According to Google in 2016, they stated that Rankbrain was the 3rd most important ranking factor only beaten by Links and Content in no particular order. In my opinion, this is no way tells the whole story as to what is going on out there and one has to look somewhat deeper, work everyday in the SERPS and use software to measure and test what Google is actually doing.
Rankbrain & Hummingbird and How They work Together
Firstly, it’s important to understand how Google works. The following article and screenshot below https://www.clickdo.co.uk/blog/how-rankbrain-and-hummingbird-works explains this in a concise manner and credit to clickdo.co.uk for explaining simply what is quite a complicated topic.
But what about Panda Quality, Penguin Links and Other Algorithm Updates?
Well these have certainly not gone away, its worth mentioning a little talked factor which is a “quality score”. Google is likely to be using this to either enhance or supplement its Page Rank Score which we all used to use back in the day. This maybe being deployed in the way Rand Fishkin whiteboard video describes here https://moz.com/blog/organic-quality-score which goes someway to part explaining why some sites can rank pages without links, traffic or social shares.
Common Sense Tactics Going Forward
Boiling all of this down, there is certainly more than the 200 Google Ranking Factors quoted as up to 300 can actually be measured, however, from what I have seen, pay attention to the following list which take into account Google’s 2018 algorithms;
Technical on Page Factors – avoid duplicate & thin content, slow loading pages, apply Schema correctly etc
Title Tags and H1’s still Matter!
SSL your site!
Optimise for Schema and Featured Snippets.
Review your Old Backlinks – It’s all too easy for Google to spot unnatural links these days, lets face it SEO’s and Webmasters have been doing a great job of providing Google with all of this information.
Think about Content – How often are blogs published for the sake of it with no thought given to the end user. Quality must always win over quantity with the aim of driving traffic, engagement, social shares and links if possible.
Engagement – The elephant in the room and in part brought about by the rise of mobile searches which now outstrip desktop. Google Chrome Browser tracks your every move from clicking into a website to how long you stay and what pages you visit. If your user metrics are worse than the competition for any given search query, why does your page deserve to be higher in the SERPS. The takeaway here is improve your website design and page experience to satisfy user queries. In other words, optimise for real users!
Branding and Traffic – Again, not widely talked about, however, studies have been done which prove brand awareness improves Click Through Rates (CTR’s) for listings in Google Search. Also, Google Chrome Browser is not just tracking what goes on Google Search but every site you visit, therefore, if Social or Paid Traffic is providing a good user experience, this certainly helps your standing in Google. Also, think about the power of brand searches and try to increase these as these provide a strong signal to Google never mind the best source of traffic you can ever get.
Links – No SEO post such as this can exclude links, however, there is no doubt the weighting given to links has diminished over time. The empahasis in 2018 should focus on brand and natural links.
Websites are always competing tooth and nail to achieve higher visibility on search engines using all the SEO, PPC and other methods they can. Whilst there are many search engines to use online, you could literally discard them all and regard Google as the number one search engine leading the way given its current market share in the United Kingdom which stands at 87% according to Statista.com. The consequence of this is stark, when Google makes changes to its algorithms or guidelines pertaining to what webmasters should do in order to rank organically, business owners, webmasters and SEO’s need to take note and act accordingly.
New Updated Webmaster Guidelines
In late January Google updated its Webmaster Guidelines from the following;
“Check for broken links and correct HTML”
“Ensure that all links go to live web pages. Use valid HTML.”
Google specifically talks about “validation” of HTML. Now, this might not have been a big concern for webmasters if that phrase had been there since the beginning. However, the change in the use of language here is significant. However, according to John Mueller, Google employee, in this video hangout, a related question “Is WC3 validation a ranking factor?” was answered at the 1 hour mark – using valid HTML is not directly a ranking factor but it can affect Google’s ability to crawl and validate structured data and mobile browser rendering.
Is John Mueller’s Statement Contradictory?
Playing devil’s advocate here, it’s not unreasonable to assume the answer is yes. Technically, non valid HTML may not be a direct ranking factor, however, if non-valid HTML is causing Google crawl issues because HTML is badly broken or interfering with its ability to view structured data or rendering incorrectly on various mobile devices then these are ranking factors albeit indirect ranking factors.
My personal view is the language used in the updated guidelines is also significant “Use valid HTML” which is pretty explicit for Google. Therefore, ignore this statement at your peril if you intend to try and rank in Google and choose to ignore validating your HTML. In trying to achieve high rankings in Google at this juncture it’s probably not worth spending huge sums trying to validate your HTML if you have an older website. Why? Put simply, there many other ranking factors which are more important at this present time, but if a cleanup is possible without spending lots of budget, then go ahead, especially if it means ensuring structured data and mobile browser rendering is fixed.
How Can I check for Valid HTML?
In order to get the best understanding of what constitutes valid HTML refer to W3C and use their free validator tool here: https://validator.w3.org/. To check mobile devices this testing tool will help – https://validator.w3.org/mobile-alpha/. For those interesting in CSS, there is even validators here on offer from W3 eg https://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/. Lastly, Google have provided their own tool for webmasters to test whether structured data is correct – https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool
Most web developers these days will produce websites with valid HTML, however, there can be issues with older websites which may not be keeping up with the latest mobile browsers, therefore, it’s important for the reasons in this article that your website code is updated regularly.
Since the release of the Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Payday loans and now Rankbrain (The Terminator) aptly described by one commentator a lot has changed in SEO in the last few years.
The honeymoon is over
The days of simply acquiring 100’s of spammy links whether innocently or not and producing low quality content expecting it to rank are well and truly gone. Yes, there are some loopholes still exploited, however, the longevity of such tactics is usually short lived and potentially very damaging in the long run unless you are into churn and burn websites.
Google is Watching You
I have witnessed this with clients where Google have flooded bot traffic into websites ad hoc no doubt testing various elements along with perhaps trying to simulate user behaviour. This type of bot traffic is completely irregular and sits outside of normal bot crawls.
These comprise of three main categories, On page and Off page factors and User Engagement the latter being the third most important factor in 2016.
Although there are many and these have almost become a mine field, below is a summary of the main factors that could harm rankings in 2016
1. A boring/mediocre blog which does not drive traffic, engagement or social shares
2. Keyword Stuffing
3. Bad Reviews/Ratings/Reputation
4. URL Parameters
5. Bad Design/HTML Coding
6. On page and off page over optimization
7. Paid Links
8. Duplicate Content (text/images)
Knowing even the basic techniques when it comes to conversion rate optimization would be greatly beneficial and would save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Hiring a graphic designer or an expert content writer is not always advisable if you are looking into saving some money for other aspects of your business. So, being knowledgeable about conversion rate optimization would give you positive impact in your online venture.
Below are some of the practices that you would need to be familiar about if you wish to have better conversions. However, please be noted that each website are built differently and target audience varies, so the results of all or some of these practices are unpredictable. Things that provide great results for some niches may not be ideal on some so be cautious on implementing some items below.
- Use Form Fields Appropriately
Form fields are a great way to get more leads from your website traffic. However, poorly placed, designed and implemented forms may give you less to no results at all.
Only use form fields when necessary consider your visitors and check if you won’t get annoyed with the way form fields are implemented.
- Make Your Call-to-action Buttons Standout
Website elements such us forms and buttons should be easily identifiable from the rest of your display. Making form call-to-action buttons standout does not mean using a far out color on them, you have to make sure that it also goes well with your design.
- Test Your Forms and Buttons
Make sure that each field and buttons on your pages are properly working before publishing. Avoid missed conversions due to wrongly or unchecked forms.
- Use Professional and Relevant Stock Photos
Images add a wow factor on your webpages and help you increase your conversions. However, you have to make sure that you are only using appropriated photos. Do not put photos on your website just because they cute, professional photos enhance your website’s credibility and professional image.
- Utilize the Power of Videos
Adding demo or instructional videos for your products could greatly increase your conversion by as much as 100%. But make sure that these videos will be informational and entertaining at the same time. Refrain from posting lengthy videos, a 2-3 minute clip would be enough to capture your audience’s attention.
- Add a Timer
For promos or sale, it would be best to present your products with a timer. Having a timer helps your website viewers to decide an action which in turn would benefit you.
- Make Your Headlines Clear
Compose your section or presentation headline in a clear, concise and engaging manner but avoid being too pushy towards your customers. Remember that you want to maintain a professional image and at the same time drive more conversion so choose your words properly.
- Display Vital Information Clearly
Make sure that you present information such as product details, phone numbers, email address and business address clearly. Most customers might prefer reaching out to you in order to make a deal so having these information easily readable and available is a must.
Getting your website visitor’s attention through texts and graphics is not an easy task. However, with proper implementation of forms and design it will not be that hard. Making sure that your call-to-actions stands out while not being distracting is the best way you can get more conversions. These techniques are great pointers to get you started in boosting your conversion rate and guide you when you plan on changing your website layout in the future.