We may never know the full list of SEO factors in Google’s infamous algorithm. But, for the first time ever, we were given a peak behind the curtain when Google unveiled the top three SEO signals in 2016.
On March 23, 2016 Andrey Lipattsev, the Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, responded to a question from Ammon Johns about the most important signals in Google’s algorithm. The conversation became quite candid when Andrey revealed, “I can tell you what they are.” Without hesitating, Andrey mentioned content, links and RankBrain and internet marketers everywhere rejoiced.
- The Importance of Content for On-page SEO
With Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda, search engine optimization (SEO) has changed throughout the years. Each annual update brings new questions about the best ways to reach the top of search. What we know now is that content was and will forever reign King.
People who are searching online usually have a problem requiring a solution or a question seeking an answer. Google wants to surface thought leaders, industry experts and other authoritative sources with helpful and informative content. Content equals credibility, and Google will reward websites that supply site visitors with resources, pages, blog posts and content to keep them coming back.
Look no further than bounce rate to better understand Google’s thinking. Bounce rate reflects the percentage of users that leave a website without visiting a second page. A low bounce rate indicates relevant information and higher engagement. So ask yourself, what keeps visitors on your website? And what brings them back? In one word, content! Original content is the key to commencing a conversation with your customer and building your credibility in the eyes of Google.
- The Importance of Links for Off-Page SEO
If content is paramount to onsite SEO, look no further than links for offsite SEO. Inbound links act as votes, and the more votes the higher your website will rank. SEO can be that simple, but of course it rarely is. There’s always the quality vs. quantity argument, and today it’s essential to obtain links from authority domains in a similar niche.
Years ago, Google introduced PageRank as a way of measuring the importance of website pages. Unfortunately, PageRank is no longer public but Moz and Majestic have created a similar scoring system to weigh website authority. A domain linking to your website that has high authority passes on some of that authority to your website. We call this “link juice” and your job is to build more link juice than your competitors.
There are a number of ways to obtain links, including submitting your site to local directories, partnering with larger websites and submitting guest blogs. Link building can be incredibly time consuming, and success requires a long-term approach based on white hat or safe techniques. Do not become tempted at fast and temporary results from black hat SEO: Google will eventually find out and may remove your website from their index.
- RankBrain: The Artificial Intelligence In Google Search Results
The third ranking factor is likely the most difficult to grasp. The geniuses at Google developed artificial intelligence known as RankBrain so search becomes smarter in real-time. When you search for apple, do you mean the fruit or the tech company? RankBrain helps Google interpret search results better.
One of the few examples provided by Google is for the query “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” Most of us (myself included) believe “consumer” is referring to a person who purchases something. However, consumer is also a scientific word for something/someone that consumes food. With RankBrain, Google can interpret the intent and populate scientific results. It’s this type of contextual understanding that allows for improved search results. Thanks RankBrain.
Your top task is to focus on providing a positive experience for the people arriving on your website. Keeping a visitor informed and asking her to share your content via social media and backlinks is your goal. RankBrain will do the rest and you’ll be on top of search in no time.
Michael Peggs is the founder of Marccx Media, where they specialize in SEO and Content Marketing, and owner of EZSiteBuilders. Before Marcxx, Peggs worked at Google in business development, forming digital media and advertising partnerships. He is also a blogger and podcaster, hosting the iTunes Top 10 New & Noteworthy podcast You University – The Personal Branding Podcast.