With a new year upon us and the inevitable changes it will bring to the online marketing world, now is a great time to review your current strategy and to see what trends you should be taking note of this year. For many 2018 was a stellar year, with a booming economy and low unemployment numbers, but as we enter the new year some cracks are starting to show in this extended bull market. With such a strong economy many business owners were feeling overwhelmed with the abundance of requests they were receiving, and this led them to significantly reducing or eliminating altogether their marketing efforts (I don’t need to tell you why I think this is a terrible idea), but now that the boom times are starting to pass, it’s time to get back to effectively marketing your business online, and here are 3 areas of note that I see having a big impact on your digital marketing strategy for 2019.

1. Online Security

 Website security continues to be a major problem as we head into the new year, and it seems like every day we’re hearing of a new large-scale data breach that affects millions of web users. So what can you do to help ensure the security of your online visitors?

Where is your SSL certificate?

 With all the major browsers and search engines now not-so-subtly pushing for websites to use the https protocol, if you don’t have a valid SSL certificate in place you may be losing out on a large number of visitors to your site who are being scared away by the ominous warnings some of these browsers are presenting, not to mention the potential risks you are placing your site’s visitors at.

Is your WordPress website up to date?

 A recent study showed that approximately 65% of WordPress sites are not currently up to date. Updating your WordPress core file, plugins and themes, will ensure you have the latest security patches in place, and help you avoid the possibility of your site being hijacked.

Keep your social media accounts secure

 It seems like every other week we’re hearing about another data breach at one of the major social networks, and this past September’s Facebook breach that affected over 50 million users is a good reminder about the importance of reviewing your social media security. The first thing to remember is to make sure you’re using a different password for each of your social media accounts, and that it’s a STRONG password (‘1234567’ or ‘password’ just won’t cut it anymore). Using a password generator is your best option and if like me, you struggle with remembering all your password, using a tool like LastPass can save you a lot of headaches. Also remember to regularly review your privacy settings and to watch for any suspicious activity on your account.

2. Big Changes to WordPress

 WordPress continues to be the go-to platform for web developers, and with 60% of the CMS (Content Management System) market share, and currently powering approximately 26% of the web overall, it shows no signs of slowing down in 2019.

 Late 2018 saw the introduction of the much dreaded ‘Gutenberg’ update to the WordPress platform (you can read more about it here), and this caught many website owners off guard, leading to some very frustrated site operators. A new editing interface that has received mixed reviews, and compatibility issues with many themes and plugins have seen more than a few WordPress users electing to roll their sites back to a previous version (see above why this is not a good idea). As long as you’re using an up to date theme and plugins from a reputable developer, you shouldn’t be having any real issues, other than the challenge of having to learn a editing new interface. Should you wish to restore your website to the old interface that you know and love, a plugin like Disable Gutenberg is available so you can keep your site up to date and secure, while maintaining the familiar editing experience.

3. SEO Continues to Evolve

 Organic search still plays a very important role in driving traffic to your website, but SEO in 2019 is about much more than vying for that coveted #1 spot on the Google search results page. With the rise of voice search, continued growth of video sharing platforms like Youtube and Vimeo (YouTube is now the #2 most used search engine in the world), as well as a greater reliance on social media platforms when searching for information, you need to ensure your business will be found in a variety of different places.

 Heading into 2019 Google still handles more than 90% of all search engine queries, but the way these results are being presented has changed considerably over the last couple years. Paid ads, MyBusiness profiles, and featured snippets are changing the way search is being presented to the user now. Optimizing your site to appear in a Google featured snippet, answer box, or carousel is now the holy grail of search optimization, and grabbing some of this prime search page real estate can mean a big boost in visitor traffic to your site.

The changing landscape of Google’s search results page

 As an ever greater share of searches are being performed on mobile devices, technical SEO factors remain a vital part of the search puzzle. Despite advancements in download speeds and the buzz surrounding the emergence of 5G networks, having a site that loads quickly, and renders correctly on mobile screens is still of vital importance in optimizing your site.

So What Next?

 It looks like 2019 is shaping up to be another competitive year for advertisers as more businesses are expected to ramp up their marketing efforts, and with advancements in technology continuing to accelerate traffic growth, now is a great time to review your place in the online market.