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In my opinion the 14 year run of historical keyword to content with backlinks as of 8-1-2018 with the Google "Medic" core update reveals moving into the future ....
I know that statement is overstated and dramatic. Yet we may need to be a bit shocked into seeing and believing what is coming. I see the foundation of this change is in the way Google ranks websites and pages now as they now want to return the most "trusted authority" sites at the top of search. This is simple yet complicated at the same time to explain and accomplish.
It has much to do with publicly and transparently presenting your expertise and legitimate authority to trust your content and services on your website as the first and primary objective. Yet, it is not enough to have this content and link signals just on your website. The new Google algo core update looks offsite for the top authority resources, businesses and websites in your industry that are receiving, giving and confirming your accredited industry, certification, license, educational, citations, mentions, review "trust" links, along with the quality of your public reviews and business listings. So much of this is not in your direct control but think of it as moving from a algo keyword and content technical search index return into a public authority community relationship based one.
A simple way to understand this and begin to change your ranking strategy is remembering that historically websites were conceived and built to comply to Googles search ranking emphasis in this order:
In my opinion, websites should now be developed in the following order if they seek the best organic returns they can get since Google now ranks the order of importance more like this:
Authority ranking will of course vary greatly by industry and other factors. A primary example could be with medical sites of all kinds. If a medical site is making any form of statement that their information, services and products will somehow benefit you if you use them it will need to present the applicable medical authority to do that. It will also need to have built and maintained relationships within a community of accepted and trusted public medical web resources that mention and link back to their sites thus attesting their trust and relationship with them.
Local business search return changes are already seen in some industries based on service and product types. An example of local websites that may not be effected by this change could be "skating rinks". If there is only one or two in a city or region then they would probably not see much change in their primary local returns for "skating rink". However, if they are selling products and services from their website they could find themselves competing with Amazon, Walmart and others in that category. I see this in my own shopping habits now. When I search for just about any commodity item or specific brand item I will usually see the big box stores show first at the top.
What just happened?
E-A-T is what google is calling this new emphasis. Expertise, Authority and Trust .... these are built on transparent accredited content, along with excellent public relationships with your customers and your industry itself. I prefer to think of it as TEA ... Trust and Expertise attracts and builds Authority ... that just seems more in the natural order of life and good business practices.
Here is the 164 page Google Human Evaluator Guidelines pdf for download to review.
The E-A-T section is well worth your review if you want to dig in and develop the awareness of where this is going and how you can adapt. These guidelines were developed outside of their normal robot algo by Google using hands on human research and human eyes on real websites. Then on August 1st of this year they were included as world wide core update algo signals (robot / artificial intelligence). At this time it looks like that update specifically targeted Medical, Health, Wealth, Fitness, Nutrition, Financial and YMYL ( your money or your life websites ). It created some catastrophic negative impact on many good national websites in those industries. This is called collateral damage and Google seldom concerns themselves with that when they believe they have achieved their overall objective of raising the quality bar for what they want to return in their search engine. The street name for this update quickly became "Medic" as it appeared to impact negatively on so many medical type websites first.
Currently as of 8-20-2018 I have not seen a negative impact on the local and small business websites I support. In fact almost all went up in rank since last year. I am attributing that to getting their websites "mobile first" ready, adding SSL and the very fast load times of 1 sec or less for most all the sites that I design and support since they gave me the freedom to develop the website code, format and overall design to optimize for that speed. I do not see where Google fully applied the EAT algo to the typical local business at this time.
However, you will find in the Google Human Evaluator Guidelines pdf linked above they reference that they are doing the same research on local sites and so may be applying EAT to the local market someday too. I have no crystal ball as to when or how. They seem historically to start change on a national level and work down to local so it may be coming next year. Worst case what this would mean for many local business sectors is that the top Fortune 500, national and regional franchises and chains will take over the top 1 to 10 spots and push out most local sites that do not have EAT ranking.
Currently as of 8-31-2018 I am seeing major changes in local search returns. The net effect in most categories I am seeing in local search is they pushed out most all local business sites with the exception of the historical number one local business site. In the GEO that you my client are in that was your return spot so most of you have not felt the effect of the Google update yet or what is coming next if you get replaced by a national or regional business and get pushed to page two or beyond. Because of the variations of sites that have content for your keywords there is a mixture in how this plays out. But, the net effect of this "fake algo change" ( a bit of humor here) is it will strong arm force local businesses into Google Places to even show up at all in search and then into a "pay to play" scenario in there that is all set up and waiting for you. I am also seeing regional sites now show in Google Places free 3 spot returns bumping out local businesses showing for free there too.
This is an extreme and very heavy hammer blow to local business.
Please see the below screen shot for one very extreme example of what I am seeing develop.
This is Joe ... Joe goes way back with me, he's been number one in local search for many years, so he stayed in number one for now ( that seems to be the universal pattern we are seeing ) BUT everything that used to show local business below him is gone and replaced by those large nonsensical and next to useless type "authority" sites .... and most of these are junk type returns that even have duplicate listings?
Who even wants those in a local search return? I do not, I want a real business site. Google spent years getting rid of those type website returns so they could return a good local site. I was there the whole time, I know that as a fact. All the other local sites competing with Joe are gone now. The only other competitor website is a Dicks which is a national/regional that has a store in the GEO. If Joe would have been 2 or 3 spot he would be gone.
This looks like a "10.0 earthquake" event to local business.
Check out how bad this local return is ... at least before the Medic update we were given several local business website choices, now we get this mess.
Local businesses will need to take this serious. It is not clear if we can compete on EAT levels with national, regional, multi-state, Fortune 500, big box, Amazon type sites in the long term but I imagine we all want to try.
It may take a lot of effort over time on your part to build EAT into the "public web". Google does not just accept finding EAT on your website alone but wants to find your EAT out on the public web on other trusted high authority websites and web resources that are within your industry.
I hope this helps you become more aware and dialed in to the big changes coming in Google search to begin to form a plan of action that is achievable for you.
I still will do the work outlined on my Search Engine Optimization for Responsive Website Design page for you within your website design, development and support. You will want it in there and in place. However, I do believe it will begin to fall to the bottom of the ranking signals over time for most all local business websites.
HTML5, CSS3 code and content validation and clean up:
After years of using the online W3 industry standard validation tool, I noticed that it was not going deep enough and catching all the possible errors. I researched and purchased an amazing tool that tests and reports on 100's of common and deep level areas in code and content that can get twisted up causing visual rendering to search engine problems. It was well worth the investment. They keep this tool updated to the current industry standards which change fast now.
From deep checking code, to SEO, broken links (404 errors), broken redirects, metas, mobile friendly usage to site wide spell checking of the background hidden code and visible rendered content, this tool does it all. I love it! It is PRO! I will be running it regular on all my support group sites. This is fundamental for your responsive business website and my support services because together we create a "living" website. A business web site that is being updated all the time, on the fly, so errors can and do get in there. We need a proven reliable system in place to efficiently validate the code and know where to clean it. We want reasonable technical assurance that our websites are healthy and should be rendering well across almost 300 different devices that are using several different operating systems on several different browsers that are at hundreds of different version levels, that are rendering into hundreds of different screen sizes - WHEW! This tool helps us do that and more.
Visual rendering check on all pages site wide
I trust and appreciate great reliable technical tools, yet one can never neglect putting "human eyes" onto each page while resizing the browser between desktops, laptops, tablets, handhelds and small mobiles. This always flushes out some elements that need some tweaking and fix'n. I make and take the time to do this for your site too!
I also do a visual check and tweak of your home page "above the fold" content in smaller mobile views of 320px to 480px to confirm that it is attractive and makes good visual sense. The intent is to be sure that your search users see quickly that they did get the site content they wanted and that you have "sticky appeal" above the small view fold to keep them on your site to scroll down and click in.
Mobile usability enhancements
Added mobile icons next to the brand button on mobile view
These are the phone, contact and map icons that become buttons, always available, on every page, in the same fixed position, on the mobile menu bar at the top of their view screen. I put these there for mobile users to easily click their way into contacting you and finding your Google map location. They also become visual "call to action" elements on every page of your site!
It's very important to design into your site a fully responsive menu system that functions well on all devices. I custom created one that is slim and stays fixed at the top of the view area. It is easy to find and easy to use on every page of the site. Notice the "hamburger" menu button on the far right of the menu bar. This is a mobile user friendly standard. It is the recognized expandable drop down menu button for most all mobile devices and apps. Tapping it will open it to show full width button bars to primary pages within your site.
At the far left is the "brand" button. It also has become an industry standard. It normally is linked to your home page so all users know how to get back there in one click. I custom design your brand button from your logo or graphics to fit that area.
Mobile friendly usability validation
Mobile users are most often tapping images and button links with their fingers. The industry standard for this "tap" area is between 35px to 40px wide and high. Google validates this sizing on all your linking elements on mobile web pages. If it is less than standard they will warn and even threaten you that they may not show your website in their top mobile returns as they deem it to be non "mobile friendly".
I custom create your responsive website within these standards and validate that it passes the Google and Bing mobile friendly tests. If you give me access to your Google and Bing Webmaster Tools control panel I can set up my service as a agency manager so that I can monitor and intervene for you from my agency webmaster tools access panel. This keeps your account and access to Google and Bing secure and private. You can "un-manager" anyone at any time so you have total and final control over your business assets. Google did a good job developing this tool. It is professional, efficient and expedites better review and interventions services for your business website with them.
New web email system
Fortunately there is a better solution.
You will be also getting a confirmed "reply to" email address. Not one that was mistyped or just made up to complete the form. It also gives them your contact email to follow up with you if they do not hear back from you in the time frame expected. The list of benefits just go on and on and outweigh the few of using forms in today's web environment. I monitor WebStats across the long term relationship I have with the 70+ sites I support that seldom see less than 37% to as high as 78% mobile user hits on average. Since Google has gone "Mobile First" ... this is a game changer ... it's time to adapt!
A few additional admin technical things I am doing ...
I am also doing full page visual checks in code and rendered form so what ever I see that needs tweaking or fixing I am doing that on the spot ... "no code or render error left behind" is my objective.
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