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The Biggest SEO Challenges and How to Meet Them #semrushchat

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Liza Perstneva
The Biggest SEO Challenges and How to Meet Them #semrushchat

Google and other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms in order to provide users with the best search experience. For SEO specialists and website owners, on the other hand, this means new challenges. If you don’t adjust your optimization strategies to the new online environment, as time goes on and search engines change their algorithms, your rankings will be affected.

During our weekly SEMrush Chat, we discussed today’s biggest SEO challenges and ways to meet them with our special guest Nick Eubanks, an entrepreneur, an SEO engineer, an audience developer, the VP of Traffic Safety Store, and the founder of SEO Auv. Nick and our other chat participants shared their tips to prepare for Google’s mobile-first index, voice search, and more.

Q1. In order to prepare for Google’s mobile-first indexing, what should SEOs bear in mind?

In November 2016, Google started testing its mobile-first index, which is expected to change the way websites get ranked in search engine results pages. This means that Google algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of your site’s content.

Let’s see what SEO specialists should do to prepare for Google’s mobile-first index.

1. Creating a mobile website or responsive design

First of all, it’s important to have a mobile site or responsive design that will optimize your site for smartphones and tablets. As Rachel Howe pointed out, SEO specialists and site owners should have already done this. If they haven’t, they need to start caring about it immediately. “Google will use a mobile site to figure out both desktop and mobile rankings. Get your mobile site in order,” recommended Andy Drinkwater ‏@iqseo. “Have a mobile website. It's amazing how many sites still aren't mobile-friendly!” tweeted Netvantage Marketing ‏@netvantage.

2. Speed

Modern users expect websites to load very fast. So does Google. You need to make sure that your site’s load speed is high enough to rank on mobile SERPs. Our special guest remarked that speed it now more important than ever. Beside your site’s load time, Arnout Hellemans ‏@hellemans also recommended paying attention to its user experience: “Speed is the key, test your loading speed on mobile, no pop-ups, focus on UX. Log errors and take feedback seriously.”

3. User experience

Just because you have a responsive design doesn’t mean that you don’t have to care about user experience. To provide your site visitors with the best possible experience, you need to have clear, focused content and easy-to-understand menus and navigation. You should also adapt your design for touch and leverage mobile-specific features. “[SEOs should think about] UX for both content and navigation, sites should invest in AMP pages and informational content,” tweeted Samantha Torres ‏@SamTorresSEO. You can also check out these five common UX mistakes you need to avoid on your mobile site.

4. AMP pages

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project was specifically designed to help publishers create mobile-optimized content. In a nutshell, AMP pages are lightweight pages that are designed to load quickly on mobile devices and a highly accessible framework for creating fast-loading mobile webpages. These pages provide publishers with a relatively easy way to improve the speed of their mobile websites. SEO specialists should consider creating AMP pages whenever possible.

5. User intent

Josephine Hardy made a great point, saying that a mobile-friendly website is much more than just a responsive site. User intent differs across multiple devices. This means that site owners need to understand what their mobile users are trying to accomplish on their sites. Because desktop and mobile searches are prioritized differently, you need to optimize your site accordingly.

Val Vesa @adspedia also shared some free ‏helpful tools from Google for testing your website's mobile friendliness.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q1

You don’t have to wait until Google’s mobile-first index is officially announced. Follow these tips from our chat participants to prepare for this update. The time for action is now!

Q2. Do you believe that websites with full-page interstitials will be penalized? Are they a ranking factor? Why or why not?

Interstitial spaces are small webpages that appear before or after an expected page of a website or within a mobile application and block out the site’s or app’s other content. They usually freeze on the screen for a select number of seconds until an “X” button appears. These interstitial spaces serve as a promotional tool, which marketers can use as an advertisement or to encourage people to sign up for a mailing list, survey, or anything else.

In August 2016, Google published a post on its official blog about helping its users easily access content on mobile: “Pages that show intrusive interstitials provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible. This can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.” In this post, Google also provided several examples of both interstitials that make content less accessible and interstitials that are used responsibly.

We asked our chat participants if they believe that sites with interstitials will be penalized. Here’s how they answered.

Nick Eubanks believes that Google will penalize mobile sites with interstitials, pointing out that there’s already data that proves a correlation between dips in organic visits and traffic from interstitials on mobile.

In Reva Minkoff’s opinion, using interstitials on your site is a serious risk. She remarked that Google has already penalized pop-up ads, and interstitials are essentially the same thing.

AJ Ghergich remarked that Google will penalize big interstitials only on mobile sites, not on desktop.

On the other hand, Ryan Jones pointed out that interstitials are only a mobile-friendliness factor; they won’t lead to a penalty. However, he mentioned that users tend to hate those intrusive popups.

Some of our chat participants pointed out that sites with interstitials will be punished, as visitors will be deterred by annoying interstitials. “You need to consider user experience. Do these interstitials irritate them? Always think of the user first,” recommended PolePositionMkg.

Interstitials interfere with your site’s user experience and hinder visitors from completing a desired action by forcing them look at an ad until they figure out how to click out. As a result, using too many of these web elements can lead to a high bounce rate.

Also, Michael James Field shared his observations, saying that today the role of interstitial spaces is declining.

Let’s sum up these key points.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q2

According to Google, webpages with intrusive interstitials provide a poorer user experience than other pages with immediate access to content. Although it’s not a penalty, but a signal, it’s better not to overuse these elements and follow best practices when using them.

Q3. What are some common errors that result from inadequate JavaScript testing and how can you fix them?

JavaScript is a programming language with object-oriented capabilities. It’s most commonly used on webpages whose implementations allow the user to interact with the client-side script. At first sight, JavaScript may seem quite simple; however, a number of common JavaScript mistakes can keep your code from working.

Here are some of the most common JavaScript errors that occur because of inadequate testing of JavaScript.

  • JavaScript conflicts in some browsers

Some browsers can also cause JavaScript conflicts. If issues are triggered by a JavaScript libraries conflict, you need to look at the JavaScript console. Depending on your browser, its name will vary slightly: DevTools Console, Web Developer Tools, Web Inspector, etc. Every browser has a different way of accessing the console. These tools will display a JavaScript conflict to help you detect a problem.. If you find the error, you need to figure out which part of your site causes this problem.

  • Memory leaks

Memory leaks are a common problem that many developers have to face. This issue is easy to detect. If your site increasingly uses more memory, you have a leak. Different devices and browsers have different capabilities. For example, the same page can run smoothly on one device and crash on another one.

You need to test your webpage on those devices that are popular with your users. If its user experience is bad, your page may exceed the memory capabilities of these devices. In his post, Kayce Basques explains how to fix memory problems.

  • Incorrect reference to “this”

In most cases, the value of “this” is determined by what a function is called. For example, the issue occurs, when you’re trying to name a function in an object, but you type the wrong name. Therefore, you always need to ensure that the function name is correct.

  • JavaScript is blocking the DOM

When it comes to analyzing your webpages’ load speed, you need to take into consideration what might be blocking the Document Object Model (DOM). Before a browser can render a webpage, it has to build the DOM tree by parsing the HTML markup. Whenever the parser encounters a script, it stops to execute the script before it can continue parsing the HTML.

When it comes to an external script, the parser is also forced to wait for the resource to download. You need to avoid and minimize the use of blocking JavaScript. To find out more, check out how to remove render-blocking JavaScript.

  • Blocking JavaScript files in your robots.txt file

If you block JavaScript files in your robots.txt file, Google won’t be able to render your website. Therefore, Google won’t completely understand your site, and it might even result in lower rankings.

Check out a few other answers in the following recap.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q3

To find out more on the topic, check out the following guide with examples provided by Ryan J. Peterson: “Buggy JavaScript Code: The 10 Most Common Mistakes JavaScript Developers Make.”

Q4. Data highlighting and schema tags are completely different. What are the differences between the two and which should we prefer?

Schema markup is a specific vocabulary of tags that you can add to your HTML to help search engines return more informative results for users This microdata helps crawlers interpret the content on your webpages more effectively.

However, there is another way to add structured data markup to your pages. Data Highlighter is a browser-based tool that helps webmasters markup their pages. Our chat guests shared their opinions on both implementing schema markup and data highlighting.

Some of our chat participants voted for schema markup, saying that it’s more effective.‏

Nick Eubanks agreed with Andy Drinkwater on this point and mentioned that, with schema, you can practically wrap data the way you prefer.

Netvantage Marketing pointed out that you should use schema for local optimization.

Even though Danny Ray Lima finds Data Highlighter satisfying, he remarked that schema offers a variety of markup codes to enhance your content. “Use Schema every time,” advised Mark Preston @MarkPreston1969, “I've had so many quick wins through implementing Schema correctly.”

The Data Highlighter tool is easy to use, but schema provides much wider options. “What I know is that data highlighter can be easier to use, but nowhere near as many options as schema,” tweeted ThinkSEM ‏@ThinkSEM.

Pat Whalen believes that data highlighting is good for small and medium businesses that don’t have advanced knowledge of web development and cannot hire a professional developer.

Dawn Anderson pointed out that if you have access to a code base, you definitely need to use schema markup.

As you can see, opinions are divided. Some of our chat participants strongly recommended using schema markup, while others believe that your choice should depend on the circumstances. However, most of them agreed that schema offers enhanced snippets and enhanced visibility.

SEMrush Chat Recap Q4

Have you ever used the Data Highlighter tool? Or do you always prefer schema markup? We would love to hear about your experience!

Q5. How will voice search affect websites’ SEO, rankings and choice of keywords?

As technology improves, voice search is becoming increasingly reliable. More people are searching for things on the Internet using voice. The question is, how will it change different aspects of SEO.

Here’s a list of five things that SEO specialists should pay attention to in light of the rise of voice search.

1. Content that answers questions

When people perform a voice search, they want direct answers. Their voice search queries significantly differ from regular text ones. This means that you need to adapt your content accordingly and make it answer your users’ questions. “More voice search happening now. Content should be written to answer questions like why, where, when, what, and how,” tweeted Malhar Barai ‏@MalharBarai.

2. Local search

Voice queries often contain the phrase “near me,” which shows that a searcher wants to find a local business. To adapt your website to voice search, you should optimize it for local search and mobile.

3. User intent and personalization

Voice queries provide a better chance to predict searchers’ intent, which in turn gives site owners more insights into where users are during each stage of their journey. As a result, site owners gain the ability to tailor their content accordingly to enhance their search results.

4. Longer conversational phrases

With the expansion of voice search, our chat participants expect to see more long-tail keywords and natural language queries. If you optimize your content for longer conversational phrases, there’s a greater chance that users will end up on your site. ‏”With AI and RankBrain, as searches become more colloquial and conversational, you just need to adapt your content to match [these queries],” tweeted ThinkSEM.

Our special guest also pointed out that because of the rise of voice search, SEO specialists and site owners need to better understand how their target audiences speak, including what slangs and accents they use, etc.

5. Contextual search

Voice queries make contextual search more meaningful. Natural language queries provide a wealth of contextual information and useful data about users’ intent. Contextual understanding enables you to provide users with the exact information they need.

Let’s sum up these key points!

SEMrush Chat Recap Q5

That’s it for today!

Many thanks to Nick Eubanks and our other chat participants for sharing their expertise and knowledge!

As always, don’t miss our SEMrush Chat this Wednesday!

Liza Perstneva

Getting here is not easy at all!

Liza Perstneva is a Social Media Manager at SEMrush and a #SEMrushchat host. Follow Liza on Twitter.
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