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!
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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Around May 22nd, there was an update to Google’s search algorithms. It’s being called Penguin 2.0 (or sometimes Penguin 4) and is a major update. Matt Cutts said in a recent video that compared to the original Penguin update, this one does go much deeper. While the impact is supposed to be 2.3% of English queries, the effect is very large considering the number of Google keyword searches!
Here is the full history:
Penguin 1 on April 24, 2012 (impacting ~3.1% of queries)
Penguin 2 on May 26, 2012 (impacting less than 0.1%)
Penguin 3 on October 5, 2012 (impacting ~0.3% of queries)
Penguin 4 on May 22, 2013 (impacting 2.3% of queries)
Much of the analysis of Penguin 2.0 is still in progress, but some big brands were hit, including SalvationArmy.org and even Dish.com. As far as we can tell so far, Penguin 2.0 penalized:
1. Exact match anchor text
2. Spammy links to subpages
3. Link networks / schemes
4. Links from de-indexed and banned websites, including old directories.
5. link velocity “spikes”
Penguin is impacting sites with unintentional webspam. We’ve seen scraper sites (targeting adsense keywords) delivering the worst links to clients’ profiles. These sites weren’t created for a link building campaign, but instead just adsense revenue for some site owner in a distant land. While they could be ignored before, they cannot be any longer. Now their penalties are our penalties. The approach we recommend is:
Authority link building is the only protection against both negative SEO and Penguin penalties in general. Authority links are gained primarily from great content, promotion and involvement. One authority link can beat hundreds of spammy links in the algorithm of “the new Google”.
Find and remove as many unnatural links as you can manually before disavowing the rest.
Over the long term, these strategies will also help protect from Google penalties, and are of course great marketing initiatives:
a. Great content
Copy writing has gone through an evolution and cheap content is not going to cut it. Could it ever though?
b. Promotion & Outreach for Social Media Marketing & Inbound Links
Since the web’s inception, much content has been posted with little regard to promotion. Social, link building, and other outreach initiatives are vital to maximize dollars spent on premium content.
c. Brand Name Searches
Google knows big brands are searched. Their “buzz” is a signal of authority, although not yet on par with link building.
d. User Engagement
Once a visitor is onsite, engage them. Keep their interest and involvement. Good design and excellent content have never been so important. Google has been watching this for some time.
e. Multi-tiered approaches
Spread marketing dollars broadly across many initiatives. It creates a variety of signals to Google that you are legit.