googlebot

Speed is Everything [Summary of Search]

Page loading speed has great importance with Google these days. From mobile visitors to Googlebots, every visitor will appreciate a speedy experience. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

1. Rise of mobile

The importance of mobile can be seen in Google’s announcements the last few years. Mobile users are more impatient than ever, and Google provided stats last week regarding just how impatient mobile users are:

– The average mobile page takes 22 seconds to load, but 53% of users leave after 3 seconds!

– Even mobile landing pages in AdWords were found to take 10 seconds loading time.

There are many easy changes available for sites to make, as the answer isn’t always in purchasing a faster web server. Google’s own analysis found that simply compressing images and text can be a “game changer”—30% of pages could save more than 250KB that way.

2. Ranking factor

A few years back, Google made page speed a small ranking factor – or at least they were finally explicit about it being a ranking factor. Since page speed issues aren’t given the exposure of crawl errors and other items in Google Search Console, it can be easy to put them on the “long list” of items to fix. Its addition as a ranking factor is a great signal that this needs to be prioritized.

3. Bounce rate

Nice try, loading up your site with images that take forever to load. Unfortunately, that doesn’t increase the duration of site visits. It just makes people angry. According to Google’s analysis, every second of loading time, from 1 to 7 seconds, increases the chance of a bounce by 113%! Many SEOs believe that “engagement metrics” such as bounce rate could also be a ranking factor. And it makes sense: When Google sees a rise in organic bounce rate, they know human visitors are judging the content. How could Google not take this data into account?

4. Crawl rate

In one recent test, increasing page speed across a site dramatically increased the site’s crawl budget. Slower sites can be overwhelmed by crawl activity. But if you ever feel the need to put a crawl delay in your robots.txt, take that as a warning sign. After all, even reasonably fast sites can often need more crawl budget.

Tools and Fixes

Luckily there are remedies. Some can be quite easy, such as adding compression to your web server. Others might require a trip to Photoshop for your site’s images. However, some items will not be worth fixing. Try to concentrate on the easiest tasks first. Run an analysis of your site through these two tools and see what you need to fix:

Google’s newest tool:

Test how mobile-friendly your site is.

GTmetrix.com features include a “waterfall” showing which page items load at which stage, history, monitoring, and more.

Good luck and enjoy optimizing the speed of your site!

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.

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