Google Ranking Factors for 2018 and Beyond
Every experienced SEO expert will agree to the fact that search engine optimization is not what it used to be in the earlier days. In fact, the rules and ethics of SEO keep changing or are rather rewritten every year. What gave your website positive results in 2017 may not be applicable in 2018.
While the fundamental aspects remain the same, you will still find significant changes that you cannot ignore if you want to rank higher. That’s right, we’re talking about Google ranking factors that can make or break your website’s position in the SERPs.
If you are a business that wants Google to send you more relevant traffic in 2018 and give your site the attention it deserves, then you will want to read our post carefully where we detail some of the most important Google ranking factors to focus on. In fact, you should bookmark this article so that you can come back to it later whenever needed.
Please do not give heed to anyone who tells you these Google ranking factors don’t matter. Because it’ll only work against your site’s performance. You want relevant visitors consistently visiting your site, right? Then chuck the outdated SEO techniques, unlearn the old and embrace the new. Or else there will be competitors who are more than ready to take you over with the latest SEO tactics.
Why Focus on the Important Google Ranking Factors
SEO for some can feel complicated, and confusing to others. The reason for this is, there is so much misguided information out there, it gets difficult to follow the right advice. And following the wrong suggestions can hurt your site’s SEO.
If you look around the web, you’ll see that there are many Google ranking factors that SEO professionals believe you should concentrate on. However, as Google evolves and enhances its technology, the list of Google ranking factors keeps growing. And it’s not easy for a website, especially a small business site to focus on every single one of these factors.
The solution to this “overwhelming” problem is that you focus only on those Google ranking factors that will make the biggest difference. While the less important factors are not useless, they may not be worth spending time on.
The core idea is to use quality SEO tactics rather than working on the ones that don’t make a big difference. Because the fact is, 80% of your SEO success comes from focusing on 20% of the Google ranking factors.
Also, some Google ranking factors apply better to only some type of sites. You should try to work on those that universally apply to all types of websites, including yours.
Now, let’s look into a list of Google ranking factors that actually matter in the year 2018. These factors may not feel super important at first glance, but once you take action on them, you’ll see the difference for yourself.
Ranking Factor #1: Backlinks
It’s 2018 and backlinks still remain one of the most important Google ranking factors to focus on. They give Google a clear signal about how good your website is in terms of quality and relevance. Which means Google will always give more weight to quality backlinks than poor backlinks in high quantity.
The reason marketers fail to gain the right kind of backlinks is:
- They don’t produce content that their audience wants.
- They don’t promote their content consistently.
Getting more authority sites in your niche to link to your content tells Google that your page is worth ranking. The more quality links you have, the better. The search engine giant puts backlinks in the bracket of crucial Google ranking factors because they are difficult to game.Google judges your links based on three factors:
- The number of links your page has
- The authority of the pages linking to it
- The diversity of your backlinks
Let’s now look at two things that can impact your link building campaign:
Google has come a long way when it comes to backlinks. They not only understand them better but also use them most efficiently when judging the relevance of a page. How do they do it? The answer is “link score”, which calculated based on:
- The individual quality score of an incoming link
- The quantity of backlinks to the website
This just goes on to show the importance of both, quantity and quality when building backlinks. Having too many low-quality backlinks can hurt your website’s SEO.
Also, Google doesn’t count multiple links from the same domain name. Which means you need to put your effort into increasing the number of linking domains and ensure they come from relevant websites.
Relevant Anchor Text
Does the anchor text of an incoming link matter in SEO? Of course it does. It always has. Similar to how the content of a page gives Google more information about a site and the target keyword, anchor text tells Google how relevant a backlink is.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can game the system. The anchor text from your incoming links needs to be both natural and diverse. There’s no perfect formula to get the right balance between these two, but here are the industry averages:
In order to understand your link profile better and get more clarity, you can use a link auditing software that helps you in:
- Monitoring the quantity and quality of backlinks to your website
- Reaching out and getting backlinks from relevant, authority websites in your niche
- Getting rid of poor, spammy-looking links or disavow them
Ranking Factor #2: Content Length
Long form content isn’t as common as short form content, because it’s not easy to produce on a consistent basis, unless you’re working with a content marketing agency. However, from an SEO point of view, it’s totally worth creating it.
Content that is in-depth and relevant is simply…
- More engaging because it gives more details and delivers real value
- Highly shareable because people like sharing useful content that answers their questions
- Better overall according to Google because it gives search users what they are looking for
If you analyze the top ranking pages, you’ll find that long form content almost always performs better. Going by the recent studies, it’s one of those Google ranking factors that cannot and should not be ignored.
Your aim should never be about creating bloated articles that have been lengthened only for increasing word count. It’s true that longer articles have a higher chance of reaching the top. But you need to understand that Google wants articles that are long and also offer quality.
When your content is not just lengthier but is also packed with value, you begin to earn the real benefits of SEO, that help you rank better.
Benefit: Attract More Links
Quality backlinks are seen as positive votes by Google, helping it judge the quality and relevancy of your page. Creating long form content helps you attract backlinks from reputed (and relevant) websites that are respectable in the eyes of Google. These authority websites are more likely to link to an article that is an in-depth resource rather than a short form piece of content that doesn’t go beyond a few hundred words.
So the number one reason as to why long form content helps you earn great backlinks is the fact it is highly useful and more comprehensive in nature. While it’s possible to deliver value with short content, the chances are slim when compared to longer content that gives away more knowledge and extreme value.
Also, Google knows that people don’t like to jump from one site to another to find a complete answer to their query. They want a complete resource and targeted knowledge under one roof. And longer articles help them get just that.
Benefit: Get More Social Media Shares
According to a study done by Quicksprout, longer articles considerably attracted more social shares when compared to shorter ones. They found that articles that had greater than 1,500 words received more engagement (68.1% increase on Twitter and 22.6% increase on Facebook).
We’ve already seen in the previous point how publishing longer articles can help you earn the right kind of backlinks. Things aren’t very different with social shares because, naturally, when people like your content, they may go out of their way to share it with their own network of followers.
Social media users today not only want to read useful and comprehensive content, but they also want to share the same. Long form content is appealing and allows them to be associated with something worthy every time they hit the share button.
Long Form Content Works Only When It’s Good
While content length is something you should not ignore, you cannot solely depend on it. In other words, you can’t just carelessly inflate your article word count just for the sake of making it longer. It has have to some substance.
You need to ensure that your content length goes hand in hand with quality/relevant information. Every word that you add should add clarity to the whole topic, or else it’s better to chuck it. Because users and search engines both want top notch content and nothing less.
So as long as your content is great, it can be lengthy. That’s the only condition you need to fulfill. It’s okay to publish short form content from time to time. But your main focus should be producing in-depth articles (that are worth reading) in order to get on Google’s radar.
Last but not the least, you need to give your readers value that makes you stand out from the rest. Be different in your approach by helping them in more than one way…
- Answer any questions that they may have about your product, service or the industry that you’re operating in. Enlighten them with specific pieces of advice.
- Solve targeted problems and give real solutions that make their life easy.
- Create a resource and give them a reason to share/link to you.
When you focus on creating a unique selling point for your content and focus on providing value in your own way, it’ll give you an edge over the competition.
This not only leads to a high quality user engagement, but also improves your brand visibility. Which in turn improves your search engine rankings in the search engine result pages.
Ranking Factor #3: Mobile First User Experience
The search engine optimization industry has come a long way, and so have the many Google ranking factors that impact it. Today in 2018, if you want your website to rank above your competitors, you need to worry more about its user experience than other smaller aspects.
In fact, the reason why Google created it’s now infamous RankBrain algorithm was to de-rank websites that don’t offer their visitors a great user experience.
Not too long ago, in the year 2016, Google quietly started giving importance to “mobile-first indexing”. As a result, Google’s index now gives preference to the mobile version of a website (against its desktop version) when it comes to crawling it.
In order to give your visitors a great user experience and gain more brownie points in the eyes of Google, make sure you focus on improving your site’s:
- Page Speed: How can you expect to give your visitors a good user experience if your website loads slow? Page speed is one factor that definitely finds place in Google’s ranking algorithm. The search engine has made it clear that beginning in July 2018, it will consider page speed as a ranking factor when it comes to mobile searches.
The question is, how fast should a website load? The faster, the better. But technically speaking, a mobile site should load in two seconds or less. And its desktop counterpart should not take more than three seconds to load.
Keep in mind that Google allocates a crawl budget to your site. Which means, slow-loading pages will affect the number of pages the search engine crawls. Also, slow pages can make people spend less time on your page or leave it all together, leading to a higher bounce rate.
- Mobile Friendliness: Mobile friendliness is no longer an option, it has become a necessity. Today, more than 85% of websites on the web are mobile friendly, which is important for SEO. So as a brand, try to think beyond mobile friendliness and focus on being mobile-first in every way.
Google knows that more and more people are using their mobile devices to conduct searches. So if your site isn’t optimized for mobile, forget about getting it ranked in mobile search.
Go ahead and take advantage of the Google Search Console to ensure your website’s mobile version is on the right track:
– Use the same structured markup on your mobile site and desktop.
– Use the txt testing tool to see if your mobile version can be accessed by the Googlebot
– Use the PageSpeed Insights tool to check your site’s speed.
Making your website user-friendly for mobile users isn’t rocket science. Taking a few simple steps can make a world of a difference to not only its mobile user experience but also how Google views it.
Ranking Factor #4: Click Through Rate
The search engine algorithm designed by Google keeps changing, and continues to get better. Even though a lot about this algorithm is secretive, Google is open about the click through rate or CTR, which is important metric when measuring SEO success.
CTR is calculated by dividing the number of clicks your website’s search result gets by the number of views or impressions. This simple metric speaks volumes about how well your site is performing in the SERPs. A higher CTR means that your search result is enticing enough and is attracting the attention of the search users.
The reason why you need to optimize for a good click through rate is simple: the more people visit your site via Google search, the more chances you have to convert them into leads or sales. Search users visiting your website and engaging with your content should be one of your topmost SEO priorities.
A lot has been written about Improving the CTR. But if you look at it closely, achieving a higher CTR isn’t rocket science. It’s all about understanding how you can make it easy for them to grasp what your page is about. If you succeed in it, you will have no problem attracting those much needed clicks.
You can start by optimizing the two most important parts of your site’s search engine result:
- Title Tag (clickable link)
- Meta Description (readable snippet)
Achieving a higher CTR requires you to create a title tag that is not only relevant but is also persuasive in nature. It should convey the most important benefit for the search user so that he or she is compelled to click on it.
And then comes the meta description, which you should write in a convincing manner while keeping brevity in mind. Some people skip reading the description before clicking on the title and visiting your site. But the majority of them do glance over it to see what they can expect from your page.
Getting a higher ranking on the first page of Google will prove to be useless if people are clicking and visiting your website. Working on the CTR while you aim for top rankings can help you funnel in more organic search traffic over a period of time.
If you manage to reach the first position in Google for your preferred keyword, your site will receive the highest click through rate because according to common SEO knowledge, you can expect 35% click through rate in the first position. Remember, the lower your website ranks, the lower is your CTR.
Your CTR and visibility go hand in hand. They are dependent on each other because if you manage to get a higher CTR, you will obviously see a higher visibility due to increase in search rankings. But for that you need to have strong, relevant metadata. Which in turn impacts your visibility in a positive way, boosting your CTR in the process.
Ranking Factor #5: Other Technical Signals
The Google ranking factors we discussed above are important in 2018 and beyond. However, there are a few other technical signals that you should focus on in order to improve the chances of ranking your site.
- HTTPS Encryption: In layman terms, HTTPS makes a visitor’s connection to your website secure. If you find the lock icon closed in your browser’s address bar, then the site’s connection is secure. If it’s open, it’s not secure. So what does this have to do with SEO? Apparently, using an HTTPS encryption may improve your chances of hitting the first page of Google. According to a study done by SearchMetrics, almost half of the top ranking websites use an HTTPS encryption. What’s more, Google itself confirmed that websites that use an HTTPS encryption rank higher than sites that use HTTP.
- H1 and H2 Headings: The many different types of headings that you find on a page have one goal: make the page’s content more organized to help people and search engines understand it better. It particularly gives search engine a clearer picture of the information the page and how relevant it is. You’ll find more pages using the H1 and H2 tags in their source code in 2018 when compared to earlier years. Why? Because websites are realizing the importance of well-structured content matters for SEO. In fact, SearchMetrics says that pages using at least one heading tag tend to rank better.
- Interstitials Ads: We all know how pop-up ads can be intrusive and hurt a website’s user experience. But they can also negatively affect your site’s SEO. In its quest to focus on mobile-first optimization, Google has given a big thumbs down to interstitial pop-up ads that don’t add to the UX of a website.
Google as a company cares about its users and wants them to have a great experience when they visit a website from its search results. However, when the user has a hard time navigating to the content due to an intrusive, hard-to-close pop-up ad, they may not be too happy. Which is why sites using such pop-ups can attract a Google penalty.
Pop-ups are acceptable in the eyes of Google only when they are necessary. So if you’re using one to verify the age of your visitor or to show a login dialog on your page, you’re in the safe zone.
How Does Your Site Look in the Eyes of Google?
Essentially, as long as you follow these guidelines for Google ranking factors consistently, produce new and valuable content, and keep your site up to date, then you’re sure to provide a user experience that Google will love.