Want something to cross off your 2017 checklist? Try these technical SEO best practices.
December is upon us, which means some of us are hoping to finally get around to some of those projects we meant to do back in January. As one of those projects, we recommend implementing some of the new technical SEO practices that have gained momentum this past year.
If you’re wondering what technical SEO is (as opposed to regular SEO?), let me break it down real quick. Generally, SEO falls into three categories:
- Technical SEO: making sure search engines can properly crawl and index your site.
- On-page SEO: formatting front-end content for keywords and user experience.
- Off-page SEO: gaining quality inbound links from authoritative sources.
You need all of these to work well in order to do SEO properly. After all, your page could be beautifully formatted for your top keywords, but it won’t do you any good if it’s using a robots.txt tag. Similarly, you could earn some amazing inbound links, but they won’t help your site if your visitors are so frustrated by the design that they leave.
For this post, however, we’re going to focus on new technical SEO practices and how you can use them for your site. We’re assuming you’re already keeping up with your regular optimizations, checking for broken links, cleaning up orphan pages, and keeping your site map up to date. But here are a few other things you can add to your list so that you don’t start the new year flat-footed.
1. Do a mobile SEO audit.
Google’s mobile-first indexing is on its way, and is liable to hit sometime in 2018. This has been coming ever since mobile searches began to surpass desktop searches. Right now, Google’s indexing is based on desktop-first designs, but the new goal will prioritize sites based on mobile-friendliness.
How can you make your site more mobile-friendly? Well, according to Google, if you use a responsive design that serves the same content to both mobile and desktop browsers, albeit in dynamically formatted design to fit mobile screens, you don’t have to do anything.
However, if you have different sites for mobile and desktop, you should run an audit of your mobile site to make sure everything is in good order. Most SEO crawlers will now include information about mobile optimization.
2. Format for rich snippets.
SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) used to be all about rankings. Your goal as an SEO was to help your page land on the first page of Google for relevant search terms. That meant a lot of on-page optimizations and content creation.
It still means that, but there’s a new factor to contend with: rich snippets. These are the little boxes of information that pop up at the top of your search results to help deliver information to users more quickly. However, to be featured you have to structure your content on the back end to help Google understand what it’s looking at.
Fortunately, since you’re doing Google a favor with this one, they’ve given some pretty detailed information on how to indicate structured data in your in-code markup. Just as header tags help Google understand the structure and importance of your content, the structured data markup info can help Google make sense of data in more complicated formats.
3. Implement SSL certification.
Google has used HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) as a ranking signal for years, but at the end of 2017 they’re going to up the bar by more prominently labeling sites that fail to use SSL certification. That means you’re on the clock for getting your site up to standard. If you don’t get this taken care of soon, every visitor who comes to your page will see a big, red warning sign in their URL bar, and that doesn’t reflect well on your company.
There’s a reason for Google’s policy, however. SSL keeps sites safe for you and your users by encrypting data as it travels from your web server to your visitors’ browsers and back. Without encryption in place, it’s possible for malicious parties to snoop on visitor activity while they browse your website. That means they can see any data your visitors enter into the site, including usernames and passwords. Or, they can initiate a man-in-the-middle attack and show your visitors a modified version of the page without either of you the wiser.
In other words, this is about more than SEO—it’s about security as well. In fact, the only reason is has anything to do with SEO is because Google has decided to prioritize more secure pages. The good news is that it’s not hard to implement. Here’s more info from Google on how to get it done.
Keep an eye out for new developments in 2018!
The world of SEO is one of constant refinement. As the Internet changes, new security features come to light, design standards and usability expectations shift, and new technologies become available, optimizing for those variables will have to adapt as well. We already know some of what 2018 has in store, but implementing it and keeping pace requires a vigilant mindset. As SEOs, our work is never done.
That said, if you need someone to help you out, we can help. We can help you run a comprehensive SEO audit, build a strategic marketing plan to help with on-page optimizations, and help you improve your website for usability purposes. If you’d like to learn more, read our SEO page and get in touch!