Every year brings new SEO challenges and surprises. The year 2017 won’t be any different, but we do expect these topics to be important considerations in the new year:
Interstitials / Popups on Mobile Devices
We’ve all seen mobile sites with a popup covering the content we were trying to read. These popups will be punished by Google in early 2017. Like ads above the fold, Google feels these popups harm the user experience – and they do not want to send visitors to such sites. Many survey and tool vendors such as ometrics and surveygizmo have been proactive to make sure their clients are not at risk, but some vendors may not be aware.
SSL / HTTPS
Google is really pushing SSL, and this is the year they accelerate their plan to make the web secure. Having your entire website served over HTTPS used to be rare, and only credit card or health privacy transactions were secured. And even that was spotty. But Google has begun a campaign since 2014 to secure everything. Two years ago, Google introduced a rankings boost for sites entirely on SSL. Last year they provided better features in Search Console. And we started to see SSL as “must have”. But progress has been voluntary in many regards, with other business objectives prioritized first.
Next year, new developments will force your hand: Warnings will start appearing in Chrome. Come January 2017 the Chrome browser will show increasingly dire warnings for any site that hasn’t moved to HTTPS. Starting with pages that have credit card or password fields:
Initially, users will be warned:
With more dire warnings for insecure sites later in 2017:
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
AMP is the super-speedy loading of pages you’ve likely seen in some mobile results. After you setup AMP on your site, Googlebot places your content on it’s super-fast servers – but making it look like your URL. AMP was just for news sites, but now Google has opened AMP up to other sorts of sites – and 700k+ sites have been using it! If mobile traffic is important to your site, AMP will likely become vital over the next year.
Google just loves schema. We’ve seen over this last year as schema has helped increase pages indexed, and expect it to play a greater role every year. As artificial intelligence is used more and more in the “Rank Brain” algorithm, sites that can be easily categorized by Google will received more visibility. I for one welcome our new overlords… subject to future review.
Links are still an important part of Google’s algorithm. But sustainable, authentic link earning is always the best longterm approach in link building. So how can you get these links?
1. Content marketing
Produce great content, and reach out to authority sites and influencers in your space.
2. Business Development Link Building
All of those traditional activities such as sponsoring a baseball team, joining the chamber, or participating in online communities/forums are actually great ways to get links.
Publicity is that powerful branch of public relations that provides links and visibility from media sites.
These methods of earning links have the best longterm potential, and are quite powerful for building and keeping rankings.
The shrinking organic traffic (more ads at the top), increased competition, and ever-changing nature of organic search require more effort than ever. Gone are the days of getting your site “SEO-ed” and expecting free traffic. All traffic is either earned, or easily taken away. May you experience a great new year with SEO!
Websites are increasingly being hacked on autopilot. Intruders are using scripts to crawl the web and infect sites using outdated or insecure software. Including plugins, add-ons, and themes. Security is necessary for web marketing to be successful, and SEO is particularly vulnerable.
1. Spammy Content
Intruders typically want to use a website’s existing authority in Google to push the most spammy content. Usually with affiliate links to casinos, adult content, pharmacies, etc. New pages, outside of the view of your normal website, are often created. Once Google finds this kind of spammy content on your site, your rankings can suffer. And your site might even be classified as “Adult in Nature.” That can mean a complete loss of search viability for prospects with “Safe Search” turned on in their search engine of choice! Google has said that even comments are taken into account when considering overall page content, so having entire sections of pages vulnerable can be particularly dangerous.
2. Thin and Duplicate Content Penalties
The pages that intruders create are usually low quality content. To build pages of unique content on hijacked websites, shortcuts are followed. These shortcuts can mean a Google Panda penalty for your site as well! Thin pages and duplicate content matching other hacked sites are enough to set off Google’s alarms.
3. Ads and Affiliate links
With Google’s new updates centered around quality, it’s easy to also set off alarms when your site is suddenly hosting ads and affiliate links for all sorts of things. Google’s quality guidelines take into account various factors such as ads above the fold, links to known affiliate networks, etc. If these are in your intruder’s monetization strategy, your rankings in Google are very likely to suffer!
4. Over Optimized Content
Outdated and aggressive SEO techniques are still often used by intruders, and that can mean over optimization penalties as well. Repeating a keyword several times in a title tag, or endlessly in page content, is an aggressive SEO technique that used to actually work. But not with modern Google! With spammy automated content created by an intruder, hacked websites are again vulnerable to Google penalties.
5. Growth and Loss of Indexed Pages
For years, Google has been wary of sites that grow their page count by a thousand percent overnight. And when the intrusion is fixed, it can look like a massive cull to Google, as 90% of the site’s content is suddenly uncrawlable. This instability is bad both ways in the world of search engine crawlers, and can take a while to undo.
6. Spammy Inbound Links
To get the intruder’s pages to rank on search engines, an automated link campaign is often created. The words “automated link campaign” carry the connotation of low quality, and that’s especially true here. Links can be from other compromised websites, adult sites, and just the absolute worst of the web! There are various ways to research what links have been created, but it’s difficult to catch them all! Many will have been de-indexed by Google, but still counted. Link cleanup & disavowal could potentially go on for years.
7. Getting Onto a Blacklist
There are sites, including Google, that may be warning off potential visitors to your site. Google will warn potential visitors right from their search results! But Antivirus software programs from Norton, McAfee, and many others are also scanning websites. Once you are on one of their blacklists, they can potentially block visitors. You won’t even see those attempted visits show up and bounce in analytics. They don’t even get to view your site and trigger analytics code before being blocked. And it can be hard to get off of these blacklists, too. Most companies don’t even think to check blacklists after cleaning up an intrusion.
So what can you do about this? Well prevention is key!
When it comes to website intrusions, prevention is crucial. Even large companies do not pay enough attention to security until an intrusion happens. Software updates are just the beginning for prevention. Consider monitoring admin logins, file system changes, and more. Catching an intrusion early on will be vital as well. If warnings are in webmaster tools, it could be a long road back for website visibility.
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Having a good mobile experience is increasingly important for websites. Advances in technology have made it possible for many more sites to be viewed on mobile devices, but the experience is usually much less pleasurable than viewing via desktop. Google wants to change that, and is again trying to move website design in the correct direction.
Google and Bing are currently locked in a battle to be the best search engine for mobile. They know users will judge them by the sites suggested during a search. When searchers encounter unusable sites from their query, they change search engines. Wouldn’t you rather have ten good sites given to you from a search than a hit-and-miss list?
Mobile is growing fast: Comscore estimates that mobile usage will outpace desktop usage this year! Google has already started showing “Mobile Friendly” icons in search results – and has even tested “NOT Mobile Friendly” icons recently!
So what to do? Here are some quick tips:
1. View your site in mobile
Try using this free testing tool from Google:
Google tells you if fonts are too small, there are missing “viewport” metatags, and other mobile usability errors.
2. Easy URLs
Keyword rich URLs have lost much of their power in the last few years, but are likely to lose much more: They aren’t as easy to type into a smartphone.
3. Responsive design
A responsive design is usable at any size. Previous efforts to provide different sites to different kinds of devices have failed as the many types of devices have exploded and crossed over into other categories, such as 2-in-1s and giant phones. Having several versions of your website might have also meant a nightmare in keeping all of them updated, and in sync. Googlebot in all it’s wisdom couldn’t figure out which version was canonical, either – and which to return a certain user to, based on their device.
Google’s new Mobile Usability reports (in Webmaster Tools) show the following issues:
– Flash content,
– missing viewport (a critical meta-tag for mobile pages),
– tiny fonts,
– fixed-width viewports,
– content not sized to viewport,
– clickable links/buttons too close to each other.
4. Access to site resources
Need a good interactive agency or website design firm? We’ve worked with many, and partnered with the best. Talk to us about your needs, and we’ll introduce you to the right match!
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