There are myriads of important Google ranking factors 2018 to consider when optimizing your website, these factors determine whether your site will rank higher than your competitor’s on search engine result pages (SERPs).
The good news is, these search engine ranking factors are on different levels of importance, hence, you can maximize your SEO efforts by focusing on a few that matters most.
An important fact to note, however, is that Google constantly changes its algorithms and search properties from time to time.
In this article, we will look at 10 of the most important search engine ranking factors for 2017 based on recent studies by SEO PowerSuite, SearchMetrics, and Backlinko.
Google ranking factors 2018
Content is and has always been, one of the most important Google ranking factors over the years and 2017 is no exception. However, this year, there is a slight twist to it. Google is moving from keyword-focused content to the content itself. They rank content written in natural language higher than keyword focused content.
This seems to be the case. From the SearchMetrics study cited above, 53% of the top 20 queries have keywords in their title tag, and less than 40% of landing pages have keywords in their H1 (heading). The figures for previous years show a decreasing trend. This year is not any different. This shows clearly that Google is beginning to consider relevant content higher than related keywords.
But you may ask, ‘what exactly is relevant content?’
Google’s relevant content implies that comprehensive content has been written on the topic or subject being discussed.
But how does Google determine if a site has written comprehensively on a topic? Google does this by considering the volume of content written. This means that Google will rank a three-page article with fewer keywords relative to page number higher than a one-page article with more keywords relative to the page number.
You could try it out yourself. Check out the top results when you search ‘German shepherd’ on Google. The top results have lots of words, and pictures on their websites. The top result is from Wikipedia, it has 5,472 words. Other websites on the first page are not far behind. You see what I am saying now, right? So, according to Google, the website had discussed extensively on it.
Things to note about content:
- Algorithm Updates like Hummingbird and RankBrain consider semantic search highly. This means they expect relevant content to be an in-depth discussion of the topic in view, rather than a keyword-laden short article.
- Long-form content ranks higher than short-form content. Long-form content allows the articles discuss their subject in greater detail.
Content is highly relevant, it influences other search engine ranking factors such as bounce rate and click through rate. Hence, as a digital marketer, you have to ensure your content is wordy, comprehensive and very relevant to your target audience. It won’t make sense to discuss extensively on how to prepare the most exotic French dish, while your target audiences are website designers.
Therefore, use content auditing software to filter your content, discuss fewer topics in greater detail on each of your web pages and improve your topical authority in your niche.
Backlinks are highly relevant in how Google ranks websites and web pages. This has been the case over the years. And this year is not any different. However, recently, Google has found a way to filter and remove irrelevant backlinks from the more relevant ones. True, more links will still result in a higher search engine score. However, these links have to be from different authoritative domains.
This may seem Herculean, right? Not so, just focus on creating content people love and want to read and promote the content as often as possible. When authorities and influencers in the industry read your page or article and link it to theirs, Google will read your backlink’s matching anchor text and consider your content more relevant.
Your content earning a lot of these high-quality backlinks makes you hit three important ranking signals: number of backlinks, link authority, and link diversity.
Thus you score big.
Social signals help you gain more high-quality backlinks. Hence promoting your content aggressively on social media (social media marketing) will guarantee you those backlinks. SearchMetrics seem to agree with this, they found that ranking position and social signals strongly correlated across all social media channels, Facebook still remains the platform for a higher level of user interactions though.
Link building and Content marketing are like Siamese twins. They are really the same. All a website owner needs to do is to create good and relevant content and promote it aggressively.
How can I be sure my article is going to be shared by authorities in my industry? Well, you could use the Skyscraper link building technique: Look for an article related to yours that has a lot of backlinks, improve upon the content by making it more detailed and then promote it on all platforms necessary.
You can also use link auditing software like monitor backlinks to check how well your links are performing. Some of these softwares help you to:
- Monitor how many links your content has and the quality of those links.
- Reach out to high-quality partners for backlinks.
- Remove low-quality links.
3. Mobile-First User Experience
Google has discovered there are a high number of mobile users. For 2017 the number of mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.77 billion globally. That means more than 50% of the world’s population is using a mobile phone. There is a high chance that you’re reading this article from a mobile phone. Google then decided to optimize its search engine rating for mobile first website—meaning that Google rates mobile versions of a website higher than its desktop version.
This is a very important ranking factor. According to SearchMetrics, all the top most visible domains have mobile-friendly solutions.
Hence, your content needs to be highly scalable for both mobile and desktop versions.
If you do not have a mobile version of your website, spend time creating one and complete it before you launch it. This will help your ranking in SERPs.
Needless to mention is the fact that page speed is very important. A slow loading website or mobile page ranks poorly while a fast loading page ( two to three seconds load speed) ranks highly.
If you are unsure of where you stand in all of these, try doing the following:
- Use Google Search Console to add and verify the mobile version of your website.
- Use the Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure the website is scalable for both mobile and desktop.
- Try using the text testing tool to ensure that your mobile site is accessible to Googlebot.
- Test your page speed using speed testing tools. If your page is slow, use an auditing tool to find and fix uncompressed content, page errors, and other content that might cause the slow loading.
4. Page Speed
Google took their time in deciding this. An irony, right? Well, finally, Google has included Page speed as one of its search engine ranking factors, especially for mobile. Backlinko’s study of Page load of 1 million different Google search results pages shows that page load speed is an important factor in ranking search results. Neil Patel’s independent analysis of 143,827 URLs shows the same. This evidently shows that page speed has become one of the most crucial factors in search engine ranking.
The reason Google included page speed as a search engine ranking factor is to provide users with a better user experience (UE). If this is the case, a slow loading website will definitely have a hard time appearing in top Google search results.
- How then can you ensure your website has super page load speed?
Activate AMP on your pages
- AMP gives the web some good speed boost. Also, it will make your mobile site load faster, thus rank higher on Google search engine rankings.
Use HTTP2 – HTTP2 helps you speed up your site by optimizing the performance of your website.
- Switch to PHP7
PHP7 gives your WordPress site a speed boost. Hence, you can switch to PHP7 and attain such speed.
- General optimizations
Use a CDN to make sure that your content is delivered from a location close to the visitor. Also, use a caching plugin to keep static parts of your website in the browser cache. Also, optimize your images for a richer mobile experience.
- Critical rendering path
You need to know what elements prevent your website from rendering quickly. Hence, you need to run a PageSpeed Insights test.
- Always monitor and improve your page speed
5. Site Structure
This basically refers to how a site is set up, the outlook of the website. A good website structure means better crawling by web crawlers. Since the website is web crawlers friendly, it will rank highly on the search engines. Also, a good site structure provides a richer user experience.
Since this is the case, how then can you get a good site structure?
The steps in creating a good site structure are listed below:
- Plan a site hierarchy: You can draw out a hierarchical structure of how you want your website to look providing links from the home page to other sections and subsections of the website.
- Create a URL structure that follows your navigation hierarchy.
- Create your site navigation in HTML or CSS.
- Use a shallow depth navigation structure.
- Create a header that lists your main navigation pages.
- Develop a comprehensive internal linking structure.
Having done the above, you’re sure to have a website with a structure appealing to Google’s crawlers, spiders, and bots.
6. Schema Markups
Schema.org (often called Schema) is a specific vocabulary of tags that you can add to your HTML to improve the way your page is represented in SERPs. This is an important Google ranking factor.
Well, the trend in SEO is local all the way. This is very important, especially for small business. This helps search engines get a better understanding of specific texts such as addresses, phone numbers, recipes, reviews and more.
For small businesses, their contact details are very important. Correctly using Schema markup helps these details show correctly online.
7. User Experience
Google wants its users to have a rich user experience and get the best experience while searching. Hence, the user experience is an important search engine ranking factor for Google.
How can you ensure that your page gives a rich user experience?
Other than content, site structure, and page speed, there are factors to be considered. Internal links are very key, they help in directing search engines and users to relevant pages. Also, external links, videos, and images guarantee a rich user experience.
HTTPS has a very strong correlation with first page Google rankings. Google views HTTPS as a ranking signal, hence, why websites with HTTPS ranks above others. Apparently, Google considers such websites as more secure thus protecting the site user’s private information. It is better to install HTTPS on your website than having it unprotected.
More landing pages have H1s and H2s (header tags) This is an important search engine ranking factor. SearchMetrics found a strong correlation between the use of at least one H2 and a higher rank. This means that web pages that have a good number of H2 tags in their headings will rank higher on Google search engine results.
Headings and subheadings in your page divide your page into smaller more readable chunks. This enhances user experiences. Google, noticing this, will rank such page higher than other websites with fewer subheadings. Header tags help the website look logical and follow an outline. Doing this on your page ensures that your page ranks highly. In other words, headings help to increase your web page’s readability score.
10. Anchor Texts
Anchor texts are very important for Google search engine crawlers. This is because the anchor texts link between websites and web pages. Web pages that have a good number of quality anchor texts rank high on Google search results pages.
They give more accurate descriptions of web pages than the pages themselves. A web page with more anchor texts signals to Google that the page contains highly relevant information. There are different types of anchor texts. They include:
- Backlink Anchor Text
- Internal Link Anchor Text
- Brand Name anchor Text
- Image Links
These anchors have differing importance as search engine ranking factors. However, a web page with a high number of anchors will rank high on search engines.
There you go…
On a final note, I’ve to add that, even though you implement these Google ranking factors 2018, it takes time for your website or web pages to rank high on SERPs. Nobody knows the exact time it takes to rank a website. Your main goal should be, observing SEO best practice and leave the rest to Google to decide where and when to rank your website.
If you need further help in implementing these factors on your website, feel free to reach out to our digital marketing services team. We’ll be glad to assist you in implementing best SEO practice in other to rank your website high on SERPs.