Since we started in 2008 search marketing and SEO has changed a lot! Now in 2019 we’ll take this opportunity to look at some of the current important SEO factors that you should be paying attention to.
Quality Content has always been an important factor when it comes to search visibility. If you remember, several years ago the Google Panda update targeted websites with short and unoriginal content. Those sites were penalised accordingly in the SERPs. As you will have seen from checking tools like Google Analytics, good content often receives significantly longer time-on-page – a clear indication that the user is engaging with your content and finding it useful/interesting. Does your content address the needs of the search query? If the search query is a question (e.g. how to tie a shoelace) does your content answer that question and make use of section headings and bullet point lists to clearly explain the answer? The other factors below can help ranking, however content remains at the top of the list.
We all expect a secure experience online and browsers like Chrome now clearly point out when we are visiting a website that is ‘not secure’. Purchasing an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate to obtain that all important black or green padlock and HTTPS prefix is well worth the investment and will also help the credibility of your site in search and the user’s browser experience.
Like well-established physical stores and commercial premises that have been around for many years, another factor is the age of your domain…how long have you been around online? Domains that you have only just registered will carry less authority than a domain that was registered many years ago.
Does your site automatically change according to the user’s device type? Do menus and images reposition and resize themselves to best fit the screen size the user is viewing your website on? As more and more browsing and transactions are done on mobile devices, Google has placed more importance on the quality of that mobile experience, penalising websites that aren’t responsive from mobile results. Ensure your website development includes a responsive layout.
Page Load Speed
Another bugbear along with a lack of mobile responsiveness is a slow page load time. Leaving the user waiting for pages to load with large images, lots of scripts and tags increases the likelihood of them abandoning their visit and returning to the results to choose an alternative website that is quicker to load. Tools such as Google Lighthouse and GTMetrics allows you to check the speed of your page load and help identify where optimisation efforts should be focused to reduce page load times.
On-Page Optimisation has always been important and still is. Unfortunately on-page optimisation is still overlooked or not properly addressed on many websites. Carefully choose a page title that best describes the content of your page. A META description of approximately 155 characters will be your search results text. Use H1 – H3 heading tags for content sections and sub-sections to indicate the difference in importance. Use a tool such as Screaming Frog to analyse your site and identify pages that need improvements. The page name should also be appropriate to the content of your page and reflect the title and heading content. This will send a clear signal as to the purpose of the page content.
Backlinks were once regarded as the most important factor, but that is no longer the case. It is still important to have other websites linking to yours. That is a clear signal that others value your content. However, you will need to be careful to check the quality and authority of those backlinks to avoid being penalised. Tools like as Moz and Majestic will help you understand your backlinks and the authority or risk they carry.
How long does the user spend on your page before returning to the search results to find another site? Dwell time indicates that your site contains good content and is easy to use. However, a quick visit suggests your website wasn’t useful for that search phrase. If a competitor site sees a higher dwell time then this will help improve their position over yours