In order to stay relevant to today’s sophisticated searchers, Google must continuously update its various algorithms to make sure the most relevant and informative results are presented in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). This means the job (and the challenge) of SEOs and digital marketers today is making sure they (and their clients) are staying ahead of the curve – but keeping up with Google in 2015 is no easy feat.
Sometimes Google’s engineers will outright tell us what’s going to happen – like the big ranking change to mobile-friendly sites that’s hitting mobile search on April 21st – but other times these changes hit without notice, and if your site isn’t up to snuff, the results can be disastrous.
We’ve worked with many clients whose websites have suffered from Google penalties – and we’ve helped fix the problems and make their sites even better than they were before – but the big question we are asked is, “how can I prevent this from happening again?”
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, because most of the time we don’t know what Google is going to do next. In fact, most experts agree that the search engine powerhouse is going to keep pushing out updates to their Penguin algorithm on an increasingly frequent basis throughout 2015, and that the Panda algorithm will receive new updates as often as a few times a week.
Moz.com does a fantastic job at chronicling these updates, so this post won’t go into much detail about what each update entails, but information without action is useless. You’re reading this article because you want to know what you can do right now to improve your site’s search engine optimization and prepare for whatever future changes are in store – and we’re here to give you the steps you need to keep up with Google in 2015.
1. Get your site running on mobile ASAP.
As mentioned above, this is an algorithm change that is happening in April, so if you’ve been on the fence about turning on a mobile version of your website, now’s the time to take the plunge. Why does this matter? Because if your site has a mobile version, it will rank better than non-mobile sites when you’re searching on a mobile device – and no, it doesn’t matter if it’s a responsive design or just a regular mobile site.
2. Invest in deeper, well-produced content.
Searchers don’t want to read fluff. They want real and meaningful answers to their questions, and so does Google. They’ve already made great strides in pruning thin content from the web with their Panda algorithm, and you can be sure that their efforts will only increase throughout the rest of 2015. As such, you can’t just churn out content for the sake of creating content. Take the time to come up with a content strategy, research the topics you want to talk about, and put your own spin on things. This will show that you know what you’re talking about, and that you are a true thought leader of your industry. Google will take note of this – and so will your readers.
BONUS TIP #1: While you’re conducting your initial research for content ideas, look back at the content you’ve already created that gets a lot of traffic, but is outdated. Is there new information that needs to be added? Is there a way to create new content based on the same subject?
3. Focus on topics, not specific keywords.
In any SEO strategy, it’s not that keyword research has gone away – but it has changed! Gone are the days when you can put in lots of exact keywords on your page and it will rank #1. Google will recognize keyword stuffing from a mile away, so why tempt them to penalize your site? Just as they are getting more restrictive on thin content, keyword abuse is another factor they are going to continue to take aim at. So instead, focus on writing around relevant topics and filling your site with expert information on those topics.
4. Rethink your website layout.
Just because you have a mobile version of your website and exceptional content, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. If the flow and hierarchy of your site is clunky or confusing, your readers (and Google) are going to have a hard time navigating through it all, resulting in a lower search engine ranking than if you had a clean site. Look at the layout and consider how you could reorganize into different topic areas. With Google Hummingbird and semantic search rising in relevance, a smart move would be to join similar ideas together and answer as many questions as possible in each new section of your site.
BONUS TIP #2: If you do decide to refresh your site, go ahead and secure it with an SSL certificate, even if you don’t have an ecommerce site. This is considered a “lightweight ranking factor,” but you can bet that it will become more important as cyber security becomes more of an issue.
5. Clean up that backlink profile.
If you’ve been around the SEO world for any amount of time, chances are you’ve heard mention of “Black Hat” SEO practices – and chief among them is purchasing and/or manipulating links to increase your ranking. It was an exploit that Google has aggressively jumped on, and we are mentioning it here because even today people are still falling for SEO scams that do this. Don’t be one of those people! You need to earn good and legitimate links by creating the deep and relevant content mentioned above. And if you do (or think you) have a muddied backlink profile, Bill Hartzer has an “SEO Tip” post explaining how you can tidy up those external links.
Is that really all there is to it?
Following these steps is key to improving your site and preparing it for whatever Google has in store for search in 2015 and the future, but these are by no means the only things you should be doing. To be honest, there are so many moving pieces in SEO that it can be difficult to keep up with it all – but that’s why we are here to help!
If you’re not sure where to start, talk to us about our manual SEO audits! We will take a comprehensive look at your website and help you come up with a customized action plan on how to clean it up. We also offer hands-on, personalized SEO training workshops to help you better understand the world of digital marketing and learn how to create your own SEO strategy (or make sure the people you hired are doing the right job).
No matter what, we want you to be successful in all of your online endeavors – and being up to date with Google is a great first step!
Do you have anything other ideas or suggestions of how to keep up with Google in 2015 (and beyond)? Tell us about them in the comments section below!