Are you aware of how Google updates affect your business? Google continually changes and updates its algorithms, which in turn means that the way in which the world’s websites are ranked also changes. This can affect your website, too! The latest update is presumed to be the Phantom 4 Update from July that, as its predecessors, changed some of the SEO rules.
With each of its updates, Google has made it more difficult for websites with certain characteristics to achieve high placements on Google. Google continuously wants to give its users good content, and the search engine therefore always strives to place pages with good content at the top of its results.
Google’s Phantom update – which was so named because its actual existence was not officially confirmed by Google, making it somewhat of an apparition – rewards your site if you create quality content. On the other hand, if you employ clickbait, have duplicate page titles, identical product descriptions, numerous 404 errors, broken links, and other OnSite-related problems that may enable poor indexing and duplicate websites, your site will be negatively affected. Below, we will help you to a better understanding of the components Google uses to decide how your website is placed in the search results and give you some pointers about what you can do to improve these placements and – in the final analysis – grow your business.
Since Google has not officially addressed the update, all information about Phantom and its consequences stem from our own experience as well as experts and webmasters from around the world that take it upon themselves to test the effects of the Google algorithm. There are many opinions about what effects Phantom is actually having, and it takes a certain amount of expertise in and of itself to sort through the numerous and varying conclusions. At Green.Click we always keep an eye out for updates such as this one and scour the internet for credible expert analyses about how specific SEO parameters move with each Google update. We have done this with the Phantom update as well and in this blog post present a summation of our sleuthing.
The summation maps the five biggest mistakes you can make on your website as well as advice about how to avoid them:
Duplicate page titles
Page titles and meta descriptions are what is shown in Google’s search results and what users see at first glance. An interesting page title with the search word at the start of the sentence – which ideally will inspire the users to click on it – should be present on all pages. A good page title is unique and catchy, and duplicate page titles will increase the risk of Google ignoring your page when deciding its placement.
It is additionally worth noting that if the page title does not match the content, Google will itself write a title in its search results based on the actual content. Check if you have duplicate titles by e.g. using the program Screaming Frog. You can download a free version of it and check up to 500 subpages. By this means, you can get an overview of how many, and which, of your page titles are identical and replace them with unique ones.
Low quality content
When Google’s algorithms choose your site’s placement, they are very concerned with the quality of the content. Creating quality content is a challenge to many website owners. But if you know your customers well, doing so is actually relatively simple. Ultimately, quality content is that which fulfills your visitors need for information, answers their questions, and provides them with new knowledge. You must therefore simply give them the content they are looking for. This can especially be done by letting an informative and relevant introductory text be the first thing your visitors’ eyes meet when they come to your page. Be also sure to continuously address customer questions received by e-mail, over the phone, or in real life, and create pages on your site where those needs and wants are met. Be in this way always responsive and remain mindful of your customers’ user experiences when you update your site’s content.
Too many ads
Website owners often succumb to the temptation of making a quick buck through ad sales. But ads can partly be a point of irritation for users and partly be a limiting factor when Google places the site. You should consequently be sure to limit how many ads you have on your site. It can be profitable in the short run, but the more you have in relation to the rest of your content, the bigger the risk is of Google not rewarding your site with good placements. Remember that you are customarily paid according to how many users click on your ads, but the poorer your Google placements are, the fewer users will visit your site and see the ads to begin with.
Poor navigation and/or design
Many websites suffer from lacking or erroneous ‘flow’. If your users have a hard time finding what they are looking for because clicks lead them to irrelevant or slow pages – or if your site is just poorly designed and not very appealing – your visitors will vanish quickly. Be therefore sure to remove unnecessary pages and superfluous information and to have an inviting design and generally appealing aesthetics.
To abate the ever-increasing use of clickbait, Google has begun punishing click mongers. ‘Clickbait’ is often used as a term for article headlines that purport to be ‘breaking news’ or generally appear to be more interesting than the articles’ actual content. The headlines of such articles are often something along the lines of, “The wife came home, and guess what she found” or, “The mother was mocked when she went to the beach – see her amazing response here”. The content of such articles is typically of very low quality and is a source of frustration for the reader who has been lured to the page under false pretenses. The headlines’ only purpose is to generate clicks for the site’s ads that are often difficult to avoid. Even large news outlets now risk Google’s punishment, as they, too, to a large extent have begun employing these clickbait practices. No one is safe from Google’s watchful eye, and you should consequently choose your headlines carefully and be sure they are well-aligned with the site’s actual content.
Long-term planning will guard you from The Phantom Zone
Without these problematic errors and shortcomings that almost inevitably will negatively affect your site’s placements, you will be well on the way to avoiding The Phantom Zone and its concomitant poor placements. Always engage in long-term planning and never cut corners, and Google will reliably reward you.