While the fundamental aspects of SEO remain the same, Google makes changes in its algorithm several times a year, aiming toward a smarter and cleaner search experience. The result is – 200 factors determining search ranking!
Fortunately, you don’t need all of them. With 2018 in full swing, here are the 15 most important Google ranking factors which you can use to maximize your SEO efforts.
Providing users with the most relevant content for their search queries is Google’s top priority. Both visitors and Google like the content fresh, readable, and comprehensive. In addition, multiple research studies have shown that long-form content does a better job at ranking in search results. In fact, the top 10 results on an average tend to have over 1890 words.
Another thing that Google takes into consideration is whether the content matches what users intended when they typed in their search terms. Basically, if your page makes users happy, Google will reward you by boosting your website’s rankings.
Backlinks remain one of the most important ranking factors as they help Google recognize good and reliable content on the Internet. Getting more authority sites in your niche to link to your content signals Google that your page is worth ranking. So, the more quality links, the better.
However, don’t use shady ways of getting backlinks – Google is smarter than ever and able to determine whether the backlinks toward a website are legitimate or not. If you use black hat methods to gain backlinks, Google can penalize your website and even remove it from their indexing altogether.
3. Internal Links
Internal linking is one of the most underestimated SEO ranking factors. To begin with, internal links help Google understand better your site and guide search crawlers – if a large number of internal links point to a certain page Google considers that page important.
Internal linking also helps spread link equity across the site, enabling you to get the most out of the offsite optimization. What are more, quality internal links positively influence user engagement metrics, including conversion rate and time spent on the website.
It’s 2018, and yes, keywords still matter. Using them in the title tag, URL, header tags, meta description, and the body of the posts/pages boosts the relevance of your content and helps Google analyze it more effectively.
Also, it’s important to include terms related to the main keywords, also known as LSI. They provide Google with a better understanding of the content meaning, helping it decide which results to show. Additionally, they are good for mobile optimization, and recent voice search statistics show they contribute significantly to optimizing for voice search queries.
5. Site Speed
Site speed influences SEO indirectly. Search engines will crawl fewer pages if your website is slow, which could negatively impact your site indexation. Moreover, slower pages impact user experience and bring about higher bounce rates.
According to a Backlinko research, a top ranking website has a loading speed of 1900 ms which is 17% faster than a site that ranks at number 10. Additionally, with Google’s Speed Update, page speed is a ranking factor for mobile searches too. Technically speaking, it’s best that the mobile site loads in two seconds or less, and its desktop counterpart in less than three seconds.
6. Mobile Friendliness
Mobile traffic was accounted for 52.64% of the total global online traffic in 2017, and mobile devices are predicted to reach 79% of global Internet use by the end of 2018. This growing trend brought about mobile friendliness being one of Google’s ranking factors.
What is more, Google’s mobile-first index is now a reality, prioritizing mobile-optimized website rather than websites adapted for desktop only. Also, Google analyzes mobile pages against the ranking signals to decide the ranking of the site in both desktop and mobile search results.
7. Direct Website Traffic
The traffic generated by users who type in the URL of the website into the browser bar signals to Google that your website provides value to users and they want to visit it more often.
The more direct website traffic you have, the better your brand looks for Google and the higher you will rank in your niche, taking that your UX and user engagement factors are also higher than average.
8. Click Through Rate
The click-through rate is calculated by dividing the numbers of clicks your website’s search result gets by the number of impressions or views.
CTR plays an important role when Google measures your website’s SEO success because it shows how well your site is performing in the SERPs. A high CTR means that the website and its content are appealing enough to catch the attention of searchers and engage them.
9. Bounce Rate
You need to get users what they need when they need it. If your important and most relevant information is cluttered, your visitors will bounce back and your website rank will drop.
Bounce rate, or the percentage of single-engagement visits to your site, is one of the main factors Google’s RankBrain takes into consideration. For RankBrain high bounce rate essentially signals that users have found the information on your website worthless.
10. Time on Site
The amount of time a visitor spends on your page before going anywhere else signals to Google that the content is engaging, correlating it to site quality level. Consequently, a higher site quality equals high ranking.
If, on the other hand, a visitor lands on your page and sticks around for only seconds, Google will understand that your content wasn’t engaging nor informative. The average time on site to increase the organic rankings is three minutes.
Security has always been Google’s priority. Apart from offering a secure use of Search, Google Drive, and Gmail, Google aims towards making all the websites accessed from Search secure.
For that reason, Google has been considering the use of HTTPS a signal in its ranking algorithm. The sites which don’t use HTTPS are being identified as not secure, and their ranking position gradually decreases.
12. Schema Structured Data
Google works toward understanding the content of each web page, but webmasters can provide specific clues about it by including schema structured data. Schema code creates a description which helps Google get a better understanding of what the website is about and enable special search result features and improvements.
In its essence, Schema is not a generic ranking factor, but it provides context even to web pages that would be otherwise ambiguous and makes it easier for Google to show them where relevant.
13. Simple URL Structure
A simple, concise, and relevant URL enables both users and Google to understand the indication of what the page is about. You can further include relevant keywords, matching the content on the page. This allows Google to deliver your content to users performing a relevant search query.
What is more, a long URL indicates linking to pages that are several clicks away from the homepage. Using a simple URL will make the path shorter and prevent loss of authority.
14. Social Signals
Publishing great content is the most effective way of getting your website in front of your target audience through social media. Authoritative social engagement signals, especially from people who have established popularity such as influencers and bloggers, will boost your rankings.
The social signals will enhance the domain authority and page authority, even in cases when links from Twitter and Facebook are ‘nofollow’.
15. Video and Images
Did you know that 97% of page-1 results have at least one image or illustration on the page? Images add depth to the content. By including illustrations, screenshots, and infographics you support the text and provide your readers with visual presentation, thus enhancing the user experience.
Adding video to your website also improves search engine rankings and CTR. A video shows a higher level of engagement and a better way to convey the message across. In fact, businesses with videos on their page have a 27% higher CTR and 34% more conversions.
Implementing these 15 ranking factors into your strategy are crucial for SEO success in 2018 and beyond. By combining the ranking signals outlined here you will serve up quality content, boost traffic, improve key analytics, and build quality backlinks on your website.
However, given the complex nature of SEO, you need to stay adept and be ready to adjust to the upcoming innovations and updates!