Every year Searchmetrics releases its study of SEO ranking factors for Google.de. Searchmetrics analyses a set of 10.000 relevant keywords in Google to find the correlations between ranking positions and ranking factors. For SEOs they are a handy guideline on what to look out for in the future. In this blog we will talk you through the most important take-aways, and help you on your way to reach your goals for 2017.
Machine Learning – RankBrain
The Google algorithm based on machine learning evaluates search queries in “real time” and presents the most relevant results on the search engine results pages (SERPs). RankBrain, as the update is called, dates back to 2015, but we now really see its effects on the ranking positions.
RankBrain was at the beginning introduced to handle the 15% of new search queries Google did not know how to deal with so far. RankBrain is learning with the new search queries, can see patterns between them and understands how they are related. Because of this advanced form of artificial intelligence, we can in 2017 likely wave goodbye to Ranking Factors as we know them. The new challenge in SEO is to solve internet user’s problems with content that matches their intent. This could be as plain as answering a question that is typed into Google.
Content is more important than ever
It is no news that the days of keyword stuffing are over. Simply wrapping 500 words around a keyword stopped making a difference a long time ago. As a website owner it is extremely important to think like an internet user. When you search, you want to have the most relevant search results at the top. Data from the Searchmetrics study shows that the positions 3-6 on the SERPs have a higher content relevance than other search results. The first two positions are often reserved for the big brands, and are hard to tackle. The top results in some cases do not even have the keyword in the Page Title or the H1-Tags. This is because Google evaluates content according to relevance now, and not only by the inclusion of individual keywords.
In order to make a difference in your industry, you have to write relevant content that is targeted towards the specific user intent. You want your users to share your content, so you can also make a difference on the social media side of SEO. Again, it is important to know what users could possibly want from you. One way to do this is to do thorough keyword research, to know what is trending and to use this information to write relevant, holistic content.
Don’t forget the Technical Aspects
Yes, Google’s RankBrain is extremely clever. However, it still wants to have the easiest way when understanding the content of a webpage. Therefore, you will have to make sure your website has:
- Quick pagespeed
- Low file size of pictures and documents
- A clear page architecture
- A mobile friendly experience
- Title Tags, H1-Tags and Meta Descriptions
Starting in 2017 Google is favouring websites with the HTTPS-protocol. This has already been a significant ranking factor for eCommerce, but it is very likely that this is going to go to count for other industries as well. Chrome is marking HTTP-websites as unsafe, so 2017 might be a good year to jump on the bandwagon.
Less Backlinks, more Internal Links
In 2015 we already wrote that the importance of backlinks is likely to decline. However, back then the top-ranked webpages had a higher number of backlinks than its competitors. It is now possible for a website to achieve a high Google ranking despite having fewer links than its competitors. If users are constantly avoiding your website from the results, your website will be pushed down, even if you have a lot of backlinks. Google can gauge this by looking at Click-Through-Rates. This does not mean that Backlinks are out of the picture. If you are looking for a link building focus for 2017, consider aiming improving the internal links on your website. Internal links help users to engage with other parts of your website and contribute to user experience. You want users to stay on your website, so you can improve your Time on Site. In order to track your progress, it is vital to make sure your Analytics set-up is up to scratch.
SEO Tips for 2017
It is safe to say that the Google algorithm has reached a level that it can teach itself how to go forward, this thanks to complicated deep learning techniques. Should this scare you? No, in 2017 ranking factors like we knew them will likely become a thing of the past. From here onwards every industry will have its own range of ranking factors. As content is becoming more and more important, and RankBrain is reading along, there lie great opportunities for creativity ahead of us.