Since getting introduced as a ranking factor in August 2014, a few websites have moved their website to the secure version.
There has been a mixed reaction in the SEO community regarding this decision from Google but I won’t discuss that in this post. Instead, I will be talking about 13 aspects of your website that you should work upon before moving to https.
Why should you care about SSL and SEO relationship?
Moving your website to https is a huge step for any company and apart from the initial installation and certificate costs, it requires ongoing maintenance. The ‘ongoing maintenance’ bit includes the challenges that come with an SSL certificate installed on your website like:
- Security Certificate mismatch
- Certificate not trusted error message
- Bar not showing green because of non-secure items on the web page.
All these potential errors require you (or your developer) to run the diagnostics and do take some time.
This article will help you assess if your website is ready to move to SSL, to get that small boost in search engines or if there are other items pending that outweigh this factor and you should consider getting done before investing into SSL.
Here we go.
1. Add quality content to your website and develop a content strategy.
This is something I always emphasise. More content means more opportunities for your pages to get found on Google or any other Search Engine and hence equates to more leads. If you still have doorway pages and if there are still some of the important keywords subjects that you need to cover, I believe it’s a good idea to invest in hiring a good copywriter or taking some time to write about these uncovered subjects in great details.
Develop a content strategy and a social media strategy that will get you more likes and shares across the social media.
The best way of doing it is by providing people with valuable content. Content that matters and provides your visitor (reader or a prospect) with knowledge. Your visitor will reciprocate by sharing it on social media with his or her peers, after all who doesn’t like to share content with a high value in terms of social currency.
Have a read of our article on improving the quality of your content and see if that is helpful.
2. Remove Doorway pages or duplicate content from your website.
Doorway pages are a menace and Google is about to roll out an update that penalises such pages. If you still have doorway pages on your website, get rid of them as soon as possible.
3. Make your website mobile friendly
More and more people are visiting your website using the hand held devices. Search Engine Watch has already reported last year how, in America the time spent on the internet via mobile for the first time exceeded the time spent via the desktop computers. This report considers the time spent via apps and the graph shows that the time spent via browsers has still got a long way to go but still, the Search Engine landscape suggests that mobile platform has to be taken seriously and one can’t afford to ignore it.
Google has already started displaying a ‘mobile friendly’ label next to your webpages in the SERPs and is about to roll out an update that will consider mobile friendliness of your website as a ranking factor.
4. Improve page speed
As already discussed in the article related to user experience improvement, it is important to have your website loading at a lightning fast speed (less than 3 seconds). It becomes even more important since SSL is known to impose an increase in page load as an overhead. The ‘handshake’ in the HTTPS protocol can be a lot slower than it’s HTTP cousin hence increasing the page load time.
Hence, the least we can do is to make sure that your page loads at a lightning fast speed before you switch to the HTTPS protocol.
5. Optimise your meta tags for a better click through rate in the SERPs, set proper locale and international targeting
Meta description and the headline of your content are two of most important factors of your page if you get (or plan on getting) majority of your traffic from the Search Engines. They sum up your page in just about three lines and are the first impression of your content. First impressions matter a lot and hence, make sure you take some time out to optimise these bits in order to do some justice to your precious content. A good first impression will get your page a higher click through rate.
If you plan on targeting a specific country, it is important to set proper locale in your html code and proper geo-targeting in Google Webmaster Tools.
6. Optimise for your Local Market
7. Reduce your bounce rate
In case you are not familiar with bounce rate, here’s the official definition:
the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.
A high bounce rate is indicative of a huge problem with your site and is an issue that needs to be fixed urgently. The bounce rate will only become more important with time with all Search Engines trying to get their visitors what they want with the least amount of clicks and keystrokes.
8. Improve your site’s structure and internal linking
Site structure is an important factor of your website and is a great way to group together the relevant pages and keep the link juice pumping throughout your site. Still, I see this feature left to the web designer or developer way too often. If you have done the same, maybe it’s worth having an SEO audit your web property for it’s hierarchy.
Internal linking is also another good way of passing the link juice to the important pages of your business site. Once again, if you haven’t paid any attention to this aspect of your site, maybe it’s worth going through the pages you have published in the past and linking them to the appropriate content.
9. Diversify your traffic sources
Getting Search Engine love is good and for many businesses, it is one of the main sources of the new leads but try imagining a world without Search Engines. What happens if Google, Yandex or Baidu decides to close their business tomorrow? OK, that’s the worst case scenario but you get the idea. Diversifying the your traffic source is not only good for your business but also for your website’s brand’s reputation in the Search Engines.
10. Conduct a competition analysis
Identifying your competition and hence analysing them lets you gain a quick edge and see what they have done right or wrong. You will often get a lot of ideas to score some quick wins or strategise for future from a 30 minutes worth of competition analysis.
11. Remove crawl errors if any
Sign up to your main Search Engines’ ‘webmaster tools’ or it’s equivalent in your local language and see if there are any crawl errors being reported. Remove these errors to make it easier for the Search Engine bots to go through your website and index it. Webmaster tools are also including user experience related errors, if you see any, get your developer to resolve them for you.
12. Talk Facts, back your opinions, provide citations.
Biased articles are a thing of the past and with the introduction of Google’s Knowledge Graph, it has become quite easy for the Search Engines to recognise false statements. As a matter of fact, a couple of months ago, Google’s researchers proposed a system that would promote webpages with factual information in it irrespective of the amount of back links it has.
If implemented, this will be a huge paradigm shift as the current SEO values the amount of links pointing back to your webpage hugely. For the Small entities, it will be a much welcomed change as I have mentioned in my article on the Knowledge Based Trust update.
This will also future proof your website as according the the proposed KBT update, the biased pages are at a risk of getting penalised.
13. Build back links
‘Natural’ Backlinks are still quite an important factor in ranking higher. I have kept this item to the last as I believe this factor will become less relevant in the post-2015 era. But still, if you see a back link opportunity, grab it with both hands and make it count.
Hopefully this article will help you make a well informed decision on whether to migrate your website to the secure protocol or not. Sometimes you do not have much of a choice. For example some e-commerce transaction gateways require you to have a secure protocol if you have to use their service and of course, there’s not much you will be able to do in that case.
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