Keeping up with Google’s improvements and trends can be a full-time occupation, especially for writers involved in content writing for websites, blogs, and articles. One of the best tools available to understand current trends is a yearly report put out by Searchmetrics. The complete whitepaper can be downloaded for free in English and German.
Google SEO Trends for 2014
Searchmetrics researches the correlation of various factors in how sites rank on Google. The results are not guesses, but hard data that is derived from objective research. I won’t go into how they study the data here (you can read that in the report), but one interesting part of this study is how Searchmetrics determines what a ranking factor is. The definition and math behind it is far beyond my ability to calculate. However, the results can be easily understood and incorporated into future writing projects. The following factors were deemed key:
- On-page technical SEO
- Social signals
- User signals
- Brand factor
If you have been writing on the Internet for more a few months, the fact that content is a key ranking factor is not surprising. It is actually a good thing that quality content is increasingly important as Google becomes more sophisticated. The study found that the quality of content directly correlates with ranking, that length of content is increasing, and that internal site linking is one of the most underrated content SEO ranking measures. In other words, most people do not do enough of it.
2. On-Page Technical SEO
On-page SEO refers to what is actually written on the page of content. Although some gurus have denied it, keywords are still important to ranking, especially in the title, sub-titles, and body of the content. Oh wait, that is everything in the content! However, keyword stuffing is out. Other important factors are site-load speed, easy-to-navigate sites, and good site architecture.
Contrary to what some people believe, backlinks are still important. Nowadays, of course, they need to be relevant to the content. You can’t just link stuff anymore. Keyword backlinks are reducing in usage, but backlinks from related pages are a better use of this technique.
4. Social Signals
Social signals from social media sites and sharing have stayed pretty much the same over the last year, providing a slightly higher value. For visual learners, the report has a nifty chart which breaks these signals down, along with other key factors.
5. User Signals
A new section of this report discusses user signals in relation to ranking on Google. Interesting findings show that clickthrough rates (CTR) and the time users spend on-site are much higher for sites that rank at the top echelons of Google search engine results pages (SERPs). In addition, bounce rates are lower for those sites. This means that user intent is more important than ever and engaging customers on your site will result in improved rankings (and conversions).
6. Brand Factor
Not surprisingly, big brands are getting special consideration. This section of the report shows the complex influence of brand factors on rankings. This issue is not one that most companies will be able to affect, yet knowing what is happening can help with decision-making.
Paula A has been a content writer online since 2008 and right now is trying to figure out how she got old enough to have a 21-year-old daughter.