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Understanding Current Search Ranking Factors

September 9, 2016

magnifying-glass-1083378_1280 (1)For our clients, most of the important SEO work we do happens behind the scenes. We often get asked the question, “what exactly do you do?” In this post, we’ll review the most recent trends regarding Google search rankings. These findings reflect changes in the Google organic local results algorithm in 2015 from 2014, which originated here.

Thinning the Pack

In 2015, Google pushed an update to its algorithm called Pigeon. The most significant change was in reducing the number of suggested search results displayed (known as Local Stack/Snack Pack) from seven to three. While this means fewer immediate options for consumers, it’s great for businesses ranking in one of the top three positions. After all, they are now showing against 42% less competition. For those who used to rank in the four through seven spots, however, this has hardly been a welcome change.

Content is (Still) King

Prioritizing good, accurate content is a shift we won’t be moving away from any time soon. Site content, on-page optimization, links, accurate citations, customer reviews, and actively managing Google My Business (GMB) pages all garner rewards in searches. It’s more important than ever to have constant directory management, as Google penalizes inaccurate business information by suspending GMBs. This can cause your rankings to plummet.

The Death of Google+

No one really liked or used Google+ as a social media platform. After failing to gain traction with users for several years, it seems as though Google has decided to forgo beating a dead horse. The 2015 algorithm showed a severing of links to Google+ from Google Maps and search results. While it is important to maintain accurate information on your GMB page, we don’t recommend posting to, or interacting with, clients via Google+.

Mobile Behavior

Year after year, Google continues to place a premium on mobile user behavior. In 2015, mobile behavior accounted for 9.5% of the algorithm. While that may not seem very high, it’s up 38% from 2014. Mobile click-through rate finally entered the top ten ranking factors, coming in at number four.

Links are In Again

Back in the “old” SEO days, link building was a huge factor in search rankings. This resulted in an abundance of link stuffing, which led Google to move away from prioritizing them in organic local search results. While it is the number 14 factor, it is also evaluated differently than it was in the past. The algorithm prioritizes links that are varied and relevant, ensuring a higher quality than ever before.

Proximity to Searcher

2015 marked the official switch from proximity to centroid to proximity to searcher. In other words, Google used to triangulate search results to define a “centroid” of search results. This meant that you would see businesses based on their popularity as opposed to the distance away from the person searching. Now, top results combine popularity and distance to the person searching. This is a natural progression considering so many of today’s searches take place on mobile devices. After all, users want trusted local results that are near their location.

2016 Search Factors

Though Moz won’t release the 2015-2016 search ranking factor report until after the new year, we already have some insight into some important elements being considered at Google this year. For instance, we know that there are over 200 unique factors that influence rankings. It can be overwhelming and maddening to keep them straight, weigh one over another, and keep them updated. Because of this, Moz straight out asked Google what the most important factors are for 2017. They said, quite candidly, that they are content and inbound links. Since we already know that original and engaging content is key, we’ll delve slightly deeper into inbound links.

It’s Good to Have Friends

When others are publishing links to your website on their own channels, it contributes to a sense of authority and trust. Google thinks that if your content warrants references by others, it must be worth reading and sharing. This reinforces what we know about the importance of having clear, intriguing content that is regularly updated on your website, blog, and social profiles. It’s not enough simply to write good content; you need to get it in front of others and have them reference it in their own content.

SEO More Important Now than Ever

If the above information seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. Trying to stay updated on search ranking factors and implementing those changes is a full-time job. LegalRev offers comprehensive search engine optimization and digital marketing services nationwide. We can help you rank higher, increasing your chances of being found by the right clients. Call us today at (800) 893-2590.

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