A brand new year has arrived! We’re excited to see the new successes that 2017 brings for our current clients, as well as the new projects that lead prospective clients through our door. We have one main New Year’s resolution: to provide even higher quality service to all our clients, so that their businesses can excel online. In keeping with that goal, we want to make sure you’re prepared for the global changes that will affect websites in 2017. Here are a few New Year’s resolutions for your website:
1. Be Responsive
In 2014, Google started putting a “mobile friendly” label on search results to help mobile users find webpages which they could read and navigate without zooming. Now that 85% of all pages in the mobile search results are indeed mobile friendly, Google is going to remove this label. However, Google will still rank mobile-friendly websites higher in the search results.
This means that, in order to compete with the majority of the Internet, you need to have a mobile-friendly site at the very least. To actually get one up on the competition, your website should not only be mobile-friendly, but also be completely responsive on all devices, load quickly on mobile, and have intuitive navigation.
It’s important to perform extensive mobile testing on your site with help from your web designer, your customers, and Google. Ideally, your website should be designed from the ground up to perform well on mobile, but if this is not the case, you can consult your designer or contact us.
2. Be Polite with Popups
Beginning January 10, 2017, Google will penalize webpages in mobile search results which show “intrusive” popups to users. Here are some examples to illustrate what Google considers “intrusive”:
- One of your blog posts appears in a Google search on the user’s smartphone. The user clicks on the article, but a popup advertising your newsletter immediately obscures the screen. In another scenario, the user is able to read the article for a few seconds before the popup appears. In both cases, they have to close the popup in order to continue reading.
- A user accesses your website on their mobile device, when at some point a standalone promotional offer covers the entire screen. The user must dismiss it before they can access the main content.
- A user navigates to your website from a mobile search. They find that they have to dismiss the above-the-fold portion of the page (the part that immediately fills the screen before scrolling) in order to access the main content.
Basically Google is saying: don’t annoy your mobile users or you will hurt your mobile SEO. Think of it from the user’s perspective. Your mobile screen is already small and a popup makes it seem even more crowded. And popups are just plain annoying when you’re quickly trying to find the answer to a question.
But I still want to use popups!
Popups can be very effective in growing your email list and increasing your revenue. Google understands this; that’s why they’re not ruling them out altogether. The following examples are allowed:
- If you have any private content on your website, you can prevent visitors from accessing it unless they log in or pay a fee. Google does not index private content anyway, so you are not blocking content that should be publicly accessible.
- You have a small banner that appears at the edge of the screen, asking your visitors to sign up for a newsletter or take advantage of a limited offer. The user can easily dismiss the banner or simply ignore it because it doesn’t block the content. The banner should take up a “reasonable amount” of screen space.
Google’s new policy could negatively impact your conversion rates, but it doesn’t have to. The point is to use mobile popups responsibly, with the user’s experience in mind. Remember also that Google ranks websites based on 200 criteria. As long as you produce high-quality content, you can offset any ranking penalties you might receive for “intrusive” popups.
3. Be Secure
In the next version of Chrome, which should come out in January 2017, Google will add a “not-secure” label to websites which collect passwords or credit card details but are not secured with an SSL certificate.
An SSL, or Secure Socket Layer, creates a secure connection between you and your customers so that hackers cannot access the information being passed between you. It also prevents hackers from pretending to be you and accepting personal information from your customers on your behalf.
You can usually buy an SSL certificate from your hosting provider, though some, such as Flywheel, are now partnering with Let’s Encrypt to offer basic SSL for free.
When you have an SSL on your website, it puts a little green padlock next to your website address and changes the HTTP to HTTPS (also green). While your customers may not care if your website has a security label, they will definitely care if their sensitive information gets stolen. Once that happens, it will be extremely difficult to recover their trust. Paying a little now for an SSL can save you thousands of dollars down the road.
This is just the next step in Google’s mission to create a more secure Internet. Eventually all websites, regardless of whether they accept credit cards or not, will be marked “not secure” if they do not pass information through a secure channel using HTTPS.
Do you need to collect credit cards or passwords through your website? Contact us for help in switching to HTTPS.