Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is such a big part of my job as a web designer. High-quality SEO means that when people use a search engine—Google is obviously a big one, but there are others, too—to look for topics or services related to your business and in your geographic area, your business’s website shows up at or near the top of the results.
(I wrote about SEO on my Deckard & Co. website a few years ago. In short: I was right. It hasn’t gone away. It’s actually more important than ever.)
The moral of the story is: Google gets to decide what constitutes a “good” website. My job is to keep track of those rules and to build you a website that works for you, but also caters to Google’s standards.
Well, the big development in our industry this year has been Google’s new criteria for how it ranks websites.
Google’s Previous Criteria
So how has Google been ranking websites?
The complicated answer has to do with an all-powerful algorithm that scans the internet and ranks website pages based on a couple hundred different criteria.
But basically, when you search for a term or series of terms, Google is out there looking for websites that include those terms. This is why we stress the importance of “keywords” in your website’s copy.
There are also keywords and other factors used in your website’s “backend” (ie the part where we do our work and your users can’t see).
The Next Step in Google Rankings
If your website’s keywords match with the user’s search terms, then Google’s algorithm starts building rankings using other criteria meant to gauge website quality. If a site’s content hasn’t been updated in a while, for example, then it’s going to be lower on the list than freshly updated websites.
That content also needs to be unique (duplicated content tanks everybody’s rankings), and it also helps to link to other pages—both within your site and to other sites.
The Latest Update: “Page experience”
The Google algorithm has been factoring in some user experience criteria for a while now. For instance: loading speed. If a website loads slowly, then it’s frustrating to the user. Google wants to send the user to the best possible site based on their search. A slow page makes a bad experience. Therefore: lower ranking.
Last year, Google announced that it was adjusting its algorithm to use “core web vitals” to evaluate websites and generate rankings.
This remains a vastly complicated set of measurements, but in short, these new standards include loading speed, interactivity, and “visual stability” (ie how much or how little your content shifts on the page as it loads and afterward).
Fortunately, my websites already aim to adhere to these quality indicators. But Google has also helpfully provided a browser extension that lets me preview how well each website is doing with these criteria. (Read more about how I work with user experience in a previous blog here.)
Basically, Google is updating its algorithm, and we are more than ready for it.