Online search is an ever-changing landscape and you’ve got to be on your toes if your website is to stay at the top of the food chain. Even the most astute website owners won’t be fine tuning their site to every single one of Google’s algorithm changes (around 5-600 a year), but the smarter ones might prepare themselves for the larger changes and save themselves heartache later down the line.
2018 added even more to the mix, with user experience (UX) being at the forefront. We’ve put down the four most important points you’ll want to take away from the past year moving forward.
The evolution of SERP
To improve UX, Google is now including ‘feature snippets’ in its Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
This means that if a search contains long-tail keywords (a specific, sometimes niche search term usually containing 3 or more words), the results will show an answer summary of the question they’re posing. The key to this is having the most relevant content for that query. Google crawls pages and reads their analytics, judging what content is most useful to users based on their queries, so there's no fooling anyone: if your content is good enough, it'll be featured in the snippet.
Websites appearing in featured snippets will not only find themselves highlighted on the first page, but will also receive major SEO points from Google. The key to mastering this element is analysing the search terms your website can solve and tailoring the content to fit the bill, alongside researching what search terms your page is appearing for already.
Further to feature snippets, ‘knowledge panels’ are also being thrown into the mix. These will pull data from Google Maps or Google My Business to show the user a brief breakdown of the company at hand - including facts, pictures, social media and related searches.
Ensure your business listing is clear, accurate, up to date and above all: attractive. It’ll jump up your listing as well as tick the box when Google’s judging your SEO.
Be fast, be very fast
Load speed has been impacting websites’ search engine rankings for a while now, however Google has indicated that speed now plays an even larger part in the SEO of a site.
It’s all part of their drive on UX, which should generally be a top priority for an SEO-driven website. Attracting someone to a page that will provide them with a poor experience should be punished (so says Google), and therefore a bad UX at the hands of load speed will impact the website’s SEO.
Take a load speed test and find out where you sit in the table - you should be aiming for sub-2 seconds.
Be mobile, be very mobile
Mobile internet usage is overtaking that of desktop and Google’s putting the statistics into play when ranking websites.
Google has introduced mobile-first indexing, meaning that websites’ SEO will now be judged first by the quality of their mobile site, rather than desktop. This should improve the UX for the millions of users that search via mobile and end up on a desktop site.
It should also serve as a warning to businesses that haven’t given thought to the mobile-optimisation of their website - Google will take no prisoners when it comes to mobile-friendliness.
You can’t fool Google
Much like the two previous points, the UX of the actual page is paramount to where Google thinks your page deserves to be.
In days gone by you might have been able to trick Google into thinking your content was relevant and therefore get it ranked, however they’re now cracking the whip and punishing pages that try to deceive it.
It should be no surprise that Google’s AI is smart enough to out-maneuver a content creator who’s busting for their page to be ranked above others, with content that’s not up to scratch with the search terms. Don’t be brave, be smart - write content your audience care about, that matches the search terms you're appealing to.
It’s up to those putting the information out there to reach out in a way that deceives neither the user nor Google; this is how winners are made
Search Engine Optimisation rarely stays still due to the ever-changing demands of those searching, and as we all know, it’s those who are most able to adapt who come out on top.