The new laws of Google

In terms of the internet, whatever Google says is law.

There’s no more powerful company than the big G online because of their control of the search market as well as their other ventures such as YouTube and, well less-so, Google Plus.

That’s why it’s of crucial important to web designers/owners everywhere to take heed when Google issues a decree on best practice, and why there are three major factors that they must consider going forward through the end of this year and into next.

Popups

Nobody really likes popups on sites, but they do have their uses for those who own websites to encourage, or even demand, action from visitors.  These are particularly handy when it comes to newsletter signups to proclaim special offers that’ll be available.

Google is like the rest of us though and isn’t a fan, and they’ve announced recently that they’ll be looking to penalise websites that use intrusive popups on their site with lower search rankings.

I do my best to avoid popups on my sites already, with the maxim of “if I wouldn’t like seeing it, I’m not going to develop it”, so for me there’s luckily little to be done to help my Google conformity here.

SSL

SSL (Secure Socket Layers) is what adds the S to HTTPS in URLs, which means that when you visit the site your interactions with it are encrypted so that no-one can intercept what you are passing through to them.

For a long time SSL has been almost exclusively for ecommerce sites or those that ask for personal information, but with new initiatives like Let’s Encrypt making SSL certificates essentially free for websites – there’s been a large push to make sure that everyone can browse the web with a greater degree of confidence.

Google want to help with this, and have announced that they’ll go a step further when it comes to promoting SSL among users of its’ Chrome browser.  Right now SSL sites are given a green icon with a padlock in the URL bar which indicates that the site is secure, while nothing appears for those that aren’t.  In future, a “Not Secure” message will appear next to HTTP only URLs and further on Google say they’ll include a red warning triangle that’ll make it even more obvious to users that they aren’t safe.

That means that even for a blog such as this with no information being passed through that HTTPS will need to become a standard to avoid users leaving when they see a scary “Not Secure” message.

I’ll be looking into enabling HTTPS on the websites I’m involved in as possible, although sadly my current hosting provider JustHost aren’t big supporters of free SSL for everyone just yet!

AMP

The growth of smartphone internet use has pushed the web to be a mobile-first world in many ways, and now that’s’ being reflected in web search too.

Google’s long since made efforts to improve the rankings of sites with good mobile design – with things like site speed and responsive design already baked into the algorithms that help Google decide what pages people see when they search for a term.

Now though, Google’s own AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project aims to take it further with support for a new style of webpage that will produce dramatically faster loading for those on a mobile device.

This is a different features to the two before, as this is more a positive change from Google – in that AMP pages will be rewarded with a little AMP logo next to their search results.  As of now there’s no plans to make sure that AMP results are given any more special treatment than other pages are.

But what we see is a pattern of Google encouraging a certain practice and then later on going on to enforce it.  From webspam to web design, when Google decides one style is the best way to go it normally continues to follow through.

So that’s why it’s important for you to get stared on AMPlifying your webpages as soon as possible.  I’ve enabled it already for this blog using WordPress’ own AMP plugin (which is still early in development) but you can do it for almost any site by making some small HTML and other optimisation changes to your webpages – with Google’s guide here being the gold standard for how to do that.

 

These three changes might take some time depending on your site and how your development processes work, but between the three of them they will give your users a more secure, more easily navigable experience of using your website and it’ll give Google all the more reason to show your pages first in their searches.

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