This post is part of the Friday Commentary. In this series every Friday experts will shine a light on the digital industry. Where are we heading, what is going on and how should we approach this as decision makers? In this commentary we are talking SEO with Bastian Grimm.
There are so many changes in the field of SEO – it’s almost impossible to keep track. Google is constantly rolling out updates and improvements, more than 600 a year – it’s a lot of work staying on top of this. SEO is becoming harder and harder, only big budgets can really achieve anything. Does that sound familiar? I’d almost bet that you’ve heard at least one out of these three statements during the last twelve months… and tell you what: They’re not too far off, however the core fundamentals in doing SEO haven’t changed that much at all. True, there might be a slight shift towards favoring best-in-class architecture as well as content but then again, solid on-page work has always been there, hasn’t it?
It’s all Google’s fault… in a sense, at least!
Google really stepped up their PR game. Whilst you might argue that there is still room for improvement and a lot of times it feels a bit uncoordinated – the sheer amount of announcements they’re throwing into the market(s) has massively increased over the months. And whenever a piece of content is released – no matter if it’s a blogpost, an update to the GWT help section or simply a webmaster hangout video – it’ll be picked up by dozens of blogs and communities and be analyzed, torn apart, commented, etc. Simply consuming all of this requires a lot of time, let alone deciding whether or not it is actually adding value or resulting in any useful action for your work. So you might have tried and reached a point where you’ve probably spent 90% of a day’s work in reading vs. actually getting work done – not good! So why not simply focus on the big announcements and skip the rest of it? Like switch your full site to SSL and get a 100/100 score in PageSpeed Insights to benefit from these ranking factors or finally do responsive design to get your mobile rankings sorted out? Tell you what… bad idea!
Responsive Design is the solution to all your mobile problems!
Please don’t even think for a second that making a site responsive is the solution for everything – even though Google is massively forcing people to make their sites mobile friendly (by actually sending out “warnings” in Google Webmaster Tools and even start decreasing visibility of non-mobile friendly sites) and advocating to in fact making it responsive: Again, this is a two sided-sword! I’m all in for responsive design, especially since doing m-subdomains with Canonical- and rel-alternate-Tags has always been a big mess. Not even talking about weird GWT errors, unnecessary split of link equity and more. But… there is always a but: It’s about responsible(!) responsive design. There is a great read over here which basically comes to the conclusion that, yes responsive does make a lot of sense – but you need to do it right: It’s far more work than those GWT messages are telling you it is. A proper viewport is nice, but have you considered that you need to serve images in multiple dimensions (which requires proper backend processes), do proper mobile performance optimizations (the Critical Rendering Path is only one of many things that might cause you to re-do big parts of your CSS and some HTML as well) and much more? Really consider how big this project is going to be when you do it; and also be sure you’ve read this one beforehand: Blame the implementation, not the technique. And after that, carefully consider doing it properly. Not for Google’s sake – but to find the best solution for your users.
Google says SSL is now a ranking factor: You need to switch your full site asap!
Hold it right there. I get that you desperately want to rank but please, at least think about it for a second and understand why Google is pushing this so hard as well as what downsides you’re facing when you “simply” switch protocols from HTTP to HTTPS:
- Might they eventually just want to strip away any remaining referrer data (or more precisely not want their competition to have it)?
- Is it just a poor excuse to force their implementation of SPDY? Yes, I get that this potentially does make your site faster – however you need to do both then: Switch to SSL and implement (for example) Apache’s mod_spdy; only switching to SSL will actually make your site SLOWER!
- Are you aware that (re-) gaining Rich Snippets in SERPs actually takes way longer? So maybe also consider what keywords you’re currently ranking for and if you can also compete without Rich Snippets for a while?
- Can you handle the amount of 301-redirects you need to implement when switching over? Have you considered adjusting Canonicals, XML Sitemaps and all of that?
Think before you act, please!
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all in favor for a fast and secure web – there is nothing wrong with that. And surely that counts for all the devices you are actually using, no matter if it’s a phone, pad, your laptop or even a TV screen. But before (and if) you go for Google’s PR stunts, please make absolutely sure to understand the implications and benefits you might (or might not) be getting out of it! It’s easy for Google to promise ranking benefits and manipulate people like you and me – but rest assured, it’s mostly for their and not for your (direct) benefit. So before you get into bed with the devil, understand the ramifications and be sure that you’ll actually get the most out of it for your site and your customers as well!