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Some Essentials for SEO

Some Essentials for SEO

There are many things which can go into a successful SEO project – even in these days of content marketing and quality links. But overall, there are a few essential elements that I recommend for all sites in order for them to be search engine friendly.

1) Metadata

The forgotten relation in SEO. Whilst description tags and the like are not as important as they were when I first started optimising sites – way back in the “dark ages” of the late 1990s – there are still benefits to be had from getting your metadata correct in terms of best practices for SEO. What this requires is:

– Title Tag

Still one of the most important elements in “on page” SEO – your title tag should reflect the keywords that are likely to be used to search for the content of the page. These words will be used as the heading for your listing in the Google search results pages.

– Description Tag

Not used for ranking purposes, but should appear underneath the heading in Google, as determined by the Title Tag mentioned above. The copy you use here can be very useful for convincing people to click through to your site, especially if it not only matches the keywords they might use, but also provides them a good reason to visit your site. For example, you can promote your USPs here to give people a compelling reason to click the listing.

2) Responsive Design

Google is very keen to see that your website will work well on any device (see this post on the Google Mobile Algorithm Update for more info). It may not be the case yet that your site will be penalised for not being responsive, but my bet is that this will start to happen before too long.

So you need to ensure that your site’s layout is adaptable to the device it is being viewed on – and not just from the point of view of it changing shape. You also need to ensure the site is navigable and user friendly, too, in order to keep people on the site.

3) Stickiness

A term that is not so much in favour nowadays compared to 10 years or so ago, stickiness refers to the capability of your site to keep people engaged whilst they’re visiting it. My recommendation is that you ensure each page has something of value on it that will keep people reading (or watching a video).

Google certainly doesn’t want to be sending its users to a site that only holds a visitor’s attention for a few seconds before they click back to try and find another, more suitable match for their search query. So you should populate your site with quality, useful content and keep those visitors (and Google) happy.

Whilst there are certainly lots of other things you can do – as previously mentioned – if you concentrate your efforts on the 3 issues listed above, you’ll already be doing pretty well in terms of SEO effectiveness.

Google Mobile Search Algorithm Update

Google Mobile Search Algorithm Update

Google recently announced a change to its mobile search algorithm that affects ALL websites, not just mobile sites:

Essentially, what it means is that, from April 21st this year, Google will be downgrading sites in the search results of mobile devices (ie anyone searching Google on a mobile phone), if they are not “mobile friendly”. And, consequentially, upgrading sites in the search results of mobile devices that are “mobile friendly”.

So if your site isn’t suitable – in Google’s opinion – to be viewed on a mobile device, you will have no chance of your site appearing in Google’s search results on mobile devices. Whilst you may think this isn’t so important for you, as most of your traffic comes from conventional desktop / laptop machines, you should bear in mind that the definition of a “mobile device” will include tablets – something that more and more people are using for their general access to the internet. Plus, accessing the internet on a mobile phone is an increasing share of all internet traffic, so you will be leaving a large proportion of internet users out of your potential market if you don’t have a “mobile friendly site”.

How do I Know if my Site is Mobile Friendly?

Google have provided an online tool for checking your site to determine how mobile friendly it is:

They have also produced a set of guidelines that you should understand in order to make sure your site passes their test:

As well as providing for different screen sizes, it should be noted that their guidelines include such issues as ensuring the clickable links are not too close together.

Mobile Version of Site or Responsive Design?

There are currently 2 options for ensuring your site is mobile friendly:

1) Set up a separate mobile version of the site, with device recognition capability so the correct version of the site is sent to the correct device. (ie people viewing on a desktop PC will see the “normal” version of the site, people viewing on a tablet or a mobile phone will see the “mobile” version of the site).

2) Make the site “responsive”, such that it changes design and layout based on the device being used to view it. (The page you’re currently reading now is “responsive”, as it adjusts itself to fit the screen size you’re using, rather than sending you to a separate mobile version).

My Recommendation

Whilst Google is currently saying it is fine to have 2 versions of your site aimed at different devices, my recommendation is that you aim for your site being responsive, rather than having different versions.

My reasoning is based on years of experience with Google and the fact that they are generally opposed to having different versions of the same site in their index.

Certainly, if you don’t wish to make your site fully responsive just yet – for reasons of eg budget, future redesign schedule – then you should be OK in the short term to simply have a mobile version of the site that works alongside the main site.

However, for long term peace of mind, I’d definitely recommend making your site responsive, in order to pre-empt the likely negative effect on all  rankings (mobile and non-mobile) that I predict for the future for non-responsive sites.

One thing to bear in mind here is that, not only will your site need to adjust its layout to fit the smaller device screens, it should also make sense from a marketing design point of view – ie you should ensure your name, contact details, main sales message etc are visible on the home screen for anyone viewing your site, rather than being shunted away as a result of the responsive design parameters.

Get in touch to see how I can help optimise your website in line with the updated algorithm – Contact