Google is constantly updating its algorithm to improve search results and 2016 will be no exception. The new year has already brought noteworthy changes. Let’s talk about how you can stay on top, no matter what Google brings.
- Optimize for Mobile
Since more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers, mobile-friendly sites are increasingly important to search results, and Google tweaks will continue to refine results for mobile users. Websites that are slow to load and clumsy to navigate on small screens will lose significant traffic moving forward. You might also want to consider the advantages of developing a mobile app.
- Incorporate Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
In late February, Google will start including AMP pages in search results. Testing shows AMP pages load four times faster than optimized web pages. As a result, SEO experts are speculating that AMP pages may see a Google ranking boost. Consider switching your content to AMP HTML pages.
- Enhance User Experience (UX)
Every change Google makes is designed to deliver better user experience, and websites that deliver speed, ease of use, and superior content will continue to dominate the search. Make sure your site is lean, fast, and easy to navigate.
- Improve and Target Content
The web is packed with mediocre content. Do better.
In a December Google Webmaster Central hangout, Jon Mueller said simply, “High quality content is something I’d focus on…We want to rank content that is useful for them and if your content is really useful for them, then we want to rank it.”
The best way to improve your content is to understand your customers and use intimate knowledge to address exactly what they want to know. Great content will help you earn quality backlinks from other websites using your content as a resource, another important search ranking signal.
- Focus on Local Geotargeting
Mobile search targeting favors local businesses. You can take advantage of your location by including mentions of local areas in your content and on your pages and claiming your listings on sites like Yelp and Foursquare. To help Google locate your site, make sure your listings are current, consistent, and correct.
- Make Your Website Secure
In 2014, Google announced that secure (HTTPS) connections would contribute as a “lightweight” ranking signal – for now. In March 2015, Searchmetrics was able to confirm the ranking impact of secure connections by analyzing the difference between HTTP and HTTPS pages on high-traffic sites. The way Google worded their announcement indicates strongly that security as a ranking signal is likely to grow in importance.
In addition to the potential ranking boost, consumers are more savvy today, and wary of non-secure connections. Implementing a secure connection for your site will boost consumer confidence.
- Audit your Backlinks
The Real-Time Penguin algorithm could strike any minute. The SEO community has been watching for the last few months. If you’ve been observing safe backlink techniques, your website is unlikely to be affected by this change.
The new algorithm will seek to identify unnatural links, thin content, spam and other attempts to game the ranking system in real time, constantly updating and refreshing quality assurance. This will be great for webmasters who take a hit and work to correct it. You won’t have to wait for a refresh to regain your ranking after fixing the problem.
To protect your site, do a comprehensive audit of incoming and outgoing links. Make sure there’s quality and relevance on both ends.
Keeping It Real
Staying on top of SEO means delivering quality content and experience to the user without using shady tactics to try and game the system. Google has been pretty clear on its intent from the beginning.
Just a few years ago, 300 word blog posts about fairly random subjects were considered the norm. Today, content producers are tasked with producing long, focused pieces packed with information. All in the name of delivering Google worthy UX. As a content producer, a blog editor, and a user, that makes me happy, even if it does make my job a bit more challenging.