Last month, Aleh Barysevich of Search Engine Journal put together a great article on how to optimize your site for top ranking factors, based on studies by SearchMetrics, Backlinko and SEO PowerSuite. The following summary includes priority action items for site owners.
According to Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, content is one of the most important ranking factors—but you already knew that. In 2017, the shift away from keyword-centric content continues. Write comprehensively for humans, not based on keyword density for search engines. If you have pages on your website with fewer than 300 words, perhaps those can be consolidated with another relevant page. Just don’t forget to redirect the URL properly if you choose to delete the thin page.
Google has learned to weed out the bad links from the good. That means that more links are better only if they are sourced from diverse and authoritative domains. In 2017, create valuable content and promote it more than you have in previous years. Time spent on promoting good, shareable content (on Facebook in particular) will pay off in dividends—not only for ranking but also for organic lead capture and an increase in owned media. Monitor your links in terms of number and quality, and eliminate or disavow spammy / low-quality links.
3. Mobile-First & Performance
2017 is the year to go beyond mobile-friendly by shifting your perspective to mobile-first. One of the biggest changes we saw in 2016 was Google’s new priority towards mobile search. This means that Google’s index will now primarily crawl the mobile version of websites as opposed to the desktop version.
Page speed (performance) works in tandem with mobile-first user experience, as slow desktop and mobile sites only offer frustration. Desktop websites should load in 3 seconds or less, while mobile websites should load in 2 seconds or less. Run a page speed test using PageSpeed Insights or request a technical site audit, and have your web development team compress resources and correct issues.
4. Technical & Semantic SEO
Google ranks sites with strong HTTPS encryption better than those without SSL certificates installed. In 2017, websites that have not yet switched to HTTPS are now flagged as unsafe in Google Chrome. That’s a conversion killer before a visitor even hits your homepage.
Make sure that your webpages have both H1 and H2 heading tags in place.
Anchor text still has a strong influence in 2017, but don’t overdo it or you run the risk of a Penguin update penalty if your site’s links seem spammy.
Lastly, if you haven’t done so yet on your website, get rid of interstitials—any ad, CTA or lightbox that covers the main content on a page.
Prioritize improving elements of your website related to these factors and you’ll pull ahead of the competition. If you’re not sure where to start, need an SEO consultant for high-level strategy or have a specific technical SEO challenge, get in touch.