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Love them or hate them, you have to play by Google’s rules if search engine visibility is part of your businesses marketing mix. Organic traffic continues to be one of the top web traffic sources for the vast majority of businesses. Therefore, it’s important to understand that it’s a new year, and a new world in SEO. Each year, Google makes numerous changes to their algorithm. In fact, they will probably make over 100 changes to their search algorithm in 2017.
Not surprisingly, most businesses are unaware of the changes. After all, what business owner has time to keep up with the never-ending changes to the world of Google search. Even at MarkNet Group, the search engine marketing team spends a several hours a week keeping up with the latest changes. Our clients pay and rely on us to ensure their search engine campaigns are successful so we must put in the time.
We will be covering the most important changes in our blog over the next few months. However, at a minimum, there are seven SEO Myths you must dispell in 2017 if you want a maintain your search engine visibility.
Myth #1: There’s Nothing More Important Than an H1 Tag
In the old days, search engines weren’t all that smart about the content of your page, and they needed all the help they could get to figure it out. HTML tags gave the search engine clues as to the content of your pages, and the H1 tag was king among them; the H1 tag was seen as a concise descriptor of what your page was about, and thus its content was crucial.
In 2017, however, search engines are much smarter. They use semantic indexing techniques to read the entirety of your content and determine from it—all of it—how to place your page in search results. The H1 tag is still useful for styling purposes, but its role as an SEO workhorse is considerably diminished.
Myth #2: Pop-Ups Are Great
Yes, pop-ups can be an effective way to get your customers to click on your call to action. The rules have changed in 2017, Google will begin penalizing sites that use pop-ups, or “interstitials,” that make content inaccessible or otherwise difficult for users to navigate. That means that you should avoid excessive use of pop-up windows, but there are some interstitials that Google doesn’t have a problem with.
Note, you won’t be penalized for pop-ups that present legitimate legal information or login dialogs. Banner pop-ups that don’t obscure an unreasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible are also fine. For example, age verification on the Corona website:
Myth #3: Mobile SEO is Optional
This one is BIG!! There was a time when Google search results merely noted if a site was mobile-friendly, but that’s about to change. Beginning this year, Google is going to start giving priority to the mobile version of sites it indexes, so if you don’t have a mobile site, your ranking is going to suffer. In order to fare best in Google’s new mobile-first algorithm, your site should have a dynamic design that uses the same content and markup for all devices. If you are thinking, “I don’t get too many mobile visitors so this won’t impact me”, you are wrong. Google now wants all websites to have Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). Even the search results on a desktop user are impacted if your site is not mobile-friendly. Simple – you MUST have a mobile friendly website. If you need help converting to mobile, we can help.
To test your site, go to https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/
Myth #4: Secure Connections are Optional
If your site doesn’t use an HTTPS connection and you collect passwords or credit card data, you’re going to get penalized in 2017. That means you need to have an SSL certificate installed on your web hosting account. In the past, HTTP connections were classified by Google as neutral, but going forward, they’re going to be classified as non-secure if they’re used to collect sensitive data. If you don’t have an HTTPS connection, users will get a warning that they’re taking a risk by using your site, and you do not want that. Imagine your site coming up on the search engines and before the user clicks they get a warning that your site is not secure. Exactly…people will never click on your website.
SSL and HTTPS sound like a foreign language to a lot of people. Here is a short video explaining SSL encryption and why it is important.
This is an easy one to resolve. Your web developer or hosting company can help you order and set up an SSL certificate.
Myth #5: There’s No Need to Worry About Local SEO
Given that the Internet provides your company easy access to the entire world, it’s tempting to cast your net as wide as possible and ignore users close to home. But as more users are searching on mobile devices in location-specific contexts, you need to show up at the top of local search results. More than ever, it matters where users are and where you are in relation to them, and you want to use SEO techniques that make that geographic relationship clear. Most users are searching for your establishment on their cell phones. Do a test when you ask Siri, Amazon Echo or Google Home, “What is the best restaurant in Chicago?”. All 3 assistants will now do a local search. If you did not implement Local SEO, they won’t find you.
Myth #6: SEO is an IT Function
Your IT department is great at what they do. They have the expertise to keep your technology running smoothly and working effectively for you. They are not, however, the team who should be handling your SEO chores. You wouldn’t ask them to develop your products or write your advertising copy, so why would you ask them to manage your SEO strategy? SEO might be implemented via tech, but it’s not about tech. It’s about positioning your company, its products, and its services in the right place, at the right time, in the online environment. It’s much more closely related to marketing than it is to anything in your IT department’s wheelhouse.
Myth #7: You Can Fix Your SEO and Then Forget It
As all the above-noted changes for 2017 should make clear, SEO is not a static task that you can tick off your to-do list and expect it to keep working for you indefinitely. Things change in the SEO world, and they change rapidly. Search engines continually change their indexing techniques and their ranking algorithms, and if you don’t keep up with the changes, you’ll find yourself steadily sinking downward in search rankings. Worse, if you don’t stay on top of changes and your competitors do, they’ll be rising at the same time you’re falling, and you’ll be at the back of the pack before you realize what’s happening.
2017 presents you with a wealth of opportunities to generate leads and sales via an effective search engine marketing campaign. Knowledge and execution are your critical success factors. If you start with the seven items outlined above, you will already be ahead of most websites. Do not delay as the opportunity cost of not acting is greater than what your saving by not doing it.
Our SEO Audit continues to be a reader favorite. I invite you to take our free, SEO audit today.