If there is one truth in the search engine optimization (SEO) field, it is that nothing remains the same for long. Strategies and techniques that produced results in the past may not be sufficient to maintain search visibility in the future, and SEO professionals must continually adapt to meet these ever-changing demands. The catalyst for much of the change is the search engines themselves, particularly search giant Google. Frequent updates to Google’s search algorithm, and the confusion that sometimes arises from these updates, can sometimes require SEO professionals to scramble to keep up. In SEO for insurance agents, staying abreast of algorithm updates is crucial for maintaining a robust and highly-visible online presence. In this guide, we’ll explore how websites can be made ready to adapt to updates occurring now and in the future.
Google’s Algorithm Updates: A Brief Overview
How often does Google add changes or updates to its core search algorithm? The answer to that question can vary, but it is safe to say that changes occur frequently. In 2018 alone, Google reported over 3000 improvements to its algorithm – an average of about nine changes each day. The number of updates has increased steadily over the past decade; by comparison, 2009 saw only about 400 updates reported by Google. Updates occur when Google develops new ranking methods, adopts new technologies like machine learning/artificial intelligence (AI), or wishes to improve user experiences with the search interface.
Algorithm updates may be subtle, tweaking only a small portion of such features like additions to user interfaces or changes in the way the algorithm handles misspellings. Other times, however, the algorithm updates have major ramifications; these large-scale updates included “Panda”, “Penguin”, and “Mobile Friendly”, to name only a few of the numerous changes Google rolled out in recent years. It is the large-scale updates that have sent the SEO community scrambling as they experienced dramatic shifts in client search rankings. To stay abreast of changes, SEO professionals have many resources to choose from, including Google Webmaster Central Blog, which provides a wealth of information on how best to leverage updates.
Prioritizing Updates: Keys to Adapting Websites for Algorithm Changes
Over the past 20 years, online search has evolved dramatically, going from simple one-keyword searches and basic hypertext-based results to complex search phrases and a diverse assortment of results, including images, video content, and text that are relevant to the search terms used. In SEO for insurance agents, it is imperative that SEO professionals understand how to maintain client websites with a focus on adapting to an ever-changing playing field.
The first key in adaptation is to place emphasis on emerging technologies, particularly in voice search and in mobile-friendly online properties. Google has focused on these two aspects of the search field, and many of their updates reflect how ubiquitous these two technologies have become for search users.
Voice search has taken the world by storm, thanks to smartphones and digital personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices. Users no longer have to input keywords in search; now, they can simply speak natural phrases and receive relevant results. To ensure that websites are able to meet voice search demands, SEO teams should focus on providing quality content filled with details and ensuring that websites are mobile-friendly.
Mobile-friendly websites are the core of one of Google’s most recent updates, where the search company rolled out its “Mobile First Index”. This index prioritizes sites that have mobile-friendly features in search results – features such as:
- Responsive page design that displays correctly regardless of screen size.
- No difference in content between desktop and mobile versions of websites.
- Equivalent metadata in desktop and mobile versions of sites.
- Elimination of dynamic serving (presenting different content for the different access devices).
SEO professionals know that mobile devices are the primary tools search users rely on. To ensure continued visibility and great rankings, implementing mobile-friendly website updates is critical.
Finally, website security is paramount. Google has encouraged website owners to switch to HTTPS, the secure version of HTTP, and has begun to prioritize secure sites in search results. Industry analysts predict that site security will continue to gain in importance, so adopting secure encryption and HTTPS protocols now can preserve high rankings in search results well into the future.
The Basics Still Perform
No matter what happens with Google’s algorithm updates, SEO professionals can rest assured that several core aspects of search optimization continue to produce favorable results. Key ranking factors that have become “tried and true” are expected to remain that way, and it is a smart practice to ensure these factors are optimized in SEO for insurance agents. Five of the key ranking factors include:
- Domain and page authority – indicating quality resources to the search algorithm.
- Focus on semantic search, including keywords, key phrases, and contextual terms, to improve results for search users.
- Keywords – at the heart of every SEO endeavor. Keywords should be used in page text, in metadata like image alt tags, and in titles, headers, and subheaders on each page.
- Quality inbound and outbound links – link-building remains one of the best ways to improve search rankings, and focusing on quality over quantity pays big dividends in search visibility.
- Diversity in link sources – the more unique domains pointing back to a given website, the more likely Google’s algorithm will see the target URL as valid, authoritative, and relevant to search user queries.
SEO for insurance agents is a complex process, but one that is crucial for directing traffic to websites. With the right focus on maintaining websites and by adapting to algorithm changes, SEO professionals can pave the way for continued high search rankings for years to come.
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