Every year, the interwebs are littered with posts about “What Your Business Should be doing in the New Year!” They are riddled with scare tactics and mostly unfounded speculations.
It’s true that SEO is constantly evolving, but at what rate? A lot of these posts spread panic that if you aren’t 10 minutes early, you are already 5 minutes late. The truth is, you have time to make some of these changes. Not a lot of time, but time.
With that, below are some of the items that I would recommend putting at the top of your priority list if you haven’t done so already.
Schema markup is more critical with the latest search trends and Google changes.
If you aren’t familiar with Schema Markup, basically it’s a way to individually markup elements your website so that search engines can more easily identify what that particular content is.
These markups will not only ensure that your data is displayed correctly in the SERPs, but can also increase your clickthrough rates. Depending on the query, Google may display rich snippets within the results. The more information you present this way, the more likely you are to attract that click.
(The image to the right shows how Microsoft uses Schema to make sure there are is a lot of information displayed for a search for their name.)
Another reason to implement Schema Markup is the increasing popularity of voice search and artificial intelligence. By marking up the data on your site, you are making the information easier to interpret by the crawlers, thus improving the chances of ranking increases.
It seems a bit silly not to have a mobile responsive site these days, but, believe it or not, there are still plenty of sites that have not implemented this change.
With more and more searches being done on mobile devices, it has never been more vital to have a mobile responsive site. To keep users on your site, you have to present them with mobile friendly pages, because if they can’t easily access the content they want, they are going to bounce back to the results page and find what they are looking for on one of your competitors’ sites.
It’s still a little unclear how the mobile index will work, but it has been stated that it will become Google’s primary index. That leads us to believe that it will only display mobile friendly content. If your site isn’t there yet, this may be something you want to add to your priority list, or you will run the risk of being left behind.
Site speed is a major component of SEO. If your site isn’t running like a well-oiled machine, your users are going to get frustrated and leave. It’s been said that a one-second delay can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. That’s a lot of money being left on the table, especially for something that can be relatively easy to fix.
Just like we saw with mobile responsive designs, increasing your site speed will not only help keep clients on your site and lead to more conversions, but it is one of the primary ranking factors. Google’s main goal is to provide their users with an excellent customer experience. They do this by promoting sites that have immediate response times.
Imagine sitting in line at a drive-thru. Every minute feels like 5. The same goes for your site, but instead of minutes, it’s seconds. Users have gotten used to speed on the Internet. If you leave your visitors hanging, waiting for a page to load, they aren’t getting that great customer experience they have come to expect.
(Not sure how your website compares? Google offers a page speed test here.)
Orphaned pages are pages that are on your root domain but are not connected to your site by a link from an internal page. Maybe they are old pages that didn’t get redirected when you redesigned your site, or maybe they are pages from an old ad campaign that has long been forgotten.
Orphaned pages can weigh down your site because, quite often, they are either outdated, not optimized, or a duplicate of another page on your site.
Before you clean these up, you need to find them. To do so, perform and advanced search operation by searching site:yourdomain.com in Google. How many pages does it say you have indexed? Does that number come close to the actual number of pages on your site?
If that number is higher, you have a mess that needs to be cleaned up.
Are you trying to rank a particular page for a unique keyword, but, for some reason, a different page is showing up?
The problem may be within your internal links.
Examine your internal links and identify any instances of keywords that may be pointing to the wrong page. Do you have the same term pointing to several different pages? Do you have anchor text that should be pointing to one page, but is pointing to a different page instead? This is where you need to perform a cleanup.
The XML sitemap is something that is often ignored and, and not enough companies spend their time on it. This could be because of automated plugins, like Yoast SEO, that manages this element, or it’s because some folks aren’t exactly sure what to do with it.
Take a look at the pages in your XML sitemap and make sure that it’s displaying all of the pages with a status code 200. If you have pages that are returning a 3XX, 4XX, or 5XX, you need to update your file.
If you aren’t using a plugin to create your sitemap, you can use a tool like ScreamingFrog. They make it really simple to create a fresh, correct, XML sitemap. If you don’t have the tools available to you, Excel is another great option.
Google limits the size of your sitemap, so if you have more than 50,000 URLs, you will need break it up into sections and use a sitemap index.
(The years are moving on, so let's look ahead to SEO trends in 2018.)
I know that there are some issues or tactics that may take precedence over the ones listed, so please, if there are any that I have missed or items you think are of a higher priority in the coming New Year, please let me know if the comments below.
And if you’d like to get a head start on your online marketing for the next year, be sure to download this free ebook to get started: