Google Compliance - 6 SEO Essentials for Ranking in 2018

google compliance seo 2018In the past few years, Google has made several updates to its search algorithm, such that it is now almost impossible to figure it out, even if you are an SEO expert.

With over 200 search engine signals (ranking factors) and very stringent rules, trying to bypass or manipulate Google’s search algorithm is now much more difficult, and most uninformed attempts will usually result in penalties.

The fact that Google has penalised itself five times for breaking its own SEO rules should tell you how serious they are about them.

However, despite the complex search algorithm and the strict SEO rules, there are still acceptable tactics that you can use to have your website rank better than competitors on Google, as well as other search engines. Below is a look at some of the top SEO essentials that can ensure your website is in compliance with Google in 2018.

1. Mobile Website

For a long time now, Google has been focused on making search results more relevant to mobile users, especially with the ever-increasing rate of mobile traffic to a point where it has surpassed desktop traffic. After several mobile-friendly updates to their search algorithm, Google has finally come up with a final solution – the Mobile First Index ranking system.

The Mobile First Index system will be one of the most important search engine signals used by the search engine giant to rank websites. As the name suggests, the Mobile First Index will give preference to mobile version of websites, as opposed to the current indexing system uses desktop versions. The new index system is designed to offer a better experience to the majority of its users, who are now mobile users.

The system is currently being rolled out, and will go into full effect early 2018. Once this happens, websites that do not have a mobile website or whose desktop websites are not responsive will most likely experience a significant drop in the search engine results pages. Therefore, if you do not have a mobile website, or your desktop website doesn’t appear on search engines when using a mobile device, it is time you start making the necessary remedies to comply with the Mobile First Index system.

However, as you are complying with this new index system, you should note that simply having a mobile website will not guarantee you high rankings. For your site to be ranked in the top results, it must be very good. Therefore, a mobile website is just the first step, and you will need to be in compliance with other Google SEO factors to be ranked highly. In fact, it is better to only have a responsive desktop website instead of a poor quality mobile website.

2. Page Load Speed

Everyone who owns a website knows how important page load speeds are when it comes to increasing the conversion rates of a website. According to several studies, users expect fast page load speeds, and most of them will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load its pages.

However, what some people do not know is that their own site loads up faster because all the images are already cached on their machine.  And because page load speeds are one of the many factors used by Google to rank websites in search results, its worth clearing your cache to get a better view of how the site loads for your prospective audience.

A website with poor page load speeds is likely to suffer from not just low conversion rates, but also poor traffic due to low search engine rankings. As a website owner, improving your site’s page load speed is thus one of the most important SEO tasks you should carry out if you wish to get better search engine rankings in 2018.

So, how can you improve your website page load speed?

To improve your website page load time, you have to do away with anything that slows down its performance. This includes heavy images (huge file sizes due to large dimensions or print rather than web images), slow loading content, too many plugins, too many redirects, bulky website files (graphics, adverts, etc.), slow servers, and others.

These causes of slow load times can be especially detrimental to your search engine rankings when they are on your mobile website – mobile devices have a slower performance compared to PCs, and thus users will experience even slower speeds when using mobile devices.

When it comes to slow page load speeds, you should note that search engine bots will still consider your website slow, even if you have employed tactics such as browser caching to boost your website speeds. This is because with browser caching, the website files (images, graphics, some of the content, and others) are stored in the user’s browser cache to boost the speed of the website when they are visiting it again. Therefore, as mentioned above, the website will still be slow for first time users or users who regularly clear their cache.

The best solution is thus to ensure that the website is completely optimised to improve the load speed. After optimising it, you should then test the load time using tools such as https://www.webpagetest.org, which will help you identify the real load time of your site and of heavy elements that take an age to load up.

3. Broken Links and Duplicate Content

One of the several issues that are currently affecting and will affect search engine rankings in 2018 and beyond are issues such broken links, spammy links, duplicate content, malware, and so on.

Fortunately, Google has a way to help you avoid these issues, thus helping to maintain or even boost your search engine ranking. This comes in the form of Google Search Console, which was formerly known as the Google Webmaster Tools.

The Google Search Console is a free tool (service) that helps you to monitor the health of your website. With search console, you can monitor your website, allowing Google to check it for you and warn you of the issues mentioned above. When setting up the profile, you can add all the URLs of your website . Ie, with the www and without  the www in the url as well as the HTTPs and HTTP versions.

This way, Google will be able to monitor all the possible versions of your website URL, avoid penalizing you for duplicate content, and warn you of broken links and other issues that can affect your website’s search engine rankings.

On top of that, Google Search Console can help you to monitor your website’s search engine performance by providing you with basic information such as:

  • The search queries that led to your website appearing in search results
  • An idea of the amount of traffic your site received from each query
  • Sites that are linking back to your website
  • The search engine performance of your mobile site

With this information, you can thus be able to make informed decisions concerning your SEO campaign, which will, in turn, help you to improve its search engine rankings.

4. Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

Meta titles and meta descriptions (meta data) are the blue link (meta title) and the paragraph of text (meta descriptions) that often appear in search engine result snippets. Meta titles are still one of the most important on-page ranking factors in 2018 - and will be for a long time.

The descriptions do not directly influence search engine rankings, i.e., they are not one of the factors/signals used by the Google search algorithm. However, they are an essential part of your site’s On-Page SEO in that:

They help to describe your website pages to the search engines, thus making your content more relevant

They act as organic content for your website pages, and when search engines are displaying the results, the meta title and meta descriptions will be shown as a summary of the content found on your search engines

If your meta title and meta descriptions are compelling enough, they will help to increase the click-through rate of your website, thus boosting the organic traffic arriving on your websites
On top of that, when writing meta titles and meta descriptions, you can also add modifiers and qualifier words to your keywords and key phrases.

For example, if your target keyword is shop, some of the modifiers you can use include shops, shopping, stores, store, etc. On top of that, you can use qualifiers such as online, buy, sale, best, cheap, affordable, etc.

These extra words in your meta data will help to increase the targeting of your web pages by helping them to qualify for other phrases that people may be searching for to find your products. Therefore, well written meta data is still one of the most essential SEO factors, and since it helps to improve your organic search results, it will continue being one of the top SEO practices in the coming years.

5. Backlinks

Backlinks used to be one of the most important SEO factors, according to some newbie SEO experts that have claimed that they are no longer important. However, this could not be any further from the truth. In fact, out of all the 200 search engine factors used by Google to rank search results, backlinks (links from other websites) are in the top 3 position.

Therefore, if you are looking to improve your site’s SEO so as to get better search rankings, backlinks should be on your top of the to-do list. However, to appear on top of the search results, you will not only need backlinks, but powerful backlinks from authority sites.

So how can you get powerful backlinks? Well, below is a look at some of the top ways on how you can earn quality incoming links to your website, which will sustain your site’s SEO for a long period.

  • Create quality infographics and share them on social media or combine them with guest blogging
  • Creating high-quality guest articles/blogs - remember content is only valuable if it generates powerful links
  • Promoting your content on other websites that are related to your subject matter
  • Writing testimonials for services that you trust, which can then be displayed on their websites and earn you links in return
  • Using the broken link building strategy – this is where you find link resources that are no longer active, and then create similar resources and reach out to the sites still using the dead links. The sites can then use your new resources, thus helping you earn backlinks for your website
  • Creating high-quality content and promoting to authority domains such as .edu or .gov domains

With the above tips (and others that you can find on the internet) you can earn high-quality backlinks to your website that will not only increase your search engine rankings but will also improve your website referral traffic.

6. Content

For a long time now, content has been one of the most important SEO factors. In fact, it is currently one of the top three signals/factors used to rank search engine results by Google. However, in the recent times, the online marketing landscape has experienced a significant change, which has made content more important than ever. But not just any content. Now, websites need high-quality, fresh, relevant content in order to attract users and keep them engaged.

Therefore, websites that do not have fresh and relevant content are now suffering more and more from low click-through rates and high-bounce rates. To make matters worse, Google and other search engines are penalizing these websites by giving them poor search engine rankings due to their low-quality content.

For this reason, as a website owner, creating high-quality content that your readers will engage your readers should be one of your top priorities. You can achieve good rankings without pandering to Google's wishes of providing fresh content all the time, but it goes with out saying that new content can help you target those new keyword phrases you want to rank high for. Therefor publishing some new unique, quality content that is keyword rich and has optimised meta data should always on your to do list.

Summary

The above essentials of the SEO are very important in helping your website conform to Google’s webmaster guidelines, which will, in turn, earn you better search engine rankings. On top of that, compliance with these guidelines is now more important than ever, especially once the Mobile First Index system is fully rolled out in 2018.

Got any questions about your low rankings or the effort your team is putting into SEO - and not achieving the rankings you expect? Get in touch as a free SEO review can uncover lots of the issues Google is having when it comes to discovering, crawling, indexing and ranking your web pages.

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