SEO Archives | Catalyst Studio, Inc
On Monday, Google announced that after a year of testing, it’s now rolling out mobile-first indexing for websites. Traditionally, Google’s index has used desktop versions of site pages to evaluate content. However, with the majority of Google searches now taking place on mobile devices, this move seeks to better align the index (and search engine results) with the mobile content.
This move doesn’t come with ranking advantages at this time; instead, it is meant to improve one aspect of how Google approaches its overall index in a world increasingly ruled by mobile. However, it’s an important development for any site owner interested in staying up-to-date with Google’s algorithm, while improving user experience, search performance, and mobile reach.
Here’s a brief historical recap:
- Before the iPhone’s launch in 2007, we all accessed websites using desktop or laptop computers. True story.
- Once smartphones took off, we were OK with pinching and zooming the viewport to read tiny website text for awhile. There was no alternative.
- Some developers started rolling out mobile-only versions of websites, but that meant additional development cost and double the upkeep for the life of the websites. Needless to say, the mobile experience was just “good enough.”
- In 2010, Ethan Marcotte coined the term Responsive Design and introduced us to the “media queries” that power this new approach. This enabled site owners to maintain a single desktop-driven website that automatically adapted to smaller, mobile devices using an approach of “graceful degradation.” In other words, mobile was a second-class citizen, and it was acceptable for mobile users to have a less polished, or even a stripped down experience.
- Mobile traffic has exploded in recent years, overtaking traffic from desktop computers. This has ushered in the need to shift focus on a mobile-first approach. Mobile-first is about favoring mobile devices, and making sure everything ANY user requires is accounted for on small screens. This approach uses an approach of “progressive enhancement” for larger screens.
Reminder to Speed Up
Don’t ignore page load speed! Another core consideration of mobile-first web design is page loading speed. Google announced earlier this year that by July 2018, slow site speed will have a negative effect on ranking for mobile and desktop searches.
If it’s time to fix a problem or redesign your website for “mobile-first,” call us at (281) 980-4900 for a free consultation and estimate.
SSL Encrypts Website Data
Since the 1990s, most web users have come to associate “HTTPS” (or, Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) with e-commerce websites. HTTPS basically means the website you’re shopping on has a valid SSL certificate that encrypts your session, order and payment information so that hackers can’t get at it. Even novice online shoppers know to look for the “padlock” icon to let them know that their data is secure.
However, in the last few years, HTTPS has moved beyond e-commerce websites. Many people first noticed this on Facebook, where a new security option around 2010 nudged users into using the site securely (with the option to turn it off). Google also did the same thing for Gmail and users of their other services, enabling encryption of all user sessions. Log into Twitter or MySpace, and you’ll see that you’re being routed throughout HTTPS.
Google Now Rewarding Sites Using HTTPS
Earlier this month, Google officially announced that they are encouraging website operators to serve all website content via SSL. The primary reason behind supporting SSL for SEO is to make the web a safer place by securing web visitor information, even if all you do is solicit website visitor inquiries or email addresses for your newsletter signup. The great news is that Google confirmed that pages served via SSL will receive a small ranking boost.
Now, before you get too excited, this doesn’t mean that you’ll instantly leapfrog your biggest rankings competitor, or suddenly dominate your niche. However, it is a relatively simple directive that you can implement today to support your SEO strategy. The advantages granted to sites that migrate to all-HTTPS will be calculated on a per-URL basis (not accrued to the whole website), and it is being calculated in real-time. This means that you will probably continue to see a fluctuation for your pages in the SERPs over time as this becomes the new norm.
Our recommendations? Go all in for SSL. This is especially true for our clients with e-commerce sites already, since the basic ingredients are already in place to protect checkout and user account information. It takes a few additional steps (depending on server configuration) to move the whole site to HTTPS and make Google and other search engines aware of the changes.
If you don’t run an e-commerce site, but want to take advantage of any ranking boost you can (and you should!), call us at (281) 980-4900 us for a review of your site and hosting setup, and we can identify the get optimal way to make this happen, from obtaining a new SSL certificate to installation and search engine index updates.
On July 24, Google released what the folks at SearchEngineLand later dubbed the Pigeon update. This algorithm change was aimed square at refining local search, for example any search with terms such as “auto lube,” “coffee shop” or “hardware store” – where Google determines there is a local intent.
If you’ve paid attention, you know that Google will show what’s called a “local pack” in these types of searches. This is a set of up to 7 local business listings that Google deems relevant enough to plot on a small map right on the SERP. Aside from the mapping function, these listings also stand apart from normal organic listings by providing other actionable information within the listing: Name, Address and Phone number (NAP), and if applicable, a Google+ link and ratings and/or review.
What the Pigeon Update Did…
As a result of the Pigeon update, businesses have seen changes to the types of searches displaying (or no longer displaying) local packs, as well as a shift in the makeup of the local businesses being presented in these searches. One notable example is that searches in the Real Estate space (i.e. “real estate” or “realtors”) appear to be entirely devoid of local packs, at least as of this point in time.
…And What You Can Do Now
Has your business been affected by the Pigeon update? If you’ve seen improvements in your local search profile, this is a good time to continue building your online marketing strategy. If, on the other hand, you took a hit, there are a few things we’re recommending:
- If your business was previously in a local pack, but is no longer included after the Pigeon update, you are probably seeing a drop in calls and visits…and potentially revenue. If the drop is significant enough, you may want to start a limited, local Google AdWords campaign to make up for the difference in exposure. This will enable you to get back onto the SERP quickly, even if you have to use paid placement to achieve this in the short term.
- In addition to PPC ads, we are also advising clients to take control over their local business listings on sites such as Yelp, CitySearch, etc., since local directories appear to be factoring more favorably in the post-Pigeon world. In the quest for Local SEO, you want to make sure that these local listing sources are all consistent and optimized to help customers find important info for your business. This means making sure your NAP information matches across all platforms, and that you’re attracting customer reviews. If you haven’t claimed your Google My Business page yet (and a presence on Google+), you’re missing an opportunity as well.
As a Google Partner, Catalyst Studio helps clients leverage Google AdWords campaigns to meet their most important goals, whether it’s building brand awareness, increasing traffic and engagement, or driving sales (conversions). We also support clients with Local SEO services that simplify the process of claiming, managing and optimizing third-party local directory listings and establishing a social media strategy. Let us fix your Google ranking issues – contact us for a free estimate.