Google published the three most important signals for the search algorithm at the beginning of 2016: Links, Content and RankBrain. As you know, these are the three factors that have the greatest impact on your website’s ranking.
It is also known that Google’s algorithm is in constant development. Reason enough for us to take a closer look at this year’s developments. An exciting article has been published by SEJ , which in turn is based on the latest studies by SearchMetrics , Backlino and SEO PowerSuite and now presents four SEO ranking factors.
We have dealt with these factors and would like to introduce them to you in the following as well as show optimization approaches so that the way to the top of the organic search results can only succeed.
1. Content – one of the most important ranking factors
Content is currently the top priority: It has been one of the most important Google ranking factors for some time. There is more and more content that sounds “natural” and is no longer so focused on keywords. In fact, the SearchMetrics study shows that only 53% of the top 20 queries on Google contain keywords in the title tag and less than 40% of the corresponding landing pages have keywords in the H1 heading. The percentages should be even lower in the future.
From this it can be concluded that Google assesses content on the website more than ever on the basis of its relevance and not on the basis of selected and often built-in keywords.
Relevant content using the example of a search query
If you put the search query (Informational Search) “correctly ventilate” on Google, the search giant shows us the following results page:
In this specific example, Utopia provides all imaginable information on correct ventilation on its landing page. All details such as condensation on the window, problem areas such as bedrooms and connected subject areas such as correct heating are dealt with in great detail. Google obviously doesn’t find more comprehensive information on the topic on any other page and plays Utopia.de in first position as a featured snippet in the organic search results.
Semantic search – longer vs. short content
Backlinko can confirm this observation and speaks of a “semantic search” in this context. Algorithm updates such as Hummingbird and RankBrain focus on semantic relevance and optimization, which means: A clearly defined topic, comprehensible and comprehensively prepared, is rated better than poorly formulated content with a high keyword density. The more context – ie the more detailed and comprehensive something is presented – the better Google will be able to classify the topic and recognize its relevance.
So longer content has more chances of better rankings? Possibly, because a topic can be dealt with in detail in a longer article and is related to several pieces of information. In contrast, however, are the developments in mobile search: According to SearchMetrics, mobile content is on average 1/3 shorter than the content created for desktop use. A spicy aspect, since mobile content is also very popular in Germany.
Optimization approaches for the content
Content affects other ranking factors such as bounce rate or CTR. In order to make it into the top rankings of organic Google search, you therefore need all-encompassing “comprehensive” content that has maximum relevance for your target group. A comprehensive treatment of the subject of “proper ventilation” probably makes little sense for your flower shop, but it may provide information about proper irrigation or useful information about types of flowers.
Perform a content audit and optimize your content as follows:
- Enhance content: delete meaningless text passages and add useful, further information
- Finding focus: Don’t try to do it all at once. Only devote yourself to one or a few topics on each page, but in detail.
- Serving a niche: Increase the relevance of the topic in your specific target group
2. Backlinks – a classic among ranking factors
Backlinks will remain an important Google ranking factor in 2017. Over the years, Google has learned to differentiate between good and bad links. The sheer number of backlinks therefore still has a strong effect on the search result, but only and exclusively if they come from a large number of different domains with the appropriate authority in the respective topic complexes.
The key to a successful link building campaign is – in 2017 more than ever – content that is highly relevant for the target group and is therefore very likely to be recommended – shared – to others. So it’s about the shareability of a content. A backlink is also more valuable if it comes from a topic-relevant context and has a suitable anchor text.
As soon as your content has these high-quality backlinks, you meet these three important ranking criteria: number of backlinks, link authority and link diversity.
Do not underestimate the social signals: SearchMetrics analyzes have shown that the ranking position and the social signals are strongly correlated across all social media channels (Facebook today still has the most user interactions and generates the most social signals).
Optimization approaches for backlinks
There are different approaches to successful link building – and these days they rarely ignore content marketing :
- Create high quality content
- Seed high quality content
- Ongoing monitoring of the existing backlinks
- Identifying high quality backlinks
- Identifying potential high quality partners for backlinks
- Eliminate or disavow low-quality links and spam links
3. Mobile First User Experience – Ranking Factor No. 3
One of the biggest changes in Google’s search algorithm was the move to mobile-first indexing. Primarily mobile versions of websites are crawled.
An optimized, mobile website is crucial for the ranking. All Top100 domains have optimized pages according to SearchMetrics.
For 2017, responsive content is therefore an absolute must for all mobile devices – suitable scaling of the content is essential for an optimal user experience. Of course, the content must be identical in the mobile and desktop version, Google evaluates different information accordingly and assigns poorer placements in the search results. Currently, 85% of all pages indexed by Google meet these guidelines for mobile devices. So it is finally time to think “Mobile First”!
Another important ranking factor is page speed, i.e. the time it takes to load your website. The maximum upper limit is 3 seconds loading time for desktop versions and 2 seconds for mobile versions.
Optimization approaches for mobile
- Use Google Search Console to add and check mobile website versions
- Use the Google Structured Data Testing Tool to check the structured markup for both website versions
- Make sure your website is visible to Googlebot; using the Google txt testing tool
- Continuous checking of your page speed with Google Page Speed Insights
4. Technical (ranking) factors
In addition, other technical factors are decisive for the rankings of your website:
According to Backlinko, there is still a strong correlation between HTTPS websites and the first places within the organic search. SearchMetrics confirms that 45% of top-ranked websites in 2016 use HTTPS encryption; this means an increase of 33% compared to the previous year. For 2017 this means that websites that have not yet made the switch to HTTPS will be marked as ” Not Secure ” by Google Chrome with immediate effect .
H1 and H2 headings
For this year it is important to pay more attention to matching H1 and H2 headings. SearchMetrics identified a clear, positive correlation between appropriately placed H2 headings and the ranking.
Exact-Match Anchor Text continues to have a strong impact on rankings. However, it should be noted that (since the Google Penguin Update) a penalty must also be feared, which may detect spammy or unnatural links.
So make sure your website’s backlink anchor text includes diversified and organic links:
As discussed earlier, Google’s focus is clearly on mobile-optimized sites with a positive user experience. As a result, websites with so-called “intrusive interstitial pop-ups” have been penalized since January 10, 2017. These are pop-ups such as ads or CTAs that cover the main part of the content on mobile devices or direct the user to a new page. Pages with login dialogs, small banners that are easy to click away, and pop-ups with a legal background, such as age verification, are not affected.
Optimization approaches for technical factors
- Switch your website to HTTPS encryption
- Use H2 headings, especially if the top URLs in your niche don’t
- Make sure you have a diversified and semantically relevant anchor text
- Remove all intrusive interstitials from your mobile website
In summary, we can say that Google is doing everything in its power to present the user with the most relevant compilation of search results combined with the best possible user experience. What optimization measures are on your agenda for 2017? Let us know in the comments.