Five Reasons to Review Your Website’s SEO

If you haven't optimized your website for search in 2017, you could be missing out

SEO: Search engine optimization. That mysterious, dark art of infusing your website with hundreds of hidden links and stuffing your pages with as many keywords and phrases as you possibly can. Sure, it makes your blog posts read like they were written by an infinite number of robots at an infinite number of keyboards. But it’s what you have to do if you want to shoot up the search engine rankings, right?

Ugh, no. If you thought anything in that paragraph still applies in 2017, you’re way overdue for an SEO tune-up. While it’s true that these tactics worked once upon a time, when search engines were dumber and tricking their algorithms was worth the effort, it’s a very different world today.

In fact, outdated SEO practices not only don’t work anymore, they can actually hurt your organic search rankings and any paid search campaigns (like Google AdWords) that you’re running.

Like the man says, “the game done changed.” Here are five signs you’re not winning it:

1. Your Site Isn’t Mobile-Friendly

It’s 2017, and if your website isn’t already as readable and functional on a mobile device as it is on a laptop, you need to get on that. More than 50% of worldwide internet traffic now comes via mobile devices, and in the U.S., it’s 42% and rising.

Half of all internet traffic now comes via mobile devices

Google, in particular, is laser-focused on promoting mobile-friendly content in search results. When searching on a mobile device, you’ll see that the top-ranked results are tagged “AMP,” indicating that they adhere to the open-source Accelerated Mobile Pages specifications.

Content on these sites load quickly on mobile devices and follow mobile-first design practices that ensure usability on screens and devices of all sizes.

SEO isn’t the only reason to ensure your site is responsively designed, but it’s an increasingly important one.

2. Your Site Doesn’t Use HTTPS

Even if your site doesn’t collect or store any sensitive information, switching from HTTP to HTTPS significantly improves security, and it has a positive effect on SEO as well.

As with many SEO trends, this is being driven by Google, who called for “HTTPS Everywhere” in 2014 to promote the idea that “all communications should be secure by default.”

HTTPS also improves the quality of your referral data. If your site uses HTTP, you may be losing some referral data and seeing referral sources aggregated as generic “direct” traffic. With HTTPS, the referring domain is preserved, giving you better insight into where your visitors are coming from.

3. Your Site Doesn’t Follow Best UX Practices

Websites that provide a good user experience make it easier for visitors to find the information that they’re looking for and drill down deeper into subpages for more detail. They’re easy to navigate, they function nicely across all major devices and browsers and their sitemaps don’t include cul-de-sacs that users can’t get out of without using the browser’s Back button.

Dont frustrate your users with a bad user experience

A website with good UX creates a good impression on visitors, consciously and unconsciously. Whenever you search for something and find a site that gives you exactly what you’re looking for, it’s a positive association with the brand or company that features it. And search engines that consistently deliver that to their users create tremendous loyalty, so it’s in their best interests to surface the most relevant results as frequently as possible.

How do search engines decide whether their results are relevant? By examining the user behavior of those who are doing the searching, specifically:

  • Do users who search for a specific term or phrase click through to your site in search results?
  • Do those users remain on your page long enough to read the post, or do they bounce shortly after arriving there?
  • Do they then click around to other pages on your site, indicating that they’re looking for more of what you have to say?

A good user experience creates happy users who increase their reliance on the search engines that deliver that experience. Participating in this “virtuous cycle” is key to improving your search rankings.

4. Your Blog Posts Favor Quantity Over Quality

Once upon a time, writing “SEO friendly copy” essentially meant writing the same sentence over and over in slightly different ways. It was a great time to be a publisher of thesauruses. But things work differently now.

What’s the secret to great SEO copy nowadays? Please your readers.

If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re right. As with UX design and mobile friendliness, your blog posts should be written so that users who are searching for specific information find it in your posts.

Do some keyword research to determine which terms your target audience is searching for when they’re looking for the kind of content that you’re creating. But that’s really the only “secret hack” you should be spending a significant amount of time on. The quality of your content is what’s going to make or break you.

And if you’re not a naturally great writer, find someone who is. Your content will shoot up the rankings if you’re focused on your topic, you avoid going off on unnecessary tangents and you provide information that your competition isn’t.

5. You’ve Loaded Your Site Up With Shady Backlinks

“But, but, but,” you stammer, “my brother-in-law who does SEO says that he’s spent ten years building up a network of hundreds of sites that all link to each other, and he guarantees that this is the best way to improve my search rankings!”

Look, we’re not trying to make Thanksgiving dinner uncomfortable for you. But maybe the person who has built a business on a technology whose time has come and gone is not the person you should look to for an objective opinion about this. There are cassette tape purists out there too, and while they seem like wonderful cranks people, we’re not about to ditch our magical digital devices for vintage Walkmans.

Cassette tapes, like backlinks, are no longer a viable technology

Pulling the plug on a backlink strategy can be a little nerve-wracking, especially if it worked for you in the past. And there’s no lack of SEO experts out there who swear up and down that backlinking is still absolutely essential. Many of them were quoted in this article, which ranked the 10 top organic search results for the query “do backlinks still matter.”

Virtually all of the search results led to articles published by SEO experts who swore up and down that backlinking is still one of the most essential tools in the search engine optimization toolkit.

But the author’s deeper analysis reveals that many of these articles had only a handful of backlinks in them, and posts with dozens or hundreds more backlinks ranked significantly lower. If there’s true value in the backlinking strategy, there’s no evidence of it among articles that claimed that there definitely is.

That’s not to say that having your content linked to isn’t valuable in certain situations. Having trusted and influential sites like Forbes or CNN or TechCrunch essentially vouch for the authenticity of your content by linking to it is a huge help.

But having hundreds of links from a spammy web of sites created for that sole purpose isn’t one of those situations. These sites are increasingly being flagged by search engines, and the sites that they link out to are considered guilty by association. Don’t let your website get a bad reputation that it doesn’t deserve.

 

Interested in a complementary audit of your website’s SEO and user experience? Drop us a line!