2017 is well underway—but are your digital strategies? If you were living under a rock the past few years and don’t understand how important search rankings are—93% of online experiences begin with search. When it comes to SEO, not only are Google’s algorithm updates changing rapidly, but also customers’ usage and expectations. Usability has heavily influenced Google’s algorithm in the past year. Here are my top 3 SEO updates of 2016 influenced by consumer usability:
1) Mobile-first index
Customers’ usage has driven one of Google’s major updates of 2016. Google announced that mobile searches have surpassed the amount of desktop searches in 10 countries including the US. Recently Google revealed its algorithm will use a mobile-first index. Simply put, Google will now crawl through your business’s website as a mobile user rather than a desktop user. Therefore, websites that aren’t mobile responsive will drop drastically in the rankings. The new index will now heavily weigh your content, and most importantly, your sitemap with ranking. Although Google still has a second desktop index, it is a safe assumption that in the next few years its value will steadily decline at the rapidly increasing rate of smart phones users.
2) Crackdown on pop-ups
Google has recently taken action against pop-ups and overlays. Google stated that they are intrusive, have poor content (since users can’t immediately access the desired page), and are problematic to phones with small screens. Simply put, less pop-ups or overlays mean better user experience, increased engagement, which equal higher search results. This announcement will have a huge impact on websites that heavily rely on ad revenue. However, there are many types of pop-ups and Google doesn’t treat them all equally. Google lists the following techniques that make web content less accessible to the user:
- Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
- Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
- Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.
In their official statement, Google announced that starting on the first day of the new year, websites where content is not easily accessible during the transition from the mobile search will have a lower ranking. For more information and techniques, you can read their official statement here.
“Google has detected that your site is currently running PageSpeed < 220.127.116.11 or <18.104.22.168, an older version of PageSpeed. Outdated or unpatched software can be vulnerable to hacking and malware exploits that harm potential visitors to your site. Therefore, we suggest you update the software on your site as soon as possible. “Following are one or more example URLs where we found pages that have outdated software. The list is not exhaustive.”
Another way consumer usability impacted SEO the past year is due to loading speed. The need for speed is more intense than ever since users want to quickly find the best answers to their questions. Patience is at a minimum and there is a short time frame people are willing to wait for a page to load. According to Google, 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load. The average mobile site takes 19 seconds on 3G. What does that mean? Many businesses are missing out on half of their potential customers. In a perfect digital world we could blame the phone services for this issue, however, that’s not the case. File size, element organization, and server request are some of the factors slowing down speed. These factors include images, videos, ads, and measurement tools. In 2016, Google enabled a feature in Google Search Console that sends PageSpeed update notifications:
The mobile movement is gaining even more momentum as we head further into 2017. The three listed SEO updates are just a few of the many strategies that are vital for your digital marketing strategy this year: Need help with your 2017 digital marketing plan? We grow customers, online and off. Let's talk about how to grow yours.