A couple months ago, I went to a music festival with a couple friends and one of my friends brought their much younger cousin along. This cousin was only 15-years-old and it was a somewhat peculiar experience considering that we were then watching a band playing a song that was popular during my high school days, when this cousin was still a toddler. It hit me then that this cousin doesn’t really know what it feels like to listen to music on the radio, before iTunes, YouTube and then Spotify opened up access to a whole library of music through the internet.
Back when I was still growing up, musical discovery is a laborious process. I sat in front of the radio or a TV for MTV and when they play a song that I like, I find out who the artist is and whenever I’m on a record store, I look for their records. These days, I could just simply type ‘great albums 2018’ and Google would give me a list of what it considers to be the great albums of 2018 based on what it finds on the internet. For better or for worse, search engines and SEO services have taken the magic out of musical nerdery.
Search engine from 1998 to 2018 and SEO
It used to be that when I typed in a query into Google, all the search engine would do is to simply give out a list of links that contains the information I’m looking for. In the great albums example above for example, Google of the past would simply list a collection of publications and websites that contain that information. Google of the present however also displays a carousel of albums at the top of the results page based on the information the tech giant has collected all over the internet.
The search engine of 2018 is an altogether different beast compared to two decades ago. Other than the fact that it now directly provides answers instead of simply pointing users to where that answer might be found, the algorithm has gotten much more complex and sophisticated, taking into account more factors and signals to deliver users the best, most comprehensive result it could think of.
For business owners and SEO services looking to get top billing in a given results page, it’s not enough to simply create contents that would resonate the most to a certain keyword. The quality of the content itself, the number and quality of links pointing to that content and the technical makeup of the page also need to be considered. Given the complexity of a search engine’s algorithm, there are also a number of small yet important factors that tend to be overlooked, which I’m going to explore further.
Safe search is on
By default, Google and other prominent search engines will automatically block some pages from appearing in a results page. In the desktop version of Google, this is signified by a simple text on the upper right corner that says safe search is on. The problem is that there are no such signs in Google’s mobile searches, which mean that users can’t always tell that their searches are filtered unless they’re willing to look inside the settings.
This safe search protocol is there to block pornographic contents but sometimes, web pages containing explicit language might be filtered as well. Just to be safe, make sure that your website is completely free of anything that might be considered explicit.
Earlier this year, July to be specfic, Google announced a change in Chrome in which any website that hasn’t migrated HTTPS would be flagged as insecure. Given how Chrome is still by far the most popular browser out there with a market share of roughly two-thirds of the whole market, this change is pretty significant. Other than the fact that HTTPS itself is used as a ranking factor, having your website flagged as insecure doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture for the users.
I’m talking specifically about interstitials, especially those that appears in mobile pages. In case you’re not aware already, interstitials are web pages that pop up in between that usually exist to display ads and promotions. Ads and pop ups are okay as long as they’re not intrusive but if Google deems your ads to be intrusive, your rankings will be penalized. For a guideline on what is acceptable, Google has provided several examples that you could check out on their blog.
Readability doesn’t refer to how good your written content is but how digestible it is. Unless you’re writing for a literary publication, it might be a good idea to ease up on the complex words and sentences. Using a thesaurus to look up fancier words might be advisable for your master’s thesis but words that are longer than 10 letters tend to not resonate well with the average public. Additionally, always double-check your writing for typos and grammatical mistakes.
There seems to be a prevalent trend in SEO that it is simply a matter of gaming the system, tricking search engines into thinking that your website deserves to be up there even if they’re actually not. The problem is, the past two decades of development in search engines have been made so that the algorithm can act more and more human. Instead of simply trying to appeal to a set of algorithms, try to make your website more appealing to human as well using some of the tips listed above.