Posts

A new study suggests that although highly ranking sites on search engines may be optimizing for search engines, they are failing to make their sites accessible to a large number of actual people – specifically, those with visual impairments.

The study from Searchmetrics used Google Lighthouse to test the technical aspects of sites ranking on Google. Unsurprisingly, it showed that high-ranking websites were largely fast and updated to use the latest online technologies, and were relatively secure.

However, the analysis revealed that these high-ranking websites were lagging behind when it came to accessibility for those with disabilities.

Based on scores from Google’s own tools, the average overall score for accessibility for sites appearing in the top 20 positions on the search engine was 66.6 out of 100.

That is the lowest score of the four ranking categories analyzed in the study.

Google’s Lighthouse accessibility score analyzes a number of issues that are largely irrelevant for many users, but hugely important for those with disabilities or impairments – such as color contrast and the presence of alt tags to provide context or understanding to visual elements.

As Daniel Furch, director of marketing EMEA at Searchmetrics, explains, this can be a major issue for sites that are otherwise performing very well on search engines:

“If you don’t make your site easily accessible to those with disabilities, including those with impaired vision, you cut yourself off of from a large group of visitors.

Not only is it ethically a good idea to be inclusive, but also obviously you could be turning away potential customers. And some sites have even faced lawsuits for failing on this issue.”

A lot of people have come to think of search engine optimization and content marketing as separate strategies these days, but Google’s John Mueller wants to remind webmasters that both are intrinsically linked. Without great content, even the most well-optimized sites won’t rank as high as they should.

The discussion was brought up during a recent Google Webmaster Central hangout where one site owner asked about improving rankings for his site.

Specifically, he explained that there were no technical issues that he could find using Google’s tools and wasn’t sure what else he could do to improve performance.

Here’s the question that was asked:

“There are zero issues on our website according to Search Console. We’re providing fast performance in mobile and great UX. I’m not sure what to do to improve rankings.”

Mueller responded by explaining that it is important to not forget about the other half of the equation. Just focusing on the technical details won’t always lead to high rankings because the content on the site still needs to be relevant and engaging for users.

The best way to approach the issue, in Mueller’s opinion, is to ask what issues users might be having with your products or services and what questions they might ask. Then, use content to provide clear and easily available answers to these questions.

In addition to these issues, Mueller noted that some industries have much stronger competition for rankings than others. If you are in one of these niches, you may still struggle to rank as well as you’d like against competition which has been maintaining an informative and well-designed site for longer.

You can read or watch Mueller’s answer in full below, starting at 32:29 in the video:

“This is always kind of a tricky situation where you’re working on your website for a while, then sometimes you focus on a lot of the technical details and forget about the bigger picture.

So what I would recommend doing here is taking your website and the queries that you’re looking [to rank] for, and going to one of the webmaster forums.

It could be our webmaster forum, there are lots of other webmaster forums out there where webmasters and SEOs hang out. And sometimes they’ll be able to look at your website and quickly pull out a bunch of issues. Things that you could be focusing on as well.

Sometimes that’s not so easy, but I think having more people look at your website and give you advice, and being open to that advice, I think that’s an important aspect here.

Another thing to keep in mind is that just because something is technically correct doesn’t mean that it’s relevant to users in the search results. That doesn’t mean that it will rank high.

So if you clean up your website, and you fix all of the issues, for example, if your website contains lots of terrible content then it still won’t rank that high.

So you need to, on the one hand, understand which of these technical issues are actually critical for your website to have fixed.

And, on the other hand, you really need to focus on the user aspect as well to find what are issues that users are having, and how can my website help solve those issues. Or help answer those questions.”

Online marketing can be a scary world sometimes. You invest time and money on building up your brand and improving your online visibility, but it can all come crashing down overnight. It’s terrifying to think of, but it is the reality of the internet – everything is always changing.

While there is no 100% guaranteed way to protect your brand from this risk, you can take a few steps to help you sleep easier and feel assured you won’t wake up to a marketing nightmare. As long as you cover these bases, you’ll be safe from the most common disasters that befall brands online.

Don’t let your domain get snatched up

Website domains are kind of a funny thing. They are the foundation you build all your online marketing efforts on. But, once you have it set it is incredibly easy to forget. It’s one of those things that seems like it should last forever.

But, of course, that’s not the case. If you aren’t keeping an eye on things, it can be easy to one day wake up and discover your domain registration has expired. That alone can be enough to make for a stressful morning, but in some cases you may find you have lost your domain entirely.

Having your domain snatched up when it lapses is shockingly common and can happen to businesses of any size. Even huge brands and public figures like the Dallas Cowboys and Microsoft have dropped the ball and had to pay huge amounts to regain control of their domains.

Thankfully, most registrars now offer services to help you maintain control of your domain. Some allow for auto-renewal, while others offer text message warnings before your domain expires. In the case of GoDaddy, the service keeps your domain safe for almost 20 days after it expires so that you can get them back.

Watch your rankings (properly)

I know more than a few business owners who maintain the same ritual. Every few days, they will pull up the browser of choice and check their ranking for a few specific keywords. So long as they remain fairly high on the first page, they stay happy.

If that sounds like you, I have some bad news. The search results you see aren’t necessarily what others are seeing and you may have been sliding down the page for everyone else all this time.

Online marketing disaster

Every major search engine does some form of customizing search results for individual users based on a variety of factors. This can include demographic data, location information, and search behaviors. So, if you’re regularly visiting your website or searching from inside the office, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be high-up when you search for your company.

Instead, get a real look at how you are performing by using an analytics service. There are a number of free services available, but I always recommend Google Analytics as a starting point. The learning curve can feel steep, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you can quickly find everything you want to know about your site’s performance.

Take control of your reputation

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A small business is gaining steam and popularity. Suddenly it all comes screeching to a halt, as your internet traffic dries up and your website stops converting. The culprit? A single bad review in the right place.

It is perhaps the scariest campfire story you can tell a business owner. Sites like Yelp have become notorious for destroying local businesses who handled a negative review the wrong way.

In some cases, the business owners just try to ignore the bad review while it festers and drives away any interested customers. Unfortunately, ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. In even worse situations, a business owner can let their emotions get to them and lash out at the reviewer – a move pretty much guaranteed to make you go viral for reasons you don’t want.

Neither of these is the right approach, and both can cause you headaches for a long time to come.

Thankfully, there is a right way to make sure your online reputation remains stellar no matter how scathing of a review you get from a disgruntled customer – address it head on every time. Rather than letting it get to you, keep an even head and treat every customer how you’d like to be treated. You’d be shocked to see just how many angry customers can be flipped into brand advocates so long as they feel their voice is heard.

The most important thing here is to be sure to watch all the major places people are likely to be talking about your business and be able to respond appropriately. This includes Yelp, Twitter, and Facebook. Check at least once a day to make sure you haven’t gotten any new reviews that need your attention. While you’re at it, it also never hurts to take the time to show your thanks to any positive reviews or mentions you’ve received as well.

Google’s Penguin algorithm has been a core part of the search engines efforts to fight spam and low-quality content for years, but it has always been its own thing. The algorithm ran separate from Google’s core algorithm and was refreshed periodically. But that is all changing.

Starting today, Penguin is running in real-time as part of Google’s primary algorithm in all languages.

What Does This Mean?

In the past, the Penguin algorithm has been relatively static. When it was updated or refreshed, it would dish out penalties and remove penalties from those who had gone successfully gone through the reconsideration process. The only problem was these updates were sporadic, at best. In fact, the last update was over 700 days ago.

By turning Penguin into a real-time part of its algorithm, Google is speeding up the entire system so penalties can be given when a site is flagged and those who have resolved their problems can lose their penalty more quickly.

According to Google, Penguin can now make changes in roughly the same period of time it takes the search engine to crawl and re-index a page.

What Else Is Changing?

While the speed of Penguin is the biggest change as it becomes part of the core algorithm, there are some other small tweaks to how it works.

Penguin is now more targeted, only penalizing specific pages with that break link guidelines. Google Penguin used to punish the entire site for containing pages containing spammy link building practices, but now it will only devalue the individual pages.

Google is also making some changes to how it talks about Penguin in the public. Or, as the company stated, “We’re not going to comment on future refreshes.”