The Top 7 Google Ranking Factors in 2018
Search Engine Optimization is a field that changes pretty much everyday and you must stay up to date with the latest tactics and trends to be successful. Google applies updates to their core algorithm almost every single day and if you are unwilling or don’t know what to change, you will be left behind……especially in competitive markets. With Google now implementing artificial intelligence, the hummingbird update, Penguin 4.0, and Panda filters, you can’t just blindly expect your pages or posts to rank highly without incorporating the best practices to please the Google algorithms. With all of that in mind, here is what I believe to be the most important 7 Google ranking factors in 2018.
1.) Content Quality
The phrase “Content is King” is used often, but at the end of the day it is the most important factor right now! While it is still possible to rank a poorly written page, the amount of off-page SEO required is much much greater. When you take the time to create excellent content, it makes ranking that page exponentially easier. What do I mean by content quality? Essentially, the piece of content needs to be better than the sites you are trying to compete against. It needs to be extremely in-depth and actually useful to the end reader. It may have to be really long, it may need to have an infographic or video embedded, it may need to be a buying guide. There has been research stating that a long and more comprehensive article DOES have a positive correlation with Google ranking. So it’s always best to make a longer article, but make sure the quality doesn’t drop. The point is that it needs to provide value!
I debated listing this as the #1 ranking factor, but I decided against it because having a great piece of content to work with and link is so important right now. That being said, backlinks are required to rank anything but the easiest of keywords. Backlinks are still one of the major ranking factors and this won’t be changing any time soon. The more links that you acquire from high quality sources, the better your chances for ranking desired keywords. Given all the recent updates Google has applied, its important to keep your backlink profile clean and not over-optimized. Focus on the quality of links, not the quantity and don’t use money keyword anchors. If you are diligent and patient on your linkbuilding, you will be rewarded in the future!
3.) Mobile-Friendly Websites
Just a few weeks ago, Google announced they were finally making the switch to mobile first indexing. In the past, Google has used the desktop version of a website to create it’s “index” of all websites they want included in their search results. Now that mobile phones are becoming more popular, they have switched the index to use the mobile versions of websites. As you can imagine, this is a very large signal from Google stating that your website NEEDS to be mobile friendly. We highly recommend utilizing a responsive website that automatically transforms to the size of the screen being used. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, you need to make the switch and make it fast!
4.) Page Loading Speed
Since Google has decided to go with a mobile-first indexing approach, it only makes sense that they have made page loading speed more important than ever. If your website is slow to load, you will have a much more difficult time ranking at the top. As always, Google states that their end goal is to increase the user experience of the end user and they feel this is a significant factor. So how do you go about decreasing your page speed? There are many free tools out there including Google’s own PageSpeed Insights and my personal favorite, GTMetrix. If you have a wordpress website, there are many free and paid plugins available that can decrease your page loading speed considerably.
5.) Branding and Social Signals
Branded searches and traffic from social media sources is a strong signal to Google and other search engines that your website is popular. A website that gets a good amount of branded searches is going to rank easier than a site that gets little to no branded searches. Social signals are also a great signal, but it might not work the way you think. Acquiring 1000 Facebook social signals is certainly not a bad thing, but the combination of strong links validated by social activity can be an even more powerful ranking strategy. In 2018, it’s important to combine branded searches, social signals, and strong backlinks to maximize the greatest search visibility.
6.) Schema Markup
This is a little known and overlooked tactic that is starting to gain popularity. SEO’s in the know have been utilizing this for years, but many web designers don’t incorporate this from the beginning and it definitely hurts the performance of the site. Essentially, schema code is a way to tell Google very specific things such as a business address, phone number, type of organization, reviews, recipes, and more. This code is especially for smaller local businesses as you can tell Google your exact location and it will help your local seo rankings. Don’t overlook this!
Implementing encryption on your website is now more important than ever. It’s a well known fact that SSL/HTTPS is a ranking factor, but not a huge one. On October 17, 2017 Google made another announcement which warned webmasters about using the HTTP protocol. I have switched over multiple sites to this encryption and it provide a nice small ranking boost across all the keywords I was tracking. The best part is that this is so easy to do. You can simply get a certificate from your hosting provider and it will be up and running in just minutes. Some hosts charge an annual fee for this, while others provide it as a free service. Either way, take the time to make this a priority.