The State of Website Optimization Technology: 2020 Edition
This is a new series dedicated to defining and learning about website optimization technology – from its inception all the way through to what the future may hold. As we come to the close of 2019, we’re taking a snapshot of today’s optimization landscape.
As we read in the previous episode, Website optimization technology has evolved dramatically since the early 1990s. From its humble and somewhat naïve beginnings, it has grown into a major industry that supports a global workforce. Practitioners work tirelessly to stay one step ahead of the search engines, ensuring that their clients maintain their visibility and relevancy in the SERPs.
What Changed in Website Optimization Technology for 2019?
Today’s optimization efforts are focused not only on new and emerging search trends but also on improving the quality of search results for the user. This requires rethinking some of the old—but still appropriate—tactics, like keywords and phrases.
“Hey, Alexa! How do I use voice search?”
Voice search, for example, has become more ubiquitous. Statistically, 65 percent of people in the United States between the ages of 25 and 49 speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once a day.
It is estimated that by 2022 that voice search will reach a value of more than $40 billion. The number of smart speakers in homes has grown more than 200 percent over the past year, while smart home hubs and virtual assistants (like Alexa and Siri) have changed the way we search.
With an optimization approach that (ahem) speaks to the voice search trend, companies can potentially tap into this burgeoning market.
Mobile First, Mobile Indexing
By some estimations, mobile is taking a back seat to voice search. However, voice search still only accounts for about 50 percent of all searches, so it’s not time to turn your back on mobile just yet.
Google and other search engines still prioritize mobile-friendly sites. In fact, Google uses the mobile version of your site for indexing, so if you’re lagging behind the pack in terms of your mobile strategy, you’re officially nowhere.
Website Performance Optimization
These days, improving the user experience (UX) is paramount. As the world spins faster around us, there is little time to waste on a website that doesn’t immediately deliver what we’re looking for.
Fast page load speed, a clean and intuitive site design, and easy navigation will get visitors through the digital door. It’s what you do with the rest of your offering that will convince the, convert them into paying customers.
And on the topic of load speed – even though Google denies it’s a ranking factor, it is still a metric that they track. Truthfully, whether or not it impacts your rank is irrelevant if your site visitors don’t hang around long enough to find out what you’re trying to show them.
Your optimization score, however, is another story, as it has a direct correlation to your position in the SERPs. Okay, shameless plug time: Did you know, HiConversion’s experience analytics module analyzes your site’s performance and delivers actionable insights as to how you can improve it?
Your Brand is a Ranking Signal
Google leverages brand mentions to determine authority, which is a strong factor in driving rank. The range of places your brand can be mentioned on the web is voluminous; social media, other websites, news outlets, sites like Reddit and Quora, ratings and reviews sites, posts from influencers, competitors’ sites, listings, backlinks – it’s all valid. But, if any of those sources are spammy or low-quality, they’re going to drag you down with them.
In the quest for quality and validity, you need to be sure your brand is being talked about in all the right places.
Pro tip: Audit your backlinks regularly to be sure you’re not being sucked into the quagmire of negative SEO.
Data Security and Privacy
With new data protection policies in place all over the globe, you can’t afford to be a data denier. The GDPR (Europe’s data protection regulation) is one of the biggest things to collide with our online world since Google itself.
A key feature of the GDPR (and others) is the “right to be forgotten.” This means that if a customer requests to have their data and history deleted from your system, you must comply.
To answer this need, the Google Analytics suite now has a feature that allows all user data to expire after 26 months. There are individual defaults that you can set—including having the option to disallow automatic expiry—however, this is Google foisting responsibility back onto you, the controller of that data. If a customer requests that their data be deleted, you will have to do this.
Pro tip: To stay compliant, update your privacy policies and your cookie consent form, and be sure you know what parts of your site are collecting user data.
Looking Beyond Search
While these are just a few of the web optimization technologies available today, we’ve always got one eye on the future. Machine learning and personalization are also factors that are increasingly important to the success of digital experiences – be it a news website, online store or even a mobile app.
As we have seen, getting visitors to turn up to your website is probably a top 3 focus for anyone involved in growing a business online. However, as attracting attention becomes more and more competitive, driving traffic to your site is no longer a guarantee of success.
In the future, deeply understanding how visitors engage with your website will define the winners and losers in this new economy of the Internet.