Ranking in Google – What’s New This Year?


We’ve all read this before, haven’t we? While the phrase may make for a catchy article title, SEO is alive and well in 2017. I’ve worked at digital agencies for about six years, and a lot has changed during my time in the game. SEO used to be about optimizing for exact match keywords and getting as many backlinks as possible. For the unscrupulous sort, there were plenty of dirty tricks that could be employed to get ahead, and for a couple years it even paid off for them. However, Google has consistently updated their algorithms over the years to combat spammy links and “blackhat” techniques. You may have heard about some of these updates – they were given fun names like Pigeon, Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird. With each major update, further restrictions were put on SEOs on what they could and could not do to successfully rank in Google.

Staying Relevant

There are plenty of things that were important in 2012 that are still important now. Ensuring that a website makes use of SEO best practices and is properly formatted to be crawled by search engines will always be important. Good content will always be important. Making use of tracking tools to effectively target traffic will always be, too. Keywords are still important, but the way Google treats keywords has changed significantly, meaning the days of keyword stuffing are long gone. Google’s newer algorithms can look at context and user intent to make sense of the words on a page.

Google adds new features with every update, bettering search results and improving the user experience. Websites can be optimized to take advantage of these new features, meaning SEOs will always need to update their tactics if they want to stay up to date. It’s Google’s game after all, so it’s important to be neoteric and go with the flow. SEO isn’t dead, it’s just constantly changing.

So, what’s new for this year?

User Signals

It’s true – Google follows you everywhere. While some may be concerned about a decrease in privacy, there are actually a lot of benefits to this. Google is always collecting data from it’s users, and they’ve amassed a LOT of data over the years. Lots of cool stuff can be done with this information. Google can look at how it’s users interact with content, and this data can be measured and compared. For instance, increased click-through-rates could show Google that it’s users find a page’s title appealing. However, if the majority of users quickly leave the site after clicking through, the content is likely less relevant for that particular search query. These are just a couple factors that Google can use when determining a page’s organic ranking.

Increased Personalization

Machine Learning algorithms are now used by Google to evaluate search queries. This means that machines have reviewed countless users’ searches and looked for patterns in the data to hopefully produce search results with greater relevance. What this means for SEO is that different criteria is considered depending on a search query. Ranking factors may be determined differently depending on the product, industry, or type of information a user is searching for. In short, Google now looks at the context of a question rather than just spitting out results that match a keyword or phrase. For users, this means they’ll get better search results based on things like search history, context, location, and even the type of question they ask.

Relevant Content & User Intent

With less emphasis on keywords, good content is more important than ever. Because Google can determine how relevant content is when matching it up with the questions people are asking, it means filling a site with spammy content full of keywords will no longer get a page ranked. Targeting relevant content towards specific audiences will become the rule, not the exception. This means SEOs will need to keep user intent in mind when crafting content, answering specific questions or providing valuable information to ensure a page gets ranked for various search queries.

It’s all about staying relevant. If you’re website isn’t optimized for recent changes in SEO, you’re going to fall behind. Want to see how your business ranks online? Request a Free Online Visibility Report!

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