A phrase I’m sure that many website developers heard at one point or another was “I want you to get me to the first page on Google”. Unfortunately, SEO is A LOT more complicated than just using the right keywords. Google’s ranking algorithm is ever changing and adapting to more and more and more factors. The following factors are considered the main ranking contributors considered by Google’s ranking algorithm:

  1. Content is still king

Content Quality
High ranking content refers to in-depth content that covers a broad spectrum of its respective subject. The content must provide real value to the user.

There is no clear rule of thumb regarding the optimal word count for an article, as it varies per subject. However, we do notice that relatively longer, more comprehensive content typically achieves higher rankings. A study by Niel Patel reveals a correlation between content length and top Google search positions.

Pro Tip
Use Google’s semantic search to optimize keyword targeting in your articles. Semantic queries can be found by browsing the “related search” results at the bottom of the Google search results page.

For example, a search for “content marketing” reveals the following related searches. If you are writing an informational article on content marketing, you can use these semantic queries to get a better understanding of related keywords.

2. Backlinks

Backlinks remain one of the strongest ranking signals in Google’s search algorithm. The more links you have from multiple high-authority domains, the better your chances are to rank well for top keywords. Online marketers should pay close attention to their backlink profiles, especially given recent updates such as “Penguin 4.0”, which cleaned and filtered sites with low-quality backlink profiles.

Pro Tip
Quality beats quantity. Focus on value, not word count.

3. Mobile first

On November 4, 2016, Google announced mobile-first indexing. This means that a website’s compatibility with mobile now directly affects its search rankings. In the past, web designers built desktop versions first, then mobile. Today, with mobile usage surpassing desktop, websites should prioritize mobile versions to provide a better user experience.

Google’s mobile-first approach is already changing up search results, especially when it comes to local results – users now receive results that better target their current location. We did notice, however, that there is a growing indication of Geolocation actively affecting the local search queries on desktop as well.

4. Page Speed

With a mobile-first indexing approach from Google, page speed has become more crucial than ever.  Websites with slow page speed will have a harder time ranking at top results. Google’s goal with these updates is to provide users with search results which include sites that provide the best user experience.

5. Schema code

SEO is going local in a big way, so if you’re wondering how to rank higher on google then this is an important ranking factor, especially for small business SEO. Schema markup code helps search engines get a better understanding of specific texts such as addresses, phone numbers, recipes, reviews and more.

Particularly for local businesses, implementing a site-wide schema code can be highly beneficial. For example, it is important to make sure you tell Google where your business is located by implementing a correct schema code.

Example of a business address schema code:

Pro Tip
Make sure your data markup adheres to Google guidelines.

6. Brand Power and Social Signals

Branded searches provide a strong signal to Google’s search algorithm. The more traffic a website gets from branded searches, the more it will be recognized by the algorithm. Additionally, we have noticed that social signals from Facebook, Reddit, Quora, Pinterest and other social sites also correlate with search rankings. This is not to say that a strong online social presence alone can drive organic traffic. Sites that combine brand power and social signals with efforts across all other SEO channels can achieve greater search visibility.

7. Domain Power

In the past, exact-match domains were a sure-fire way to boost organic search visibility. While not as foolproof as before, domains still have influence. With Google’s smarter algorithm, we do still see two major verticals of domain power:

1) Exact-match domains still carry a lot of weight – As an example, for the search “cars”, we would expect to find popular car-related brands at top search results (Ford, BMW, Top Gear, etc.). Instead, we get an exact match, “cars.com”.

2) Domain seniority – Domain age is another major ranking factor. New domains have a harder time ranking for top keywords, while domains with an extended track record seem to hold top positions for longer.

Pro Tip
How long does it take to rank in top positions? Check out this latest article by AHrefs.com.

Final Thoughts

There will be a big impact on SEO marketing strategies in 2017. Recent Google updates are paving the way for sites with quality content that provides real value for users. Google is also getting much better at measuring how users interact with your content. Understanding these 7 valuable parameters could make or break your Online Marketing strategy.

Doron Wollfberg
Doron WollfbergAuthor