At the start of the new year we released an article titled, Understanding Google Search in 2019 – What You Need to Know. Are we repeating ourselves here with today’s topic? To some extent, perhaps, but the intent of this article to provide you with practical and tangible steps that you (and/or your development team) can take today, to take corrective action and adapt to the SEO changes that are happening at this very moment.
We’re also leaving out the tried and true search engine ranking factors. You already know that you need to update your website with engaging and useful content on a weekly basis, and that you need to secure backlinks from high authority websites while remaining active on social networks. Instead, we’re going to reflect on what many SMBs don’t already know, or know enough about, so that they can adjust their online marketing strategy accordingly.
4 Practical Changes That Your SEO Strategy Needs to Adopt Today to Remain Competitive on Search in 2019-20 and Beyond
1. Accommodate Google’s Mobile First Index
The most impactful change to SEO for the year/s ahead started in the late spring and early summer of 2018, when Google employed the Mobile First Index:
“Mobile-first indexing means that Googlebot will now use the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking, to better help our (primarily mobile) users find what they’re looking for. Google’s crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have historically used the desktop version of your site’s content, which can cause issues for mobile searchers when the desktop version differs from the mobile version.” (Google)
Simply put, the better your website performs on smartphones (and tablets to a lesser extent) the more likely it will move up in rank when compared to competitive sites that have not made the same effort to improve mobile UX, all else equal. This experience is not subjective, so the fact that you and your cousin thinks your website works great on the new iPhone is beside the point. Instead, you need to plug your site URL into this Google Mobile-Friendly testing tool. If your site is not mobile friendly, the tool will let you know:
Most site results won’t be so negative. Instead, you will be provided with a score complete with a list of steps that your developer can take to improve the mobile experience and ultimately reap the benefits of the Mobile First Index, with a potential increase in Google rank.
2. Catch Up to Page Speed Requirements
This ties into the Mobile First Index addressed above, but deserves to stand on its own as it applies to both mobile and desktop/laptop UX. To be clear, every page on your website must work quickly (load and user activity). Failure for any page to do so can equate a drop in search rank.
While this has been a requirement for quite some time, a Page Speed update landed last July, making speed an even greater search engine ranking factor in 2019. Consumer attention spans make anything over 3-seconds feel like an eternity, so this requisite will only continue to become more so as the years progress. Plug your site URL into Google’s Page Speed Testing tool and have your developer follow the list of optimizations that can speed up your page load.
3. What You Need to Do Now That Google+ is Dead
What failed as a social network experiment was still very effective as a search engine optimization tool. Posting on your Google+ brand page allowed your business the opportunity to index new content as it was published, and activity/engagement (+1s, shares, and comments) for content on the platform was most certainly a search engine ranking factor. That’s all gone now, and many (including SEO experts) are unsure about what it will all mean when it comes to current rank, especially for sites that frequently used Google+ to publish their content.
Fret not, because we have provided a guide for what you need to do in response to the Google+ shutdown, right here. Just don’t wait too long to take action!
4. SEO Needs to Adhere to Cyber Security Best Practices
By now your organization has received plenty of notice about the data privacy compliance updates of 2018. It all started with the EU enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which declared that the export of personal data outside the EU falls under their law regarding data privacy for its citizens. If your company counts just one EU citizen in it’s customer/client database, you fall under GDPR law and the financial penalties that may come from non-compliance. Then, in November Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) received an update. The PIPEDA addendum demands that your organization must report all breaches involving personal information to the Privacy Commissioner, and to the individuals (your current and prospective customers/clients) who may have been impacted.
Now directly, cyber security may be beyond the scope of search engine optimization, but Google has made it clear that it will reward websites (with an increase in rank) with SSL certification, which encrypts credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, and other forms of sensitive data. Long story short, websites that have not yet performed 301 redirects from their old HTTP to their new HTTPS are missing out and are taking a hit on Google search. While the call for SSL certification is nothing new, it will be even more important as we move forward in a world where the cyber security threat level is at an all time high.
Are you confident that your SEO strategy follows both tried and true best practices, while adhering to the updates taking effect here in 2019 into 2020? If you’re like most SMBs out there, probably not. Gain a competitive advantage and start with an SEO analysis of your website today. Contact Digital Marketing Collective to learn more.