Wondering what you should focus on this year for your website? Here are the top 10 ranking factors that will help you improve your organic performance in Google.
Happy new year! I hope you had an amazing Christmas break, I am ready to go and cannot wait for 2019. My favourite part of the new year is reading everyone’s list about the top ranking factors for the year. While it may sound slightly boring, it actually can help create the base of your SEO strategy. Now before we go in depth about the top 10 ranking factors that matter in 2019, let’s have a look at what they actually are.
Google has uses over 200 ranking factors to evaluate how to rank a website. If you haven’t heard of ranking factors before, it is signal that shows how well your website is optimised for search. Some are more important than others and it’s important to pay attention to what changes every year so you can concentrate on what you need to do.
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT RANKING FACTORS IN 2019?
Even if you are a SEO newbie, you’ll notice a key theme in these top factors – they are all about the user. While it may be tempting to focus on making Google happy, the one way you can improving how well you rank is to focus on the end user and those who visit your website.
MOBILE OPTIMISATION AND MOBILE INDEX FIRST
Last year, Google decided to move to a mobile index first which is basic terms means that rather than them having a look at what your website looks like on desktop, they will now look at your mobile site to decide on how well to rank your website. Statista estimated that 52.2% of searches last year were done on mobile and this is a trend that will continue to grow in 2019.
If your website is not mobile friendly then you need to consider changing it this year. Most templates for WordPress and SquareSpace have been created with mobile in mind however platforms like Wix and Weebly may cause an issue. In addition to this, you may also want to check what your website looks like on different devices including iPhones, Android and tablet.
Although this ranking factor has been around since 2014, it is a must have for 2019. If you aren’t familiar with HTTPS, it stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure which without boring you with techie language, shows that your website is secure. While it may not seem necessary for blogs or service based websites where no financial information is exchanged, Google Chrome now shows websites that do not use HTTPS as not secure which can put potential visitors from visiting.
You can make your website secure by adding a SSL certificate. Depending on your hosting company, you may have the option to add one for free or buy one from them. SSL certificates can be bought per year and cost between £40-100 depending on what type of security you need. Your hosting company should be able to assist you and add the certificate to your website and all you would need to do is make sure that your avoid duplicate content but redirecting your pages properly. If your need any help on this, give me a shout.
UX or user experience is one key element that can be a game changer once you get it right. If you get a high volume of visitors but they don’t translate into sales or contacts, you may need to have a look at your user experience. There are many different factors that go into user experience including page speed and bounce rate but from a customer perspective, you need to be telling a story. You need to guide your dream client from your homepage to all the different pages of your website that guide them close to your end goal, whether that is buying a product or sending you an email. The biggest challenge that most visitors find is that websites have really unclear internal links where there is no call to action. Each and every page on your website including your blog should have one main call to action and a mini call to action.
Consider what is the main goal of your website and then look at how each page fits into that journey. If your website is an online shop, make it clear to your visitors how they can buy your products and give them supporting information so the buying decision is easy. If you are a service based business, provide customer reviews and explanations of your services so you build trust and show social proof.
Page speed goes hand-in-hand with mobile optimisation and user experience. If you’ve ever been searching for something on your mobile and come across a slow website, you know how quickly you’ve hit the back button to find another option. Improving your page speed can be easy if you understand the basics of how it works. Images have to be compressed, your website code needs to be cleaned up and having a CDN network really helps. You can check your page speed insights and test your mobile speed before and after making any changes. There’s plenty of information in the resources section as well as this handy Google list but if you need any help, do give me a shout.
This may come across like a shock to some of you but I don’t do keyword research for this website. The reason? Because search intent is sometimes more important than keywords. In 2019, knowing the keywords your dream client is using in Google is no longer enough. You need to find about the intent behind their search. While this may seem like an explanation, it’s an easy one. Let’s look at the word ‘pizza’ – now when you type it into Google, you’ll find different results. There may be pizza shopping results for those who want to buy a pizza (purchase intent), there may be pizza restaurants or take away places for those wanting to go someone to get a pizza (navigational) or there may be pizza recipes for those wanting to make their own pizza (informational). So for one search, you can have multiple search intents. To make the most out of your content, you need to Google the word or phrase you are looking to create content around and make sure that it matches whatever is being served on page 1. There is no point is creating a purchase led blog piece for a search term that only provides informational results.
Make sure that the main pages of your website (your home page, services and contact page) have the write search intent behind them if you are using keywords. You’ll also want to consider this when you create your content calendar to ensure that you are hitting on all of the three intents to get everyone at each stage of the purchasing cycle.
Getting backlinks for your business should be constantly on your to-do list. If you are wondering what a backlink is and why it is important, it’s simple. A backlink is a link from someone’s website to yours which indicates that you can be trusted. As getting links to your website improve the authority of your website, it is recommended that you have a strategy in place to grow them. The most important part of getting links to your website is that they are natural links meaning you use white hat tactics (abide by Google’s rules) and that you have a good mixture of paid and free links. Over the years, Google has become smarter with people paying for links so while they are great, they don’t necessarily have the same results they did have a few years ago.
You can get links to your websites in a number of different ways: guest blogging for an industry online magazine or blog, collaborating with another supplier, get involved in a networking group or focusing on getting your name out there with PR. Connect with the relevant people and websites and you’ll be lucky enough to get brownie points from Google as well as You can also focus on local SEO tactics to improve your rankings even if you are an online business only.
SCHEMA / RICH SNIPPETS
Schema is a mark up language that helps Google show more than just your homepage in the search engine results page. It’s important because it gives more details to searchers as well as takes more space on page 1. You’ve more than likely seen it before but didn’t know what it is, here is a quick example of Lucy Bee’s website with their rich snippets. Giving Google as much information about your website means that your search results are more attractive to visitors and they can easily get to the page they want directly from Google.
There are over 200 rich snippets to choose from but some of the popular ones are author, product, review or recipes. Having schema set up can add an extra level of social proof for your website especially when your reviews are available for searches to see. If you are on WordPress, you can easily set up Schema with a plugin however configuration can be a bit technical so it best to ask for help if you need it.
CTR or click through rate is the % of times a visitor clicks from the search results page to your website. Each page of your website will have it’s own CTR so it’s easy to see how well certain one are performing. You should expect your highly ranked pages to have a good CTR rate so I recommend having a look at your Google Search Console performance to identify which pages are lacking. Once you’ve identified which ones need the extra love, start testing different call to actions in your meta descriptions and page titles to entice visitors to your page.
Branded search is set to be bigger than ever as it indicates to Google how authoritative your business truly is. This can include mentions where your website has not been linked as well as your advertising, social signals and shares and advertising. If you want to improve your EAT relevancy (expertise, authority and trust factors), you should also consider the way you respond to negative reviews on social media and your Google My Business account. Set up a Google alert for your brand name to see whenever your brand is mentioned without a link, when it does, contact them for a link to your website. If for any reason you receive a bad review or PR, respond to it immediately after contacting the relevant parties within your business (your social or PR team, lawyers etc)
The final and most obvious one is meta data. It’s important to stay on top of your page titles and meta descriptions as it gives searchers an insight to what they can expect from your website and improve your CTR. Dwell time (the amount of time spent on your website) is also increased when the content matches what is in your meta data. Remember to keep each page title and meta description unique and test different call to actions to see what your dream clients responds to.
So there are my top 10 ranking factors that matter in 2019, I’ll be sharing more in depth blog posts about these over the next few months but I’d love to know which one of these you’ll be concentrating over the next few months.