Nearing the end of 2016, Google started letting web admins know about impending changes to their search engine ranking system that would impact how sites would be viewed in 2017. To continue to rank well in 2017, websites will need to hit certain additional criteria. In this article, I discuss these key new changes that will impact your website’s organic SEO rankings in the Google Search Engine. The first item on their list is making sure that your site has a published SSL certificate in place. Now, as far as Google search rankings go, you will begin to be penalized if you do not have an SSL certificate in place on your site.
One of the first moves in this regard already now in place is that if you do not have an SSL certificate on your site, the Google Chrome browser will insert an exclamation mark “!” on the URL line to let a potential page viewer be aware that the site has not been secured. Clicking on the exclamation mark brings up the details of the security infraction. This new item is already in place in the browser with the January 2017 Chrome “56” browser update.
SSL certificates are not a major expense these days, and you can get them to put in place for as low as about $26 per year if you are not running an e-commerce site and about $70 or so if you are. However, Google is very interested in customers being protected as they go to websites directed by Google. Therefore, they want to ensure that customer data entered on these sites is encrypted and a person’s information is kept safe. In this regard, they will, therefore, be penalizing “organic search-wise” those websites that have not put an SSL certificate in place. So, if being found by Google organically is important to you, this is a step you will need to take with your site.
Next on their agenda is popup ads on web pages, particularly on mobile devices. Google customers find ads that pop up on web pages they visit to be very obtrusive and annoying, and Google has been listening to their complaints. In addition, Google has found that pop-up ads often can cover an entire screen on a mobile device and can even be hard to get rid of. So now, as Googlebot crawls your web pages and, in particular, your mobile web pages, be aware that they will be looking on popup adds with disfavor, and your page will be penalized if pop-up ads are found.
Google’s move here is because they want to deliver quality content to their search and “AdWords” customers on behalf of their advertisers. They are on the hunt for quality content pages to serve up – not “Fluff” pages whose primary purpose is to pop up and add to sell something. Advertising on the web will start to change because of this new search engine ranking requirement, so if you want to be found and you currently run popups on your pages, you will want to start doing some rework on these pages. Do standard advertising through anchor text links and hyperlinked images on pages instead – Google will reward you for it instead of penalizing you.
The next change required for 2017 will see a lot of people scrambling to improve their website design architectures. Almost half of all Internet access these days is done by mobile devices, including tablets. In a recent study completed by a Google subsidiary company, it was found that the average load time for a web page on a mobile device is still sitting at about 19 seconds to load. This same study indicates that mobile device users, on the other hand, only have an attention span for page loading of about 3 seconds. After 3 seconds, over 53% of users abort, which means that slow-loading mobile pages that Google currently sends customers to via their search engine and on behalf of their AdWords advertisers are not getting loaded.
So things are changing. Google has set up a totally separate search engine “page indexing” database in their system for mobile web pages. The loading sweet-spot for a page is 2-4 seconds, and if your mobile page takes longer to load than this as it is getting crawled by Googlebot, Google will make a note of it, and your page will no longer be showing up in their search results for users until you can get this fixed.