SEO Do’s and Don’ts for 2017
By Adam Norris, digital developer and web analyst
The world of SEO is constantly shifting. Search engines are constantly tweaking their algorithms to create better results for users. This means that common practices can quickly become outdated or even harmful to your brand. Luckily we’re here to help with our handy list of SEO do’s and don’ts for 2017.
Make your site mobile friendly
The number of people browsing the web from their mobile phones is increasing year on year. These days, people expect to be able to do everything on their mobile phones without having to log onto a desktop computer. In response to this trend, Google has stated that it will soon begin its process of mobile-first indexing. This means that sites which don’t provide a robust mobile experience will soon find themselves dropping down the rankings.
Improve your site speed
Nobody likes a slow-loading website. In fact, research shows that 40% of people will abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Luckily there are many things you can do to improve your site speed such as reducing page weight, optimising images, enabling compression, caching resources and reducing network requests among many others. Taking the time to really hone your site for performance can really improve the experience for users and give you a boost in search results.
Write quality content
People visit websites for their content. Taking the time to craft high-quality content will help ensure that visitors will return to your site time and time again. Using techniques such as keyword research can help you find what kind of topics your users are interested in and then create content which meets those needs. Content which people enjoy or find useful is much more likely to be shared on social media which can be a great way of expanding your audience.
Optimise your pages
While creating great content is the cornerstone of good SEO, there are many other optimisations you can do to increase the chances of it appearing on search results (known as on-page SEO). Techniques such as creating a keyword rich title, writing an enticing meta-description, utilising a good heading structure and adding descriptive alt text to images can all serve to increase the chance of your page ranking higher in search results.
Make it easy to navigate
76% of people say that being able to find what they want is the most important factor in the design of a website. Having a well-thought out website structure along with using other navigation aids such as internal linking, site search, breadcrumbs, search engine friendly URLs and sitemaps all have a positive impact on how well users and search engines can navigate your site and find what they need.
Have lots of low quality backlinks
Building links to your website (known as backlinks) is a vital part of any SEO strategy. However, the quality of these links is much more important than the quantity. Links coming from well-respected domains carry much more weight than those from untrusted sources. Having a backlink profile which features lots of low-quality or spammy links can actively harm your search engine rankings.
Get involved in link schemes
To increase the number of backlinks to a site it can seem like a good idea to get involved in link exchanges (‘you link to me and I’ll link to you’) as this benefits everyone involved. However, excessive use of link exchanges along with other types of unnatural links such as those which are bought and sold can put you in violation of Google’s guidelines and could lead to a manual penalty or may even get you removed from the search engines results altogether.
Use copied content
Creating high-quality content takes a lot work. For many people it can seem tempting to take someone else’s work and just change bits here and there to make it your own. Relying on this type of strategy (commonly known as spun content) can have positive short-term results but puts you at risk of incurring a penalty from Google which will harm your rankings and can take a long time to recover from.
Cheat the system
There’s always been a cat-and-mouse game between content creators and search engines (see our post on the evolution of SEO techniques). Over time, Google has got a lot smarter at spotting techniques designed to artificially increase your rankings. Previous approaches such as stuffing your content with keywords, hiding text just for search engines and creating doorway pages puts your site at risk of incurring penalties or in some cases may even get you removed from the search listings entirely.
Expect quick fixes
Improving a website’s SEO involves a lot of care in terms of planning and implementation. There is no set formula and it can often be a while before you see any significant changes. Be wary of anyone who suggests they can get you straight to the top of Google results. These types of claims are almost impossible to guarantee and may involve dubious black-hat SEO techniques which can cause you a great deal of problems in the future.