Remember our blog post written by Paweł Grabowski almost a year ago? He extracted 30 most important Google ranking factors for 2014. However, the methods of calculating the algorithm continue to evolve. In order to keep up with the most important SEO trends, I wanted to take a quick look at what has changed in recent months and what we can expect in the future of SEO.
1. Link Building is no longer as essential for SEO as it used to be
What is the real state of link building for SEO? It seems that this SEO core element is no longer as highly recommended as it used to be in the past. This is somewhat surprising and disappointing – especially for those who have focused their entire SEO strategy on acquiring links and not making high-quality content.
John Mueller, Google’s webmaster trends analyst in a recent Google+ live hangout, said that now your main goal should be crafting content that can ‘stand on its own’ and is shareable. He also emphasizes that link building may sometimes be more harmful than beneficial.
The truth is that link building should be done carefully with an emphasis on creating quality content.
Of course, link building is still necessary for SEO, but with the recent changes in the algorithm, the importance is shifting gradually to link earning. Links are considered more valuable when they prove credibility and trust in your content.
2. Citations and brand mentions are as powerful as quality links
Long story short, Google’s job is to provide us with the most valuable content for our queries.
They do this by ranking them in a sequence based on their authority and quality. Unfortunately, spammy links try to manipulate the accuracy of rankings, and Google tries to identify them as inorganic backlinks.
The Penguin algorithm update has been introduced to prevent low-quality or spammy links. Collecting too many inbound links of the same kind and on irrelevant and low-quality websites leads to an algorithmic penalty.
Google doesn’t want you to imitate natural links and recently addressed this issue in the Panda patent which was filed in March 2014. There Google distinguishes “express links” and “implied links”, which determines the authority of a website. Express links are old-school backlinks that link to another web page. Implied links include brand mentions that are not linked to the website of the given brand.
Note that to the widespread abuse of link building, Google is placing stronger penalties on sites that are associated with spammy links. They also emphasize that one should gain more citations and brand mentions because they are more difficult to fake for the purpose of achieving higher position in SERPs. Implied links are one of the most recent changes to Google ranking factors.
3. How social shares and likes reveal natural engagement
Bing has admitted they pay attention to social signals. Although Cutts in 2014 made it crystal clear that social media does not directly influence search rankings, many believe there is some correlation. This is mainly due to an active and optimized social media presence being a reliable indicator of engaging content.
Even if there is no correlation now, who says the situation won’t change?
Brands with a strong social media following will have an edge over those who failed to focus on their social media platforms.
Social signals are becoming a bigger Google ranking factor for today’s SEO. They indicate natural engagement which gives them the power to influence search engines indirectly.
What is more, social media is similar to search engines themselves; many people use these platforms to search for things that interest them. Ignoring these powerful platforms is equal to saying ‘no’ to a portion of incoming traffic.
If your target markets share your articles willingly you will gain more traffic and visibility. This in turn could lead to more natural inbound links from genuine sources.
4. User experience will impact the SERPs more than anything else
Now, Google has found new ways to keep its search results relevant. These are:
These are: user experience and usability. Shaping a thoughtful and engaging user experience helps readers perceive your website positively and triggers return visits. Usability and user experience provides measurable profits to a site’s visibility, which search engines interpret as being higher quality.
What are the most important user experience factors for Google’s search rankings?
Let’s start with click-through rate. This measures the number of people who clicked on your website’s link when they saw it in search results. How do click-through rates influence search ranking? For instance, your website is the third position for a specific keyword in the SERPs. The more searchers click on your website and ignore the first or second website listed, the stronger it signals to the search engine that the third result is more relevant and valuable.
Give users an irresistible reason to click, and you will gain a sizable portion of traffic as well as improve your positions. How? Learn how to write magnetic title tags and meta descriptions. Never skip a call-to-action. Promise benefits instead of describing features and compel curiosity.
Reduce bounce rate and make your visitors’ journey more exciting. As defined by Google Analytics, bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits, which means that a user left your site straight from the entrance page. It is combined with the average time on site. Both indicators appear to be a growing importance in Google’s ranking factors today.
No matter what, some visitors will always hit the back button. The search engine’s task is to analyze the time they have spent on your website before they decided to go back to the search page. If it was 2 seconds, it won’t be a positive relevancy indicator for Google, but 5 or 6 minutes is perceived much, much better.
You definitely want to reduce bounce rate and increase average time on site. Your goal is to keep visitors on your website as long as possible and make them go deeper by exploring internal links. This is why it is crucial that internal links should be content related and engaging. Let’s make your users feel at home on your website.
Besides – the more they enjoy it, the more likely they are to convert.
5. Mobile-Friendliness is one of the key Google ranking factors today
Google’s mobile friendly update released on April 21st, 2015 was intended to give a boost to all websites with a working mobile version. Now, mobile algorithm officially includes mobile-friendly usability factors. Mobile user experience appears to be another big Google ranking factor this year and this trend will inevitably grow.
The most visible result of the mobile-friendly update is that websites correctly optimized for mobile rank higher in the mobile than in the desktop search now.
You should understand the key difference between responsive and mobile web design and select the best approach for your business. In a nutshell, Responsive web design is a setup, which renders existing content automatically to different devices and sizes, but the URL stays unchanged. Another configuration is Separate mobile website. Designed to display completely different mobile-friendly content and on its own specific URL.
Both of these formats seem to be equally accepted by search engines’ algorithm. However, the optimization process differs a lot. No matter what you pick, you need to make sure it loads quickly, as page speed is a crucial Google ranking factor.
I hope that your website is already mobile-friendly. You can easily test this out and act accordingly if there is still anything to improve.
6. Growing importance of Local SEO
Local search has always been important. The recent movements in local SEO massively influenced local business. Google Web Search & Google Maps used to present completely different rankings before a new algorithm, Pigeon, was rolled out in 2014.
This update significantly altered the impact of location. Pigeon’s specificity is pushing local search forward and the algorithm provides much more cohesive and accurate results. Google is getting smarter!
One of most negative Google ranking factors is a false business location. Innovative SEO experts understand that they must optimize a business for local search because this factor dominates the SERPs of today and tomorrow. You should optimize yours as well!
This starts with key components like NAP, which means Name + Address + Phone number. This is the basic trinity of information and a must for any local business. Some call it NAP + W because adding your website is also essential. Ensure that every detail of company’s data is accurate and accessible because it is your business’ proof of existence.
From checking off the basics like Google My Business page, full-fledged social profiles, positive reviews and defining your neighborhood, you can implement other opportunities, including paid media, to improve local visibility for your brand.
The most powerful Google ranking factors are changing. This blog post captures today’s key trends that you need to follow. Search engines are getting smarter and reading not only the code but also the content of websites more intelligently. Google wants users to enjoy their internet experience on any device from wherever they are.
Ensure that you shaped the best possible product or service that fulfills your customers’ expectations and craft high-quality content around it. If you are helping users on their journey, Google will appreciate it and will reward your search rankings in the long run.
Did you hear of any other Google ranking factors of growing importance? Share your opinion below!
PS: How do you like my first article? You are more than welcome to like it, share it and comment on it. :-)