January 25, 2015

Top 3 Website Updates You Need to Make Now

In presidential politics, there’s one saying that rules them all: “As Iowa goes, so goes the nation.” In the SEO, marketing, content, and really, the entire business worlds, the saying is more like, “As Google goes, so goes theentire globe.” In fact, when Google announces a future date for their next algorithm release, discussion boards and industry blogs explode with nervous speculation about what the changes will do to the online health of their brand. And it’s no wonder, as a single Google update can instantaneously move a brand from the first page of search results to a less than ideal location 15 pages in.

But you needn’t let Google algorithm updates take you by surprise. In preparation for Google’s April 21st new release, we’re offering our best tips both for getting your site ready, and for ensuring you’re following the best practices already in place.

1. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Friendly

Our digital world is becoming increasingly mobile, with most of us accessing everything from email to Facebook to restaurant recommendations via our smartphones while on the go, rather than looking it all up on a desktop before leaving the office. With a pressing need for relevant, real-time and often local search results, it should come as no surprise that Google is moving in the mobile direction, too.

But, as you’ll know if you’ve ever pulled up a website on your smartphone only to waste precious minutes waiting for the site to load or hunting for a submit button, just being able to access a website on mobile doesn’t mean that said website is particularly mobile-friendly. Google is concerned about this user experience issue, and its latest release is set to evaluate and reward truly mobile sites with more precision than ever before.

So, how can you make sure your site is mobile friendly? You could just pull it up on your own device, but even if it looks good there, doesn’t mean it will look good across all devices. A better bet: enter your URL into Google’s ownMobile-Friendly Test tool, which will evaluate how well you’re doing. From there, if you have a Webmaster Tools account (and you should if you run your own website), login to check out your full Mobile Usability Report, which identifies specific problem areas. To fix these issues, Google recommends in its Guide to Mobile-Friendly Sites either installing 3rd-party software to help out, hiring someone to help you, or working on your own to increase yourmobile SEO.

Additional quick fixes include: building a site with responsive design, which will make it so that your site adjusts instantly to fit the screen of any device upon which it’s accessed; choosing a text and font size that’s readable without the need for excessive zooming; avoiding outdated software like Flash, which many mobile platforms don’t support; and making sure links are large enough and far enough apart so that it’s easy for user to click the right one.

As you do these evaluations, keep in mind that you’ll need to look at every page on your site (or at least, every kind of page), as the mobile-friendly test tool only evaluates the health of one URL at a time.

2. Say Goodbye to Your Duplicate and Useless Content

There was a time not so long ago when the Googlebot could be tricked into ranking web content high based solely on the number of times a certain set of keywords was mentioned. In that spammy age, it made sense for website owners to duplicate their pages, and to produce nonsensical content that was laughably bad but that referenced these keywords often.

But such content is no longer profitable for websites, as each new manifestation of the Google algorithm rewards increasingly higher level content. Duplicate content is now specifically targeted as low quality or even as plagiarism, which Google penalizes accordingly by doing fewer crawls of your site. This will result in a lower ranking, and can even lead to a banning of your site from the search engine altogether. And if you didn’t know that Google was important to your site before getting banned, you certainly will when you’re no longer showing up in key search rankings.

3. Keep It Fresh

For each given search, Google has trillions upon trillions of web pages to index. In so doing, the Googlebot wants to make sure it highly ranks not only relevant pages, but also pages with up to date information. After all, a page that was excellent in 2001 may not be quite as helpful in 2015 if it hasn’t been regularly updated to reflect the latest industry knowledge.

Accordingly, Google rewards sites upon which there is a steady stream of fresh content, whether you post once a week, or three times a day. If that sounds like a lot of content to produce, don’t get overwhelmed. Content can consist of anything from a quick YouTube video diary to a listing of thoughts about the latest industry news to a photo of your company party, as long as it’s mixed in with harder hitting, longer form pieces. Once you have a critical mass of blogposts and pages, you can also simply update old content to reflect new developments, device, or news you have to offer. While this content need not be worthy of a Nobel Laureate, it should still follow the guidelines we laid out in our guide to content marketing.

In Short

Keeping your website in good standing with Google is a crucial part of maintaining the health of not only your online presence, but also of your business as a whole. While Google algorithm updates can drive a business owner, marketer or web designer crazy, each one rewards higher and higher quality work, as a part of Google’s mission to make the web a better place. Being a part of that may take work, but doing so can only benefit your brand.