AMP-Up Your Mobile Search Efforts Now

Those who heeded the warnings of Mobilegeddon and now have pages designated “mobile-friendly” have found that users strongly prefer the mobile-friendly pages and reward them with clicks. Google has just upped the ante with its announcement earlier this month that accelerated mobile pages (AMP) would soon be receiving a special notation in the search results.

Google AMPIf you put mobile on the back-burner with the passing of Mobilegeddon in April 2015, you made a huge mistake.

First, mobile searches have continued to grow and now outnumber those done from the desktop. Mobile devices have now become the de facto tool in the hands of almost everyone. The diversity of searches on mobile reflect this.

Mobile search is no longer confined to busy individuals looking for flower shops, restaurants and pizza stores. Yes! Mobile search is still used for finding local eateries and services, but today there is a much broader diversity of searches.

Those who heeded the warnings of Mobilegeddon and now have pages designated “mobile-friendly” have found that users strongly prefer the mobile-friendly pages and reward them with clicks. Google has just upped the ante with its announcement earlier this month that accelerated mobile pages (AMP) would soon be receiving a special notation in the search results. This advance warning from Google should give site owners some time to develop their solutions before this designation is rolled out worldwide.

AMP Adds New Urgency for Mobile SEO

AMP pages are the result of an open-source initiative envisioned to help publishers create mobile-optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere. Thousands of developers have worked on creating this project.

Google has long touted speed as a key SEO element, so savvy SEO practitioners have sought every available means to speed their pages. Users don’t abandon fast-loading pages, and Google uses reduced bounce rates as one of its algorithmic measures. Google has noted that 40 percent of users will abandon any website that takes more than three seconds to load. Mobile pages often take at least eight seconds to load.

Slow-loading mobile pages lead to user frustration, abandonment of searches and other undesirable results.

AMP pages load four times faster and use eight times less data than traditional mobile-optimized pages. This is because AMP has essentially overhauled the core elements of how websites structure their mobile pages. It allows developers to strip down the markup creating a simpler, leaner, faster Web page. AMP eliminates third-party scripts like Javascript to create a bare-bones version, cached and delivered through Google’s speedy network. The results are stunning.

Google has been showing AMP results in the news carousel for several months. This has essentially softened up the user base for the full implementation.

It should be noted that AMP implementation should not be undertaken under the mistaken notion that it will provide a rankings boost. Whether a page is AMP or not will not influence its ranking, but here is the minor rub. Page speed has long been a ranking factor, and users have been shown to prefer fast pages. To my way of parsing the logic, a faster page will result in a better user experience. A positive user experience is the ultimate ranking factor.

Not Ready Yet!

Be advised that there are already 150 million AMP pages out there. You will not be a pioneer if you get on board now. If you are not ready to jump in the AMP pool with both feet, if it’s too new perhaps or too risky, then consider AMP-ing just a few pages or sections of your site and give it a test.

Don’t wait too long — this is another fast-moving change driven by users’ preferences for fast-loading pages, and your site is all about the users, isn’t it?

SEO Myths vs. Realities in 2016

Search engine optimization is a never-ending game with constantly changing rules — so much so, that eventually old rules become blurred or obsolete. But old habits are hard to break, and many SEO experts are guilty of pressing forward with less-effective strategies.

Link building? What are you, a blacksmith?Search engine optimization is a never-ending game with constantly changing rules — so much so, that eventually old rules become blurred or obsolete. But old habits are hard to break, and many SEO experts are guilty of pressing forward with less-effective strategies.

It’s understandable, given the monumental shifts taking place in the SEO world. Just a few years ago, few people imagined that mobile websites, social media and smartphone apps would make such a big impact on the SEO landscape. And yet here we are, and these emerging technologies have already changed the game.

Building a good SEO strategy in 2016 means dispelling myths and accepting new realities. The way people interact with the Internet has evolved, and SEO experts who don’t adjust accordingly will eventually be riding the bench.

Myth: Written content is still the most important kind of content.
Reality: Video content has pulled even with text.

If written content is still more important, then it’s hanging on by a fingernail. The truth is that video content may have already pulled even with text content in terms of overall importance to SEO efforts, and it won’t be long until engaging video content dethrones written content. The simple truth is that video content is far more engaging and is more likely to be shared on forums, on websites and in social media. As search engines shift to reflect the kinds of user experiences that people want — and as social media posts become part of Google’s organic search rankings — the importance of quality video content will be undebatable.

Myth: My desktop site is more important than my mobile site.
Reality: Mobile websites are more important than desktop sites in some industries.

Most people now use the Internet more via mobile devices than desktop PCs. In April 2015, Google unleashed an update known by SEO experts as “Mobilegeddon” that gave priority to websites with suitable mobile versions — so we already know this is one of Google’s top priorities. In the past, it was easy to view mobile sites as optional novelties that accompanied desktop sites. That’s no longer the case. The way people interact with websites changes significantly when viewing the Internet through smartphones and tablets. Google is already embracing this reality, and SEO experts must do the same.

Myth: Building inbound links to my website is no longer important.
Reality: Inbound links never went out of style.

It’s easy to think that, with the growing importance of mobile websites and social media, perhaps the tried-and-true practice of link-building is no longer a necessity. Turns out, that couldn’t be more false. While backlinks aren’t as critical now as they were a few years ago, they’re still highly important and will help your site’s SEO ranking. If anything, the popularity of sharable content on social media has allowed opportunistic SEO experts to expand their networks of backlinks even further.

Myth: Social media marketing isn’t relevant to my SEO efforts.
Reality: Social media marketing is not only important, but it’s becoming vital.

This can’t be said enough — social media is dramatically changing people’s relationships with the Internet. An increasing number of people use Facebook and Twitter as their jumping-off points to other types of content. If you impress people on social media with engaging articles, videos or infographics, the result could be scores of new links being pointed back at your website. More links and more traffic means a better SEO ranking.

Also, Google now has a contract with Twitter to display tweets in the search rankings. Google is also indexing Facebook pages — this started last year — and it’s not uncommon for Facebook pages to be returned as search results to people’s queries. Going forward, social media marketing is only going to become more entwined with winning SEO strategies.

#Mobilegeddon Is 2015’s Y2K for SEOs

Missed in all of the hysteria around Mobilegeddon was the arrival of another algorithmic change, one with a very serious effect. On April 29, Google-watchers and site owners detected another “big” change creating huge drops in traffic for sites impacted. Because this change sneaked in without warning, it has been dubbed “Phantom 2.” The change seems to attack the same problems addressed by Panda — the ever-pervasive and deadly — thin content. There is also speculation that another Penguin is hatching in Mountain View, readying an attack on over-optimization and other violations of Google’s rules of the road.

As the calendar reached April 21, site owners, unable to ensure that their sites were “mobile-friendly,” were anticipating Mobilegeddon — huge ranking drops and dramatic traffic drops as Google implemented its new mobile-friendly algorithmic change. So what happened? On the April 22, there were no huge drops in traffic, penalties galore and havoc wrought. Instead, the results have been reminiscent of the Y2K phenomena where much was made of a potential disaster, but nothing of major consequence occurred. Was Mobilegeddon a fizzle or does it just have slow-burning fuse?

The fact that big changes did not occur in no way signals that sites, not yet designated mobile-friendly, are in the clear, so to speak. It is not atypical for a Google algorithmic change to take a period of time to roll out across the system. I like to think of it in sailing terms. They take the change out for a shakedown cruise and, depending on how it performs, set it off to sail around the globe. The data suggests that Google was already in shakedown mode prior to April 21.

Why did Mobilegeddon pass over us? Was it like an asteroid narrowly missing Earth? Not hardly! The answer is simple. Just as with Y2K, site owners, given advanced warning, were ready. It seems that many site owners, particularly those with top rankings to protect, heeded Google’s warnings and took the steps to ensure that they meet the criteria to be mobile-friendly prior to April 21. With fewer sites eligible (perhaps, a less than desirable state) for demotion for failing to meet the criteria, there is a smaller potential zone of impact. Many top-ranking sites hopped right to it and made sure that they were ready for the “big change;” hence, the big change was a big nothing. It still remains to be seen what the long-term impacts will be.

Missed in all of the hysteria around Mobilegeddon was the arrival of another algorithmic change, one with a very serious effect. On April 29, Google-watchers and site owners detected another “big” change creating huge drops in traffic for sites impacted. Because this change sneaked in without warning, it has been dubbed “Phantom 2.” The change seems to attack the same problems addressed by Panda — the ever-pervasive and deadly — thin content. There is also speculation that another Penguin is hatching in Mountain View, readying an attack on over-optimization and other violations of Google’s rules of the road.

There is a lesson to be learned from this recent set of shocks to the SEO system. Not all of Google’s major changes will be announced. Prompt response to announced changes is insurance against predictable/announced penalties. This is just one element of preparedness. Panda and Penguin updates are part of the landscape and will not always be announced. This makes it important to be ever-vigilant for thin content. I am an avid gardener and regularly prune my plants. It seems that for a site to stay healthy in today’s search ecosystem (that is, achieve and maintain solid rankings), the site managers need to evaluate, prune and enhance their pages to ensure continued growth. Because Panda-type algorithmic changes are going to be an ongoing part of the search ecosystem, site owners and their SEOs need to set a schedule to perform a regular Panda review — a critical look for content that is weak, does not engage the user or has been overwhelmed by boilerplate language to the extent that it offers little real value. I would also like to suggest a similar regular review of overall SEO practices to forestall any raging Penguins hatched in Mountain View. And, remember that the only predictable thing in search is that change is coming.