SEO Food For Thought: Ranking Factors to Help Your SERP Position

Ranking In the New Year: Ranking Factors to Help Your SERP Position

Our colleagues at Searchmetrics have released their annual report detailing the key factors that influence Google’s ranking positions. And since we’re at the beginning of the year we thought it best to share some of these findings to serve as a little SEO food for thought.

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Greater Personalization of Ranking Factors

Due to the prevalence and responsiveness of Machine Learning Algorithms, ranking factors are constantly changing and recalibrating to reflect specific users and search queries. In this way, ranking factors are becoming increasingly personalized as algorithms continuously learn more about the user. This can be unnerving – particularly for the SEO community – as there are no set rules to follow. As Machine Learning Algorithms mimic the success humans look for, we as marketers should focus on producing relevant content and high quality material if we wish to rank well in the SERP.

And this brings us to the next point:

Google Is Watching You

Google has a repertoire full of useful tools to track interests, behaviours, etc. All of this information builds a cyber profile that Google uses to provide a unique search experience for both the individual user and improvements for the general population. The details are still buried deep in Google’s algorithm and not readily available for marketers. However, we know there are some key metrics Google uses to measure the value of your content and your subsequent SERP position. These are click through rate (CTR) and time on site. Let’s explore these in detail.

The likelihood a visitor will click on a SERP listing (this is a conversion known as CTR) is an indication of how relevant that listing is to a user in comparison to competing listings. How can you prompt a user to click on your listing? It’s important to ensure your content is relevant, appealing to an audience, and effectively communicates to Google the nature of your site. This combination of engaging material coupled with knowledge of what content Google uses to create your listing is key to killer search listings and to improving your SERP ranking. This is why most SEO starts with well-written page titles, vivid descriptions, compelling page copy, and in some cases the associated open directory content to help increase your CTR to lift up your rankings.

And here we arrive at time on site; CTR alone will not change your SERP position drastically. “Click bait” is the perfect example – it experiences a high CTR but poor time on site. This is because the content offers little substance to the visitor. Visitors must spend enough time on your site for Google to consider the visitor experience relevant and valuable for their search. Time on site is most likely the metric Google uses to measure visitor engagement. In an increasingly competitive market the only real way to encourage a user to stick around on your site is to provide them with valuable content. Ask yourself these questions: Do you have content visitors crave? Would you visit your site for this information? Would visitors be willing to share the information with friends or colleagues? Honest answers to these questions will help you determine if your content is engaging. And here is the bare truth; creating good content is resource intensive – there is no short cut here. Take the time to create good content and you’ll be rewarded with increased time on your site.

Social Signals

Social Media remains important when determining ranking position. This comes as no surprise as producers of engaging content typically experience higher CTR and social shares. As Searchmetrics reports, the correlation between social signals and ranking position remains “extremely high”, however they did exhibit a slight decline over the past year.

Backlinks Are On Their Way Out

Backlinks have long been a driving factor in determining ranking position. However, the past few years have demonstrated a decline in the importance of backlinks, and 2016 was no exception.

Looking forward, mobile-first technology will likely replace the backlink as determining ranking position. In 2015, Google reported more searches occurred on mobile devices than on computers. And in 2016, Google withdrew its “mobile-friendly” label for websites as it found 85% of websites meet these requirements.

So as Mobile becomes the go-to platform for Search, sharing and liking a URL is gaining traction as a ranking factor. This reinforces the critical importance of social signals in determining ranking.

If you would like more information on how to influence your ranking position, feel free to contact our team at Search Warrant.