The landscape of SEO is ever changing as Google’s ranking factors are changing almost daily. One month you might be focusing on meta tags. The next month, meta tags are obsolete and you’re now hiring content writers. Content worked for a while but now the focus is on backlinks. In 2018, the landscape isn’t any less complicated. If you’re looking for new ways to increase the ranking of your website or are just beginning to get into SEO, this is a good place to start. Here are the top Google ranking factors to consider in 2018.
#1 – Rankbrain
What is Rankbrain?
Rankbrain is Google’s machine learning AI and has quickly become a top 3 ranking factor for the search engine. And the longer it runs, the more important it will become to your search engine marketing.
How does Rankbrain work?
Rank brain specifically focuses on the user experience.
So let’s say you Google “how to increase my rankings” and naturally you click on the first link. Well within about 10 – 15 seconds you notice that the content isn’t of high quality so you go back to the search results. So you’re back on Google’s search engine results page (SERPs) and you click the 4th link. Wow, what great content! You spend 3 to 5 minutes on the page and even dive deeper into the website for more content.
Well, Rankbrain noticed you bounced off the first page after 10 – 15 seconds meaning you probably had a bad user experience (ie, the results didn’t fulfill what you were looking for.). Rankbrain also noticed you spent a lot more time on that 4th result and even went deeper into the website. Rankbrain takes notice and figures it’s a great piece of content and theoretically will give it points.
So here are two things that you can improve and optimize for Google Rankbrain.
Time on Page
Time on page is an important ranking factor to consider. It is the time someone spends on a particular page on your website. The longer they take to go through the content, the more relevant it seems to Googles Rankbrain.
And the other factor is… Click through rate.
#2 – SERPs Click Through Rate
What is click-through rate for the search engine results page?
Click through is another important ranking factor to consider. When Google does you the service of actually showing your listing on the first page, it wants to ensure it’s relevant to people’s searches. The only signal that might show them that is a click. So click through rate is the number of clicks / the number of times users see your search engine listing.
Here’s how you can optimize your SERP click-through rate:
The best way to optimize your click through rate an ensuring that you have an enticing title tag and meta description. While there are a number of different strategies you can use (copywriting, keyword research) there is one strategy that really stands out:
Rip Off AdWords!
When you think about it, these AdWords and PPC companies spend thousands optimizing and A/B testing their advertising copy. They know the right words to use all in an effort to get your clicks. So, take a look at the Google ads that show up when you search for your term and take note of what keywords they’re using. Then, utilize them in your title tags and meta tags and see your click-through rates rise!
#3 – Comprehensive Content
Back in the wild-west days of SEO, Google would look at how many times a specific keyword was featured on a web page.
Now it’s less about content and more about context.
Google isn’t just looking for keywords. In fact, the more you stuff a keyword, the worse your content is going to be ranked. Now it’s about how much content you have featured, what your content says and all the different keywords you’re using.
Instead, Google looks for a breadth of information that covers an entire topic so that users can find all the information they need in one place.
So how can you create comprehensive content that ranks high in Google?
How many words does it take to get to #1 on Google? Believe it or not, there is an answer.
That’s right. For the more competitive content on the web, 1900 to 2000 words is that it takes to get your content ranking high. Of course, there are a number of other things you need (keywords, click-through rate, engagement) but word count is an easy thing to control. Of course, what you really need to is more words than the highest ranking piece of content.
The old days of keyword stuffing are long gone. Now are the days of relevant content with context. That means Google isn’t just looking for your keyword but associated words on the page that relate to your keyword. So if you’re writing an article on donuts, Google might also be looking for Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons, coffee, cops, ingredients, icing etc…
#4 – Mobile First
If you’re developing your websites for desktop first, you’re officially doing it backwards. In fact, mobile responsive design is more important than ever and mobile functionality and user experience should be your first priority.
Did you know that 60% of searches happen from a mobile phone? Well, Google knows this.
In fact, Google announced that they’re switching to a mobile-first index and that the mobile version of your website will be considered your main website and will even be the case if someone searches on a desktop! So when developing a website or speaking with a web developer, ensure your mobile is as good, if not better than you desktop version.
#5 – Video
Did you know that YouTube the second biggest search engine in the world next to Google. In fact, video is set to make up 80% of online traffic by 2021. If you haven’t thought about video before, it’s about time you start thinking about it now.
Video makes content more engaging
As we mentioned, Google’s Rankbrain is looking for engagement and more specifically, time on page. So let’s say you have an article that takes 5 minutes to read and a competitor has an article that takes 3 minutes to read. The theory is that your content should rank higher. Now let’s say you competitor has an article that takes 3 minutes to read and includes a 5 minute video that people watch. We’ll, users are spending more time with highly engaging content. That’s one of the many powers that video has.
Google Loves Itself
There’s nothing wrong with a little self love and Google is guilty of that as well. Web pages with embedded Youtube videos get a bit of an SEO boost for simply having a Google product on the page making it great for SEO. In fact, 55% of all search results contain at least one video.
#6 – Voice Search
No doubt you’ve seen Amazon’s Echo and Google Home devices as well as the many Siri commercials on TV and around the web. So how important is voice search in 2018? The short answer: REAL important.
Why is voice search important?
40% of adults perform at least one voice search per day. 40%! Everday! And that trend is growing with new devices being made to better facilitate voice search. That means as a marketer or entrepreneur, it’ll be important to leverage this new user behaviour and become a solution to your consumers problems.
How to set up your content for voice search?
Most search queries are in the form of a question. “What’s a good kale smoothie recipe?” Or “Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?”. The obvious answer is Superman. But the most obvious strategy to setting your content up for voice search is by providing both the answer and the question. That’s why FAQ’s are great to have your website. It provides you with a ton of content you can feature on the page but it also helps with voice search results.
#7 – Good Content and Links Still Important
If you’re just starting out with SEO, you might be a little overwhelmed with everything above. That’s ok, SEO has a lot of rules and factors to consider. So, the above is simply things that Google thinks is important. But the most important thing is still good content and backlinks.
What are backlinks?
Backlinks are what happens when another website links to your content because they thought it was interesting or important.
Why are backlinks important for Google rankings?
Let’s say you out 1000 new blog posts in a year. Let’s also say CNN puts out 500 stories in a year. Well, you put out the most content so you should get the most traffic, right? Wrong. What sets your website apart from CNN is backlinks. The way Google determines that CNN’s content is more important is through backlinks.
How to get more backlinks?
Strategies vary from industry to industry but the best way is to create value first, then ask for a backlink second.
Let’s say you’re a health and wellness business and you have a blog. If you reached out to every single yoga studio, gym, health and wellness business and blog simply ask to interview someone from their organization about health and wellness, how many people would say no? Not a lot. So you send them an email with 10 questions, create a blog post promoting them on your blog. Then once you’ve promoted it on social media and in your email efforts, you ask if you can write a guest post on their blog. They do none of the work, get free promotion and you get a backlink out of it. It’s a simple strategy but it works!
So there you have it!
As you can see, the future of SEO in 2018 is in Rankbrain, voice search and a mobile first experience. These are the most important Google ranking factors to consider in 2018. Focusing on Rankbrain means focusing on the user experience. Are you creating all encompassing content that answers the many questions your customers have? Are you keyword stuffing or creating content with a breadth of related keywords? How will you get backlinks to your website? These are questions you need to answer. However, once they are answered, you’ll be ranking in Google and ranking high on the search engine in no time.