With January well under way, now is a good time to take stock and prepare your SEO strategy for 2017. However, where specifically should you start? Here are four necessary SEO tips you must address at the beginning of the new year:
1. Move to HTTPS
Since Google began giving a ranking incentive to sites that use secure HTTPS instead of HTTP, a number of sites becoming encrypted has grown. Whereas Google has maintained that using HTTPS offers a very modest ranking boost, the fact is that the majority of websites on the primary page of Google tend to be encrypted, and there has been narrative confirmation shared around the SEO community indicating ranking improvements after switching.
But it’s not simply the possibility of improved search rankings that should convince you now’s the time to switch – web browsers are also starting to discriminate against non-secured sites.
You’ve most likely seen the green padlock in your web browser’s address bar before, signifying the website is being served safely over HTTPS. However, from January 2017 onwards, in the Google Chrome browser, non-secure HTTP sites will be given a red “not secure” notice.
Naturally, this is probably going to have an effect on the users’ confidence in your site. Would you buy from a website if you were unsure whether your details were safe or if the seller was legitimate?
Fortunately for several little business sites, this doesn't need to be an expensive process, and so is well worth being placed at the highest of your to-do list for the end of Jan.
2. Think mobile-first
In 2014, Google rolled out improvements to its algorithm that downgraded non-mobile responsive sites in the search results for users on smartphones. Since then, mobile search has grown – currently, more searches are conducted on mobile devices each day than on a desktop or laptop.
As a result, Google is again placing enhanced importance on mobile sites. The Google algorithm will eventually primarily utilize the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages of the site, instead of the desktop version.
Google has made the variety of recommendations to assist ensure your website is ready for when these changes are eventually rolled out sometime in 2017.
The objective should be to have a responsive website where the primary content is the same across both mobile and desktop devices, therefore if your site is like this, you do not have anything to worry regarding.
If your mobile and desktop sites have totally different content, then some changes will be required, that include ensuring structured information is the same on both versions of the site, ensuring the mobile version can be seen by Googlebot by testing your site’s robots.txt file, similarly as beefing up your mobile site content.
3. Speed up your website
Site speed has been a ranking factor in Google since 2010. However how much does website speed really impact rankings?
After analysis, it is found a clear correlation between website speed and Google rankings, with faster pages achieving higher rankings than slower ones. Whereas fast loading sites are considerably more probably to rank in Google, webmasters that optimise their sites for speed can also optimise for SEO, therefore the correlation.
However probably higher rankings aren't the only advantage of a fast site – user experience and conversion rates also profit. Nearly half of web users expect sites to load in two seconds or less and tend to abandon a site that doesn’t load within 3 seconds. If your website loads in over 2 seconds, you may be losing a good deal of traffic, also as missing out on extra enquiries or sales that this traffic could lead to.
4. Review your backlinks
In October of last year, Google revealed the last update to the penguin, the part of the algorithm that adjusts rankings in view of their backlinks. With this upgrade, the penguin has now become a part of the core search algorithm, and updates in real-time.
But what does this really mean?
Previously, Google released penguin updates between one and three times each year since the first in 2012. Every update created a big upset in the search results, with entire sites being either wiped out or increased the rankings.
Now, as this is the last penguin update, there'll be no more dramatic shifts in ranking results. this means that any penalty as a result of your backlinks is much harder to identify.
The result is webmasters and SEOs got to be much more proactive when it involves scrutinising their site’s links and consider removing and replacing any that don't fit Google’s guidelines.
Now is the time to perform a backlink audit & review the state of your website’s links. Clear out any ‘dangerous’ links and plan a link building campaign to exchange these with links that meet Google’s guidelines.
So there you have it; four SEO actions you'll perform in January to take stock of your site’s current situation, resolve any problems and prepare for a successful 2017.