Google: The people who bring you sudden and mysterious “algorithm changes” that can make your site plummet from first place to no place on their search pages.
True, but there’s another side to Google: The company actually states in clear language what to do to make your site a success with its search engine. It’s all in a surprisingly short document called the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Changes to the Guidelines are Big News in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), like the appearance of 11th, 12th, etc. Commandments. If Google speaketh it, your webmaster should doeth it.
Recently, Google added these points to the Webmaster Guidelines:
Thou shalt go mobile
“Design your site for all device types and sizes, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Use the mobile friendly testing tool to test how well your pages work on mobile devices, and get feedback on what needs to be fixed.”
The search giant has given fair warning on this starting in early 2015 but now it’s graven in stone. If you don’t have a site that adjusts itself to the many different ways to view a web page, Google may downgrade you in search. If you didn’t last year, confer with your web designer NOW.
Thou shalt get encrypted
“If possible, secure your site’s connections with HTTPS. Encrypting interactions between the user and your website is a good practice for communication on the web.”
If you look up in the address bar of a big-company website, you may see the address begin with “https” in green and a little padlock, validating that the site uses a three-part security check called TLS (formerly known as SSL) that encrypts the data and protects the transfer of information. This isn’t just for ecommerce sites; Google is saying that even if you use a simple Contact Us form on your site, you put information at risk and should encrypt. For an extra fee, your web host can add HTTPS; talk to your host or webmaster.
Thou shalt be accessible
“Ensure that your pages are useful for readers with visual impairments, for example, by testing usability with a screen-reader.”
With the proper coding on your site, a blind person can use screen reader software to hear the content on the screen and navigate around the site – and you have an opportunity to do the right thing and score points with Google.
Google made several other, less important changes to its guidelines and for a complete rundown, see this report from SEO Roundtable.