Are you using HTTPs? You should be. Google has been on a long standing push to create a more secure web including getting as many sites as possible to adopt HTTPS. This has been an official ranking factor since 2014, however it was only a ‘weak factor’ when introduced:
we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it's only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries
However in 2018 HTTPs saw a significant rise aa a ranking signal and now it’s become a much more important part of SEO.
It used to be the case that you would have to buy a security certificate to use HTTPs, but the free service letsencrypt now offers them. You’ll need shell access to implement it directly, but don’t panic if you don’t have it! Most hosting services now have an option to use them through your control panel. So it’s easier than ever to set up.
2. Site speed
Site speed is a ranking factor for both Desktop and Mobile and it’s something that Google has had an eye on since 2009 when it conducted an experiment showing that even the tiniest change in page load speed was noticeable by users.
Our experiments demonstrate that slowing down the search results page by 100 to 400 milliseconds has a measurable impact on the number of searches per user of -0.2% to -0.6% (averaged over four or six weeks depending on the experiment). That's 0.2% to 0.6% fewer searches for changes under half a second!
So even if you think your site speed is ‘OK’ remember that even small increases have an impact so it’s worth revisiting. Some quick wins for increasing your site speed such as reducing image sizes have a very low cost to implementation.
Expertise, Authority and Trust is a concept that was introduced in the Google Quality Raters guidelines and pertain to how trustworthy the content of a site is. From the guidelines:
“For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important. Please consider:
● The expertise of the creator of the MC.
● The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
● The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.”
Please do check out our full guide to Google E-A-T for a proper write up.
4. Web design
No it’s not a direct ranking factor. But what is, is the bounce rate from your page back to the search results. If users are landing on your page and then clicking back because of the outdated look of the site… then that’s going to be hitting your rankings.
Web design does have trends that come and go, and sites that were made a only few years ago will be starting to look a little tired. At the moment it’s all about big bold colour pallets and a touch of Brutalism thrown in. Also gradients, gradients everywhere (yes I know, us too!).
Here’s a great post with an awesome annual recap of what are the hot trends of the year:
You may find that just updating your font or changing your header and footer images will give your site a fresher image.
5. Speaking of… freshness
If you’re finding your site's rankings slowly going in the wrong direction you may want to think about freshness. When was the last time new content was added? No new content means fewer new links… which means less visibility and so the decline continues.
It used to be the case that Google rewarded older sites and links within the algorithm in a way that meant just by getting older your site got more authoritative. But now authortiy is a far more complex metric and you can’t rely on time passing to shore up your rankings.
If you haven't added new content in the past month you should create a blog, or brush off the cobwebs if you already have one and get writing.
There are very few sites that will get away with the Wikipedia strategy. Most of us will benefit far more from a concentrated keyword strategy. Like using a ‘cough’ keyword tool to identify core terms and focusing on them.
Create supporting content and use your internal linking to make sure that the overall site is always adding value to those terms. This should also help you think about your content and whether it is too broad.
Making sure your content remains on topic is crucial.Straying too far away from your area of expertise may be the reason your site's content is not ranking as well as it should be, so giving less value to those crucial core terms you’re trying to get ranking better.
7. Internal links
Internal linking is an often under appreciated factor and it’s one that costs nothing other than a little time to implement. And, it can have a massive impact, like in this case study showing a 40% uplift:
Having a laser focus on your site's core terms and of course relevant content is massively useful. In this study they created content tiers linking into each other which proved a very successful strategy. It’s well worth a read.
8. Page layout
UX is a broad church, but good UX goes hand in hand with good SEO. Not only does Google directly target and punish poor user experience, such as too many ads, but also what works for UX is often best for SEO as well.
Google specifically targets not only where your ads are on page, but what the page layout is like and how easily the user can find the information they were searching for. The quicker the user can access the information the page is ranked for, the better it performs for Google.
Google first threw this behaviour into the spotlight in 2012 with its page layout algo changes announcement and it has continued in its aim to “help you find more high-quality websites in search results”.
There have been mentions and updates here and there, but this is a much forgotton part of SEO and because Google hasn't said that much about it since 2012 it’s easy to forget the importance of it. However it’s still important…
yes, it's still important— Gary "鯨理" Illyes (@methode) March 14, 2017
Something I think most of us have been guilty of at one point or another is denying changes in trends apply to our sites or audience. But the fact is, if you think you can avoid mobile optimisation because it’s not important to your audience, you’re probably wrong.
Mobile searches outstrip desktop, the cold hard truth is, if you don’t have an eye on mobile optimisation then you’re missing out on a lot of traffic. Luckily we have a lot of great content to help you in this area. I’ve pulled out some of the best to help you get started in the path to mobile greatness...
- Our guide on Mobile optimisation for SEO is a great general primer.
- A great starting place is learning about the Mobile First Index from 17 industry experts.
- Here’s a guide on creating great mobile design.
- You’ll of course want to make sure your site is lightning fast on mobile as well.
- To make sure you don’t fall foul of common mistakes here's our guide to responsive design.
10. Revisit your competitors
Looking at who's above you and figuring out why, is one of the single most effective strategies for crawling up those rankings:
Use our SERP tool to get a quick overview for any keyword and then Inspect the page. This will tell you the keywords they are targeting, the keywords they are missing and a general SEO profile.
Using additional related terms a competitor is missing on page to improve your overall relevance is a quick and effective way to increase your rankings.
Combining this with other tactics we've mentioned such as utilising better internal linking strategies to also increase the pages' relevance to key terms can provide a powerful strategy. Which only takes a little time and doesn't require any additional budget.