Founder and CEO of GrowME Marketing, a full-service digital marketing and SEO company serving clients across the country.
As we approach the final quarter of another surprising year impacted by Covid-19, economic ups and downs, and political polarization, it’s time to address what happened in the world of SEO.
Businesses and bloggers love to speculate at the beginning of the year what we can expect from Google’s algorithm updates using their best deductive reasoning. These postulations are valid and useful, but at this point in the year, I can write from a place of experience.
While buyer behavior impacts SEO, it’s the ever-dreaded, all-hailed Google algorithm updates that SEO experts revere. This year, we were surprised by two core updates in June and July. Let’s take a look at the updates and what we can all learn going forward.
The Impact of the Updates
My company, GrowME Marketing, excels in SEO with top rankings in cities across the country, but I regret to say these updates hit us where it hurts. Not only did we see our own rankings drop, but we were also dealing with the fallout for several of our clients.
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Luckily, we all survived and have come out on top with a few lessons learned. We have chosen two specific areas to focus on improving: user experience and mobile-first.
1. User Experience
Google has spent years making it clear that user experience is vital. But this year’s updates really seemed to drive this point home. It’s now undeniable that pleasing the reader is #1.
User experience, however, is a broad term. We design our website to accommodate user experience by the way we define the site menu and structure each page. NAP (name, address, phone number) audits and branding consistency are key aspects of our marketing strategies.
In this instance, user experience means essentially one thing: site speed. The load time of a website and anything else that happens while your site is loading (pop-ups, animations, etc.) are the most important things to optimize right now. If you’re looking for a great Q4 priority, see what you can do to improve speed.
Here are some examples of what we’ve implemented and what you can do as well:
Optimizing images includes reducing image sizes so they are no larger than needed, ensuring optimal file format, and compressing them for the web. You don’t need a 9V battery when a AA will do. So, if your image box is 300 x 300 pixels, what’s the point of a 1920 x 1080 image?
Install a Caching Plugin
My website design team uses a page builder to design websites. Installing a caching plugin takes all the dynamic elements of a design and turns them into static content on the website, similar to an HTML site.
We had an eye-catching video in our homepage banner, but it didn’t take long to realize it drastically affected our site speed. We removed all video banners and embedded videos from YouTube.
Improve Server Speed
While improving server speed and response time only helps up to a certain point, it’s still valuable. To improve, look for and fix any bottlenecks within the server and increase server memory.
Modern website design is sleeker and less busy, which also helps to improve load times. Reduce the clutter on your website, including images, graphics and embedded videos. You can also clean up the backend by using fewer plugins and eliminating any that are unnecessary.
Google introduced mobile-first indexing in March of this year, meaning it’s never been more important to focus on mobile. In terms of indexing, Google provided the heads up on everything to look out for, including:
Ensuring Visible & Crawlable Content
This includes being mindful not to block content or disallow certain URLs. Plus, all relevant meta tags should be optimized accordingly for both desktop and mobile.
Ensuring Consistency Between Desktop & Mobile
If your mobile website has some hidden content or is different from your desktop site, consider making them more equal, especially for the primary content on optimized landing pages. Also, ensure tagged headers are the same across both.
Ensuring Best Practices For Images & Videos
The image and video quality should be good on both desktop and mobile. Using thumbnails or smaller images for mobile may be considered poor quality. In addition, properly attributing and assigning identical URLs for photos and videos can help with mobile-first indexing.
At GrowME, we’ve also been concerned with ensuring our website is easy to use and nice to look at on mobile, favoring a more simplified design. With more and more users browsing from their phones, it only makes sense to adopt a mobile-first mindset in all aspects of SEO and website design.
We recognize the challenging year it’s been for several small businesses. Watching rankings drop due to algorithm changes and not properly optimized websites is one more thing to add to the ever-growing list of concerns.
Optimizing for user experience and mobile-first has helped us regain our rankings and boosted many of our clients to the top of the page. I’m confident doing the same will have similar results for your business.
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Author: Tarek Mohajer, Forbes Councils Member