A few months ago, Moz and Search Metrics each conducted a detailed survey that resulted in a compilation of the 2015 SEO ranking factors. The Moz research found that the uniqueness of a site’s content had the strongest influence on its search engine ranking. This was followed by the use of mobile-optimized or responsive design. The Search Metrics study discovered that the relevant terms and keywords in internal links were among the most important SEO ranking factors for a site’s content. User experience was measured largely by the site’s click-through rate (CTR) and time spent by users on the website. The quality of its backlinks was influenced by their quantity and the referring domains. Both Google+ and Facebook largely affected the website’s social ranking.
Based on these two studies, I’ve developed a few easy action plans you should follow to help you improve your website’s search rankings in the coming year.
Prioritize these five SEO ranking factors:
There are a number of SEO ranking factors that influence the user experience of a website. Take a close look at each of these aspects to understand how you can implement them to your website.
- Page design is one of the first things users notice when they visit a website. Make it simple, yet attractive, by choosing the right color combination, fonts, and images.
- Avoid stock photos at all cost because your audience won’t be very impressed. Come up with something original to show your audience that you’ve put in the effort. This is also a great way to get users to associate your brand with a unique image unlike stock photos, which can be seen on thousands of websites across cyberspace.
- It can be frustrating to wait for a page to load or for files to download. In fact, the impact of site speed on search rankings is expected to increase to about 58% according to Moz. A slow-loading page can easily ruin user experience, so focus on optimizing the speed of your website.
- You should run tests for both speed and design to see where you can make further improvements.
- It’s important to engage with users so that they have a pleasant experience with your brand. Prioritize on interacting with your audience in such a way that they associate your brand with a positive thought.
- Mobile friendliness will be one of the most important SEO ranking factors affecting user experience in 2016. The Moz study has predicted that its impact on SEO ranking will increase to at least 88%.
- Don’t focus on just being mobile friendly though. You need to build a responsive page design that will adapt based on the device being used.
- Click-through-rate is another of the SEO ranking factors which is becoming a big priority. CTR can be easily managed if you use catchy headlines, clear descriptions, and semantic markups.
- Time on site, click-through rate, and bounce rate are all newly introduced features impacting user experience. Since the Google mobilegeddon update, responsive design is also a new feature with a very positive impact. Font size and presence of unordered lists should also be a focus.
- Keep in mind that the trends of internal links and number of images have both gone down, but they still have a positive impact. The Adlinks/Adsense trend has decreased because it gives users negatively view websites with loads of ads and little content.
According to the CEO of InboundWriter, Skip Besthoff, even just 20% of a website’s content can bring in 90% of its total traffic. Developing quality content is one of the growing SEO ranking factors. You should do everything possible to publish fresh, original content. Other things you need to do before this include:
- It’s best to start off with research because it’s competition on the World Wide Web is tough. You must understand whom you’re competing with.
- Become more aware of your audience and the keywords you use. This will help you understand how you can shape your content around specific topics. You need to develop content that enables you to connect with your target customers, so choose subjects that would interest them. For instance, provide useful tips and advice related to your products or services.
- Never overlook the small stuff like the keyword combination you’ve chosen to use. Popular keyword combinations might result in more competition, so you could try going for a scarcely-used combination of popular keywords.
- According to the Moz study, readability is predicted to be among the strongest SEO ranking factors. You should make the content easier to understand by dividing it into smaller chunks. Longer sentences may be difficult to process and remember. Try to break them up into two parts. Being concise is the simplest way to make your content more readable.
- Talk to your audience like they’re your friends. You can then connect with them on an emotional level. This means that you’ll need to avoid passive voice because it sounds too impersonal and formal.
- Despite being newly introduced calculations, relevant terms and proof terms are considered to have a very positive impact. Word count is also among the SEO ranking factors, but its trend has gone down. Keywords in internal links is still a large influence too.
Flesch readability is a growing trend in SEO ranking factors. Placing keywords in the description and body has gone down and has little to no impact. Keywords in external links has a negative impact, so it’s trend has also decreased.
A change in your social media practices could help you boost your SEO ranking factors significantly. Take these tips into consideration:
- First things first, you need to grow the number of followers and connections you have on social media. This would require genuine people and businesses because Google can detect the quality of your followers. It might take time to organically build your following, but it’s a good investment of your time. Start posting useful tips and articles, encouraging discussions, and engaging in direct conversations with your followers.
- It’s always a good idea to optimize your social media posts for search engines. Whether it’s a video, article, or infographic, a strong anchor for each post serves as a good foundation. Come up with a title that will pique the interest of your audience and improve your chances of showing up in search results.
- Another critical move is to persuade people to share your posts. Search engines will see this as a reliable external sources validating your content and brand. You could offer incentives in exchange for shares, such as a “5% discount coupon for the first 100 shares.”In the social aspect of SEO ranking factors, none of the platforms have a significant impact. The trends have gone down for Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest, whereas Facebook remains the same.
Backlinks are other crucial SEO ranking factors in search engines. This is clear from both the Moz and Search Metrics reports. When building links, marketers need to focus on popularity and trust. Copyblogger has reported that 23.87% of Google’s ranking algorithm relates to domain trust/authority.
A Moz survey found that the monthly link building cost of about 37% of businesses is somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000. However, spending several thousand dollars isn’t enough unless you have an idea about building links trusted by Google. You need to make your investment worth it.
- Keyword research should be a priority if you’re going to build a strong link profile. By digging into the minds of your prospective customers, you’ll be able to find the most appropriate long-tail keywords.
- Earning editorial links is another important aspect of building quality links. However, this can be extremely difficult, especially with more and more people trying to follow the same strategy as you.
- Focus on developing link-worthy, shareable content on a regular basis to get more shares.
For backlinks, diverse referring domains seem to have a very positive impact despite their use going down. Backlinks from any domain should be managed because some people try to gain single backlinks by giving single contributions. It’s best to be a regular contributor. Links from news sites sound trusted and show a positive impact. Although the number of backlinks also has a positive impact, its trend is going down. The use of the domain name in the anchor text remains the same with a positive influence on SEO rankings.
Technical optimization should be a part of your action plan for improving your ranking. In the technical aspect, your domain visibility and the search volume of your domain name are the two most important SEO ranking factors. This requires you to work towards enhancing your domain authority for search engines to rank you higher.
- The most basic way to develop a better domain authority is getting rid of bad links and gaining good links. So, you can see that each of these action plans can be associated with the other.
- Moz has predicted that the impact of HTTPS on search rankings will increase to about 56%.
- You also need to improve on your URL structure by keeping it under 100 characters and replacing underscores with dashes.
- Create a unique title tag and meta description for every page.
- For every image, add a related tag that enables search engines to identify the content of the image.
On the technical side, site speed and domain SEO visibility are both new features with a very positive impact. HTTPS is also a newly introduced calculation with a significant positive impact. The trends of both search volume domain name and existence of description have gone down, but they still have a positive impact.
Although the use of flash has gone up, it has a negative influence. The use of keyword in domain remains the same with no impact. At the same time, the use of .com domains have gone up despite having no significant impact.
Negative Ranking Factors
The Moz research shows that the total number of unnatural links to a page or subdomain has the highest negative ranking. This is followed by duplicate content and thin content. The amount of over-optimized anchor text and non-mobile-friendliness also results in negative rankings. Keyword stuffing in documents, page links to spam, and poor searcher satisfaction is also negative.
Slow page speed, poor engagement, high amounts of advertising, and 404 linked-to pages are other very negative SEO ranking factors. Pages with a negative title tag or duplicate meta description also seem to have more negative rankings. Avoid all of these practices to keep from seeing dwindling Google rankings.
Each of the SEO ranking factors mentioned above play important roles in influencing your search engine ranking. Yet, various studies have shown that search engines prioritize on the click-through rate of websites. All in all, focus on building engagement with your audience so that they remain on your website and absorb the interesting content you have to offer.
Have any questions about SEO ranking factors going into 2016? Get in touch with me in the comments section below!
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant, named the #1 social media consultant in the US by PROskore Power Rankings. He has expertise in business development, online marketing and is an SEO specialist who has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and a number of A-list celebrities.