It’s hardly a secret that Google’s ranking algorithm is complexity personified. It comprises more than 200 factors, or so-called signals. Mastering those can be a daunting task if you are not a robot.
Luckily, you will not be forever banished from online presence for not following each and every tiny SEO detail right. Just set the proper priorities.
So what are the few most important ranking signals you should strive to optimize your site for in order to stay in the game?
Yes, Backlinks. For Google backlinks continue to equal authority. But how do we turn such an absract concept into a measurable ranking factor? By adding up the page rank of all incoming links and their number. So you cannot apply just any links and count on their quantity. They still have to be good, quality material in order to reach a higher score, and the more authoritative the domain where they come from, the better.
Make a strong link building campaign by creating high quality content that people want to read and promote. Period. Then people will naturally share it, comment on it, cite it and thus generate links leading back to your site. There is no better way to increase the number of backlinks.
Talking about link quality, we inevitably started gravitating towards probably the most important ranking signal of all – content. But as the Google algorithm evolves, the concept of content no longer gravitates towards keywords only. In fact, keyword stuffing your site will lead to all sorts of undesirable effects, such as negative user experience and, ironically, getting de-indexed by Google.
The trend nowadays gravitates towards content relevance. That is what SEO takes into account.
A relevant content will be informative and comprehensive. It will touch upon everything the user would want to read about the topic at hand.
This has also marked the rise of Semantic search, or the ability to place a search into context, and deliver that context to the user. Read more on the topic of Latent Semantic Indexing for SEO Rankings.
Optimizing the content of your web pages in order to make them more relevant and comprehensive will involve finding and fixing sparse content where applicable, and sticking to fewer topics that are explored in greater detail.
It’s Mobile-first Now
A major change of 2016 was that Google will mainly be indexing the mobile versions of websites in order to figure out how they should be ranked. This means that mobile optimization has now jumped to the top of the list of primary Google ranking factors. So if a domain is at the top of the search result pages, it is more than certain that it is also mobile-friendly.
Your content should not only be mobile-responsive for all platforms, but also provide identical information and experience to the one your desktop version does.
A good tip if you are currently in the process of developing the mobile version of a website, is to only launch it once it is complete. Don’t make the mistake of releasing a poorly working version simply in order to have a mobile counterpart. This will definitely hurt your ranking.
Page speed is also a very important signal, with mobile sites’ recommended loading speed at 2 seconds or less, and their desktop equivalents – around a second slower.
Whether behavioral factors such as user experience should be included in the ranking algorithm is a much debated topic. But since the users themselves can best judge whether what they see is relevant to their query, selecting a particular result from among others should speak enough of its relevance.
This is why the Click-through rate of a search result item is considered a valid ranking factor. It has even been established that CTR has the most direct correlation to Google rank out of all other signals.
It appears that the higher the CTR, the better the page rank.
Keeping in mind the importance Google places on mobile-first optimization, intrusive pop-ups are now going to get their share of sanctions. Any page that loads, followed by an unwanted advertisement, which covers the content or takes users to a completely different page without their consent or desire to do so, might suffer a penalty. The exceptions of course would include login pages, unobtrusive small banners that are easy to dismiss, and legally-required information, such as age verification for example.
It turns out that web sites which support HTTPS are more likely to hit the top of Google’s search results pages than their HTTP counterparts. This is an ongoing trend which has risen from 15% in 2015 to 45% in 2017. Google chrome even alerts of entering an unsafe site in case it does not run under HTTPS.
Optimize your site by switching to HTTPS encryption and remove all unwanted ads from its mobile version in order to prevent a bad user experience. This will immediately increase its credibility and in turn lead to better ranking.
SEO never stops evolving. Over the last few years Google has started demanding richer content, a larger number of quality links, and a seamless mobile experience. There are certainly many factors which contribute to a successful spot at the top of a search engine result page. Prioritizing what counts the most towards a higher rank is what puts a website ahead of the competition.