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Preparing For SEO in 2017 [Summary of Search]

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:
chrome-indicator-image

 

 

 

 

 

With more dire warnings for insecure sites later in 2017:

chrome-warning-image

 

 

 

 

 

 

JavaScript-based sites

There are many great reasons to use one of the new JavaScript frameworks in a web app or site: They tend to be mobile friendly and give a superior user experience in many cases. You’ve seen JavaScript search widgets on ebay and amazon providing “faceted search” – allowing users to easily refine their searches by clicking a few checkboxes. Frameworks needing some help include Angular, Backbone, Meteor, and many of their child/related frameworks. Some frameworks, such as Angular v2, are getting better about being search engine friendly. And Google is crawling ever more javascript, but not well from what we’ve seen. And often sites need help implementing technologies such as prerender.io. We are increasingly seeing more of this kind of work, and expect it to accelerate 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.

Schema
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.

Backlinks
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.

3. Publicity
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.

More effort
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!

Google, The Internet Police Force, Aims At Mobile [Monthly Summary of Search]

Google is quickly becoming the self-appointed internet police force. To be fair, it sure is nice to have Google warn us when a website may be compromised and spreading malware. Google recently gave some false positives, but otherwise does a good job of keeping the internet a safe and happy place. Now Google is going a step further and is targeting mobile experience. With dramatic increases in mobile search over the last several years (and decreasing desktop search), Google is on a mission to identify mobile-friendly design and usability. Google is again changing the face of the web by mandating these features for sites that wish to rank highly in search results.

Text vs Images
In the early days of the web, browsers did not support multiple typefaces / fonts. Designers used jpg and gif images to create buttons for their menus and navigation, but search engines couldn’t read the words – missing an important signal about the URLs being linked to. A compromise had to be made, and for designers it felt less than ideal. The advent of web fonts have breathed life back into web design, but it was a difficult transition for many.

Site Speed
Slow website loading times are repulsive to Google in a couple of different ways: Not only are Googlebot’s crawlers tied up, but user experience suffers as well. Google can see bounce rates increase and knows they didn’t deliver the “right result” in those ten blue links.

Ads Above the Fold
Google’s own advertising system helped create a world of sites filled with ads. Users developed ad blindness and ad blockers, but usability still suffered. Having ads at the top of the page became a signal of poor quality to Google, and they rolled out an algorithm update specifically targeting these designs. Moving the ads meant a reduction in revenue for many sites, but changes were made to preserve the sweet flow of Google traffic.

Mobile
Google’s latest improvement for the web is happening in mobile.

Last fall, they started testing labeling which results were mobile friendly, showing tags next to sites on mobile devices. Google has announced a big change is coming in April for their mobile search results: sites will be severely penalized for a lack of mobile usability. Labels will be given to mobile friendly sites, too. It’s likely that many sites will see a drop in ranking when this goes into effect. Google and Bing both understand mobile is their most important battleground for marketshare, and Google assures us the change means “users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” For businesses, it will be vital that all pages pass Google’s Mobile friendly test, check Mobile Error Reports in Webmaster Tools and watch for common mistakes on mobile.

Not sure of next steps for your site? Time to start testing – or maybe a redesign from that “good place”. Need a good interactive agency or website design firm? We’ve worked with agencies and designers. And we partner with the best! Talk to us about your needs, and we’ll introduce you to the right match.

PSST! Need a Free Link?
Get a free link for your agency: Would you like our monthly take on the changing world of SEO delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to the Hyper Dog Media SEO Newsletter HERE! When you subscribe, each newsletter will contain a link idea for your business!

Kick-Start Your SEO in 2015

The search engine optimization (SEO) industry has certainly evolved these last few years. The many Google updates – and their sometimes heavy-handed penalties – in addition to an explosion of mobile traffic have shaped the rules for SEO and online marketing. When we look at what’s working at the end of 2014, we see just how much everything has changed. Big changes in SEO will certainly continue for 2015 and beyond.

Here are six things to focus your efforts on in 2015:

1. Mobilegoogle mobile tool

If you haven’t already, it’s time to take a mobile-first approach with responsive website design. As mentioned in last month’s blog all about mobile, Google has a new tool (and new expectations) around mobile friendliness. Test your site here:
https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

2. Rich Snippets

These underlying webpage code elements help Google and other sites understand when to show review stars, customized descriptions, and more. All of which are vital to your site ranking and click through rate.

twitter card-examplesConsider:

  • A study last year showed an average rankings increase of 4 positions when rich snippets were implemented.
  • In one case study, 30% more visitors clicked through from search results to a site with rich snippets.
  • John Mueller of Google recently requested that examples of rich snippet “spam” in Google be sent directly to him. It must be working, and it must be valuable, if Google is looking for spam!

There are many examples of different rich snippets at http://schema.org, a site and format created by Google, Yahoo and Bing. Some types include recipes, products, events, locations, people, ratings, etc. And other formats are also being provided by social media sites: Facebook open graph tags, LinkedIn cards, Twitter cards, and even Pinterest pincards. Consider how this tweet of a site using twitter cards looks better than the standard tweet: When twitter is given data in a twitter card format, they provide a much richer experience for viewers of that tweet. And there are many different types of twitter cards too: Galleries, large images, video players, etc.

3. Universal Analytics

Google analytics is finally getting an upgrade. In the past, data about site visitors was lost if they visited several of a brand’s website properties, switched devices, or had an extended period of time between visits. Universal Analytics fixes that and even allows custom dimensions, as well as extreme customization. The system came out of beta testing in 2014, and will be a requirement at some point. Is it on your radar to transition? If not, better get to it! Google will not be providing new features to regular analytics and will eventually force webmasters to make the switch.

4. Link Disavowal

Google’s Penguin penalty has made this a necessity. Do you know where your site has links? Most webmasters do not. And many links that were key in the past must now be disavowed in Google’s Webmaster Tools. That is the price we pay for Google’s ever-changing formula!

Here are some possible sources of problematic links:

  • “Site wide” footer links
    Are other sites linking to you from every page or in their footer? Google no longer sees this as a positive thing.
  • Links from 2004-2012
    If your SEO plan included creating links during this period, you should get a link analysis performed. Even if Google’s guidelines were being followed, it’s vital to make sure these links are still the kind Google wants to see.
  • Low quality links
    You know these when you see them. Would you visit the site a link is on? Does Google still see any authority there? These are important considerations for your links!
  • Links from penalized sites
    Sites that were once in Google’s good graces might now have switched hands or been penalized.
  • Negative SEO
    SEOs used to debate whether any site’s rankings could be hurt from the outside. Now, it’s commonly accepted that negative SEO is possible and happening throughout the web. Some sites are building low quality links, links on penalized sites, etc. pointing to competitors’ websites!

5. Migrate Your Site to HTTPS

Are you planning to migrate your entire site to HTTPS? Recent thoughts from Google are making this a more important consideration! A member of the Google Chrome browser team recently commented that anything less than HTTPS is like leaving the front door unlocked. On the search side, HTTPS has been identified as a minor ranking signal – and migrating your site should be considered. Be sure you don’t create duplicate content by accident though!
 
6. Use Content Marketing for Link Authority

Content marketing is  the new link building. It’s authentic marketing that can also boost your site’s rankings (but it must be done with an emphasis on quality outreach).

When done correctly, content marketing brings:

  • social sharing
  • brand visibility
  • inbound links (with authority)
  • referral traffic

Search Engine Optimization will always be ever-changing: Technology is moving at breakneck speeds and search engines have ever-changing criteria and expectations. Having these six items on your radar will help carry you nicely into the new year. And then some. The year 2016 may be completely different, but these are good solid investments of time and money.

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!

PSST! Need a Free Link?
Get a free link for your agency: Would you like our monthly take on the changing world of SEO delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to the Hyper Dog Media SEO Newsletter HERE! When you subscribe, each newsletter will contain a link idea for your business!