The Website Magazine community of Internet professionals has seen a great deal of change in relation to the practice of search engine optimization since our launch 10 years ago.
As you might remember, it was not uncommon in the early days of the Web to be able to rank for highly trafficked, competitive terms with what today would amount to only a modicum of digital effort; an exact-match domain, a few posts or articles stuffed to the virtual brim with relevant keywords combined with a few strategically placed links from a website owner's colleagues and a website could easily start appearing on the search results (and it would, in most cases, work on every search engine).
That's not exactly how it all comes together these days. Those responsible for search engine optimization in 2015 must not only understand the core practices of traditional optimization but, increasingly, the experience that is demanded and ultimately consumed by end-users. As a result, the savviest SEOs are shifting their attention from tweaking title tags to optimizing infrastructure and away from pursuing links anywhere they can be obtained to developing strategic promotional partnerships designed to drive audience engagement (and not just rankings) instead.
Unless your enterprise has had its digital blinders on, you likely already know the trends that are impacting how and why a website ranks (or does not rank) and will continue to influence the success of your digital business tomorrow and well into the future. For those that aren't yet familiar, those trends are mobile-friendliness, content depth and quality, website speed and security, as well as certain signals related to the quality and context of inbound links. How can you get started capitalizing on these trends? Website Magazine has put together a few useful resources to help your brand accelerate its 'Net success in this month's Mastering Search column.
With an ever-increasing percentage of website traffic coming from mobile devices, sites that are not optimized for smartphones are simply destined to fail.
Google has been very active in recent months in its pursuit of providing its search engine users a better mobile experience, testing icons next to search result listings that indicate a website's mobile friendliness and even introducing a newly updated mobile usability section in Google Webmaster's support information to provide some guidance as to what really defines a mobile-friendly website. Website Magazine contributor Michael Ramirez of SearchRPM recently addressed what mobile-friendly ranking factors will serve as signals for Google moving forward.
Enterprises that focus their attention on content development and content marketing to execute greater search visibility will be those positioned for long-term success. While many of the technical tactics of search marketing remain important, search engines - Google in particular - are rewarding those websites which consistently, thoroughly and in a high-quality manner, distribute content that their audience wants. Google has a long history of espousing the benefits of high-quality content but there is a great deal of speculation about how that works. Website Magazine has put together a guide to the various types of content that are being used and has even assembled some useful suggestions (and actual templates) of content that is sure to resonate with any Web user.
Sites that seem to take forever to fully load are a problem for everyone in the digital ecosystem. Search engine users expect to be able to access the information they seek quickly and if they can't then the website is unable to ultimately convert a visitor to a customer. The faster the better and there's no shortage of solutions available to help websites identify the bottlenecks and what's preventing them from achieving their objectives. Google's own PageSpeed Insights tool provides as useful a solution as any on the market, identifying potential performance problems and providing suggestions on how to improve. Often, this information is confusing as it is so highly technical in nature. There are some easy tweaks however that can dramatically influence page speed and Internet professionals won't need to break open their virtual piggy banks to get them implemented. See three quick hacks to speed up a website.
When the use of SSL was first revealed as a potential ranking signal, the development was met with both cheers and jeers. While there has not yet been any real evidence that a secure site (one that uses HTTPS instead of just HTTP) will outrank its competitors, Google has increased the volume of messages it is sending through Google Webmaster Tools to inform webmasters of security issues. This alone should indicate that if a website puts user security first, there are rewards. There are a variety of options for those looking to make your website more secure.
There are of course many other trends influencing how search engines index, process and display websites on the results pages. For example, Google is increasingly (according to several reports) using social signals from Facebook and Twitter as a means to determine relevance and popularity. The Knowledge Graph is growing every day and SEOs are finding that the use of semantic search is driving users from the SERPs to their own websites. To keep your well-deserved space at the top of Google's listings, staying ahead of the trends and knowing how to capitalize on the shifts will ensure you make the most of all your digital initiatives.
Developments in the search engine optimization space are frequent and if you miss one, your digital initiatives may suffer. Stay up to date with all the important SEO news within Website Magazine's SEO channel.
Here are three Google SEO-related items that recently captured the digital attention of the Website Magazine community: