Jul 25

2018 Top Ranking Signals: What Do I Need To Know?

With each year, comes a new factor used in Google rankings. HTTPS became the ranking signal in 2014. In 2015 came mobile usability and in 2016 RankBrain appeared on the scene as content development shifted. In 2017 the push for more HTTPS websites became more significant, and this year, the focus is moving toward mobile page speeds. Google’s algorithm continues to adapt to changing technology and user habits to suit their needs and provide them with the best experience. It also aims at preventing hackers from getting user data and keep them from manipulating search results.

John Mueller says that the key to a good ranking in search engine charts, in one phrase, is awesomeness. However, the question remains, with over a billion websites how do you achieve awesomeness? This question has no definite answer. Googles evaluation of sites is based on hundreds of factors to a good ranking. All of these ranking factors makes optimisation of search engines seem impossible in 2018. There is, however, a glimmer of hope. The ranking signals will go on adapting to the user. This adaptation means that it is possible to get a good ranking since optimisation trends that are carried on to the new generation have a footing in the current algorithm.

While the ranking factors will continue to change with each coming year to adapt to individual users, discussed here are the ranking factors that will carry significant weight in 2018. We shall also highlight the reasons for their importance.

Publish High-Quality Content

Content is the most crucial factor in website search engine ranking. Google is keen on recognising and rewarding content that aids users in finding information seamlessly and flawlessly. Content optimised for keywords has invaluable SEO power as pointed out in a WhiteboardFriday by Rand Fishkin. Google’s priority is to deliver on user experience and any website that achieves this will rank well. The content ranking is based on the value of information provided on the page. Quality content on a site means avoiding common errors like keyword stuffing, writing thin content or scraping content. These will give a poor user experience and will result in a poor ranking as well.

Content that lowers bounce rate, increases user’s time on page and provides helpful content is considered of a high-quality by Google’s Panda and Fred algorithm updates. Today content doesn’t just need to be long and well written. It has to cover specific areas to increase its presence in SERPs. These include:

Search Intent

Google has grown to become more sophisticated with more algorithms as the year’s pass. This is designed to promote results that meet user’s needs. Websites want to rank higher and gain organic traffic to increase sales. Building a well-ranked page requires sufficient knowledge of a user’s search intent. Understanding searcher intent will help drive organic traffic. Google has now updated search results with a snippet designed for multi-intent queries. These steps are to push websites to reshape their content to be more aligned to user intent. For instance, CoSchedule, by aligning their content to searcher intent, got a 594% increase in traffic.

Google analytics will aid you in understanding what users are searching. You can also look into Google Search Console for Search Analytics report to better understand the links people are clicking on the most.

Search Analytics Report Example

Keyword Research

There has been a lot of talk on the streets on how this is a needless factor in ranking. It, however, still supports the creation of quality content. It is also a different form of the traditional system. Keywords today serve as a roadmap to content creation. The key to a high ranking in keyword by search engines in 2018 is continuously creating helpful content for the user.

You can get keyword gems with average search volume. You can also get a higher click-through rate for your audience through data mining and competitor research. There are also a lot of freelancers who are willing to do these one-time jobs for a small payment on the internet. The results of this are worthwhile. A good example would be Chris Hornack, founder of Blog Hands who achieved an 80% rise in organic traffic to their website after taking up keyword research.

Content-Length

Google has no specific length requirement. However, through data from reputable sources, pages with more extensive content tend to get the highest ranking on Google. The average content length for website pages that are in the top 10 results for any keyword has at least 2,000 words.

The most successful blog posts, when tested, regarding organic traffic and conversions ranged from 695 to 929 words. Finding the balance between content length and quality will continue to be a critical search engine ranking factor for the rest of 2018.

Schema

Schema markup is one of the hidden components of a website that search engines use to know more about your content.

It was created in 2011 and now has six hundred different types of information that can be included. It makes it easier for search engines to access essential information about your website and tell what kind of business you are running on it and helps them to rank your site accordingly.

Voice search For Ranking

A new dawn to searching was born with the growth of Siri, Alexa, Cortona and other AI assistants. Google writes that 72% of users with a mobile device with a voice-activated speaker say they use their mobile on a daily routine.

Our guide offers some great tips on search engine optimisation for voice search. Brian Dean also recently shares some insights after reviewing ten thousand Google Home results.

Voice Search Google Ranking

Mobile Usability

In 2018, the optimisation of websites for mobile experience will no longer be an afterthought. Google is now getting closer to basing rankings on how a site’s mobile version creates traffic instead of the desktop version which means optimising pages for mobile view becomes a must do.

Optimise Your Page Speed

Page speed is now an official factor in ranking by Google. Google has a mobile-first index with mobile phones continually become Google’s preference. Slower page speeds mean fewer visitors that reflect in lower revenue. A second could cost $1.6 billion each year in sales. Slow websites are a significant risk to their operators.

Users want answers to their queries fast. In 2018 page speed is a must for websites to get a good ranking on Google. The aim should be to get your page to load in less than three seconds. Google confirmed page speed to be a ranking signal in 2018.

Tools to measure a websites average speed are available. If done by an expert, a majority of the fixes to a faster website are considerably easy to implement.

Asos Page Speed ExampleEncryption

Google has also confirmed encryption as a strong ranking factor. It can be seen as an “s” at the end of the part of the URL that starts with an “HTTP”. Encryption makes the web page secure from hackers and makes it easy to identity thieves. Security means that the user’s information cannot be stolen and their activities tracked. Failing to add that “s” to your site will be detrimental to your ranking.

It will not be of any harm to your website if it is not secured, but since Google announced encryption (HTTPS) as a ranking signal in 2014, several changes have been put in place. Browsers like Chrome, in 2017 began flagging sites without HTTPS as insecure.

The encryption process should be done with a lot of caution. A guide by Aleh Barysevich named The Ultimate Stress-Free Guide on the migration from HTTP to HTTPS should be a good comprehensive monitor.

Insecure website exampleHelp Net Security

Site Architecture

According to John Doherty of Credo, one of the most significant changes he can make to his page is fixing their site architecture. He gives a scenario in which he switched the URLs of a website from a tag page to another subcategory page to rank higher in site architecture. In changing the URL, this gave him an additional 74% in organic sessions and 41% in pages per session.

Site architecture helps users have better website navigation. It helps them find what they are searching for faster. The site becomes easy to use. It can also aid search engine crawlers to find more pages on your website.

All the pages and the navigation should be laid out in a simple manner. It should take only three to four clicks for the user to get the pages they want on the website. Although it is not entirely possible, especially with large sites, it ensures that the users find what they need and eases navigation on the page.

Metadata

Metadata is the information that users can see in the SERPs. They include title tag and page descriptions. Google, in December, increased snippet length as reported by SEJ, but more recently, reduced the lengths as confirmed by Danny Sullivan of Google. As of today, they have no fixed length.

It is in your best interests to write good precise titles and descriptions for your pages. It is, however, important to note that it is not always used.What is a meta description image

Internal Link Structure

The internal link structure is meant to aid users to find website pages better. There are five different areas to focus on in optimising your internal link structure. These, according to Corey Morris, the Voltage Marketing Vice President are;

  • Building roadmaps around specific topics in content.
  • Canonicals.
  • Helping users.
  • Managing link flow.
  • Prioritising indexing of particular pages.

In a nutshell, your strategy for linking different pages on your website should be user-friendly and aimed at giving them an easy time.

Social shares and signals

Facebook likes, Pinterest pins, tweets and shares will most likely influence your ranking on Google. These shares and likes promote your company while at the same time impacting your optimisation efforts positively. Sharing of a company link on Facebook improves traffic on the website, and this tells Google the content published on your pages are popular, reflecting a better rating.

Social media

Optimised Images

For search engines, it can be hard to make sense of pictures. Pictures do however hold a central role in helping users gain information about a company or business. To add images without missing out on opportunities for a good ranking, you have to optimise the images on your website.

A guide to help you optimise photos on your web pages is by following the following basic guidelines:

  • Reduce the size of your images to load faster.
  • Choose a descriptive name including keywords for which you are ranking.
  • Caption your images to guide users to what they are looking for.
  • Add alt text to assist the search engine in determining what the image entails.
  • Provide additional information to your image by adding a title.

Businesses have harnessed the power of images in marketing and are now moving to optimise search engines with pictures. In 2018, this is increasingly becoming a crucial factor in ranking websites in Google.

Backlinks

An authoritative and trustworthy backlink ensures that your website looks trustworthy to search engines. Through PageRank, Google can keep score of the sites that have quality and reliable backlinks. PageRank examines and evaluates the quantity and quality of the links on your web pages. It then gives a score of 0-10, helping Google rank your website. Backlinks are therefore a crucial step to getting a good ranking with Google.

Here are a few link-building strategies for quality backlinks on your website:

  • Client case studies: Shared by clients and include how they achieved improved results.
  • Expert roundups
  • Infographics: these provide an instant view of information on a specific topic.

Other contents highlighting influencers include:

  • Podcasts, video interviews etc.
  • Industry surveys
  • Free content or tools: These are usually practical tools like questionnaires and ebooks to provide the user with a significant amount of useful information.

Rich Snippets

Using schema, rich snippets markup text and data on a website and enable better visibility in the results of a Google search. Rich snippets include photos and ratings on your results. They can improve your click-through rate, and since they give users a preview of your content before they can click on it, it lowers your bounce rate.

Although Google’s John Mueller did not reveal what the ranking factors for featured snippets are, we can use Google’s guidelines on featured snippets.

According to Rob Bucci, the CEO at STAT Search Analytics, shopping boxes wrongly designed can push a snippet down the SERPs. He continues to say that the organic rank for snippets has on average dropped. In 2018, they are quickly becoming the cornerstone for voice search. His advice is to research on the types of snippets that appear on your queries and then format your page content to match them.

Assuming the contents of your pages are the interior rich snippets are your windows, and they give users a preview of your website telling them if your products are worth their time.Structured Data Rich Snippet

Give quality user experience

User experience also has a significant impact on optimising search engines. User experience involves giving your users a seamless and engaging platform on your website. By enhancing call-to-action buttons and updating their content, Main Street Host saw their page views increase by 66%.

A better UX means a longer dwell time for users. The UX is what search engines look at as a signal of the time a user spent on a page before hitting the button to go back to search results.

On-Page Optimisation

On-page optimisation deals with the technical components of SEO. It has been around for a long time and is still a weighty factor to an outstanding rating. It has a considerable impact on SERP positioning for your target keywords and website visibility.

On-Page optimisation can also help existing high-quality content get found by users and search engines much faster.

Domain age

Matt Cutts, the head of Google Webspam, has said that domain age is not an influential factor in ranking your site in search engine charts. However, there is a lot of evidence suggesting that it is, in fact, a significant player in the latter. It is important to keep check of the domain to keep your website high on the ranks of search engines, to be on the safe side.

Summary

All the ranking signals carry significant weight and together create an impressive website ranking. That said, some of the signals carry more weight than others. These should be preferably be implemented first with changing technology and society in mind. The SEO strategy will continue to become more sophisticated and comprehensive with time, and this calls for sharp marketers who keep up with changes to provide users with a great experience while getting their websites a good ranking.

As the mobile-first index and other changes take root, it is crucial to keep tabs on the optimisation skills that will help you move up the rankings and in the SERPs.

The factors could sometimes be overwhelming, and you might not be sure of where to focus your attention on in 2018. It is advisable to hand the role to experts who are updated on current search engine optimisation trends to keep tabs on your website rankings and take your business to the next search engine level.

About The Author

Ajay Chavda is the co-founder of Weboptimizers, an SEO agency in Melbourne and has been involved with SEO for over 15 years. Between the digital properties and security forums he has managed, his articles have been read by approximately 50 million unique visitors.

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