It’s official: summer’s over. Those days of lazing away on the inner tube are gone and now you’re back at work wondering what happened while you were out. Well it turns out that a lot did happen, but relatively few people heard about it.
During the past couple months, 3 significant SEO updates occurred and unlike Google Pigeon (which has been flying around the Internet), these 3 SEO updates were smaller, one-off items that flew under the radar. We’re here to tell you all about them in one fell swoop!
1. Google Authorship is gone
The SEO update that shocked us the most was Google’s announcement that it will stop processing rel=author data, thereby eliminating the Google Authorship feature. This was a disappointment to many users who believed that authorship gave credibility to links, increased click-through rates, and helped certain publishers build a brand name.
What happened? First off, not everyone embraced the authorship scheme, including many of the major news outlets. In addition, it’s likely that authorship didn’t have as much influence on increasing click-through rates as was initially believed.
Furthermore, there is speculation that this is all tied to Google’s ultimate plan of killing Google+. Rumors have been circulating for some time now that Google+ would transform from its current state as a social network to something similar to the old Google Account, or a content sharing app, or some other next gen concept.
What to do: Just because Google Authorship is gone, it doesn’t mean you should stop authoring content. Google can still recognize links coming from an established author and will continue to feature results from someone within your Google+ circle, even if it’s not spelled out for you. So keep authoring content, sharing it, growing your social networks, and doing what you do best!
2. HTTPS is now a ranking signal
It feels like every week we hear a new story about a hack, virus or security breach that affects a gazillion people. Therefore it’s no surprise that Google is now using HTTPS (the secure version of HTTP) as a ranking signal. Unlike high-quality content, this ranking signal is considered “very lightweight” and is expected to affect less than 1% of global queries.
What does this mean for websites? First off, don’t freak out and make rash decisions; this is just the first step in a long, slow road of security changes. While making the switch from HTTP to HTTPS is safe (Google confirms this is the case), you have to be cognizant of how it will affect your visitor traffic, your SEO and your resources.
What to do: You need to put a strategy in place before making the switch, considering things like:
Which pages should you switch over?
- Every page? It’s probably not necessary at the moment to switch over every page (like the homepage or product pages), given the relatively low effect on ranking. In addition, HTTPS can affect page load time, so you should consider this if you have enough processing power on your server(s) to maintain fast page loads.
- Select pages? It is important, however, to switch over pages that involve personal or sensitive information such as the shopping cart, payment pages, member login pages or really anywhere that personal information may exist (even if it’s not a credit card or Social Security number). Your customers will care about these pages in particular.
Which SSL certificate should you choose?
- Options are single, multi-domain, and wildcard certificates. Whichever you choose, aim to use 2048-bit certificates, the newest standard for security encryption
Know when to use relative URLs and protocol relative URLs:
- Relative URLs for content on the same domain
- Protocol relative URLs for every other domain
Optimize your pages for search:
- Use robots.txt to enable crawling of your HTTPS pages
- Enable indexing of pages and don’t use noindex robots meta tags
Read Google’s guidelines for properly moving a site that involves changing a URL.
Once again, in our opinion, there’s no need to go crazy on this HTTPS change just yet. Now is a good time to make sure what deserves to be secured gets secured; you can leave all other pages alone.
Once you’ve come up with a strategy and are ready to install SSL certificates, go for it! This will not only satisfy Google, it will also give your customers more confidence to interact and transact. LeapGo offers competitively priced SSL Certificates that are reliable, secure and easy to install.
3. Google is streamlining its interface – more text, less images
Have you noticed fewer video rich snippets in SERPs? Are text-heavy info cards increasingly appearing at the top of your results? All of these changes are signs that Google is streamlining its interface to remove all the clutter and improve search. The removal of Google Authorship is more proof of this change as profile pictures no longer appear beside text.
Why is Google doing this? Some might say that the company is improving semantic search. Others might say that it is gearing up for an increase in mobile users. It’s probably a mix of both and is simply the next phase in a constantly moving online landscape.
What to do: Content is still king, yet semantic search is playing a larger role in what content appears first. Developing your content to answer user questions (i.e. how-to videos and articles written with step-by-step instructions) will help your content feature more prominently in SERPs. Even if it appears that some content is taking a back seat, this is not the case. Content is still content and the best piece will win every time.
Have you noticed any significant changes in your rankings since these SEO updates went into effect? Do you have any other insight to share? We’d love to hear your comments below!