Google cleaning up the web
If you have noticed that within last 2 weeks many sites have their rankings changed almost overnight, then you know first hand how Google cleaning drive works.
The last year 2017, Google implemented some 400 changes to its search algorithm, many of them quite big.
The underlying theme is: Improving the user experience.
With their algorithm updates as well as human reviews, this is what it boils down to. It doesn’t matter how much traffic your site attracts. If it doesn’t care about user experience, then it is gone. Poof!!
So, let’s dig into these changes one by one and see what will work in 2018 and beyond.
Use pagination judiciously
Even if the content on your site is complete, but pagination is extensively used then it is bad user experience. Like asking users to click through more than 10 pages to read full article is something Google recently penalized.
Google has mentioned many times about proper user experience guidelines as webmaster’s guidelines.
Along with completeness and depth of information, how the content and information is presented in a clear manner is also important.
This used to be a technique where information was presented over a span of few pages:
- to distribute more ads over pages
- increase the time spent by the visitor on the website.
This is not going to work now.
Unless you have reasons to spread the information over few pages, the good idea is using clickable links on the same page to different parts of the content.
Pro Tip: If the post is big and requires separate posts for certain subtopics, then the best idea is to present them as clickable links and headlines in the main post only. That way you are also targeting more keywords in the single post.
Moreover, it also shows your authority on the topic. A huge booster for the reputation of your website and your content.
Thin content supported by other contents is not going to work!
This means, you have main content in form of a small article and the rest of page is loaded with articles from other parts of the site or from curator plugin.
Thin content is (was after this update) content that is short and used for driving traffic only.
Thus, this content doesn’t provide any value as per user experience. Most of the time it is used to drive traffic to other parts of the website.
An example would be this post only. As per headline of this post, it should have all the required and expected information with regards to latest Google algorithm updates as on January 2018.
In contrast, a thin content would be, 300-400 words( or fewer words) post just telling that Google has recently mass deindexed news sites from its search results. And, the rest of the page will be filled with related posts on the site about what is SEO, what are news sites, etc.
This won’t fly anymore. And Google’s latest move just signifies this only.
Make it mobile friendly, please!!!
More and more people are accessing information from their mobile devices. If your site is not yet mobile responsive or mobile friendly, then take a day off and fix it. Now.
Many things are important as per user experience, but they come after a user is able to see your site.
I am not kidding, money and time you spend on making your site mobile responsive are worth every penny.
If you are on WordPress, the best choice would be to spend one-time money on a good responsive theme. This way all you get the best look for your website which is also speed optimized.
One thing, that you need to take care of while thinking mobile first: Remove anything fancy which doesn’t add to experience on mobile.
A person on mobile has two things working against him: Screen size and data connectivity.
If your site has too many fancy effects, then either they won’t load properly on mobile or won’t render properly or worse, overlap on other sections of the website while loading.
So, make it efficient first. Then you think about ad placement or any other CTA on that page.
When the content of your website is good, people will follow it on laptop/desktop too, and they will sign up there. Don’t let to destroy their user experience when on mobile.
Long form content works best
Unless you are in news only industry, long-form content with depth is the way to go.
Long content provides you multiple benefits as compared to short thin content:
- You are able to target many keywords and LSI words in one topic, this helps in increasing your authority and rank in eyes of Google.
- As the content which is long-form is more thorough, it is linked, liked and shared, thus helping in increasing backlink profile too.
- Google loves long-form content. You as a reader may only read the certain part which solves your query when you approach long content, but Google crawlers read everything. Right up to that note you added at the bottom.
Thus any content that addresses a topic to its length and breadth is going to rank you higher.
It is better to have an in-depth content on every sub-topic related to your main content.
Little tip: Every few months, go through your old posts and see if any of them needs updating. If it does, then add that material to that post, add more photos ( and videos if you can) to that post and update it. This solves two purposes:
- Your old post is getting repurposed and you can share it as updated: date format. This works best if the topic is on trend currently. You have just pinged all the index servers that new content is there.
- Your original post maybe few hundred words old, but when you add material, you are also increasing the word count. Recently even when reformating and making a post better, I was able to increase the word count from 800 to 1900+. The effect was evident. Since last three weeks, it has received 3 times more readership and 25 new signups.
Pro Tip: Put your main content topic in Google search box and look for LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords related to your topic. Make them into the subtopics of your post and provide in-depth content for that. Google will love that.
Placement of ads (if you use ads to generate revenue):
If your website is monetized using ads, then this is of importance to you.
In addition to the number of ads you can serve on a single page, Google has also made it important that your ads follow webmaster’s guidelines.
“If you show ads, make sure the pages they are found on are high-quality and offer relevant, ample information.” – Search Engine Land
If your content is such that it doesn’t help users when they visit your website but only helps you in serving more ads, then Google is going to penalize you.
This change is more important in case of tips based, event-based and news-based websites.
To protect your site from a penalty, start updating your content in such manner that:
- The useful information is clear and well presented.
- Ads are clearly demarcated and users are not tricked into clicking on ads by cloaking them into the content.
With Google update called ‘Fred’ released on 8th March 2017, many low-quality heavy ad-based sites were penalized.
Use good hosting
This is my personal observation. And it applies to shared hosting only.
When you are on shared hosting, you are sharing your IP address with hundreds of websites on the same server. The problem starts when one those website is spammy or low quality.
A good web hosting company will take care to keep their servers actively protected from such websites. They also take care to keep their servers running in top condition.
This affects how your website is looked by outside world, especially Google.
Pro Tip: If you purchasing your hosting for first time, then by the lowest tiered plan and don’t fall for features listed to higher level plans. You won’t feel difference in the initial phase. The traffic won’t come on day 1. Just focus on simple, fast loading website and structure of your content first. You can always upgrade later, when your website is established.
I recommend below-mentioned web hosting companies due to their customer service and reputation:
- Kinsta(only for sites with high traffic)
- Our own tinkoor (based on Google and Amazon servers)
There are many more hosting providers who provide very good service, but I choose to recommend what I have personally tested and reviewed.
So, when you want to check out any hosting solution, there are few factors you need to keep in mind:
- Server location: Physical location of your server from your intended audience directly impacts your website loading time.
- Integration with SSL and CDN: SSL sites are rated higher as compared to a non-SSL based site. CDN is for faster loading time.
- Server Level catching: For improving website loading speed, fast loading website is rated higher. Focus on keeping your site loading time under 3-4 seconds and it should suffice.
But any type of hosting won’t save a poorly designed or coded website. That is something you need to spend your time on.
SEO field is changing fast. And for better user experience.
Google is focused on making the user experience as natural as possible. For this purpose, Google will keep on pushing more updates to its search algorithm.
If your content is focused on providing meaningful, in-depth information to your visitor then it is something Google will like.
Of course, the structure of your site, for better understanding by Google bots is still and will remain important. But, the days of keyword stuffing, low-quality thin content meant for driving traffic based on latest trends are over.
Keep your focus on your user and you will be fine in 2018.
Let me know your thoughts in comment section below!