Key Findings About Google SEO in 2017
I have divided Google Ranking factors in 2017 into two categories – dependent & independent. Independent ranking factors are aspects you can readily impact yourself. Dependent ranking factors are ones that are a product of more independent ranking factors – for example, inbound links can be seen as a dependent ranking signal because they are – for the most part – a function or product of factors that you are free to impact/change yourself (like content length; content topicality; site load speed & HTTPS).
Independent Ranking Factors
- Content that is topically relevant, significantly outranks content that does not cover a topic in-depth. Focused content about a single topic improves rankings.
- Longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains around 1,900 words.
- Site speed matters a lot. Pages on fast-loading websites rank much higher than pages on slow-loading websites.
- HTTPS had a fairly strong correlation with Google rankings. Google has confirmed HTTPS as a ranking signal.
- Content with at least one image far outperformed content without any images. But adding more images doesn’t have any further effect.
- Despite Google Penguin, exact match anchor text still has a strong positive influence on rankings.
- Very small correlation between title tag keyword optimization and ranking. This reflects Google’s move toward Semantic Search.
- Schema markup doesn’t correlate with higher rankings.
Dependent Ranking Factors
- Inbound links are still an extremely important Google ranking factor in 2017. The number of domains linking to a page correlates with rankings more than any other single factor.
- A website’s overall link authority by Ahrefs Domain Rating strongly correlates with higher rankings.
- Lower bounce rates correlate with higher Google rankings.
Independent Ranking Factors
In-Depth Topical Content Improves Rankings
Thanks to the Hummingbird Algorithm, Google understands the topic of every page. Comprehensive content easily outperforms thin content. Provide a wealth of information on your topic. Content can cover the history, uses and facts about your topic.
Long Content Ranks Higher in Google’s Search Results Than Short Content
Long-form content outperforms short content. Pages with longer content ranks significantly better than short content. The average word count of a Google first page result is 1,900 words. Search engine ranking factors studies confirm that longer content performed better on Google. Longer content gets more social shares and is preferred by Google. It also boosts a page’s topical relevancy, giving Google a better understanding of your page’s topic.
HTTPS is Moderately Correlated with Higher Rankings
Google asked webmasters to switch to secure HTTPS & made HTTPS a ranking signal. It is not a very strong correlation, but is correlated with higher rankings on Google. Should make the switch to HTTPS? But switching to HTTPS is a major project that can cause serious technical issues. I don’t suggest switching to HTTPS just for SEO. But for a new site, you should have HTTPS from the get go.
Zero Correlation Between Schema Markup and Rankings
Schema can show ratings for products on an ecommerce site for example. Google have hinted that they might use structured data as a ranking signal one-day. But, for now, structured data has no impact on Google rankings.
Shorter URLs Rank Better Overall than Longer URLs
I use short URLs for the sake of better on-page SEO. A short URL like thekingmaker.me/my-post is easier for Google to understand than thekingmaker.me/1/12/2016/blog/category/this-is-the-title-of-my-blog-post.
After 5 words in your URL Google algorithms weight those words less. It is easy to implement. Whenever you publish make the URL as short as possible. In WordPress set permalink structure to “post name”. Set the new permalinks to future posts only. If you alter permalinks for older posts it can lead to SEO issues.
If a URL is long because it points to a page that’s several clicks from the homepage then generally there’s less authority filtering to that page or post. Less authority means lower rankings. Use short URLs if possible as this gives Google a better understanding of your content’s ultimate subject matter.
Content With At Least One Image Ranks Better Than Content Without an Image
Image-rich content tends to generate more views and shares. So including images in your content can boost shares, which should therefore improve Google rankings.
Using one or more images in your content is much better than having no image at all. But total number of images and rankings, don’t correlate. So one image good – more than one – not entirely necessary.
Exact Keywords in Your Title Tag Has a Minor Correlation with Rankings
Traditionally title tags have been the single most important on-page SEO element. Semantic Search has made the title tag less significant. Now title tag keyword usage only slightly correlates with rankings. Google doesn’t need to see the exact keyword in your title tag to understand your page’s subject matter. This signals Google moving away from exact keyword usage toward Semantic Search.
Pages On Fast-Loading Websites Rank Significantly Higher than Pages On Slow-Loading Websites
Since 2010, Google has indicated that site speed is an official ranking signal. There is a strong correlation between website speed and where you rank on Google.
More Total Backlinks = Higher Rankings
Links remain a critical ranking signal.
Google Rankings Are Closely Tied to a Page’s Overall Link Authority
Inbound link quality is just as if not more important than link quantity.
Exact Match Anchor Text Significantly Correlates With Rankings
Exact match anchor text is still important – it strongly correlates with rankings.
Low Bounce Rates Are Strongly Associated With Higher Google Rankings
Websites with low average bounce rates are strongly correlated with higher rankings.
Dependent Ranking Factors
Number of Referring Domains Has a Very Strong Impact on Rankings
Domain diversity has a substantial impact on rankings. Google wants to see several different sites endorsing your page. The number of unique referring domains is the strongest single correlation between factor & ranking.
Authoritative Domains Rank Higher in Search Results
A website’s overall link authority is strongly tied to Google rankings – a stronger correlation to rankings than the authority of the page itself. The domain that your page sits on is more important than the page itself.
Summing Up SEO Ranking Signals for 2017
And if you want help conforming to these SEO ranking signals for 2017, then make sure to contact me.