Happy new year! And, beyond that, a happy new decade to you, too!
I took a brief break from blogging over the holidays. And, rather than load up on content about a new year, a new decade, and all that jazz, I want to focus on highlighting some areas where website owners and operators should focus leading into the new year. 2019 was a pivotal year within the digital space – changes came quickly throughout the year, and 2020 will be no different. Coming into the new year, we already knew of potential challenges that would present themselves. But where should we focus our attention first?
With that in mind, I have taken some time to consider four specific areas where you should apply your efforts immediately. If you have already worked on addressing these issues, then you are ahead of the game. If not, act quickly, and begin to engage in “triage mode” to ensure you are taking these issues seriously. Now, let’s focus on them, in no particular order of importance.
Search engine optimization is always essential – this is something we regularly address for customers. At a minimum, almost every client is interested in maintaining their ranking performance or increasing it if possible. Since the early days, SEO has evolved into an entirely separate discipline in the digital space. SEO experts have spent countless years honing their craft and staying current with all of the changes that are continually presenting themselves in this arena. In 2019, we saw a wide range of transformations from an SEO perspective. Multiple algorithm changes created havoc for clients, with some registering minimal gains and some seeing massive losses. Starting this year, it’s essential to take a minute to study your SEO approach, look over past statistics, and understand how those algorithm changes may have affected your company. If your analytics point to negative trends at specific points in the 2019 calendar, it’s highly likely you were affected by an algorithm change. In this case, it is time to talk to an SEO professional to start to analyze which update affected you and to what extreme. Steps can be taken to improve your positioning, and Google is always crawling, looking for improvements in terms of site content and overall deliverability and website performance.
Many site owners balk at the technical changes and other tweaks that must be made regularly to keep up with SEO. I like to remind them that Google is, in a way, operating as an agent of quality assurance for the web as a whole. The changes they require for enhanced ranking performance is good for the internet as a medium and useful for users. In recent years, focus on mobile accessibility, page speed, content schema, and other on-page enhancements has made the web better for everyone. So, rather than look at this as a chore, we should also consider that making changes are better for users, and not just for us. In 2020, try to focus more attention on the doings of Google and other search engines, and addressing any possible changes as quickly as possible knowing that not only will we benefit but the end product will as well.
There was much talk a couple of years ago about GDPR, which was the European Union’s data privacy act. While it affected US-based companies much less than it did those in the EU, it served as a primer for the regulation that would be coming down the pipeline for us. Well, it seems the first version of US regulations is now upon us, as CCPA, or the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, is now a law in the state of California.
I don’t want to devote this post to the details of the new law, but you can definitely read up on how it will affect you. While the law targets companies who are doing business in California only that can more or less affect every B2B and many B2C companies as California is the largest state and as such, makes up a significant chunk of anyone’s traffic unless your business is local such as a service or restaurant.
In 2020, you will need to find a way to maintain compliance with the law. This means that a combination of technical and business-workflow tasks will need to be addressed. First, you’ll need to notify users clearly about their rights under the law. Then, you’ll also need to give users the mechanisms to opt-out – in fact, the bill calls for two mechanisms to be in place. Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you have the technical capability to handle that opt-out. This can get to be complicated, but luckily there are third-party offerings that make it easier.
My thoughts on CCPA are consistent with what I’ve said before – the internet is still mostly unregulated, even though it controls so much of our life from an informational and infrastructure perspective. In the coming years, more regulation will be introduced, surely at the federal level, which will require companies to make even more adjustments to their digital presence. It’s best to focus on being compatible with this new regulation ASAP to ensure a lower risk profile concerning any possible claims against you. Which, by the way, can be a $7,500 fine if the state approaches you or $750 PER CLAIM if it’s an individual claim. That can add up quickly.
2019 was definitely the year that online interest in the area of ADA compliance hit new levels. We’ve written about this over the years, and for the most part, not much has changed. Drive-by lawsuits are still prevalent, and companies are scrambling to be compliant with something that doesn’t necessarily have a checklist of actual requirements.
Where we see the most movement as of today is on the mobile space. The regulations for mobile apps are almost non-existent, yet there is cause for concern that makes app owners and distributors nervous. At this point, web accessibility has taken shape, and many are focusing on the problems in that area. There are even software solutions that can make you compliant in minutes. But, in the field of mobile apps, where there is still a slower distribution model, and the behavior of publishing an app live is a bit more tedious, the industry is still scrambling for answers.
What should you do? Well, first, focus on the web. You can gain compliance quickly, audits are cheap, and for the most part, the illegitimate claims are almost already slowing down. So, if you haven’t acted yet, now is the time. However, if you are operating mobile applications, be prepared for an expensive review and implementation of findings.
If I write this post every January with new topics of concern, chances are security would always be one of them. The fact is that the web is integral to our lives, and as such, it is becoming a lynchpin that, if damaged, would severely affect our economy and day to day operations. Now, I’m not so much worried about your own personal accounts, passwords, and whatnot (though, you should secure those too!). I’m concerned about how we manage the risks associated with essential services being online, software that is core to our companies, and our professional lives.
Today, more and more companies are building custom software packages to operate their businesses. This is great! We’ve spoken about the benefits of these packages for years and believe that in 2020, even more organizations will take the plunge. However, how many places invest mightly in their software and then take the cheap way out and do not invest in ongoing security, data management, monitoring, and emergency response?
If you were my customer, and many of you are, I’d tell you that security is something where you can never be 100% protected. The bots, scammers, and hackers have a knack of finding their way in. However, you can be 100% prepared to act when something occurs. This means having a maintenance team in place, an emergency escalation procedure, and someone watching to see if something is wrong before the consumer can even tell.
If you do not have this in place… Please, reach out and let’s discuss how we can protect you and provide an emergency fallback. It’ll save your company time, agony and most of all, money.
Honestly, the web is so complicated these days that there are many more things you should worry about. I didn’t even dig into software packages, technical debt, design flaws, or any of the other areas where attention must be paid to ensure success.
I know, I’m such a Debbie Downer…
In reality, understanding what is changing, keeping up with innovations, realizing where risk factors lie, and making educated decisions on pathways forward are what make the difference. Hopefully, this post gets you started in the right direction.