What’s your strategy for higher search engine rankings in 2016? Google uses as many as 200 factors to rank websites and web pages. And it doesn’t explicitly tells much about how different ranking positions are assessed. There are new algorithm updates at the interval of every 2-3 months. While newbies keep guessing things, there are SEO experts and SEO companies that remain busy experimenting on their websites. You must have read a lot of articles or blog posts on how Google actually ranks sites. From time to time, some ranking factors increase in impact while others remain the same and some others decrease impact.
At SEOExplode, we also have a team of search marketing experts who keep a close watch on all the Google algorithm updates as they happen. On the basis of experimentation and applied logic, we try to decode the Google ranking mysteries to help our clients improve their site’s rankings.
Given below is a list of all the top search engine ranking factors that will play a major role in the year 2016 and beyond.
Main Keyword in Title
For an article, a blog post or simply a web page, the title tag still carries the utmost significance. The title is the very first thing that Google considers when deciding where to rank a particular web page. Therefore, you should make sure that your title tag contains your main keyword. At the same time, you must exercise caution so that you don’t over-optimize. You should place the main keyword(s) in the title tag in a way that looks unique and natural.
The duration for which your website has been in existence is another important search ranking factor. The longer the duration of existence, the better. If you launched your website or blog only a few months ago, you shouldn’t expect higher rankings too sooner. Aged domains have a history (or past records) associated with them and new domains don’t. Google thinks of those websites that have been live for 5 or 10 years as credible sources of information for web users.
Experiments have shown that your website has to be at least 3 years or older to acquire ranking power on the basis of domain age. What’s important to keep in mind in this regard is that the date of domain registration isn’t a proof of quality. If a domain name was registered several years ago but wasn’t used, it won’t have any ranking power due to a lack of past records. Old domains acquire some ‘longevity rank’ over time because of their past records (i.e. backlinks profile).
Keyword in H1 and H2 Tags
Placement of keywords in H1 and H2 tags of a web page also increases its chances of ranking higher in Google. Again, you should not stuff keywords in desperation. The keywords in heading one and heading two should look natural. If you just focus on a particular topic, it will happen naturally.
Low Keyword Density
The maximum limit for keyword density is 3%. But you should not blindly follow this percentage. You can rank higher in Google even if you keep the keyword density between 1%-2%. Try to use multiple variations of your main keyword, but avoid over-optimization at all costs.
Penguin-Proof and Relevant Backlinks
Google’s Penguin update keeps a close watch on how backlinks are created. It penalizes those websites that indulge in manipulative link building. In the year 2016 and beyond, you should be extremely careful while building links. Your link building strategy should be Penguin-proof and the links should be relevant. Link building isn’t dead yet but it’s certainly become more complicated.
In the post-Penguin era of Google, you shouldn’t try to get links just for the sake of building links. If you get the wrong links, the entire existing search rankings of your site may suffer. Wrong or bad links will take your site down.
The best tactic to build links is giving people compelling reasons to link to your website or blog. Ask yourself this question – ‘Does my site offer real value?’ If it doesn’t, you should start focusing on the quality of your site. Once your site becomes useful, people will start linking to it unasked.
Content rules. Studies have shown that Google prefers those websites that are rich in content. In a study conducted by serpIQ, it was revealed that web pages with higher word count ranked higher in search results. When you’re planning to rank for competitive keywords, you should hit at least 2,000 words. The best part about creating long-form content is that people like to link to it more and more. The only thing you should keep in mind is that you don’t create fluff. If you create in-depth, original and unique articles/blog posts with higher word count, you can expect to rank at the top much quicker as compared to short-form content.
Mobile-friendliness is now an important ranking signal. In April , 2015, Google released an algorithm update to give a boost to mobile-friendly websites and web pages in search engine results. Having a site which isn’t mobile-optimized in 2016 will only get you into serious trouble. The number of mobile device users is rapidly on the rise. So, Google is also favoring mobile-friendly sites.
Click-Through Rate and Time Spent on Site
There are many user metrics that impact SEO. But two of the most important ones are – SERP CTR and time spent on site. According to SEO experts, Google doesn’t dig into a site’s analytical data directly. It only checks out the two aforementioned metrics. The click-through rate and the time spent on site are two user metrics that speak volumes about a site and Google uses them for quality evaluation. If most of the people clicking (your link in SERPs) leave your site immediately, it tells Google that your site lacks quality or doesn’t offer value to people.
Download Time of Site
We live in a time-poor age. People get bored or angry if it takes longer to have a task done at the bank or get a pizza. The same goes with websites. Google has always favored those websites or blogs that load quickly. In the year 2016, how fast a page loads impacts SEO even more. Whether it’s the desktop site or its mobile version, you should ensure that your site loads quickly. Since site speed is directly connected to user experience, Google uses it to determine rank.
Unoptimized pages, widget/plugin overload, bulky code and plenty of ads are some of the reasons for delayed loading of pages. There are various tools (free and paid) that you can use to test the download time of your site. If you site takes longer to load, you should identify what’s wrong and fix issues now.
Google has already announced HTTPS encryption as a search ranking signal. If you don’t know, HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. Earlier, sites using HTTPS witnessed a minor ranking boost. But over the past few weeks, this search ranking factor has increased in impact. Since HTTP doesn’t offer protection for user account information, it’s vulnerable to malicious attacks. Having HTTPS on your site makes users more secure and Google considers your site more trustworthy. Therefore, you should seriously consider it as an important search engine ranking factor in the year 2016 and ahead.
Love it or hate it but you can’t ignore social media. There are various reports that suggest Google is using social signals to determine rankings. If your content has more likes, retweets and shares, it tells Google that it offers value. Once Google knows that it’s valuable content, it boots its rank. Therefore, focus on creating valuable content that people don’t just read but also pass on to others.
One of the most important factors that impact the rankings of a website or blog is the sitemap. Search engine crawlers have a good time going through the sitemap of your site as it makes database indexing much easier. If you plan to establish your site as an original source of your content, you should always create an XML sitemap for directly communicating with search engine crawlers. In the age of content syndication and the post-Panda era, a well-maintained XML sitemap is a surefire way of improving your site’s credibility and search engine rankings.
Avoid Duplicate Content
Having duplicate content on your site is a guaranteed SEO killer. Google doesn’t excuse sites that have duplicate content. Even if only some portions of your site have copied content, the rankings of your entire site are going to suffer. Therefore, make sure at all costs that every page on your website or blog has original and unique content. If your site has duplicate content issues, fix them quickly.
SEO is very much alive even today. It’s only become more complex. If you plan to boost the search rankings of your website or blog, you need to work out a well-planned SEO strategy keeping in mind the current ranking factors. If you lack experience yourself, you should definitely seek the help of an experienced SEO professional or get in touch with a reputable SEO agency.