With the increasing number of companies moving their brand and offering online, outranking the competition is every business’s ultimate goal. Your website is the physical embodiment of your online business, so it needs to be highly visible to your customers and prospects. Knowing how to optimize your website is critical for online success. Without the proper search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, your website might end up getting buried in the search results.

With Google rolling out a host of new indexing and ranking factors next year, how will your website fare? Is your business ready for these changes, or is there a need to update your website design and content?

This article aims to address the following questions:

  • What is mobile-first indexing and the Page Experience algorithm update?
  • How will the Google algorithm update affect your website?
  • What are the best website optimization strategies for 2021?

Mobile-First Indexing: How It Works and How It Affects Your Site

According to Google, “Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking.”

There is a clear shift in focus because more people are accessing Google Search using a mobile device instead of a desktop computer. Googlebot – Google’s web crawler – will predominantly be using the smartphone agent to crawl and index pages.

Apart from ensuring a mobile-friendly website design, here are some things worth looking at in preparation for mobile-first indexing:

  • Keep the same content on both versions
    If your mobile page has less content than your desktop page, your site might experience a drop in traffic after the rollout. Syncing the content on both platforms prevents traffic loss.
  • Make sure the images are aligned with the guidelines
    Use high-quality images with supported formats. Follow the guidelines and best practices set by Google to create a great user experience (UX).These should be applied on the mobile and desktop versions.
  • Use the same image URLs for both versions
    Using a different image URL for your mobile site will result in a traffic loss because this URL is new to Google indexing. It may take some time before it can get a better ranking.
  • Check the video placement
    Users should not have a hard time locating the video because this will affect the video’s ranking. Place it somewhere that’s easy to find.

Identifying the Core Web Vitals Ranking Signals

In May 2021, Google will update to the full Page Experience algorithm. The ranking signals of this update emphasize the users experience when accessing and interacting with a website. The more enjoyable the website is for the users, the higher it will rank.

The Core Web Vital signals indicate the performance of a page, and are measured using three metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – This measures perceived page load speed or how much time it takes for the page to load its main content.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – This is focused on interactivity by measuring load responsiveness.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – This measures how users feel about unexpected layout shifts.

SEO in 2021: How to Optimize Your Website

With all these changes set to shake up SEO in 2021, it is important to know how to optimize your website.  To remove all the guesswork, you can partner with an agency that offers optimization expertise and  website design services because these two go hand-in-hand. If you’re a digital marketing professional or a developer, consider using these strategies and tools in your website optimization:

Optimize Site Speed

A slow webpage can affect your bounce rates and search rankings. It is important to measure your current loading time and identify the factors hurting your page speed. Here are some tools you can use to measure your page speed:

Google PageSpeed Insights: Google’s free tool executes a performance test and recommends ways to improve page speed.

Pingdom: This tool checks the performance history of your website and generates data-driven suggestions to accelerate site speed.

GTMetrix: Apart from providing a detailed assessment on page performance, GTMetrix is also able to track the history of your page performance as well as alert you when your page is slow. It also allows you to check how fast your page loads in their 22 different global test locations.

Focus on Mobile-First Indexing

Use responsive website design so your site is easy to access and seamless to navigate and interact with regardless of the device your user is using to access your site.

You can use Google’s mobile-friendly test, a free tool that evaluates if your website is optimized for mobile devices. You can also use WebPageTest, which allows you to select a specific operating system and test location. Another free tool is Google Analytics, which measures page performance and generates reports based on the selected device.

Apply On-page Optimization and Technical SEO Strategies

On-page optimization includes publishing high-quality content focused on user intent and optimizing images, headlines, and HTML tags. Technical SEO means optimizing your site structure to make sure search engines understand your website, crawl and index this.

Use tools, such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz and Screaming Frog to help you with your keyword research and content writing. Select contextual keywords based on user intent. Write content that piques people’s interest. Add meta information to help Google contextually understand the content.

Broken links result in poor UX and may also affect search rankings, so it is important to locate and fix broken links. Submitting XML sitemaps using Google Search Console also boosts search engine optimization.

Use Schema Markup

Adding schema markup to your page helps enhance the search experience because it adds context to a webpage that Google can understand, meaning you stand a better chance of being served up in Google Search results. Schema can be used for articles, products, reviews, organizations, events, FAQs and more.

Monitor Core Web Vitals Signals

You should continually check your page performance in relation to the ranking signals for the Page Experience update. However, the Core Web Vitals in particular can be tricky to keep a handle on – use these free Google tools to measure these metrics:

Search Console: This tool generates a report that reflects Core Web Vitals scores. It exposes page performance based on metric type, status and URL group.

PageSpeed Insights: As mentioned earlier, this tool analyzes webpage content and provides actionable suggestions to improve page speed. It can measure desktop and mobile page performance.

Lighthouse: You can use Lighthouse to conduct a series of page audits and SEO checks. Work on the areas that failed the audits.

Web Design and UX Optimization

Because UX is key, you have the option to use web design and UX optimization tools or hire an agency that provides web design services. Employ web design that is easy to navigate and makes your content accessible to users.

Apart from having great layouts and design elements, it is also important to track UX. Hotjar is a great tool that delivers behavior analytics by measuring the user’s page interactions and feedback. For example, it can tell you which button or link converts best or which items the users are hovering over. Such insights can help you make an informed decision on how to optimize your site further.

Finding the Right Website Optimization Strategy for Your Site

The right web design and website optimization strategies can improve your conversion rates and sales. Securing the right tools or hiring professionals offering SEO and web design services are good investments on which you can expect returns.

Be sure to gather as much information as needed about the possible professionals or agencies you think you’d like to work with, so you make an informed decision. If your site is in good hands, you are well on your way to outranking your online competition.

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