2018 was the year that optimising for mobile and voice searching became paramount to get your business seen online and this will only continue to increase throughout 2019. If your website is not set up for mobile and you haven’t thought about how smart speakers might affect it either, then you definitely need to make a new year’s resolution to make that a top priority! If this is new to you, then fear not as firstly; you are not alone, secondly; there are plenty of things you can do to improve your website yourself even if you are not entirely sure what SEO actually involves, or even means.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is all about making your websites as visible as possible on the organic (not paid for) results listings that appear when people search for terms related to your product or industry. As technology and user habits change, so do the areas of focus for SEO. What is going to matter most in 2019 when it comes to keeping your website competitive online? We look at some of the biggest issues that are likely to come up this year and what you should be doing about them.
Mobile is King
2018 saw Google introduce its mobile first indexing and mobile page speed updates, which basically means that mobile friendly and mobile optimised web pages are now prioritised over desktop. More than 50% of all searches are already conducted upon mobile devices and this figure will certainly continue to increase at a rapid pace.
If your website is still not mobile responsive then it is more important than ever to get this corrected because if you don’t, your chances of your business being found and seen online are diminishing rapidly. Unless you are in the business of website design and maintenance, chances are that this is an area where you will need to invest some money and consult a professional to make sure your website structure is updated and mobile responsive.
To optimise for mobile, first check how friendly your site is for mobile device searching by using some of the many free tools that are available, starting with the search engines themselves. These tools will both report problems as well as give suggestions and instructions for improvement.
Google’s tool is here: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
Bing’s is here: https://www.bing.com/webmaster/tools/mobile-friendliness
Don’t forget to test your website through other search engines as they will all provide different results. While Google still has domination on searching in the western world, the others still account for millions of potential customers. Exporters: make sure you know the most popular search engine for the region you sell to and test/optimise your results for it.
Remember that even the traditional format of the search engine is not so clear any more as other platforms such as social media, YouTube and even the shopping giants like Amazon and Ebay are now treated as search engines by internet users. You need to concentrate on optimising your user’s experience within the markets that are most important to you.
Next, make sure that your content does not differ between desktop and mobile. While it used to be acceptable to block certain content or resources from loading onto a mobile site to improve speeds and experience, SEO has moved on and users now expect to be able to see all of your content on their mobile screens. If you are not displaying all of your critical content equally and in full on both your mobile and desktop pages then you need to correct this pronto because Google’s mobile-first updates this year means it now crawls for the most relevant content and answers on mobile friendly websites.
When it comes to the internet, speed matters more than ever and you need to prioritise page speed – the length of time it takes for the page to load – especially for mobile devices. It can also be measured in time to first byte, which is the time it takes to for a browser to receive the first byte of information from the server.
Google’s own data which dates from 2016 suggested that 53% of mobile users bounced if the page took longer than 3 seconds to load. That figure will have continued to increase massively as websites, connectivity and technology get faster because as people see more websites loading fast, they expect it from all. If your pages are too slow, they will move onto another website quicker than you can blink. And that’s if they can find you in the black abyss of lower search engine rankings in the first place.
Here is a previous post we published on how to optimise your page speed.
Featured snippets have been around for a while now but getting your website to achieve this aspirational top spot is the dream of every optimiser. Featured snippets are the boxed result that appears at the top of a Google search results page, the one with the short piece of information and link that is best matched as the answer to the user’s query. Because it appears in prime place, above even number one on the organic search results list, it is the one that stands out as the most authoritative answer.
Not only is it helpful to typed searchers who may get the answer they’re looking for without clicking further, it is of particular importance to voice searchers. When voice searching, people don’t get offered the usual format of ten blue links, they want and are given one answer, read out by their digital assistant. There are four types of featured snippets: paragraph, list, table and video.
We talked about optimising for voice searching in last years blog, SEO Starter Guide for 2018. and how keywords need to be considered within a natural conversational flow, rather than as particular stand alone words which can seem a bit robotic. With the rise of voice searching and the emphasis on featured snippets, it is becoming increasingly important to include keywords framed within questions that are likely to be asked by internet users.
This is a bit more involved than your standard keyword research. Be clear of what you want to compete for and focus your research. Find out the exact questions that might be asked of Google, that are relevant to your industry or expertise and that your website can answer. For example, if you sell pet foods then you might want to include questions like ‘’How much food does my kitten need’’. Then you need to make sure that both the question and the answer is included clearly and concisely within the body of your content. Setting up frequently asked questions (FAQs), step-by-step guides, bullet-pointed/numbered lists and tables of information are clear ways of organising this content to help make it more visible.
Once upon a time, people would post any old thing online just to try and boost their presence. The problem is, that’s still happening and the bigger the internet grows in size, the more rubbish is published, making it more important than ever to offer authoritative, correct, informative, interesting and genuine content on your own website in order to compete. Today’s web users are savvy and they gravitate towards businesses who clearly know their stuff. Not only that but the ever-present Google ranks according to relevance and quality.
Time to read through all of your content, every paragraph of every page, with fresh eyes. Then get other people to read it too. If any of it needs removing, updating or re-writing, get it done. However, this area is so critical now that it’s not just a matter of typing a few paragraphs out when you have five minutes spare. Good quality content that improves your ranking, traffic and sales takes time, effort, expertise and skill.
Striking the right balance of detailed enough information without too much technical jargon, the right tone, style, font, keywords, visuals, placement on the page leaves a lot to think about. If you are not comfortable writing it yourself, then contract a copywriter just to make sure your business is selling itself with the right words.
Don’t treat it as a one-off project either. Not only does the content on your main pages need to be just right, to stay visible you need to be offering creative and quality content to engage your visitors and rank in the search engines. Create and maintain a regular, informative blog, post attention-catching videos, continually check and update your main content. Ensure that all of this material contains relevant internal links to your other webpages to keep visitors on your site for longer.
Google updated it’s Chrome browser to version 68 in July. One of the most obvious changes within the update are the words ‘Not Secure’ frequently appearing in the address bar of the website you are visiting. This appears because that site is not using https, or secure protocol. For all sites still using the older protocol of http, Google is effectively shaming and pushing them into changing by announcing it to every single visitor to the site.
If your site is one of those, you may groan about having yet another thing to do but the change is a positive and beneficial one. The older http protocol is an insecure connection which does not provide privacy or protect visitor information, leaving personal information vulnerable to hacking or misappropriation. The https is secure (hence the extra ‘s’). Not only do you stand to lose a lot of traffic as visitors are warned off, but Google will provide ranking preference to secure sites over non-secure.
If you have not already done so, then the obvious thing you need to do is migrate your site to https and obtain SSL certification (denoted by the little padlock that shows up in the address bar). The majority of business websites handle client’s personal information and financial details, so securing these are essential to good business practice and to comply with privacy protection laws.
The process can seem quite technical, depending on your abilities, but first check with your web hosting provider, as many are offering SSL certificates for free, and ask them about installation. Many hosts and popular platforms such as WordPress also offer an abundance of information on how to migrate your site to https.