Beyond Keywords

It’s no secret that Google sets the general standards for online search, but identifying those standards can be a bit more cryptic, and meeting those standards can be even more challenging. The internet has come a long way from the days of long, repeating strings of keywords at the bottom of geocities pages (in fact, that will get you penalized pretty quickly now). Google’s algorithm is always changing, constantly improving, and your SEO strategy needs to be regularly updated accordingly.

As we’ve said before, “The basics to get the foundation setup can be done in a month, but SEO is a long-term strategy that requires a lot of time and energy.”

The good news is that Google’s current standards are all about the user experience. For the first time, what’s good for the algorithm is good for your customer, which is also good for your business. An overly simplified version of the formula looks something like this:

Search Engine Optimization = Tailored Images + Relevant Content + Mobile Friendly + SSL Certificate

All of these components make the internet faster and safer for everyone, and now that Google is giving them precedence in the search rankings, it means two things: your customers will be doing more searching and you need to rethink your SEO strategy with speed, relevance, and security at the forefront.

Here are four things that you might not realize are affecting your website’s search rankings:

1. An (Optimized) Picture is Worth a Thousand (Stuffed) Keywords

 

Everybody loves big, beautiful pictures, but there is a point where they begin to negatively impact the user experience. Anytime the user encounters even the tiniest delay on the otherwise smooth, seamless experience of your website, they are pulled out of the moment and they are more inclined to click away to another site. This isn’t new. What is new is that now Google penalizes pages with slower load rates with lower search rankings. The result is a page that is harder to find and is less effective when people do find it.

The solution is to make those high-quality images render in a way that doesn’t affect the page-load rate. This usually means tinkering with things behind the scenes like the way that JavaScript loads or design files load. These factors that are largely unrecognized by the human eye, but are critical to striking a balance between aesthetics, user experience and findability. UX and findability have always been important, but now that they are directly linked to search rankings, they are more important than ever.

 

 

2. Content (Relevance) is King

 

Optimizing images for SEO might be a new challenge for designers, but writers have been grappling with this since keywords were invented. Now that Google is adapting to factor in relevance, content creators are getting some relief while designers will have to learn some new skills. Keywords will always be important, but Google is now freeing writers to produce content that is focused on the brand’s messaging and tone.

This is good news because it allows the content on your site to sound more human and conversational without sacrificing findability. In keyword-based content creation, the writer often had to compromise the content by artificially injecting the magic number of keyword repetitions. Now, quality content is rewarded with a better search ranking, so the bar is raised for everyone.

[It is also important to make full use of headings and subheadings for readability AND findability.]

Smarter algorithms also factor in a site’s scanability. As usability specialists, we understand that being bold isn’t always enough. The use of Heading 1, 2, 3 and even 4 allow readers to quickly identify and consume the content that is relevant to them. Now, Google will look at the content, see that the points add to the user experience and give that site preference.

3. Mobile Optimization = Search Engine Optimization

 

Sayings along the lines of “Your customers are mobile” and “reach your customers wherever they are” have almost become clichés in the post-smart phone world. Nevertheless, it’s still kind of amazing how many websites are designed on 27-inch iMac screens and then, as an afterthought, examined on an iPhone screen to make sure that nothing is embarrassingly displaced.

Google is raising the bar on mobile websites by making mobile optimization a key search element. In fact, Google has made it easy for anyone to put the mobile version of their website to the test here. Google doesn’t care how users access the internet, they are interested in page-load speeds across all devices. Besides, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, then it’s also not user-friendly or search friendly. At that point, why even have a website?

4. SSL Isn’t Just for E-Commerce

 

Even if you’re not performing financial transactions from your site, it is still important to protect as much information as possible. One relatively simple way to achieve this is to invest in an SSL certificate that encrypts the communication between computers and websites drastically reducing the risk of threats like middleman phishing attacks. Not only does this add security to your online presence, but it also adds a sense of professionalism.

And now, Google is looking that for that certificate as part of its search. Google has a vested interest in directing users to sites with minimal security risks, and an SSL certificate – indicated by that little green lock beside the address bar – is the quickest way for them to make that decision. The encryption is nice, but both Google and potential customers will feel more confident knowing that a real person registered the website and that the very real registrant has attached their real name and address to it – something that scammers are not inclined to do.

Conclusion: Towards Optimal Optimization

 

For most of these issues, you will want to talk with somebody who specializes in web design, hosting and security because all of these now fall under the umbrella of optimization. If you are missing even one component, your site isn’t fully optimized, which means that your search rankings could be suffering.

At the end of the day, the speed and relevance of your content matter more than shoe-horning the magic number keywords into every sentence. Today, “optimization” means relevant, scannable content with tailored images that load quickly and securely whether the site is accessed on a desktop, smartphone or tablet.

Contact us today to discuss areas where your web presence can be improved because better search algorithms mean that elegant user experiences are no longer a luxury. It’s important that if you’re going to do business with anyone – whether it’s LaunchUX or anybody else – you make sure that they understand the changing landscape.