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Ever wondered why SEO just doesn’t seem to be working for your website? There is probably a high chance your technical foundations have been overlooked. And, it looks like Google will be looking ever closer at the technical aspects of your website in 2018.
Technical SEO has always been the foundational element to achieving rankings in Google, yet many people simply fail to pay sufficient attention to it or ignore it completely.
We’ve seen Google pay particular attention to three technical areas in past years and we consider these also major focuses for 2018:
Google’s goal has always been to provide the best possible search experience to its users. To find the most informative and accessible content that’s relative to the search query. In 2018 they will be looking to continue their commitment to user search experience while improving safety and security through https and also focus on doing so in a mobile-first world.
You’ve got the need for speed… But does your website?
Speed is an important factor for search engines. After all, sites with a higher speed generally have higher user engagement and a lower bounce rate
What this means is that speed is an important factor in the search experience of users. A searcher who exits before your page loads isn’t finding the information that they’re looking for. Because of this, your website can be penalised for having poor load times.
In fact, Google has used page speed as a ranking factor since as early as 2010. In the past seven years, speed has only grown more important.
With more users than ever searching via mobile – delivering high-quality information at a high speed is crucial. Most sites lose half their mobile visitors while loading. Google Analytics has shown that 53% of visitors abandon a mobile site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. So, with mobile traffic making up more than 50% of most websites total traffic, mobile page speed really does equal revenue.
Typically, a website loads slowly because of the size and quality of visual elements. Photos, backgrounds, fonts, videos, complex layouts and visual elements are heavy on bandwidth and ultimately slow load times considerably.
Our infatuation on visually appealing websites has led to media-heavy web design. However, if a person leaves your site before it has chance to load, its appealing design becomes meaningless. This means that building effective, mobile-ready sites is more a designer’s responsibility than a developer’s.
Building with speed in mind is absolutely critical and is a responsibility of designers, developers and marketers alike.
Not sure of your website’s mobile speed? You can test your mobile speed here: https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/
Need a few recommendations to get your site ‘up to speed’? You can avoid mobile penalties by:
- Optimising images
- Minifying your code
- Hosting locally
- Caching your site
- Designing with speed in mind
Google has long been an advocate for https, as far back as 2008, introducing https by default on their Gmail product. Launched to encrypt your email as it travels from Gmail servers to your computer, it was a big step forward in securing your data from being intercepted by third parties or snoops in public WIFI hotspots.
In 2010, Google announced they were introducing https for more of their products, including Google search. Just like banks and financial institutions encrypt your credit card details for security, Google encrypts the connection between you and them to prevent ISP’s, WIFI hotspots and Internet cafes from seeing search terms you type into Google and login information.
The only downfall was once users clicked on a search result they weren’t guaranteed to continue browsing in https. This was up to the decision of the resulting website to implement. Enter Google’s announcement of https as a ranking signal!
In 2014, Google announced that to “keep everyone safe on the web” they’d encourage website owners to implement https on their sites by using https as a ranking signal. A slight rankings boost if your website was https instead of HTTP.
2016 saw Chrome browser (another Google product) move towards a more imposing stance on “https everywhere”, by announcing they’d start displaying a “not secure” message in the browser bar for all HTTP web pages that contained forms that asked for login credentials.
Today, Chrome has progressively increase the https warning message by displaying the not secure message for all websites not using https, regardless of the presence of forms asking for login information or passwords.
Eventually, they plan to change the http security indicator to a red triangle and a more intrusive warning:
With more and more users migrating to mobile browsing, should we be focussing more of our time on the mobile experience?
It seems Google are already focussing on our mobile experience and will soon be weighting it above our desktop experience, when it comes to rankings.
With many sites in 2017 eclipsing 50% mobile traffic, it is probably safe to say most would benefit from reviewing how their website looks on mobile.
Currently, Google indexes your site from a desktop perspective; that is they take into account how your content appears on a desktop when determining how they rank your site. With the increasing trend of people using mobile devices to browse the Internet, it was only a matter of time before Google decided to rank sites based upon their mobile content.
Depending on how your site appears on a mobile device, your rankings may not be consistent across searches performed from a mobile device vs on a desktop.
Don’t expect sites that are non-mobile responsive to fare well in this mobile first index. Similarly, sites that still have an m. or /mobile/ setup, or displays different content on mobile than desktop also may be penalised.
A mobile-first index brings up an interesting point on a website design and content. Previously it was widely accepted that content contained within hidden tabs or accordions was devalued.
Google has actually rescinded this policy and announced that they will not penalise content behind tabs or accordions. A statement from John Mueller, Senior Google Webmaster Analyst, “on the mobile version of the page it can be that you have these kind of tabs and folders and things like that, which we will still treat as normal content on the page even. Even if it is hidden on the initial view.”
Google’s recommendations for preparing for the move towards a mobile-focused index:
- If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.
- If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.
In short, the switch to mobile-first indexing means Google will be looking at your site from a mobile device for the primary source of your content. Ensure the mobile version of your site contains all your content and you should see no fluctuation in rankings.
Need some help with your website and ranking? Search no further, we can help. Contact us today.