Everyone is trying to be the big fish in the Google pound. Although the algorithms used by search engines (especially Google) are a well-kept secret and are constantly changing, there are clear indicators of what is taken into account when ranking search results. By analyzing common practices for sites that rank among the top search results we can derive what are the best practices for creating our own high-performance websites.
To navigate the wild search engine landscape, we listed the top 5 SEO ranking factors that are common to the highest page 1 websites in 2018:
1. Website security: HTTPS
Top ranking websites from all industries are using HTTPS, and your ranking will suffer without it. Switching to HTTPS will not only help to build user trust, it’s been officially announced by Google as a ranking signal!
2. Content Relevance VS Length
Search engines reward original, relevant content that is long enough to meet user intent and expectations. Consider what is the question your audience is asking and how long it takes to answer it. This will help establish you as the authority on the subject.
Simple questions can successfully reach the top listings with 200 words or so, while technical and more complex subjects will require a much more in-depth answer.
Recent global numbers show that best ranking posts results are approximately 2000 words in length, which will take the average user 8 minutes to read. However, it is known that Google is planning to swap to a mobile-first index. Taking into account that mobile user behavior tends to prefer shorter content, we can estimate that length itself will be less of a factor, while meaningful content will be king.
3. Website Speed
Website loading times have been an important factor in search engine ranking for a while. In mid-2018, expect a renewed focus on site speed as Google will use mobile page speed as a ranking in their mobile search results.
Keeping up the trend of user-centric service, Google is merely replicating user behavior and participation based on the steady rise of page views from mobile devices and decreasing user patience when it comes to page loading times. Latest research shows that 40% of users will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Optimizing your website for speed is certainly a good investment towards better SEO ranking, and optimizing mobile page speed will considerably improve your chances of being on page 1.
4. Link Building
Google is getting better at understanding the context within which keywords are placed. This means that old practices of stuffing multiple keywords into anchor links, titles and everywhere else will be marked as spam and will actually hurt SEO.
Instead, search engines are rewarding relevant link-building. This includes high-quality content, trusted references, participation in comments that provide contextual value to a forum discussion, listing in relevant directories and informative sites with absolutely NO backlink-buying!
5. User Metrics
Low bounce rates and high pages per session are directly related to high ranking positioning. Even if these numbers are not a direct Google ranking signal, they are certainly indicators that top ranking sites have more relevant content, better site speed, and high user trust.
Investing in a good mobile user experience is a requirement to stay afloat in today’s web; mobile usage has been growing to be the largest portion of visitors in many segments.
In a nutshell…
The healthiest approach to improve your search engine results is to understand that the primary goal of Google is to provide their users with what they are looking for in the most efficient way. If your website has the users in mind, you are already on your way to performing well.
In practical terms, that means content is king! Give users what they are looking for and make sure it is a pleasant experience for them. They will love your website and Google will too.