Google Ranking Factors & their impact on SERPs
Google uses several ranking factors in order to rank a page, many of these factors are known to us and many are unknown. Some of the factors that we are aware of are, relevant keywords in the html title tags, keywords in the content, internal and external linking, anchor texts, site speed, site age, domain age, mobile friendliness, social signals, and so on and so fore. However for quite a few months now, Google is using AI system as one of its many ranking factors to determine the rank of a page, and it appears that RankBrain (the name given to Google’s AI system) is one of the third most significant factors in ranking a page. That is indeed significant considering that there are several hundreds of factors that are considered in the Google algorithm.
How does RankBrain work?
RankBrain is a form of machine learning if you may, where the computer learns by making connections and associations on its own. RankBrain is being used to provide more relevant results in the Google SERPs. Using RankBrain has helped Google deliver relevant search results for queries that are not so common and for regular queries as well. Going forward, machine learning will in all likelihood be one of the many factors used in the algorithms of major search engines. Owing to the AI way of learning where the system teaches itself and evolves and does not require much human intervention, we will likely see more and more relevant results in the SERPs.
What does it mean for SEO?
In terms of optimizing a web page or site, it means that a website has to have relevant and meaningful content. Content for the sake of content will not work; the content strategy will need to be very well-thought out. For instance, if a website is about printers, there should be enough information regarding every printer, and each of these pages should be internally linked to relevant pages such as printer accessories, suppliers, FAQs, similar products, earlier versions, reviews, ratings, and links to external relevant sites, etc..essentially anything that is relevant and associated with the product in any way must be linked so that information regarding the product is easy to find and locate.
The example above illustrates one of the basic on-page SEO optimization techniques that lays emphasis on internal and external linking, and using synonymous keywords, long tailed key phrases, and natural words in the visible text and anchor texts. The site navigation, content, images are laid out in the most user-friendly way so that visitors can find the information easily.
When a website is optimized by applying the SEO best practices (for both on and off-page factors) there is a high chance that Google may show relevant product pages from this site when a search happens. Google’s algorithm now enhanced with AI RankBrain, should find enough strong signals from within the site, and from other authoritative sites to make the association.
The future of search is going to be more about associating words and phrases that are similar and relevant to the search term, and links from authoritative sites, even though the exact keyword may not be there in the site, similar content in terms of words, images, links, will make a strong enough impact to warrant higher visibility.
One must not forget though that there are several other factors that impact ranking. However, RankBrain being the 3rd most important factor, is too significant to be ignored; in my opinion AI is here to stay, and will continue to have a significant impact in Google SERPs, and the other major search engines as well in 2016.