1. Mobile Friendliness
There should now be absolutely no doubt that websites need to function equally well on all devices, and the average daily internet usage on mobile devices surpassed that on desktop and laptop computers several years ago.
2. Website Security
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 signalled that they intend to make this a more important factor in the future. For some time, Google's Chrome browser has been presenting a "Not Secure" warning on websites that are not secured using HTTPS. With these reasons in mind, and with SSL certificates becoming more and more affordable, we strongly recommend that all website owners upgrade their website.
3. Website Speed
Based on the premise that people "want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible", particularly on mobile, page speed (the speed with which a web page loads) has been a consideration when Google ranks pages for any given search term since July 2018. Even if you think your website loads quickly, you should use a quantitative tool such as Google's own Test My Site tool to ensure that you meet expected standards (anything less than an "average" score should be cause for concern). Furthermore, Google has announced a plan to label websites that typically load slowly with a clear badge within it's Chrome internet browser.
4. Publish Original, High-Quality Content
For many years we have been telling both our customers and regular readers of our articles 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 in October 2019 Google became better than ever at understanding "natural language" queries.
- 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.
- If you have use social media or email marketing, regularly producing new, quality content gives you a great excuse to send a marketing email or post a link to your social media accounts.
5. 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, and yet many website owners ignore it completely. As we have seen, your website's mobile-friendliness, speed and security 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 in 2020:
- 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.
- 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 "plumber in London"),any business that relies on local customers must ensure that they are doing everything they can to appear in localized search results.
- If your website lists recipes, books, movies, job openings or any other "things", you should utilize "Schema Mark-Up" in your code to improve your chances of appearing in Google's "rich snippets". An example of a rich snippet can be found when you search for "Waldorf salad" - Google displays actual recipe information as well as links to pages that contain recipes.
If your website is not yet mobile-friendly or still not secured using HTTPS, it's time to act before your website is left behind completely in the search engine rankings or browsers stop allowing users to access your website. And if you don't yet have a content-publishing strategy or don't engage in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) yet, you can start the year by giving your business a real boost.