1. Mobile Friendliness
For the first time the average daily internet usage on mobile devices surpassed that on desktop and laptop computers in 2015. Whilst this includes time spent using mobile apps, there should be no doubt remaining that websites need to be optimized for all screen sizes:
- Websites designed only for desktop or laptop computers are less usable on tablet-sized devices and almost unusable on smartphone-sized devices, translating into poor user engagement and lost revenue.
- Websites which are not mobile-friendly will enjoy an ever decreasing amount of traffic from search engines:
- Google ranks mobile-friendly website higher in searches performed on mobile devices
- Google's proposed move to a "mobile first" index means that in the near future mobile-friendly websites will rank higher in searches on all devices
But it's not only your website you need to consider - up to 56% of emails are now read on mobile devices, and Gmail has announced that it now supports responsively designed emails. This means that email designed to be read only on desktop and laptop computers will be difficult to read for the majority of recipients and drive less engagement. Mobile-friendly emails typically have a simpler layout because many of the techniques used to style websites are not supported by many email-reading programs.
2. Website Performance And Security
Google already considers page speed (the speed with which a web page loads in the user's browser) to be a factor in determining a website's ranking in search results, and this will become an even more important factor in the near future, particularly for searches performed on mobile devices. Even if you perceive your website as loading instantly, other factors such as the bandwidth required and lack of caching features could potentially harm your search engine rankings. It's therefore a great time to perform an audit on your website's performance (you can use Google's free Page Speed Insights tool) and take the recommended actions.
Since 2014 Google has given preference to websites secured using HTTPS (HTTP over TLS, or Transport Layer Security), regardless of whether they transmit confidential personal or financial information, and have signaled that they intend to make this a more important factor in the future. In addition, the latest version of Google's Chrome browser will start presenting a "Not Secure" warning on any website that asks users for a password, regardless of whether or not any other sensitive information is being submitted. With these reasons in mind, and with SSL certificates becoming more and more affordable, we recommend that all website owners consider upgrading their website.
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is nearly always the most important and one of the most cost-effective of all the marketing methods available to you. As we have seen, your website's mobile-friendliness, performance and security are all factors that influence how highly your website will rank in search engine results, but they are far from the most important factors. Here are some ways you can relatively easily yield more traffic (and customers) from search engine results this year:
- Make sure you are using Google's Search Console to receive straightforward recommendations about improving your website and it's appearance in search results from Google themselves. Acting on these suggestions can often result in a change of a few ranking positions, which can have a surprising effect on your business (a 2014 study by SEOClarity found that, on average, 19.3% of people click on the first search result and only 2.2% click on the tenth result).
- The number and type of links to your website is still one of the most important ways in which Google ranks your website. It is therefore important to periodically perform an audit of all the links to your website to identify any potentially damaging links (which you can instruct Google to ignore or "disavow", using Google's Search Console) and have a plan for improving your website's link profile.
- If your website is for a business with a physical office location that serves your local community, you cannot afford to ignore Local Search Engine Optimization. As increasing numbers of searches are carried out on mobile devices and have a localized element (such as "pizza in Brooklyn"), any business that relies on local customers must ensure that they are doing everything they can to appear in localized search results.
4. Original, High-Quality Content
Both our customers and regular readers of our articles will know that we are always telling them to publish original, high-quality content on a regular basis. Here's why we keeping issuing the same advice:
- The more pages of unique, quality content your website contains, as long as they are all related to your website's general subject area, the higher the chances of ranking in a reasonable position for any of the keywords that are important to you, particularly because Google now understands "natural language" queries much better than before.
- High quality content earns repeat visitors. The more visitors you have and the more regularly they visit, the higher your chances of turning them into customers, or retaining their custom.
- Links to your website are still one of the most important ways in which Google ranks your website, so giving your visitors a reason to link their website to yours is of vital importance.
- It is increasingly important to use your website to build trust with potential customers as more and more of us find services and professionals online. Publishing high-quality content on your website helps to position you as an expert in your industry.
5. Social Media
There are indisputable benefits of using social networks as part of your marketing strategy, even if you don't have a great deal of time or resources:
- Setting up a profile on each of the major networks will provide you with the chance to create links to your website - even if you don't have the time or resources for anything more than setting up a basic profile. This will make your website more discoverable by search engines, but will also ensure that someone else can't reserve your favored name.
- Major social networks all provide tools that you can integrate into your website's content to make it easy for people to share your content (such as "Tweeting" links to pages on your website on Twitter). Not only will your content then be personally recommended to friends or followers of that person, but a link to your website is also added to their profile, further enhancing your SEO efforts.
- When it comes to being kept up-to-date with your news or blog posts, some of your website visitors will sign-up to your email newsletter, others will subscribe to your website's RSS feeds, and others would prefer you communicated with them via a social network of their choice. As a minimum, you should therefore post the same news and updates that go into your newsletter to the major social networks, and you should advertise this fact on your website.