5 Things You Need To Know About SEO In 2017
For a long time, SEO appeared like some form of Internet wizardry. I heard the term used a lot for optimising blog post titles, content, images, kitchen sink etc. It can be overwhelming so I found the key was to focus on a few manageable changes and build from there.
There are so many SEO tutorials and tips on the web. Perhaps I'll do a collection of resources and link to some of the best? Today, however, I’m going to focus on 2017 Google changes and what it means for SEO. They are the big shark in the ocean of search engines after all. Before we begin, there are a few things I need to preface with:
- Implementing good SEO will not create magical change overnight. It turns out, it’s not actually the stuff of internet wizards. You have to be patient by weeks and months not days.
- You get out what you put in. There is no quick fix, especially now when Google have debunked a lot of the algorithm players who try to cheat the system to get out on top.
- Age matters. The older your domain name is, the more you’re favoured especially if you produce good content. In the end, Google is a bit more trusting to older domains but don’t let this stop you from starting a fresh blog. There are many other traffic sources out there!
- Everything needs to build on top of quality and authentic content. Check this box before you start worrying about everything else.
#1 CONSISTENT CONTENT IS KING
As the age old saying goes, without quality content you won’t get far on your SEO journey. Quality tops quantity. In 2017, taking the time to hone what you’re trying to say, being specific and succinct matters to Google not just your readers.
There was a time when the algorithm favoured lengthy content over short 500 word posts. This was an attempt to deal with all the short, catchy regurgitated articles that were being pumped out like a machine. They evolved the algorithm to minimise the sea of samey or fluffy content ranking top in search results.
Since then, the algorithm has sharpened its smarts again to truly focus on the actual content being written. It’s not so much about your word count but what you say in so many words. Constant rambling throughout a post, repeating yourself, not adding value for readers now all plays a part. You have to consistently be publishing genuinely engaging content regardless of whatever else you do. Even if it’s just two paragraphs, make it two epic paragraphs of gold.
This is great for readers and our Googling adventures as we’re more likely to find search results that are relevant in more than just the title and first paragraph. It’s also great for bloggers who struggle to shine even though they create awesome content. In terms of consistency, posting as often as possible helps vs posting once a month.The bigger point to take away, however, is that it’s really about quality; consistently. Posting every day with 4/7 posts being “meh” is no better than posting 3 brilliant posts a week in the long term.
#2 MOBILE RESPONSIVE WEBSITES
In 2016, 52% of my blog traffic came from desktops, 41% mobile and 7% tablet. That mobile percentage is huge. In general, people do more web browsing from their mobile phones and so it makes sense for Google to care about whether your website is mobile responsive. Despite this being more about user experience than content, if Google cares about it, then you should too. On a deeper level, wouldn’t it bother you if your readers had a hard time reading and navigating your website?
Blogger, Wordpress and Squarespace all give the option of using responsive templates. If you use a standard Blogger template, the mobile version doesn’t keep your design but creates more of a grid with links to different blog posts. You can get your own customised responsive templates though and use it on Blogger (I had this for a year before moving to Squarespace).
There is a big push towards Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This is an initiative by Google that says if your website’s HTML follows X set of rules, the page will load super fast on a mobile device and we’ll put a little AMP icon next to you in mobile search results. Mobile has taken the lead as the platform for web browsing. Google has accepted that this is the present and the future and so if you do the same, they’ll love you and you’ll rank better.
MOBILE FIRST INDEXING IS Here
Google have decided to start a separate indexing based on the mobile version of websites for search rankings on mobile devices. This may mean that for some, a decent turnout in search results on a desktop isn’t the same if that Google search happens on your phone. Particularly in the case where you’ve got an edited version with less content on the mobile version or the links don’t match up.
This is not to be confused with just having one website that’s mobile responsive in design. A mobile website will have mobile(or m).websitename to begin the URL.
If your blog or website is your business or you earn an income from it or you just want it to grow, caring about mobile is so important. I’m currently building a website from scratch and juggling how to make it mobile responsive. I know it will be worth it in the end though.
Side note: There is an AMP Wordpress plugin should you be on that platform and wish to give it a try. As well as an AMP enable option on Squarespace if you go to Settings -> Blogging. Buttons don't show up in the AMP version of a post though.
#3 HTTPS MATTERS
Back in the day, “https” was just a thing you looked for when you were on a web page that was taking payment. It gives that encrypted layer of security that means even if someone intercepted a transaction they couldn’t actually access your information.
Regardless of whether you believe a blog, such as this one, that talks mainly about skincare needs to be secure is besides the point. Google are pushing for all websites to be secure and have said they will start marking websites without https as “insecure” in search results. It would be interesting to know if, when this starts happening, people see a major drop in traffic if they haven’t switched. Perhaps you’ll still visit the websites you did before but I’m sure it will start putting the average person off who’s unsure what the term actually means.
HOW TO SWITCH YOUR BLOG FROM HTTP TO HTTPS
- If you’re on Squarespace (like myself), you’re in luck as they provide this option for you. Go to Settings -> Security & SSL under (Website) and choose “Secure (preferred)”. I’ve done this and it requires no further work on your part. You don’t need to redirect any of your URLS manually.
- If you have a Blogspot blog this link gives instructions on how to set it up HTTPS.
- For Wordpress websites, there’s a plugin you can use that redirects to an https version of your website.
- If you have a Blogger blog with a custom domain you have to buy your own SSL certificate. I’d recommend reading the help section from your hosting website (likely to be GoDaddy if on Blogger). Essentially, when you buy an SSL certificate for a specific domain, you’re attaching the https security to that domain only. There may be some configuration settings with your web hosting service to make sure it’s setup correctly and automatically redirects to the https version.
If this is something you’d like a separate blog post on, let me know. I believe that in time, Google may offer an option to switch for custom domains on the Blogger platform. As of writing this post, it’s not a big deal SEO wise but as the year progresses it’s likely to start making a difference.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT MY GOOGLE ANALYTICS?
Interesting little fact, traffic coming in from an HTTP website to an HTTPS website (or vice versa) gets listed under “direct traffic” with no further information. Traffic from HTTPS to HTTPS will preserve the referral source. An interesting one to note if Google Analytics is relevant to you.
#4 FORGET KEYWORD STUFFING
For a while, stuffing your content or at least your introduction with keywords has resulted in Google penalising your content in search results. That’s not to say keywords aren’t important, we just need a little bit more finesse when using them. Again, this could spiral out into another blog post in itself but the basics are:
- Choose keywords carefully in a mix between something specific and something competitive that people often search for. Using Google’s Keyword Planner can help with this. You have to sign up for Adwords to use it but don’t actually have to use Adwords.
- Use your main keywords in the title, url of your blog post and in the alt text for images.
- You don’t need to use the exact keyword or phrase repetitively throughout your post. Google’s fancy machine learning techniques are cleverly building over time to understand when two phrases relate to the same topic. This also means it will become harder to game the system again pushing for a world of authentic, valuable content.
- So yes, you still need to use keywords but alongside this, ensure that your content and keywords are relevant to each other. Vague or misleading post titles or covering too many different topics in one blog post won’t help.
#5 GET LINK SMART
This is one I focused on a lot in 2016. It didn’t always work out and I’d sometimes put in a lot of effort for it and get nothing in return. However, that’s a learning curve that I’m grateful for.
These are the ones that you include in your blog posts that link to other blog posts on your website . You can include this as part of a sentence with the link over keywords, it could be a product name linking to a previous review or just the post title itself. Recently, I’ve started using the Squarespace button block to make mine look pretty and break up the text of my posts more. Regardless of how you use them, make sure you’re linking to relevant blog posts to the content you’re writing and don’t overload.
It’s important to ensure you remove all bad links from your website such as links that no longer work or broken redirects. I am aware I still have quite a few of these lurking around after my Squarespace move. I should really get on that.
These are when another website links back to yours. So, when a blogger shows you some love, or you advertise on another blog or write guest post content it’s all good stuff. BUT and this is a big but, don’t get carried away with this.
- Link farms and other spammy looking websites are not worth adding your links to. Google doesn’t take kindly to them.
- Guest posting is great but don’t solely focus on it. Definitely don’t use your best content as a guest post and make sure that you guest post on reputable websites who will agree to link back to your website. It’s happened to me before that I’ve not had a link back nor a mention of the name of my blog so essentially, I’ve just given away free, good content.
- One external link from a super reputable highly ranking website will mean more than 100 links on lots of websites on the same level as you. Remember, we’re just talking about SEO here. Sharing blogger love, linking to your faves or guest posting for your blog friends is awesome and I encourage it to strengthen and engage within the community.
Use no-follow on all affiliate links and links to PR samples! <a href=”http://www.blahblah.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Here’s a product link</a>.
I wouldn’t do this for a blog or small brand as external links are nice in these cases. You definitely need a healthy balance of do-follow and no-follow links. I'm under the impression that Google will think it's fishy if all of your links are no-follow. Again, there's probably much to still be learnt about this topic but those are the basics to avoid getting penalised.
SEO is important but it’s not a quick fix. You can work on it over time and focus on other areas alongside it such as social media promotion. For example, although in 2016, Google/organic was my highest traffic source, referrals from Pinterest were the third highest after not even being present as a source in the first 6 months of the year. Why is this relevant? Because the small changes I made to start using Pinterest more and creating pinnable images made a big difference in a shorter space of time. So don’t get bogged down by SEO. I started working on mine at the end of 2015. By the end of 2016, organic traffic increased by 8%.
*free stock images from pexels.com used
PIN ME, PRETTY PLEASE: