Google Search Engine Optimisation: Recap and Updates March 2016

In this month’s blog article we look at some of the latest announcements which help us understand the most important ranking signals for Google’s algorithm, the upcoming boost of the mobile-friendly algorithm, and the newly updated guidelines on local search ranking factors on Google My Business. In-depth research has been conducted as the basis of the article with the latest up-to-date information, so use our findings below and let it serve you as a guide in planning out an effective SEO strategy!

Google’s Top 3 Ranking Factors

Google has over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm, and they are all used to guide search results and influence rankings. It’s important to note that not all signals are given the same weight in value - some factors are more important than others and thus have a stronger impact in raising or lowering rankings. In late March, an interview with Google’s Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev gave SEOs a valuable insight as to what the top three ranking factors were that Google works with. According to Lipattsev, Google’s most prioritised ranking factors come in the form of links, content and RankBrain (although not in that specific order).

  1. Links
  2. Content
  3. RankBrain

This Quantum article from November last year already stated that RankBrain was Google’s 3rd most important ranking signal, which indicates that links and content have more weight in the impact of SEO. Whilst resources on backlinks and content marketing are abundant, Google RankBrain only came to life late last year. As a machine-learning artificial intelligence, RankBrain is used to process search results as part of Google’s algorithm, separating and providing the most relevant information on SERPs from the billions of pages on the internet.

However, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that these three signals are made up of different sub-factors. But as they appear to be prioritised in Google’s ranking algorithm, the list above is a good start to centre your strategy around for all type of campaigns, whether you’re starting up for the first time, or looking to make improvements to your current performance, or even going through a complete make-over of your campaign,

Boost For Mobile-Friendly Websites

Further to Google’s Mobile Friendly Update in April last year, there will be another boost given to the mobile algorithm in order to prioritise mobile-friendly pages. Naturally, this indicates that current best-practice responsive sites don’t need to worry about being impacted by the upcoming update.

Google has announced that this will be a gradual rollout, so there won’t be any sudden major changes or drops in rankings. The process will occur on a page-by-page basis, and will be dependent on the speed of Google’s crawling process in indexing all the listed pages of your website. The duration of this rollout is still unclear, but is expected to start from the beginning of May this year.

Google My Business: Confirmed Local Ranking Factors

Improving your local ranking on Google is now a little easier, thanks to the newly published official document on Google My Business. The document on ranking in local search results now includes factors like links, articles and directories. The main emphasis here is to have as much data as possible about your local business in Google My Business and that you need to verify your business, post accurate hours, respond and manage your reviews and make sure to add photos. This all contributes to people finding your business in the local results!

Google My Business now lists three key points that can help your business stand out in local search results, and they are namely relevance, distance and prominence. Please see a short summary on each factor below:

Relevance refers to how well a local listing matches the search results made by the user. Complete details of your business information allows Google to better understand the business and thus match business listings to relevant searches.

Distance of the business’ location and the location term entered via the search result influences what Google shows to search users. If a location term is not entered, Google then calculates the distance based on what’s known about the search user’s location.

Prominence of the business describes how well-known a business is. Google understands that some businesses have strong reputations built through traditional forms of marketing, and Google will try to reflect this in local rankings. Famous landmarks, such as museums, or iconic store brands that are familiar to a lot of people will likely to be favoured in local search results.

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