Technical Search Ranking Factors for Google U.S. 2015
[This data was taken from a study conducted by Searchmetrics]
Over the past few years we have teaching Inbound Marketing practices. Meaning the use of content optimization, content creation, social network promotion and interaction, lead generation and being mobile friendly. Are they still relevant in the latter part of 2015?
The Technical Aspects of Ranking
Remember, descriptions are for humans, to help them decide whether to click on your page or not when shown in a search result. When I say page, I mean website content or your blog content.
Strong meta descriptions still improve the users experience causing higher click through rates and in the long run improve your rankings.
Remember to have a unique description on all pages of your website.
Referred to as H1 and H2. Top ranking pages are optimized with these header tags on their pages, which also enhance the user experience. It seems that Google cares about our experiences. Imagine that! After all, that is what they do for business – give us the best search results out there.
Pages with header tags have higher click-through rates, lower bounce rates, higher time on site, and result in better page rankings.
Keyword in Domain Name
In the past this seemed to matter if your domain had keywords, but now it does not. Focus on creating great content with keyword phrases, and don’t worry about that domain name. I mean, what does the word Google mean anyway?
There have been some rumors that websites should add security certificates, HTTPS encryption, in order to rank better. It is common practice to have it on pages if they collect any sensitive information, but not otherwise.
The report sees it as becoming more relevant and is a ranking factor for Google, but not necessarily for all sites. It still remains a must do for sites collecting sensitive information. My interpretation is that if you are collecting sensitive information and you do not have SSL certificate, you may be penalized in the rankings.
Plain and simple, the more optimized pages you have out there, the higher you are going to be ranked.
There are more inside pages (blog pages for example) in search results than home pages. In fact, 90% of the results were interior pages. That is because Google wants to give the best result for the query. And your blog article is probably that best result!
What about the User Experience?
The technical considerations were geared towards the search engine side of things. But humans are finding your information and if it is difficult to use, then your ranking will likely suffer. Here are the highlights:
- Internal links allow for your users to easily find the information they are searching for and in turn are satisfied. An optimized link structure also maximizes the crawlability by search engines.
- Images enhance your users experience and increases time on site. Remember, images should be optimized with keywords because they come up in searches and link back to your site.
- 8 out of 10 videos on top ranking sites are YouTube. Video increases the user experience plus time on site. And they are often shared on social networks.
- Make sure your website is made with responsive design.
- Font sizes should be uniform across the site. Average above the fold font size is 14 pts and central parts of the page is 12 pts. Design for the readability on smaller screens. The smaller the display the larger the font should be.
- Top ranking sites have a higher proportion of interactive elements, such as menus and buttons that help structure the site. Better structured content ranks higher.
- Use of unordered lists ranks better due to having better structured content. And the higher number of bullets, the higher the ranking.
- Google gives negative rating to sites with too much advertising.
Most Important Ranking Factors – User Signals
- Click through rate
- time on site
- Bounce rate
Why? Because your users behaviors are good indicators of how well your site is optimized for the user experience.
Content is Still King
Good quality, relevant content is still the most important thing you can produce for search rankings. So what factors should you consider? These results are from higher ranking sites according to the report.
- Word Count – Average between 1140 and 1285 per articles/page.
- Keyword in the description – Don’t focus so much on the keyword as developing optimally formulated descriptions with relevant content for your intended audience.
- Keywords in the body – Related terms are more important and relevance of infromation. Focus on writing to answer the needs of your intended audience.
- Keywords in internal links – This is still important to landing high rankings. So link keywords inside your posts to other related articles on your blog or website. However, don’t use your keywords to link externally!
- Readability – The difficulty of text should match your intended audience. Determine the grade level and level of complexity for your intended audience.
Top Ranking Sites Have More Social Signals
Still wondering why you need to use social networks to communicate with your customers and potential customers? It seems that if you are trying to increase your ranking in search results, you better not ignore the social side of things. Here are some results from the report.
- Websites with the number 1 position have twice as many Facebook signals than those in second position.
- Top ranking sites have more +1s in Google+ and more tweets and re-tweets.
Simply put, the higher ranking websites have more social activity.
It still remains that creating relevant content for your ideal customer is the best thing you can do. Inbound Marketing methodologies still produce the best results by optimizing your great content, continuing discussions through lead generation, promoting and building community on social networks, and having responsive pages that are user friendly. No tricks, just good content.
Learn more by attending one of our training sessions or conferences. Take control of your marketing!