Achieving high search engine rankings can be critical to business success, so here’s a very quick roundup of some of the main considerations in achieving good rankings on Google in 2017. Other search engines do exist of course, including the nicely named DuckDuckGo (which doesn’t track you), but Google is by far and away the biggest in the UK, representing an estimated 86% of searches (then Bing 10% & Yahoo 3%).
Mobile friendly indexing
Google has been progressively boosting the rankings of mobile friendly pages, this is because a tipping point has been reached and more searches are being carried out on mobile than desktop. This change has had a significant impact on search rankings and means 2 things:
- your site must be mobile friendly (also known as ‘responsive’)
- your site must deliver an excellent mobile experience for users
Increasing importance of ‘off-page’ activity
Google has also been progressively increasing the importance of ‘off-page’ activity in ranking signals. This is all the activity that surrounds your website, like social media, email marketing, links from other sites etc. This means you need a good digital marketing plan that considers SEO and certainly includes social media activity. Just for clarity, this is not your ‘on-page’ technical optimisation like page titles, metadata, keyword density etc.
Site load speed has been a positive ranking signal for many years, but more recent changes in Google’s search algorithms make site speed one of the top priorities in SEO. If you’d like to know how fast your site is loading and what you can do to improve load speed you can use Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool.
Google has been pushing the use of SSL certificates for all sites for many years (having an SSL on your site makes it https://.. rather than http://). Adding an SSL certificate makes your site more secure and Google is now giving all https sites a nice little ranking boost. Please see our previous blog on https everywhere for more information.
The Google algorithm is smart and with machine learning it’s getting smarter. It recognises sites that deliver a good experience for users, which includes what we call ‘user experience’ or UX. UX refers to the ease of design for users, as well as the content, which includes the words, pictures, video, infographics etc. So what we’re saying is that you need a really well-designed site with highly engaging content…
Going back in time Technical SEO was the majority of SEO, now it’s just one of the considerations. Technical SEO is the on-page optimisation, for example making sure your site structure (architecture) is clear and intuitive, ensuring the content is delivered in sensible amounts and hierarchy, creating effective page titles, metadata, headings, alt tags, sitemaps, robots.txt files, redirects, 404 pages etc. Sound baffling? Well, it is the technical stuff, the things that technical folks like us generally deal with as part of the build and launch. Technical SEO is still important, we view it as your baseline for SEO, so you need to make sure this is covered.
What to look out for
If you’re interested in SEO then you need to watch what Google is up to and you can do this using the Google Webmaster central blog. Google issues updates large and small all the time, some of which can have a major impact on your search rankings.
Voice search is a growing trend and has been predicted to represent 50% of all searches by 2020. The consideration here is that people do not use the same words to search when talking as they do when writing, so the keywords and phrases you use in your site content will need some consideration.