Google has changed over the years. It hasn’t confined itself to the job of listing out websites alone. It was simple before in the 1990’s. You use keywords, and Google ranked your webpage according to your on-page keyword usage. Fast forward to a decade and a half and we have Google ensuring that nobody can fool the Search Engine giant. It’s not like before. Keyword driven content will not help you rank higher or get to the top of search engine results. No, Google has had enough of content pages that’re thin on content and thick on irrelevant keywords.
2014 has seen the rise of everything semantic and contextual. Google semantics ensures that you get the best possible answer to your search query today, than just searching for the keywords that you type and ranking webpages. In short, your search for “best gadgets today” will not lead you to a site that’s filled with the keyword ‘best gadgets today”. It will lead you to webpages that really tell you about the best gadgets you can get today.
Google’s automatic algorithm goes in for a change every few weeks, and unlike before, Google doesn’t let us know about any change in its algorithm, unless it’s something major. Google has never let others know the exact algorithm it uses to rank websites and in all probability, it never will; there’s too much at stake if the information’s known to all.
Searchmetrics’ recent study tells us a lot about how Google is ranking websites in 2014. In fact, a number of general trends today state that Google is changing the way it ranks your site. If you are wondering what you need to know to rank high in Google now, here’s a look at some of the recent developments.
1. It’s the tale that you have to tell
We don’t have a scope for bad looking content here. Google is looking for high-quality content and one that’s relevant. Pictures and media are welcome to your post, as long as it adds value. Compared to 2013, we now have webpages with more content ranking better. Searchmetrics for one, reports that the average page word count for top ranking URL’s stand at 8,313 characters today, which is an average of around 975 words. In fact, it’s seen that readable content scores more today than ever before, a trend perhaps started by Google after seeing the increasing use of Article Spinning by some online marketers.
2. No room for AdWords, at least on the top
Yes, AdWords is owned by Google. However, most webpages today that are ranking high do not have Adwords (or for that matter, other advertisements) in the top of the page. Instead, we have more emphasis on webpages that have holistic content in them. Google is looking at a lesser level of advertising integration, or so it seems.
3. Using semantically comprehensive wording
No, Google’s not looking for phrases and irrelevant keywords anymore and neither should you. Let’s look at what semantically comprehensive wording means. If you are talking about the iPhone 6, Google will see the value of the content that you really are offering on the page. Being on the topic and using relevant synonyms and semantic terms will help you rank higher, and Google is recognizing your efforts more.
4. Google is still looking for links
No, we are not talking about backlinks here. High-quality backlinks are important, but so is the quality of internal links from your site. Searchmetrics’ study for instance, states that the average number of internal links for the top ten websites is a good 130. It’s less important to focus on backlinks today than before, says RankRanger. Internal links help build link juice, and Google is still rewarding websites for its quality internal links.
That’s not to say that Google has forgotten about backlinks. The number of backlinks of the top ten ranking URL’s in the Searchmetrics study stand at around 1,352. There seems to be a deep homepage-deep link ratio as well. As always, the higher the quality of the backlink, the more link juice is the site (that the backlink points to) rewarded with. Interestingly, Google also seems to be looking more favorably at backlinks that point to the homepage. The Searchmetrics study also points to another interesting point. Sites that have more news domain backlinks than other URLs fare better.
Contrary to popular belief, good ranking pages also seem to have the ‘no follow’ tag associated with them. Google seems to be looking at rewarding backlinks with no-follow than do-follow. So, if you are on a site like Hubpages for your online marketing efforts and frown at some of those no-follow links, don’t! The other statistics more or less remain the same. Google is rewarding sites that have older backlinks and link diversity is still important – don’t expect to draw in much link juice by having backlinks from the different pages of one site.
5. Everybody loves speed
The average time taken, to load webpages of the top ten ranking URLs, stand at an impressive 0.99 seconds now, says the study by Searchmetrics. Of course, content is still the king. Having a website that loads faster, but has no relevant content will not help you rank high. Having said that, you need to focus on keeping the site updated, and short loading times.
6. Google loves authority
While plagiarism is a strict no, Google also seems to favor posts that can display credible sources of information. It pays to develop yourself as a brand and someone that other websites and people can look up to. The more authority you can display on your posts, the more will Google love you. Wikipedia for one, ranks high in Google search results even without having keywords at times, only because Google seems to recognize Wikipedia as a trusted source of authority.
7. Don’t forget the SEO basics
While keywords are not that relevant as before, there are things that remain the same. When it comes to filling your meta tags and page description, you cannot forget them, even today. The presence of these on-page factors seems to be a basic requirement to rank your website higher in SERP results today. Google also seems to be more easily recognizing multi-word keywords these days.
8. No unnecessary use of keywords
Remember those strategies that told you to use your primary keywords in each of the subheadings of your article? Well, they are of no use anymore. The Searchmetrics study states that keywords appearing as sub-headings in articles in the top 30 URL’s are next to none. Instead, Google seems to be keener on focusing on the relevant keywords in the main page content.
9. Google loves social signals
This is a relatively new development. Now, we have Google loving brands having a social media presence. The more your content is shared on social media, the more would Google love you. The top ten URL’s in the Searchmetrics study has a good strength of social signals. Strong social signals translate to more Facebook likes, shares and comments, for example. It can also mean more tweets about your pages in Twitter. While social signals alone don’t help brands and websites rank high, they are a relevant factor.
Google’s search results today depend upon a number of factors, thanks to the rise of contextual technology. Google will take into account your location, your browser history and the website’s brand factor are some considerations that Google takes into account when coming out with a search result. Brand factor is an important new concept. With Google using semantic and contextual search, brand factor seems to be more enhanced now than ever. Do you see any other changes in how Google ranks webpages and something that we missed out on? Do let us know!