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As we all turn over a new leaf and dive into 2017, what should you factor into your digital marketing plan for the coming year?

Staying ahead of the curve is part of being successful online, with this in mind we have put together a list of five impending updates that you need to be aware of and plan for in 2017.

The importance of using HTTPS to secure the web:

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) means serving your website traffic over a secure encrypted connection, using an SSL certificate. This is standard practise with e-commerce websites, but it is now best practise to serve all websites via HTTPS to ensure your customers have a secure online connection to your site.

It helps avoid internet hijacking in public wifi spaces and increases customer confidence. The industry is now backing up HTTPS by penalising sites who collect user passwords or have card payment who do not use HTTPS.

From January 2017 Google will move to penalise any website that are on a HTTP non-secure connection. At present Google are only applying this to websites that collect passwords and credit card details, but it is likely in the future this will apply to all websites.

The web browser Google Chrome is due to release an update in late January to flag all HTTP websites that collect user passwords or card payments as not secure. read the blog post ‘Moving towards a more secure web’

If your website contains a user login system or takes card payment (even if the card payment itself is processed by a third party) it is essential you use HTTPS on your website. At Studio 24, we recommend all client sites now use HTTPS to best prepare you for the future.

The transition to HTTPS:

Buy and install certificate from a trusted vendor from an SSL vendor such as VeriSign or GeoTrust.

Update your website to direct all traffic over HTTPS rather than HTTP.

For more information see the Google Webmaster Guide on this subject or give us a call and we’ll be happy to help setup your website with HTTPS, call us on 01223 328017.

2017 will see the expanded use of ‘rich cards’:

A rich card displays a snippet of information directly related to the search, this can already be seen in operation in search results pages.

So far rich cards have included results for film and recipe industry verticals. In November it was announced that online courses and local restaurants are to join the growing list of results included on rich cards in 2017.

Google states that the are: “actively experimenting with new verticals globally to provide more opportunities for you to display richer previews of your content.”

In order to be able to display information correctly on rich cards you will need to mark up content to be included in rich card results. Find more information on structured data mark up on the Google Developers site. 

Mobile indexing first is coming soon: 

Even in lieu of the 2015 ‘mobilegeddon’ updates Google still consider desktop searches when ranking websites. In November Google made the announcement that: “To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first.”

Which does imply that there could be updates to the already existent mobile-first update of 2015 to further the importance of mobile sites to a website’s ranking in search results.

The need to ensure your website is mobile friendly / responsive is as important as ever in 2017.

Google Accelerate Mobile Pages Project (AMP):

Something that you might notice lately is the occurrence of a lightning bolt and the ‘AMP’ label appearing next to search results (using Google).

This signifies the Google Accelerated Mobile Pages project, or, AMP for short. By following a set of restrictive guidelines you can create a very basic ‘version’ of your website, this can be stored in the Google AMP Cache and means a website can be served very quickly, which is beneficial for browsing on mobile devices.

This is a move towards getting the user content quicker and providing a better user experience, with so many pages laden with images and JavaScript this new project should be a refreshing move towards a simpler, cleaner browsing experience.

However, on the down side only certain content will work on AMP. Pages are displayed in a stripped-down, simplified format, so this doesn’t work so well for websites that depend more on the user experience of the page layout. Complex functionality like carousels, login areas, e-commerce or search won’t work (JavaScript is disabled). AMP is best used for article-based content.

No more pop ups (Intrusive interstials)

An ‘intrusive pop up’ is one where the pop up itself is difficult to close or doesn’t close at all, so hinders the user experience of that website.

This is probably going to be the most popular of all Google updates. As of January 2017 Google will start penalising website which use intrusive pop ups. It is important to note that only some pop ups or interstitials are classed as ‘intrusive’. The following will not be affected:

  • Interstitials that appear to be in response to a legal obligation, such as cookie usage or for age verification.
  • Login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable
  • Banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible

The interstitials that are classified as providing a poorer experience to mobile users and that restrict content access are as follows:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page form the search results, or while they are looking through the page (yes, we’re looking at you newspaper websites)
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been in- lined underneath the fold

If you are interested in anything you’re read and have any further questions do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. E-mail us on [email protected] or call us 01223 328017.