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.