Search Engine Marketing – A Guide to SEO in 2017
2016 saw some major changes to the way Google ranked websites. Work that many SEO practitioners were doing 12 months ago now falls foul of Google’s ranking algorithm.
The biggest changes in 2016 were the shift to mobile first indexing, the push towards HTTPS SSL security, and the greater emphasis on site load speed.
There was also crackdown on popup advertisements as Google started to penalise sites for their use.
So let’s look at where you should be focusing in 2017.
Google searches on mobile overtook Google searches on desktop at the end of last year.
Since Google’s change to mobile first in November 2016 it’s now extremely important that you have a mobile friendly website. A few years ago we had to build separate websites for mobile and reference them using a prefix to the domain name such as m.yourdomain.co.uk but since 2013 we now create responsive websites that work across all platforms regardless of screen size utilising the same content but optimising the layout for the presentation screen.
If your site is not responsive then making it so should be your number one priority the 2017. If you’re using a content management system such as WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, or any other of the many CMS products in the market, then this process should neither be painful nor expensive.
Using stylesheets we can now change the content as well as the presentation on mobile devices, so it’s well worth looking at how your website is presented on mobile to ensure the mobile experience is as seamless and simple as possible. If it’s not get your website developer to make changes.
In Google Analytics go to AUDIENCE > MOBILE > OVERVIEW and you can see your traffic by Desktop, Mobile and Tablet. Also look at your bounce rates, if they are high on one particular platform then the usability is likely to be the case. By high I mean anything over 60%, but you should be aiming for 40%.
The social media landscape seems to change almost daily however the big players in this market are still Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you’re business to business then LinkedIn is likely to be the best place to spend your time and budget, but if your business to consumer then Facebook and/or Twitter are a better bet. Other platforms that are worth looking at our Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and of course YouTube.
Since YouTube was founded in 2005 the use of video online has accelerated exponentially. Many users now expect to be able to watch a video rather than read text. If the marketplace you’re in lends itself to video then it’s highly recommend you spend some time, effort and money getting set up to create videos for your business. Even the most basic smart phone now has the ability to record video in a resolution more than adequate for online viewing.
From SEO perspective your videos should be on YouTube, and don’t forget to add a good title, description and some tags. However if you are showing them on your website you might want more control over the first frame or link image, as well as the player. We use a Vimeo business account to give us this, but you might also want to look at Wistia.
We all use the Internet every day and understand how frustrating a slow loading website can be. There are lots of figures bandied about concerning how long people are prepared to wait before abandoning the site however my view on this is very much depends on what the site is delivering. For example a photographers website with wedding albums on it is never going to load quickly, however the user will be very keen to see the photographs and more than willing to wait a little while for them to load.
Without considerable end-user research it’s impossible to know exactly how long the user is prepared to wait for content. Our experience with customers indicates that three seconds is a decent page load time before the user starts to get impatient.
Clearly there are many factors influencing page load time such as the browser, the processing power of the device, and the connection speed and number of users on the connection, none of which we can influence. The one thing we can influence is our website.
If you want to test your site speed then you can use the following free tools:
Voice search has been fairly slow to gain traction even though iPhone users have Siri and Android have Google Voice. However with Amazon introducing the Echo to us last year and Google Home now available users are getting more familiar with voice search. The effect this is having on search engine optimisation is a far greater use of questions as search terms rather than a simple keyword phrase. Now when we are looking at keyword phrases to optimise our website for we must also be looking the questions people are asking around those keyword phrases.
If you don’t have an Echo I’d highly recommend one, they are great fun and the kids love it.
This one’s a bit technical but we’ve been using HTTP/1 since the mid-90s and it hasn’t been updated since 1999. HTTP/2 is still at the early adopter stage but if you’re considering building a new website today it’s worth asking your website developer what the additional costs will be to implement your website using HTTP/2. It’s faster and more efficient, and definitely worth considering.
Many of the clients I speak to have had link building done for them by some of the less reputable suppliers in the marketplace. The consequence of this is when Google’s Panda algorithm update kicked in they had to go back and disavow most if not all of the links that had been built for them. Back linking is still an excellent SEO tactic, however it has become far harder and much more expensive to carry out.
If you have Google analytics installed on your website and you have enabled search console you can use this as a simple tool to see what back links you have to your website. Also look at referrers for a guide on how much traffic they are generating.
So here are the basic rules the backlinking:
- make sure your back links come from a reputable source
- use anchor text that is relevant but not keyword stuffed
- make sure the link is a follow link
That’s it, it’s really just common sense. If you’re being offered hundred links for five pounds then those links will not be of any value, in fact they may have a negative effect on your search ranking. The best links from high authority websites such as new sites, education and university sites, and well-respected information sites.
You’ve heard this 1000 times and it’s still as correct as it was the first time, content is king. However there is now so much content online and so much content being created every day that it’s extremely important that anything you put onto your website or your blog, or any of your social channels, is of high quality and valuable to your target readership. It’s better to do one high-quality blog post a month than 10 low quality ones. When creating content refer back to your keyword research to make sure you’re answering questions that people are actually asking.
Great content will eventually build a community of interested and loyal readers.
The users experience is incredibly important to SEO, as it will affect the users impression of your business and of course the chances of converting that user to a customer. It may not sound like UX should be part of your SEO strategy however it definitely should be.
We used to call this on page SEO and the principles are still exactly the same. Google indexes individual web pages and every web page should have a unique and descriptive page title, meta description, a single heading one tag, and relevant content. If you achieve just this you will see an increase in your search rank positions because there are so many others out there not getting this simple piece of work correct.
If in doubt put yourself in Google shoes and look at your web pages as if you knew absolutely nothing about its content. From the page title, the heading and the content what keyword phrase would you index the page for?
MEASURING AND MONITORING
There are many tools out there to measure and monitor your search ranking positions on Google, Bing and Yahoo. If you’re looking for a great value option then I highly recommend SE Ranking which is just £50 a year for up to 50 keyword phrases. It also analyses your website for best SEO practices and is well worth the small ticket cost.
Here are a couple of places where you can learn more about search engine optimisation.
I hope you’ve found this article useful. Please get in touch if you’d like us to do any work on your behalf, or if you just have a question. We are always happy to help. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01333 329882.