If you’re wondering what factors to consider as you build your SEO strategy for 2017, links are still the top-ranking factor for Google’s algorithm with content close behind. And high CTR is still at the core of the rankings pack as well.
Earlier this year, Andrey Lipattsev, a Google Search Quality Senior Strategist, fielded questions about the top ranking factors for Google. Lipattsev said, “I can tell you what they are. It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.”
Recent Study Put Links to the Ranking Factor Test
A recent study by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting put links to the ranking factor test. And links emerged as powerful as ever.
Previous research by Moz and Searchmetrics found a high correlation when comparing high SEO rankings and external links. However, data from other ranking factors were close behind links.
For example, the Moz study found the number of external links to be rated at 0.30, but the Moz authority rated at 0.28, and the page authority at 0.37.
How could links be so vital to SEO efforts and not have a significant statistical edge on other ranking factors? Enge wanted to know why, and he found that the Moz and Searchmetrics studies used commercial search terms, and evaluated each SERP individually.
“Based on consultations with a couple of experts (Paul Berger and Per Enge), I did a different type of calculation, based on the Quadratic Mean,” Enge explained.
Different varieties of search terms were also employed in the Stone Temple Consulting study. Long tail commercial terms, commercial terms, and informational keywords were used to test the power of links.
The results of the new study certainly matched Google’s announcement, crowning links king of ranking. Links per ranking URL rated at 0.39 with domain and page rating far behind at 0.27.
Links are Still Powerful Amid Hundreds of Google Ranking Factors
Did you know Google uses around 200 ranking factors to rank websites? This may be a lot for SEOs to take in all at once. However, focusing on links is still best practice.
Several digital marketing firms compiled hundreds of Google ranking factors, and they may be useful to your SEO efforts, says Entrepreneur contributor Eric Siu.
“While it can be worthwhile for business owners to be at least familiar with some of the topics here, this infographic can be a valuable resource to share with those on your team who are managing your site’s day-to-day SEO operation.”
In fact, out of those 200 ranking factors in Google’s ranking algorithm, three of the most essential encompass links.
The number of external links you receive is important. Some of the top SEOs say external links are simply invaluable to your ranking power, according to Moz.
Anchor text of external links affects ranking. Links with SEO focused anchor text needs to be relevant to the target page.
The links need to be of good authority. For example, your links need to be from a reputable news source or academic journal.
Links have always been a valuable aspect of an SEOs strategy, and many SEO agencies focus on building relevant links to get first page search results on Google.
Building Relevant Links is an Important Ranking Practice
Building links is certainly an essential SEO practice, but Google is still dealing with the manipulation of SERPs via economically minded marketers. However, your link building strategy needs to encompass relevancy, according to Search Engine Land.
Incorporating relevance and trustworthiness into your link building strategy is an essential part of your ranking efforts. The first step in this strategy is to identify resources and publications for inbound links.
Here are two key aspects to incorporate into your link building strategy, according to the best SEO practices of 2016 by Forbes.
Identify respectable links. When searching for respectable links ask yourself: Do people trust this site? Does this site use citations? Is the site refined? Is the site a household name?
Focus on relevancy in links. In order to optimize rankings, SEOs need to find relevant links within the industry they are marketing. Match content and links up as perfectly as possible to keep rankings moving in a positive direction.
Link building is important, and it may be as essential as ever, according to Google’s announcement. And SEOs still need to combine links with powerful content too.
Google Identifies CTR and User Experience as Major Ranking Factors
Links and content are certainly at the top of your SEO strategy. However, Google identified CTR and user experience as major ranking factors. Increasing one will certainly increase the other as well.
Google utilizes CTR data to indicate a sites ranking value, according to Google engineer Paul Haahr. Haahr also added that Google runs A/B tests with SERPs. This could increase or decrease a site’s ranking by a few spots, and has no relevancy to links or SEO.
Essentially, the higher CTR you have, and the more user experience your site receives, the higher the Google rankings.
A study on CTR by Moz found that, “The more your pages beat the expected organic CTR for a given position, the more likely you are to appear in prominent organic positions.”
Rankings and CTR are certainly codependent. Keeping visitors on your site is one important element in the Google ranking equation. Here are a few tips to optimize your CTR and user experience.
Bucket brigades. Using bucket brigades is one great SEO strategy to increase user experience, according to Backlinko. These are simply words and phrases that keep people engaged.
Better content title and descriptions. Emphasizing fast results is what Google is all about, and your content title and description need to reflect that. Giving Google browsers the sense of speedy information will increase your CTR.
More value in your subheadings. Including benefits in your subheadings will also enhance your CTR and user experience. A more powerful subheading will intrigue your audience to stick around and see what the content has to offer.
Your 2017 Strategy: What Else?
Knowing that you must continue with outreach, content, and CTR optimization as your foundation, what else should you consider for your 2017 strategy? A Forbes article describes three steps to jumpstart site traffic in 2017: Real Time Videos, Augmented Reality Gaming, and Google Penguin.
If you keep your site safe from Penguin while focusing on building a real time video strategy with an augmented reality component, watch your site’s visibility sky rocket! It’s time to combine the old with the new to have your best year ever!