October 9, 2017 / SEO 101

For years search marketers have placed far more emphasis on off-page SEO than quality design. Refining the look and feel of a website often tends to take the back seat, being treated as a luxury rather than a necessity. However, changes to Google’s algorithm – particularly 2017’s Fred update – have completely shifted the paradigm.

Mobile Compatibility is No Longer Optional

Last year a major internet milestone was hit: more searches were conducted on smartphones than desktop computers. For years search marketers have been told to place more emphasis on mobile functionality; however, many have ignored the warnings. Since a January 2017 update, Google started penalizing websites that aren’t optimized for mobile. If you’re yet to roll with these changes, get started as soon as possible.

Interactive Visual Content Ranks Higher

Throughout the last decade search marketers have tried to quantify the word count sweet spot for blog posts. Ten years ago it was 250 words, five years ago it was 500 words, and HubSpot have recently reported that articles between 2,250 and 2,500 words tend to perform the best. That said, as high search rankings are now strongly linked to time spent browsing, the numbers game means little without quality. Visual (pictures and videos) and interactive (clickable assets) content keep people on the page, and therefore, should always be factored into the “design” of an article.

Parallax Design Has Gone From Bad to Worse

Single page websites that seem to scroll on forever (parallax websites ) remove the traditional website structure that Google use to crawl. This will raise alarm bells. For example, instead of hosting a page like “.com/about”, a parallax URL will use “.com#about”, which isn’t listed in search engines. Therefore, instead of having multiple pages appear on Google, only one page will appear. Additionally, it means that you need to focus all your chosen keywords on one page, which can affect readability. While there are some good parallax websites on the web – they can be effective landing pages – they’re just not worth designing.

Digital Analytics Have Gained More Weight

The most effective way of assessing website performance is through digital analytics. Visitors, time spent browsing, pages per session and bounce rate are now all variables factored into Google’s ranking criteria. As a result, many affiliate marketers hosting shallow websites containing an abundance of sales links experienced an overnight traffic drop of between 50 and 90 percent in March 2017. Fundamentally, Google wants to send people to pages that are compelling. If you need to refresh your website’s look, check out Design Bundles.

Navigation Bars Are Grossly Understated

User experience should always take equal or more precedence than search engine optimization. After all, SEO means little if you can’t keep your visitors engaged and drive them further down the sales funnel. A good navigation structure that’s intuitive and familiar will not only help people find what they’re looking for quickly, but will provide an internal link to and from every page. This will make the entire site easier to crawl. Always plan your navigation page hierarchy chain – this is especially important if you use a drop-down menu.

Website Speed Still Matters

In the modern world speed is everything. People expect instant access to information on-the-fly and will not tolerate slow loading times. Even though broadband and fibre optic are the universal norm, poorly designed websites with messy code can still be slow – at least by today’s standards. Expect to lose two percent of conversions with every one second of loading time.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure. Perform an audit at least once every quarter to ensure all of the aforementioned elements are present on your website. Delving off course, even for a short period of time, could cause serious damage to your rankings.

Adam Manuel (author)

Adam Manuel is a freelance writer and Internet entrepreneur. For more information, visit his blog: adammanuel.com

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