Over the years, it has become more and more difficult to achieve and maintain stellar rankings with search engines, primarily Google. It’s not just that there’s more competition (with millions of new websites launched each year), but changing Google algorithms have cracked down on all kinds of practices that artificially inflate rankings.
For the most part, banned activities are limited to black hat SEO, including practices like keyword stuffing and link farming that deliver irrelevant content to Google users. However, Google has also been on a crusade to end practices like guest posting that benefit both blogs that post guest content and the companies that provide it in exchange for links. In other words, you’re going to have to get a little more creative if you want to improve your rankings.
One option is to optimize your site in a variety of ways to ensure that you’re not having a negative impact on how Google indexes you (in order to rank you against competitors). Could you be unwittingly shooting yourself in the foot? Here are just a few areas to focus on if you don’t want to negatively affect your rankings without even knowing it.
Google’s goal is to deliver the most satisfying user experience possible, and websites that help them to achieve this goal are rewarded. This involves a number of factors. Naturally, you want to provide the most relevant content for specific search criteria, but that’s only part of the user experience. Users also want speedy access to information.
When your pages are slow to load, it not only has a negative impact on your interaction with users, who may navigate away in frustration, but it also registers with Google, which wants users to find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible. In other words, high bounce rates due to lagging load times could get you penalized.
It wasn’t that long ago that HTTP underwent a mandatory upgrade to HTTPS, a more secure way for users to browse websites. If you didn’t bother to update your SSL certificate, chances are users are being denied access to your website and getting security warnings from their browser. As you can imagine, this doesn’t bode well for search engine rankings.
Lack of Responsive Design
The number of people relying on mobile devices for browsing has been steadily increasing over the last few years – no surprise considering advancing smartphone and tablet capabilities, not to mention unlimited data plans and free Wi-Fi pretty much everywhere. If you have yet to upgrade your website to a responsive design (i.e. one that auto formats for the device the user is browsing with), you’re behind the times. Considering Google’s mobile-first initiative, you’re also missing an opportunity to get a boost in rankings.
Content, Content, Content
You’ve heard it before – content is king. Your content needs to be relevant, timely, and most importantly, unique if you want to see the most traction with Google. If you have duplicate content that appears on other websites, Google won’t know how to index it, so it won’t bring you any benefit. Original content isn’t easy to create, but when you focus on your brand voice and your audience, you have the best opportunity to retain readership and rankings.