Google Lay Down the Law (again!)
Changes to Google’s algorithms and webmaster practices have long been the subject of rumour mills (partly because Google like to play their cards close to their collective chest), so when we had confirmation and clarity back in September from Google’s Search team member Illya Grigorik as to the Google updates coming in 2018, it’s no wonder the internet nearly imploded.
Grigorik’s ‘Google: Future of the Content Ecosystem” presentation sent many into a tailspin (although how anyone still undertaking black hat SEO gets away with under Google’s big brother radar we’re not sure), but now the dust has settled, here’s our take on things:
Search Trends & Delivery
It’s not exactly a secret when Google changes how the SERPs are delivered and over 2017 especially we’ve seen big shifts in how PPC is presented v organic results, and also against rolling updates, query results and the inclusion of AI (if you don’t know much about that, this is an interesting piece by Wired.com). Mobile has also of course become the biggest thing since sliced bread, and with mobile came even more impatient users, so it’s important that the results Google deliver are both accurate and timely.
“Contrary to popular belief, we actually are trying to reduce the amount of time that users spend on our search results page. We want them to find the information they are looking for quickly; which means less time on the search results page” – Illya Grigorik, Google Webmaster Team
The direct quote from Grigorik above confirms that, to all intents and purposes, Google wants users to have the quickest and most effective search experience possible, on whichever platform they are using.
In 2018, we should most likely expect to see a continued focus on this, with search results being much more dynamic to user experience. For example, if you are using a mobile device (which 50% of users worldwide now use to browse) then you should expect to see not only mobile friendly results prominently displayed first (more on that below), but also a combined search index that pulls together the two (currently separate) mobile and desktop search indexes. In doing so, Google will be looking to crawl mobile websites FIRST (or only), instead of desktop.
This may sound a little bullish but it makes sense, when you think that for many people smartphones are their only way to access the internet. It also doesn’t mean you should neglect your desktop website; in fact, you need that to be updated now more than ever before, to retain the desktop traffic and sales you do get. However, it does mean a mobile site will be more important than ever, and not just a simplified version of your desktop site with less functionality or no real focus on design and usability.
Mobile First is the term being used to conjoin the desktop and mobile search indexes together (as above). This is due to hit via staggered releases in 2018, and will have major implications on anyone who does not have a mobile friendly (and by “friendly”, we mean, optimised, user friendly, quick and slick). As above, your mobile website really will become key to how Google ranks you, and will have a direct impact on search traffic driven by the big G.
There are some basic tips to making your website perform well on mobile (we’ll cover these in more detail in a separate post), but it is well worth ensuring that, from now, you:
- Have a mobile site that ticks Google’s “mobile friendly” box
- Make sure that site can be fully crawled and indexed
- Ensure that elements such as Rich Snippets, structured data, meta content and alt tags are all in place, as well as carrying out the same check for your desktop site.
Google have been pushing elements such as Rich Snippets for a while now (although, naturally, with no guarantee they’ll help your performance in the SERPs), however, this is something that will only continue in 2018 with the push for faster, more structured websites that can deliver content to users in an optimum timeframe.
Google released some new forms of rich mark-up for use with Google images during the presentation which will give users badges on images in the Image results to mark the type of pages they link to; i.e. recipes, videos, gifts, products etc.
There are different ways this can be done depending on your website build.
Faster and faster and faster is the way Google wants user browsing experience to be, and this will continue to be important. Users are more impatient now than ever (no point in having a smartphone with a Snapdragon 835 processor if you have to wait more than 3 seconds for a website to load), and Google will be punishing websites that don’t up their game with their site speed.
The Mobile Friendly and PageSpeed Insights tool both give an analysis on site speed and elements to fix; in a perfect world, every website would score 100% but we all know that’s a pipe dream. However, fast loading will be more key now than ever and every effort should be made to achieve the highest score/fastest speed possible, on both desktop and mobile sites.
Google did emphasise (and why shouldn’t we believe them) that they won’t be using page speed to score websites for ranking but they will be using the metrics associated with delivering the right content for the user, quickly. Take from that what you will…
Heard of AMP? Google’s open source Accelerated Mobile Pages project has one primary aim; to improve the performance of web content and ads via AMP, so every page viewed on a mobile device will perform consistently high and fast.
There are 3 core components to AMP: HTML, JS & the Google AMP Cache – this is a proxy based CDN that delivers only valid AMP documents using HTTP 2.0.
AMP is still in it’s infancy having launched in Feb 2016, and many are still both sceptical of how it works and also happy to brush it under the carpet and focus on other elements of website and mobile development. However, Google is improving this technology all the time and we do think this will be a big part of Google’s Mobile First push into next year!
It’s no secret that Google wants every site on the WWW to move to HTTPS, but this has led to frustrations for those who don’t collect user data. Not only is it a hassle for some, but there are additional costs associated with acquiring an SSL certificate. Given that Google has established this as a ranking factor, however, we’d strongly recommend that, if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to set the wheels in motion to move to HTTPS. Chrome users will soon start to see any websites not using HTTPS marked as “Not secure” in their browser, which could have a massively negative impact on the user trust of your site, and as such, associated visits and sales.
This may all sound off-putting and potentially expensive, but not as expensive as the potential to lose rankings, traffic and sales, so we really wouldn’t recommend putting things off if you have been already. If you need any guidance, further insights or just a friendly chat about how to progress your digital marketing into 2018, we’re always happy to help – just give us a call on 012546 881637 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.