Google is undoubtedly the most popular search engine providing extremely accurate results to users and though no one knows the exact algorithm used by it to collect its findings, the updates released by it affect all aspects of a website. Most people think that only search engine optimization professionals need to keep track of these updates and incorporate them, but even other professionals must factor in these changes in their work. In fact, web design must be modified according to Google updates as this will help in the creation of not only an SEO-friendly interface but also enhance the user experience of the website. In this blog, we will discuss the major changes necessitated by Google updates and how important it is for all web development and design professionals even those working to migrate from other platforms and specializing in services which convert site to WordPress to keep track of them.
1- Having Content Above The Fold
Above the fold is a term that originated with the printing of newspapers, which were folded to make it convenient to carry them. Once the large sheet was folded, only the top half or the above the fold part was visible to customers. This made publishers aware of the fact that in order to catch the reader’s attention, they have to put attractive content in the top half of the newspaper. The term found its resonance in the web design industry during the early days when internet speed was slow and users rarely scrolled down to discover the bottom part. This necessitated the placement of valuable content above the fold but with improving speed and technology, the technique was somewhat discarded until a few years ago Google’s update underlined its importance.
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Designers had started putting large, full-width images or carousel with multiple visuals which definitely enhanced the visual appeal of the interface. The problem arose because of the incorrect manner in which this design strategy started affecting the bounce rates of websites. Once a visitor arrived on an interface with no or minimal above the fold content, he/she had to spend time in scrolling down or waiting for the images in the top half to load which resulted in him/her staying longer on the website. On the other hand, a website which had put the content matter in the above part was seeing higher bounce rates as users spent comparatively lesser time in going through the content and then moved away. This meant that interfaces with valuable content were suffering for no fault of their own which forced Google to roll out an update which started rewarding websites who invested in having useful, readable material above the fold. The world’s most popular search engine has always maintained that it strives to provide as accurate results as possible to people who are looking for information which they can use and therefore forced designers to insert some useful content in the upper part of interfaces.
2- Google’s Stress On Mobile Friendly Websites
The general feeling among users is that the popularity of smart devices led to the emergence of responsive design which is only half- correct. It is true that once touch- enabled mobile devices found acceptance among the majority of world’s population, entrepreneurs had to find a way to target them but what made even smaller businesses and startups adopt responsive design is Google’s insistence on mobile- friendly nature of interfaces. According to Google, it wants to provide as exact results as possible to all types of users including those who were employing a smart device for conducting searches. This made it necessary to use compatibility with such devices as a ranking factor so that people did not have a bad user experience when they arrived on an interface via search results.
Having two versions of the same website would have proved costly for enterprises especially those operating on a small scale and responsive web design came to their rescue. This meant that owners had to shell out money for only one interface which had responsiveness incorporated in it so that when the website was launched on a device with a considerably smaller screen as compared to desktops, all design elements of a page adjusted according to the screen size. Responsive design has become a standard requirement for web development and all platforms like WordPress have understood its importance and are offering services like responsive themes to fulfill user demands. Some years ago, when Google unofficially started factoring in mobile- friendliness of interfaces, there was some criticism as a few people felt that the tech giant was no longer only limited to providing search services but was an active player in the smart devices segment (because of its Android OS), which was the main reason behind its decision. One does not know whether there was any truth in the argument but with the passage of time, the usage of such devices has only grown and responsive design has become an integral part of web design industry.
3- Google Penalises Intrusive Mobile Pop-ups
We all have at one time or the other been irritated by pop-ups appearing on a website and used browser extensions to block them. These irritating advertising devices made their way to mobile devices also and the smaller screen size made the experience even more annoying. The reader can understand how exasperating pop-ups can be from the fact that Ethan Zuckerman, the man who created the first ever pop-up apologized for his invention about 4 years ago. Google immensely values user experience and penalizes any interface which does not allow easy access to its content, which is the primary reason prompting a visitor to land there.
A few months ago, the search giant officially stated that after its new update rolled out completely, the rankings of mobile interfaces with intrusive interstitials- which is how it termed pop-up boxes will be affected negatively. It specified negative user experiences as :
– When a pop-up hides the main content, immediately after a visitor landed on the page through search results or when he/she was looking at the page.
– A standalone pop-up that has to be dismissed in order to access the main content.
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– When the above the fold part bears similarity to a pop-up and the original content is hidden beneath it.
It also listed pop-ups which would not be penalized :
– Any interstitial which has been placed in order to fulfill a legal obligation such as those used for age verification or cookie usage.
– Reasonably sized banners which can be easily dismissed. E.g App install banners displayed by browsers like Chrome.
– Login dialogs on a website with no publicly indexable content. E.g Any content that appears while completing a payment during a transaction.
Web designers have to ensure that the specified interstitials do not appear on the interfaces created by them and marketing
professionals have to devise alternative strategies which are not as intrusive and annoying and are in accordance with best practices.
The three above- mentioned instances illustrate how not only SEO professionals but even other experts like web designers have to modify their approach according to Google updates. They have to ensure that mobile-friendliness is incorporated into the designs and the proper emphasis is put on displaying of fresh and unique content.
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Image1 Credit to Štefan Štefančík