alexa, for at least 30% of all voice searches.

To cater your SEO to voice search, you'll need to start focusing on keywords that are seven to nine words long. People tend to use longer phrases when searching by voice, like they're having a conversation. These phrases are often in the form of a question, making that format important for SEO in the new year.

As more companies invest in quality websites and strategies, the market will become more crowded than ever in 2019. Lamar Hull, founder of Organic Clicks, summarizes the necessary strategies for the new year.

"SEO will become more competitive than ever in 2019...It will become much harder to show up at the top of the organic search results, so while you are working on that, you need to show up at the top of Google with Ads, engage on social media platforms through content sharing and networking, social media Ads (FB, YouTube, and Instagram), and have a positive reputation online. Over time, this will result in people searching for your brand because they always see you. Google will recognize this and not only will you rank for non-branded keywords, but your branded keywords will make a bigger impact in your business than any other type of search or marketing campaign," said Hull.

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