Is it just me or have the first few months of 2017 flown by? If you evaluated and are implementing your SEO strategy for the year, congrats. If not, what the heck are you waiting for?
Google is also changing: RankBrain, Penguins, Panda updates, and interstitial penalties keep SEOs and business owners on their toes.
If achieving and maintaining increased rankings and driving organic traffic is paramount to your business, you need to be up to date with the industry and emerging trends.
Here are some key aspects of your SEO strategy that you need to focus on right now.
Mobile. Mobile. Mobile
You can’t ignore it. With mobile phone searches finally surpassing desktop worldwide in 2016, having a mobile-friendly site is no longer an option.
Further, Google announced last year they will be launching a mobile first index. When this index goes live, if your site is not prepared, you may lose significant visibility online.
If you haven’t audited your site recently, you need to do so now.
Does Google think your website is mobile friendly?
Their Mobile Friendly Test will give you a clear answer. https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly
You can also find details in the Google Search Console Mobile Usability report.
Some of the common errors shown in the report are:
Content wider than screen
Text too small to read
Clickable elements too close together – very frustrating when your user is trying to select one button and keeps hitting another, and
Viewport not set – this tag tells the browser how to adjust the page for the specific device
Your solution could be low cost and easy if you use WordPress; selecting a new responsive theme should eliminate most of your problems. Or you might need the assistance of a developer to get the job done.
This is not the place to cut corners. If your online visibility is important to your business, set the budget aside and get this done.
Is your website too slow?
Google says that nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile website if it does not load in three seconds. Amazon has said that a page load slowdown of one second could cost them $1.6 billion per year.
That’s right. No one has patience anymore. It has been a theory for some time that page speed is a ranking factor. It makes sense.
Google harps on about wanting to serve results that provide the best user experience and how quickly a page loads is a big part of the experience.
For now, the recommended load time is 2-3 seconds max.
Again, Google has provided a tool that easily rates your site speed and provides suggestions on how you can fix it.
You can find it here: https://testmysite.withgoogle.com/
You can also check your analytics for information on your page load times.
When I perform an audit for a new site, the biggest impact on reducing the page load time is typically reducing the size of the images. So many webmasters will upload stock photos to their site without editing them.
You want a balance between the picture clarity and the lowest possible file size. You can edit graphics easily in programs like Photoshop or, if you use WordPress, try a plugin like WP Smush.
Improve the user experience
The theory is user engagement signals are having an impact on search results and this impact will grow. Let’s say these signals are only correlated to a positive effect on SEO; there is little doubt that improving them will have a positive effect on your conversions. And isn’t that what really matters?
Click through rate
This is how many times your search result is clicked divided by the number of impressions (number of times your result is seen). Your current position on the search results page does impact the number of clicks you receive. However, creating great copy for your title and meta description can help you get the click instead of your competitor.
How long does your visitor stay on your site after clicking from the SERPs?
Also known as dwell time, you can find this information easily in your analytics. It makes sense that if a visitor spends time on your site, they are finding the information they are looking for.
If they spend only a few seconds, return to the search results and select another result, this signals to Google that your site did not fulfil their needs.
The solution: focus on your visitor. Ensure your site loads quickly, your navigation is intuitive and your page is generally not annoying on all devices.
Create content that answers their questions. You know the key questions and concerns for all stages of your customer journey, right?
Did your user complete the necessary task on the page?
Again, this would indicate your site does a better job of satisfying your visitor than others. Did your user complete the contact form, make the purchase etc.? If you watch your conversion rates and strive to improve, this can only have a positive effect on your business.
What additional changes can you make to improve the experience on your site?
Ensure you have a responsive design
Fast loading speed
Keep menus short and sweet
Make it easy to go back to the homepage
Place call to action buttons in prominent locations
Make forms easy to complete
Don’t make your users pinch to zoom (mobile)
Create better content than your search competition
Competitor analysis is time consuming and a pain in the butt. No one said it would be easy, right?
If you don’t know your main search competitors already, plug your highest converting keywords into Google and take a look at everyone on the first page.
It’s a good idea to set this up in a Google Docs spreadsheet or similar so you can keep track of everything. Add at least 5 competitors to your sheet. More if you can handle it. You want to check for the following:
Do they have a blog?
How often do they post?
How long are the posts?
Are the posts any good or just fluffy pointless articles?
Do they include images and videos in their posts?
What’s the point of this? You need to do better. If your main competition is blogging once every 3 months with thin posts without real value to their audience, you know you can outmanoeuvre them with a solid content strategy. If they are killing it, with weekly great content, you have your work cut out for you.
Now dig a little deeper.
Using Buzzsumo, for example, you can find out more about their content.
Are their posts receiving shares on social media?
What are their most popular pieces?
You shouldn’t copy their content but you can see which topics are gaining traction with their audience. Can you improve on their content in any way?
Stop building crappy links
Link building is not going anywhere for a while. Google confirmed that links were one of the three key factors in their algorithm.
But it’s time to stop getting crap ones. Step away from the packages that include bookmark submissions and profile links. It isn’t 2010.
Penguin 4 is now a real-time algorithm and Google might do a mixture of ignoring and devaluing the crummy links pointing to your site. If you haven’t done this in a while, check out your backlink profile. I recommend using Ahrefs.
You can export your backlinks, sort by URL rating and other factors and inspect. Are most of your links from low quality directories and non-relevant sites?
Are you using a ton of exact match anchor text in your links? Are the majority of your links no follow or do follow?
Visit some of the links. Are your links contextual or located in the footer or sidebar? Now you know what you were doing and what needs to stop.
Next, you need to develop a link-building plan based on valuable content and outreach to sites related to your industry. These are the links that will drive traffic to your site and improve your visibility in the search results.
You have more than enough to keep you busy for the next few months.
Focus on your user’s experience on mobile and desktop. Make it fast, make it simple and get them to convert.
Analyse your competition’s content and create a plan to surpass them.
Stop building bad links and start focusing on links that can deliver referral traffic.