Many factors affect whether your website comes up in search results. Here are the top three Google changes in 2018 that could be adversely impacting your website’s rank.
Is your website mobile-friendly?
Google is now indexing mobile content first.
2018 has been a big year for Google algorithm updates. So far this year, Google has confirmed nine updates to its algorithm – as many as the last two years combined, and the year’s not over.
Google typically doesn’t broadcast its algorithm updates or changes, but these were such important changes that Google started making announcements in 2017 of the impending updates so businesses could bring their sites up to speed.
What does this mean to most businesses? If your website is over a few years old, it probably does not meet Google’s guidelines today.
The first major change announced was that Google was going to index the mobile version of a website’s content first, starting in March 2018. This means the mobile version of your website will be used by Google in its indexing rather than the desktop version. If your site doesn’t have a mobile version, the desktop version can still be included in the index, but it will most likely negatively impact your ranking.
When is the last time you pulled up your website on your phone? I challenge you to do that now. Experience what your customers see when they go to your website. How does it look? Would you use it? Is it mobile-friendly?
If your site doesn’t respond to the device the user is using, it will not only hurt you in search results, but with your users, too. When users go to a site that doesn’t respond to their mobile device, they quickly leave or “bounce,” which is negative in Google’s eyes.
Users don’t have patience for websites that provide a poor user experience. They hit the back button and find another website that is easier to use.
Is your website fast?
If your site takes more than 3 to 4 seconds to load, you are losing users and ranking.
In July 2018, two additional major changes took effect starting with the Mobile Speed Update. Your site needs to load fast—very fast. Website users don’t have patience, especially when it comes to mobile load time. Ideally, your site should load within 3 to 4 seconds to reduce your bounce rate, which is an important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. A bounce rate is the percentage of users that leave your site after viewing just one page. According to Google, as page load time goes from one second to five seconds, the probability of bounce increases by 90 percent.
So how do you reduce your website’s load time? If the images on your website aren’t well optimized, they can really drag down the speed. That’s a good first step to see what is slowing down your site.
Beyond that, there are many tasks that can be done by a developer on the backend of your site that can speed it up. It may be more economical to start with a new site depending on how old your site is and what platform it is built in.
Is your website secure?
Over 70 percent of Google’s first-page results now reflect secure websites, and we anticipate this percentage will continue to grow over the next year. To show how serious Google is about secure websites, Chrome’s July update now flags websites without an SSL certificate as “not secure” in the browser window when users arrive at a website.
Google will flag two-thirds of the web as unsafe this year. You don’t want your site to be flagged, so get your site updated with an SSL certificate as soon as possible.
Google wants to give users the best experience, so it continues to make changes to ensure it is serving up the best, most relevant, accurate information.
If your website isn’t responsive, secure and fast, your ranking will be negatively impacted, resulting in a reduction in your site’s traffic. Google’s algorithm is designed to serve up the most relevant results leading to the fastest, safest websites it can find to provide the best user experience.
Check Your Website’s Status
If you don’t know whether your site is mobile friendly, Google offers a free test. Enter your URL in the Google Mobile Friendly Test at search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly to see if it’s mobile friendly, or run it through the Google Speed Test at testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com if you want to see how quickly your site loads in Google’s eyes. You may need to update your site or risk not showing up in SERP (search engine results page).