Mobile-first indexingThese days, most of us consume digital media on mobile devices. So it’s no surprise that Google is making the switch to mobile-first indexing. Simply put, this means that Googlebot will crawl mobile websites first—before their desktop counterparts.

What does mobile-first indexing mean for your website?

If you have a responsive website, you’re good to go.

Otherwise, it’s time to put your best, mobile-friendly foot forward. Make metadata, keywords, search-friendly content, and accessibility part of your mobile site experience. This is especially true if you have separate sites at different URLs for desktop and mobile. With mobile-first indexing, the mobile experience becomes a more significant factor in your site’s visibility.

If your website isn’t responsive, reconsider

A responsive website delivers the same content and data as a desktop website. It’s built on proportional grids, flexible images, and CSS-based queries, so your site automatically adapts text and layout for any screen size. This is obviously preferable to directing a user to a different site based on the device they happen to be using (a practice that almost always leads to version control issues and a second-class, inferior experience on your mobile site).

Mobile-first indexing doesn’t introduce anything new for a responsive website, as the same website will still be indexed. But you can always improve the search performance of your website, by following these best practices.

Optimize for mobile

If you haven’t been thinking about your mobile users much, now is a great time to re-orient your content and development practices to prioritize the mobile experience. Avoid heavy images, large, complex diagrams, and long paragraphs of content. Make sure your headings and content are succinct, relevant, and keyword rich. Going forward, mobile-first content practices will improve not only the browsing experience for all your users, but your search performance as well.

Check out Google’s handy tool to see if your website is mobile-friendly:  https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly.

For more information:

Better SEOThe search engine optimization (SEO) process helps to ensure that your content is accessible to search engines and that your topics match your audience’s search terms. Having someone available, whether a consultant or a staff member, to advocate for SEO as part of your production process will reap rewards such as more visits to your website from people actually interested in your products, services, or organization.

Search problem

The marketing manager for a product at global technology company, henceforth referred to as Brand X, engaged with Resources Online to improve the product’s visibility in Google search results for very competitive terms and to increase the percentage of traffic coming from organic search. (Organic search is the results the search engine delivers based on relevance versus results listed because they were paid for, i.e. ads. Users trust organic search results more than paid results.)  The company’s content development processes at that time did not include SEO considerations. Content was marketing-driven and lacked keywords. The details of basic on-page optimization—including metadata, image optimization, and other considerations—were left up to the developers who didn’t have SEO training or, worse, to nobody. The company’s website structure was also not search-engine friendly.

SEO approach

Resources Online started off by conducting keyword research on the product to understand how customers were searching for similar products and services, using generic terms, synonyms, and related terms. We then updated the webpages to include the most popular terms. This helped to ensure that the actual page content matched searchers’ queries. Throughout the process, our SEO specialists educated the Brand X marketing team about what search engines look for in terms of content length, topics, and substance, and we explored how to best meet those needs.

With a scheduled site redesign in the works, we also took the time to remove spider barriers and to make the site search-engine friendly. Spiders are code the search engines use to check pages on a website and identify and pull information that is then used by the search engine algorithms to deliver search results. If the spiders can’t effectively crawl your website and find key information, it negatively affects your site’s rankings.

Search engine results

Ranking. By knowing which high-volume keywords were important to track, we were able to refine and re-focus tracking of search rank. Year over year, the number of tracked business-critical generic keywords showed improvement in Google search results as follows:

  • 100%: The number of keywords in position #1 doubled.
  • 39%: Keywords on page 1
  • 35%: Keywords on pages 1 and 2
  • 20%: Average position of all tracked keywords

Number of keywords on page

Organic traffic. By revising metadata to make it more compelling and user-focused and by adding keywords, Brand X experienced the following traffic improvements:

  • 30%: The number of sessions from organic search engines
  • 25%: The number of new users coming to the site

Conversions. Better keyword targeting brought more qualified searchers to the site:

  • 54%: Purchase page clicks
  • 98%: Product trial sign-up page completions
  • 150%: Demo sign-up completions from organic

Configuration. We worked with the development team to:

  • Ensure that international content was delivered to the correct country or region, by applying hreflang tags.
  • Eliminate duplicate content, through the use of canonical URLs.
  • Capture link equity, by converting unnecessary 302 redirects to 301s.

Indexation. We added sitemap.xml files and removed spider barriers, thus allowing more pages to be indexed and found through search.

Number of pages indexed by SEO spiders

Building a strong SEO foundation and doing the ongoing SEO work takes time, persistence, and education, but the impact on traffic, discoverability, and conversions can be enormous. Ultimately drawing the right traffic to your site can result in the downloads or sales that directly impact your bottom line.

Posted in SEO.

Brick LayerIf you’re even slightly familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), you know that SEO requires constant and steady work, like laying bricks, to drive and keep your page high in search results. It takes time and consistent effort to rise in the rankings and to stay there. You also understand the importance of creating good content focused on the right topics and keywords, plus the need to acquire authoritative backlinks.

Build a well-structured site

For a site to be found in search, the search engine’s online robots must first crawl it—that means the robot walks through all of your site pages to create a map, and it categorizes the contents of each page. Your site structure and form can make this much easier:

  • Create discrete pages, each focused on a single, specific topic that corresponds to users’ specific keywords/searches. This allows the engines to clearly know which pages should surface for which keyword search.
  • Use a broad-to-narrow approach, if necessary (that is, a broad topic page that links to pages on narrower sub-topics).
  • Avoid creating more than two levels of folder structure. Instead, keep the site structure as you flat as you can, placing the most important pages closer to the root.
  • Create a clear navigation structure. This is better for usability anyway. Basically, if showed your menu structure as an outline, would a random person be able to understand it? If so, chances are that the search engines will, too.
  • Make it easy for engines to map your site by providing an actual map for them. See http://www.sitemaps.org/ for information about sitemaps.
  • Consider also using the schema element to tell search engines about your site structure. For example, if you run a restaurant, your schema would have sections for menu, hours of operation, location, reviews, and reservations. If you use the correct schema elements, search engines can actually display all of these items right on the search results page.

Use correct semantic structure

In addition to creating a logical site structure, make sure that you use the correct technical tagging and methods. To some extent, your site needs to speak the language of the search engines. Be sure to:

  • Use clear page-naming conventions. Pick your structure, and stick with it. Make sure that you use real-language URLs, even if they are wordy. Someone reading the last part of your URL should know what the page is about, such as /creating-videos-with-adobe-premiere-on-mac.
  • Include any blog or related assets as a subfolder or subdomain, so that they accrue SEO benefits to the home domain. For example, our blog uses www.ronline.com/blog, accruing SEO benefits to the main site at ronline.com.
  • Use valid, semantically correct HTML. Errors in HTML can cause the engines to bypass a page or to lower its ranking. For example, all headers should use header tags (such as H1, H2, or H3). The engines look for these tags and check the keywords in them to help determine the main topics on the page.
  • Where you use images, always add alt text. Since they can’t read images, the engines use the text as a proxy to determine what the image is about.
  • Include a Title and Description metadata tag on every page. They are critical to search results.

Keep important content visible on the page

Images, videos, widgets—we pack a lot into our websites. But not all of these are visible to search engines. Problems result when key information—information that could help with your ranking—is buried in a format that search engines can’t plumb. Here’s how you can avoid problems:

  • Don’t embed text in images. For example, if you have a header with your tagline, and the header is an image, Google and Bing can’t read the text in the image. So, the tagline is lost to them.
  • Similarly, don’t bury important information in Flash, Silverlight, or videos.
  • If you use widgets to pull in content, try to ensure that the content is considered “on the page” rather than embedded. For example, JavaScript-dependent content can’t be indexed. If the content is not in the page’s raw HTML as served up by the server itself, that phantom content won’t accrue SEO benefits to your page.
  • If you have dynamic content or links that are accessed via JavaScript, provide an alternative HTML structure just for search engines that allows them to find your content without executing JavaScript.

Build for measurement

As you know, SEO is an ongoing activity, and you need to be able to track how you’re doing and to make improvements where necessary. To get basic reporting, add analytics to your site:

  • Properly install Google analytics and/or another analytics package on the site and its pages.
  • Set up goals in Google Analytics, based on your business needs and site design. You might want to measure, for instance, how many sign-ups happened on forms and to track the paths the users followed before completing that action. Goals help you do this.
  • If you’re redesigning an existing website, gather any baseline data from previous versions of the site, for comparison purposes.
  • Make sure assets on subdomains or folders use the same analytics code, so you can trace traffic from them.
  • Set up regular reports that you can analyze at least quarterly.

Put the user and content first

SEO is important, but all of Google’s and Bing’s search algorithms are designed to surface the right content at the right time. That means that, first and foremost, you need to provide good content on specific topics. Most of us can’t sacrifice usability for SEO:

  • Include pages that cover specific topics and questions that your target customers will search for, within contexts relevant to your business goals. For example, if your customers will be asking “How do I?” questions for which your product or service is a solution, add pages for those questions.
  • Write helpful content, and write it well. The search engines penalize pages with typos and poor grammar. Guess what? So do users.
  • Make sure the structure supports copious cross-site links. Cross-links (links between pages on your site) are good for SEO and, when chosen well, they also support the readers’ search for additional or related information.
  • Design the site for regular—preferably frequent—content updates. The search engines credit websites that are kept up-to-date. When you update your website with current content, you also increase the chances that people searching for the latest info will come to you.
  • Provide and share content that others want to link to. This gets to the backlink issue. Ideally, you want pages on your website that provide information or entertainment valuable enough that other authoritative websites or bloggers link to them. That will greatly help your ranking.
  • Practice good, audience-focused writing techniques. Write for your audience, using the terms they understand. If you’re doing that right, your pages have a better chance of appearing when the right keywords are searched. If you need some help, you can also use Google’s tools to research keywords for your industry.

To achieve high SEO, there is a lot required on the content side of the equation. Build that content on a solid foundation using these basic steps and watch as, over time, your site gains authority and improved ranking in search.

Want your picture or those of your blog authors to show up in search results? You’ve probably seen search results with a picture next to them, like this:

Want your picture or those of your blog authors to show up in search results? You’ve probably seen search results with a picture next to them, like this:

Want your picture or those of your blog authors to show up in search results? You’ve probably seen search results with a picture next to them, like this:

Those results appear because the blog has set up rel author, linking the author’s Google+ profile with the blog. As we described in an earlier post, this is one of three ways to get in good with Google. Rel author provides benefits beyond just a pretty search result. Here’s how to set your blog up with rel author:

  1. Create individual user accounts for each author in WordPress.
  2. Have each author create a Google+ profile.
  3. Add the blog to the Google+ profile.
  4. Add the Google+ profile URL to the WordPress user account.
  5. Make sure authors sign in with their user accounts to publish blog posts.

Create user accounts in WordPress

WordPress user menuFor each author on your blog, create a separate WordPress user account. Sign in as an administrator, and then, in the left menu, click Users.  Add a new user, or edit an existing one. Enter the name, user name, and email for the writer, and set the permission level. After you create the account, you or the new user can fill in additional information for the WordPress profile.

Creating your Google+ profile

Rel author works with your Google+ profile. So, the first step is to create one if you don’t have one already. Each author for your blog needs to do this.

Google walks you through the process. Before you start, you need:

  • An email address (or you can create a gmail one as part of the process).
  • A user name. (Of course, all the common ones—and a lot of variations—are already in use. So, get creative.)
  • A picture of yourself. This is what will appear in the search results, so choose a good one.

When you’re ready to create your account, go to http://google.com and, in the upper-right corner, click +You.  (If you see a blue Sign In button Sign In Button in GPlus in the upper-right corner, click it. Then, click Add account.) Under the sign-in box, click Create an account.

Fill out the box to create your account. You may have to try a few user names to find one that is available. Agree to the terms, and then click Next step.

Google Plus Profile Dialog

On the next page, click Add a photo and upload a photograph. This is very important, because it is the photo that will appear in search and on your Google profile page.

Continue adding information to set up your profile, following the instructions that Google provides.

Add your blog to G+

After you set up your initial profile, you can return to it to add more information. Just go to Google.com. In the upper-right corner, you’ll see +[your name]. (You may need to sign in, by clicking the blue Sign in  button Sign In Button in GPlus.)

To go to Google+, click your name. Then, point to the Home button Home Button in Google Plus on the left.  A menu appears. Select Profile.

Home Menu in Google Plus

On the profile page, click About. Fill in as much information as you’d like to—making your profile more personal is better for search and content distribution.

On the profile page, scroll down to the Links box. Under Links, click Edit.

Link section in Google Plus

Under Contributor to, click Add custom link.

Add Blog Link in Google Plus

In the Label field, enter the name of your blog. In the URL field, enter the address of the blog.

This adds your blog to your Google+ profile. Now, you need to do the reverse and add your Google+ profile to your blog.

Add your G+ profile to the blog

To go to your profile page in Google+, in the left menu, select Profile. Check the URL in your browser. It will look like something like this: https://plus.google.com/u/0/103131876029074251407/posts. This URL is your profile ID. Write it down or otherwise make a copy of it. (If you are setting this up for another author, have them send you the URL.)

Sign in to WordPress and then, to go to your user profile, in the left menu, click Users and select your name. Scroll down to the Contact Info section. Under Google+, enter or paste the profile ID and then click Update User.

That’s it. You have now set up rel author. When an author publishes a post, Google will pick up the association between the user and their Google+ profile, and it will use the picture from their G+ page to populate search results. Google also tracks the author’s posts over time, associating them with certain topics and thus helping the individual to gain authority in the topic. You can aid the process by using schema.org tags to better identify the content, as discussed in our post, Three ways to get in good with Google. In the meantime, enjoy your new, personalized descriptions in search!