At the recent SMX Advanced event in Seattle, search engine optimisation experts unveiled the latest findings, based on votes from an online poll on the importance of ranking factors. Voters gave their thoughts on site speed, backlinks, freshness of content and user experience, which was then judged by the Search Engine Land editorial team.
Content relevance and usability
The innovative “periodic table” design saw well-written, valuable content climb by three points this year to be crowned the most important factor in search engine optimisation. But content alone was not the only ranking factor. The results showed that said content had to be “usable”, providing users with a well-structured, digestible format, for example with H2 and H3 tags.
Relevance – “EAT”
Google’s August 2018 update came up in conversation at the event, focusing on EAT – Expertise, Authority and Trust. With this in mind, content marketers should be able to demonstrate that they are the best of the best at what they do – which they can only achieve with high quality content.
Staff “must be trained in content”
Search Engine Land author Jessica Bowman noted Google’s increasingly sophisticated content reviewing process. Rather than simply matching specific keywords, Google’s machine learning can now understand content on a conceptual level, putting the onus on writing teams to deliver content that is better quality than their competitors’.
Freshness of content
One facet of SEO that irks content marketers is the need to constantly update content. However, SEOs argued that this is not always the case, citing a “blue whales versus protein bars” argument. One conversation topic may have more frequent topical updates than another, so marketers should not always rush to produce content that may be irrelevant to their sector. Instead, they should update in line with changes in their industry, giving them more time to produce better quality, engaging content.
How content affects other ranking factors
While the panel discussed a number of ranking factors, from site architecture to page speed and crawlability, almost every topic was underpinned by content. For example, Bowman suggested rewriting content for pages with high bounce rates, suggesting poor quality may be to blame.
Similarly, SEOs noted that improving content would inadvertently solve other problems such as poor site architecture, as it would help search engines to better index pages. Marketers should now make use of the relatively new HTML 5 to better mark up their content, which should see marked improvements in the future. For now, Google is developing workarounds for broken HTML, so at present, it is not the most important ranking factor.
User experience and relevance
Interestingly, Google has now taken a step back in personalising its search results. Previously, a user who would frequently search “Jaguars”, in relation to the football team, would eventually see fewer car related results. However, Google is now focusing on geolocation alone for personalisation. User intent also had a role to play, suggesting that content relevance can be measured by the searcher’s intent and the corresponding page content.
Other key takeaways
Ad-heavy content is now considered as dangerous as other “black hat SEO”, such as cloaking
Relevant backlinks are still important, but not the #1 factor
Voice, local search, images and videos are the “emerging verticals” on which we should focus
Above all, Google seeks relevant, differentiated content to boost rankings. You can download the full results of the SEO Periodic Table.
For help with your content marketing strategy, contact Hydra Creative today.