7 Must-Know Google Ranking Factors in 2017

7 Must-Know Google Ranking Factors in 2017

Google is forever improving their search algorithm and results pages. The layout of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs)  have had a makeover or two since the start of the 2016 – for example, there are now four AdWords results at the top of the search results, searches matching the page title are no longer emboldened and featured snippets have been added, to name a just a few of the changes.

So what do we have to look forward to in 2017? Google have already confirmed a mobile-first index of results and websites to be penalised for showing those annoying adverts that pop up whilst you are waiting for a website to load.

But there is a lot more besides this that you must know in order to rank highly in the Google SERPs. Here are seven things to think about if you want to increase your organic traffic in the New Year:

1. Page Loading Speed

People expect your website to load in an instant. With Google revealing earlier this year that more people are using mobile devices than desktop for their search queries, page load speed will become an even more crucial factor when it comes to Google ranking your website next year. The speed of your website should already be a priority for improving the user experience of your customers or clients, because many people don’t have the patience to hang around for more than 3-4 seconds waiting for your website to load.

More and more traffic is coming from mobile devices these days, those using mobiles to browse are usually on the go and don’t like waiting around for a page to load. A survey by Kissmetrics revealed that 40% of shoppers will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load; so, if your website doesn’t load quickly enough, then you’re going to miss out on potential customers as they head off to your competitors.

Over the summer, Gary Illyes from Google stated that page speed of your mobile pages will be an important factor when it comes to the mobile-friendly algorithm.

Google already has a couple of tools to help test and improve your website’s page loading speed which is a strong indication of its importance to the search engine.  There’s also a mobile usability report within the Google Search Console.

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Further good news is that the Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project helps publishers enable their pages to load quicker on mobile devices.  We also predict that AMP pages will be more important for mobiles in 2017 as well.

2. Local

Local results have been more prominent in Google search results this year and this will only increase going into 2017. This is especially true considering that more people use the search engine on their mobile than desktop these days and that nearly one-third of all mobile searches include a location.

This means it’s more important than ever for your business to have Google My Business set up so that you can appear for local searches.

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Even if your business is global, if you have local offices, users will be searching for these, so it’s important to have them separated out and indexed correctly too. Ensure that the information in your Google My Business listing(s) matches your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) on your website and in other local citations around the web. This will give strength to your listing and will help your website to rank better for local searches.

3. Featured Snippets

Google are displaying more featured snippets for search queries these days and we expect these to increase in 2017, with an increased number of marketers learning how to get their sites featured.

They appear above the organic results with a link to the source, so essentially it’s better than having the number one result for that search query.

The queries that bring up featured snippets are questions, so not necessarily the keywords you’d expect to convert.

From our experience of getting featured snippets in Google’s results you’ll need the question on your page, along with  an in-depth answer and already be ranking on page one in the organic results for that query. See the example below:

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4. Mobile-first Index

Mobile-based searches have been increasing for a number of years now and they’re not going to stagnate or drop off in 2017.

Google will soon be making their index mobile-first, meaning that desktop will no longer be their priority.

This means it’s more important than ever to make sure that you have a mobile-optimised version of your website if you want to feature prominently in Google.  A site that the search engine thinks is mobile-friendly will have a responsive design, be quick to load, be clear to read, easy navigate on mobile devices and will not force the user to zoom to see any of the content.

Marketers who have been slow to jump on the mobile bandwagon should make it their priority to step up their knowledge in the New Year and apply it to their websites to make sure they aren’t losing out on traffic and potential customers to better mobile-optimised competitors.

Mobile searches means that there will be more of a focus on local searches too – something that businesses won’t want to miss out on. Google has a handy mobile-friendly test that can tell you whether or not your website is optimised for mobile and even provides tips on how to improve it.

5. Pop-ups Will Hurt Your Rankings

From January 10th 2017 Google will start to penalise sites with those annoying pop-ups, starting with mobile websites.

As of August this year, 85% of all pages in Google’s mobile search results had the ‘mobile-friendly label’, i.e. meaning that the majority of results have content on the page that is readable on mobile devices without the need to zoom in. However, some pages have still been able to display those rage-inducing interstitials that block the content you want to read and aren’t always easy to clear and, particularly on non-optimised mobile sites, the close button can be too small or even hidden by the non-responsive design.

So, much to the appreciation of users, Google has reacted to the use of these pop-ups by lowering the rank of results that are still displaying these from early in the New Year.

We predict that this will transition onto Desktop at some point in the near future too.

6. Content

To rank well and get traffic from Google in 2017 you will need quality content on your site.

Google results first started to focus on quality content back in 2011 with the Panda algorithm update. This algorithm started penalising low quality content by demoting or dropping these pages, ultimately leading marketers and web owners to produce quality content to get to the top of Google.

Nowadays, for a number of queries, you’ll notice a great many of the results on page one of the search engine’s results contain in-depth information:  Google ranks site that provide a wealth of information on the topic in question.  The featured snippets results are an example of Google promoting quality content.

Google even created a Webmaster Guidelines page where they state the following:

“Provide high-quality content on your pages, especially your homepage. This is the single most important thing to do. If your pages contain useful information, their content will attract many visitors and entice webmasters to link to your site. In creating a helpful, information-rich site, write pages that clearly and accurately describe your topic. Think about the words users would type to find your pages and include those words on your site.”

As well as letting us know what quality content is, Google explicitly tell us to avoid the following content-related techniques:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Participating in link schemes
  • Creating pages with little or no original content
  • Cloaking
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Hidden text or links
  • Doorway pages
  • Scraped content
  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
  • Creating pages with malicious behaviour, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware
  • Abusing rich snippets mark-up
  • Sending automated queries to Google

In their guidelines, Google make it clear that they will take manual action against your site if it does not comply with its guidelines.

7. Links

Links will continue to remain very important to websites in 2017. It was only earlier this year that Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, confirmed that links and content are Google’s top two ranking signals.

The quality of links may become more of a focus for next year.  Marketers and website owners should aim to get a few quality links from newspapers, magazines and high quality blogs, rather than relying on a greater number of lower quality links from sites with lower Majestic Trust Flow scores.

What other changes do you think Google will make in 2017?  Let us know your thoughts.

If you would like your website reviewed in the New Year to ensure you continue to rank well despite these changes, contact Receptional for a FREE website health check.

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