There has been a lot of activity just since the first of the year with new requirements coming from Google regarding search performance. In case you haven’t been keeping up, here is a summary for you.
Warning: some of these topics are a little techie. I will do my best to simplify them for you but all have major impact on the performance of your business website in organic search.
Five Organic Search Changes Announced in 2018
- New Version of Search Console was Rolled Out.
Search Console (used to be Google Webmaster Tools) is a free tool that helps website owners diagnose issues with Google search performance. Starting 1/08/18, Google began to implement the new version of Search Console. The first tool available is the Index Coverage report. This will identify which pages of your website are part of Google’s files or “index” and available for ranking in organic searches.You may have already received emails from Google about Indexing errors. Most of the warnings are actionable and need to be addressed. If you received one of these alerts, feel free to contact us or submit a support ticket to have a Cybervise team member review the alert.
- Stronger Warnings for Insecure Sites.
Google announced 2/08/18 that as of July 2018 Chrome browser users will receive a stronger warning when visiting webpages that are not secured (http). The new warning will look something like this:If you have not made this switch, do not wait. Using HTTPS is already a ranking factor and any perception of lack of security will impact the leads/sales from your website.Already made the switch? Prior to the July deadline, have a scan done on your website content to make sure all links in your content consistently use HTTPS. We have already seen warnings from Google flagging sites that mix http and https. Running the scan will ensure any new content added to your site since going HTTPS will be clean of issues. Contact Cybervise for suggestions on how to perform this test.
- Mobile Page Speed will be a Ranking Factor.
Google announced 1/17/18 effective July 2018, the speed your pages load on a mobile device will help determine how high your website ranks in organic search. Content Quality will still be the biggest factor in search ranking, but slow sites will be penalized as of July.Google directed website owners to use the PageSpeed Insights Tool to measure your mobile speed score. However, they also began an upgrade of the tool. If you go to the PageSpeed tool and run a test on your website, you likely get a result that says the Speed Score is “unavailable”. Don’t panic if this happens. You may see the unavailable message for a few more weeks until the upgrade is complete.
- Google is Actively Seeking Out Structured Data.
Try doing a Google search on any topic really. You may noticed on the search results page a box at the top with an answer to your search. You may notice other related questions and answers in the search page. You may also notice a box down the right side of the page that shows business info. All of these things are generated from Structured Data. Structured data is a detailed version of HTML that helps search engines pull specific pieces of information from your website. Google is specifically looking for: recipes, jobs, movies and courses (workshops). A few things that impact you directly:
- Jobs Structured Data – when the new Search Console rolled out, we starting getting alerts from Google for websites with pages called “Jobs” or “Employment Opportunities” looking for structured data and warning when they didn’t find it. To solve this, the Cybervise team has had to manually add code to the page, there is no easy fix here. If you see this, contact us to take a look at it.
- Duplicate Content Penalties – Google Engineers during a Webmaster Hangout on 2/23/18 that if you add Structured Data to your website, it needs to be unique to each page. This causes me some concern for WordPress owners trying to add this via a plugin. Also be careful adding or having someone add any structured data to your template where is may appear in a header or footer and repeat on all pages.
- Display Google Reviews – During this same online meeting, the Google Engineer specifically mentioned displaying Google Reviews either in a sidebar, header or footer, where they would display on multiple pages. If your site is doing this, it may be because you installed a plugin to have this on your site. Reviews are not in the current version of warning coming from Search Console, but this best practice identified during the online meeting is leaving several people to believe it is coming soon.
- Mobile-First Index is Happening.
If all this wasn’t enough Google Engineers gave a presentation at the PubCon tech conference on 1/21/18 and announced that Google will begin turning on the Mobile-First spiders within the next few weeks. This relates to the Nov 2016 announce from Google that at some point they would using the mobile version of your website to determine search rankings and indexing, instead of the desktop version of your site, like it has been all along. Well, that some day seems to be getting closer, yet we still don’t have an official schedule.The Google Webmaster blog gave the first specifics on how to prepare for mobile-first indexing. It’s a really good to-do list. Before this switch is permanent, start now working your way through this list.