In the everchanging world of search marketing, it’s important to stay up to date on new developments. Events like SMX Munich, therefore, are very important in helping marketing professionals stay abreast of trends in SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
In this article, then, we want to review the analysis from the conference by our friends at SEO PowerSuite, who produce software that we use as an internet marketing company and that we highly recommend.
#1 Mobile-First Indexing
Google has been working on it’s mobile first mission for years. Now, the company is rolling out another feature in fulfilling its mission as it starts “first” indexing and ranking the mobile version of websites in 2018.
If a website does not have a mobile-friendly version, the desktop version will still be included in Google’s index. However, it’s highly probable that sites that are not mobile-friendly will be negatively impacted in search rankings more than previously.
John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, said, “Instead of crawling your pages with a generic user agent, we’re crawling it with a smartphone user agent and index the content that the smartphone user agent actually sees.”
For an unspecified amount of time, Google will be checking that a website is ready for the mobile-first transition before crawling it, to give out fair rankings when the site is finally indexed. John Mueller said, “We check if your website is ready for mobile index. And if it’s not, we can wait a little bit longer. If we see that a website is ready, we’ll try to recrawl it with mobile bot ASAP.”
With this change, websites that are constructed only for desktop will only be served when a visitor is using a desktop computer. Knowing Google, and reading between the lines, at some point Google may cease to “wait a little bit longer,” and significantly penalize sites that are not mobile friendly, possibly removing them from the index altogether.
The top criteria Google uses to evaluate whether a website is ready for mobile-first indexing include:
The content on the mobile version is equivalent to that indexed for the desktop version.
The mobile version of the site has all the internal links Google needs to crawl the entire website.
Images and alt-texts are available.
Structured data and other annotations are on the mobile version of the website.
If you have a separate m-dot site, it must be on a server with enough power to handle the load of crawling.
Remove duplicate section elements to avoid confusing the crawlers.
Render pages on the server-side rather than the client-side.
Allow content to load automatically rather than basing it on actions by users.
For internal links, use “a hrefs” rather than onclick=”window.location=”.
Use clean, unique URLs for all unique content to allow each piece to be indexed separately.
#3 SEO for Voice Search
People are speaking to their devices, whether it’s a smartphone, Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa. As a result, voice search is rapidly growing.
To rank in voice search results, work to appear in featured snippets, which make up 80% of the answers, while also providing a link to users. Answer Who, What, When, Where, and How questions.
Furthermore, use conversational language and keywords in your text, because of the way questions are phrased when using voice search compared to text search.
#4 Content Marketing: Most Articles Don’t Rank
For Google, quality is much more important than quantity. Creating massive amounts of content to increase your keyword usage will not necessarily result in ranking high in search results.
Valuable, high-quality content, that people consume and engage with on social media gets pushed higher in search engine results, while everything else gets left behind.
#5 SEO Testing
SEO has become much more complex over the years and is no longer easy to predict. Years ago, the factors resulting in high search rankings used to be simple to understand. But today, they are highly complex and difficult to understand. Therefore, SEO testing is increasingly necessary.
Unlike A/B testing for landing pages and ads, there is no method for conducting SEO A/B tests. However, SEO split testing can be accomplished by comparing the results of similar pages that are SEOed differently to see which SEO method performs best.
To run a simple SEO split test, select two similar pages of a website. Then, select one page to be the control, and with the other page make the desired on-page and/or off-page SEO changes. Then, measure the results. If the changes on the variant page outperformed the control page, and if the increased performance was substantial enough to justify the expense of implementing the SEO strategy in the future, then move forward with the new strategy.
More thorough SEO testing involves using more pages in both the control group and the variant group. Furthermore, extensive testing should be performed to refine an SEO strategy before investing in making broad changes throughout the website.
#6 Should You Format Web Pages for AMP
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google initiative to speed up the delivery of mobile pages.
Studies show that AMP serves pages to mobile devices more quickly, but in many cases, they are not delivered significantly faster. Furthermore, AMP pages do not include the originating business’ regular branding and do not provide easy navigation of the business’ website. For these reasons, in addition to the expense of formatting pages to take advantage of AMP, many companies have not moved forward with AMP.
It is our general opinion, therefore, that companies should not adopt AMP.
If your company has been doing a good job with SEO over the last few years, 2018 will include most of the same things you have done in past years. However, you may need to prepare for Mobile-First Indexing and work toward ranking for Voice Search. Otherwise, continue producing great content that is consumed by your audience and engaged with across social media, while running tests to find and implement the SEO strategies that work best for your company.