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:
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:
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.
- 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!
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