It’s no secret that when it comes to website design and what’s best for search engine ranking, the rules seem to change from year to year. What “worked” so well previously now is taboo, and seemingly forgotten aspects of your site can come back to haunt you. Because of this rapidly-changing web landscape, it can be hard to know what’s right for your site – and what could be a fatal mistake. We keep an eye on these trends for you.
Here’s what we at Patient Education Concepts see as the big trends for 2015:
Responsive Web Design
Traditional web design has always been targeted at the desktop browser, and formatted appropriately. With the rise of smart phones and tablets, several solutions have been put into play to address how best to display information on these smaller screens. “Zooming” was the first, where the entire page loaded into the width of the screen, typically “zoomed out” to fit. But usability was always compromised as the site visitor would, invariably, have to zoom in to do anything.
Another solution – a “mobile site” – emerged, and it presented a stripped down, “big button” approach that was touch-friendly, but that lacked the availability of immediate information – a tradeoff for ease of use. These sites were briefly popular, but as smart devices became quicker and larger, and cellular networks became capable of transferring data quicker, the format fell by the wayside in favor of a new approach: Responsive Design.
Responsive Design maintains that a website should be smart enough to “know” what device is being used to view a site – and not just what device, but what the screen size of the device is. And, knowing this, the site then will adjust to show its content in the best formatting available. With Responsive Design, there is only ever one “set” of content, and it is displayed for all visitors. With the old-fashioned dedicated mobile sites, two sets of content would have to be maintained, in effect doubling the work required to keep a site up to date.
By our estimates, before the end of 2015, all websites developed will be Responsive websites. Why? Well, because in 2015, Google has decided that…
Mobile-Friendly Websites Will Be Ranked Independently of their “Desktop” Counterparts
It’s no secret that the content of your website is what is used by search engines to determine where the site appears in search results. Have excellent content, and you will rank well. And, in the past, that was enough to make sure that your site would show up when someone Googled you.
However, just this month (March 2015), Google announced that they will be maintaining independent rankings for “desktop” and “mobile-friendly” sites. In effect, Google will index every site twice, once with their web crawling script that reads your site as if it were a desktop PC looking at the site, and once as if it were a smart phone looking at the site. And the content will be evaluated on its own, not relying on the “other” site for a rankings boost.
Under the old “mobile site” design trend, this would be a disaster for SEO. A “mobile site” with only nine buttons on the home page would appear to have no content for Google, and the resultant rankings for mobile search would be… unfavorable, to put it mildly.
With a site that uses Responsive Design, this is not an issue! Since the site formats itself based on the device used to visit the site, all your excellent content will be indexed for both mobile and desktop versions of the site, and will rank similarly to each other. This is incredibly important, because in 2015…
Mobile Search Has Exceeded Desktop Search
According to data released by Google, for the first time ever, we have seen web searches by mobile devices eclipse that of desktop search. Let’s repeat that: More people search for your site now on their phone than on their computer. And if your site isn’t indexed by Google for mobile users, your potential customers aren’t going to find you.
This is a trend that is only going to grow over time. And because of this, it’s time to take a look at your website. Is it responsive? Is it up-to-date? And it had better be up-to-date, because to Google…
Content Is King
As a search engine, Google eats up new and original content. Google wants to drive traffic to your site, because search is how they make their money. But a site that hasn’t been updated in a year isn’t going to perform as well in search results as one that is updated on a regular basis, and that contains fresh, original content. If there is one point that Google continues to hammer home in their search algorithm updates, it is this point.
To make sure this can happen, your website should be easy to update. The best way to do this is through a Content Management System (CMS). The best Content Management Systems are user-friendly and make it easy to add new content. Some of the more popular CMSs are WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Some developers will create their own CMS, citing increased security and flexibility.
In Praise of WordPress
Here at Patient Education Concepts, we prefer to use a WordPress solution, and we’re not shy about it. WordPress is the #1 blogging platform in the world, and there’s a reason for it – it works, and it works well. It’s easy to use for the “average” person (if you can compose an Email or write a Word document, you can add new content to your site with WordPress!), and offers many, many features – and if it doesn’t do something out of the box, its customization options are essentially unlimited.
Now, proponents of custom/proprietary CMSs will say things like, “Our system is more secure than WordPress!” and “More hackers target WordPress than our platform!” But this is a simple numbers game. Of course more hackers target WordPress websites – there are millions of them out there. However, this doesn’t mean that the other platform is inherently more secure. In the IT world, that’s called “security through obscurity,” and it is shown time and time again to not hold up. With WordPress, we get automatic notifications of updates, quick patches, and access to a whole community of developers who want to patch their plugins and code. Often, an update is available before the exploit is even a problem for us. We patch and it just works.
If you’re considering a new website, don’t just take our word for it. Some companies that use WordPress are Coca-Cola France, CNN, SiriusCM Canada, and even the prog-rock band Rush. https://wordpress.org/showcase/ if you would like to browse and look at some of the customized, secure, and good-looking examples of what WordPress can help us do for you.