According to a recent video published by Google, the search engine’s algorithm changes in excess of 500 times over the course of a single year. All of these revisions, tweaks and updates have been developed in effort to drive the most relevant user to the most relevant website as quickly as possible.
Naturally, these changes affect where your website appears in Google’s search results. Most notably, the impact of Google’s recent Panda Update has been felt around the globe. Webmasters reported dire drops in rankings, and even disappearing from search results altogether.
Getting to Know Panda
The Panda Update is driven by Google’s emphasis on relevant content, relevant links, and usability as significant ranking factors. For your website to be seen as worthy of ranking in Google’s eyes, websites need to provide relevant and up to date content. Taking this a step further, Google is also looking into the quality and authority of referring websites, or inbound links pointing to a website. As in, how up to date are your referring websites? Do the sites linking to yours provide relevant and timely content themselves?
As for usability, this simply refers to how easy it is for people to use your website. Yes – Google can now tell if people find your site annoying and painful to navigate! So make sure your most important information is where people expect it to be. For example, contact information should be visible clearly on the homepage, not hidden at the bottom of a page that takes three clicks to find.
Preparing for the Future
What does this all mean for the future of search engine rankings? How are you going to make sure your website appears for relevant search terms?
In line with Google’s effort to drive relevant users to relevant sites as quickly as possible, we predict that the user experience is going to be a key factor in search results for the future. Similar to the way that Google AdWords rates keyword quality scores, the kind of factors Google will be looking at in the future of organic search rankings are things like:
1. Does this website load quickly?
Websites that take time to load up are annoying. Users get frustrated when pages are too slow.
2. Do users stay on the site; is the website bounce rate high?
Google can track how long users stay on websites, so if your website has a high bounce rate it is fair to assume that users are not finding what they are looking for.
3. Does the website have relevant images or video content?
Do you prefer to read through a lengthy document or watch a video? Landing on a page with an even spread of text and images as opposed to a page full of text has an impact on whether or not a user will stay on the page or bounce off.
4. Do users talk about this website through their social networks?
Users are turning to social networks to find information. Websites with numerous mentions in the social space is a measure of validity and relevance. Google is already using social presence as a measure of a website’s authority.
5. Is this website mobile friendly?
As more users are searching through their mobile devices, it is important that websites are able to adapt to the screen size of mobile devices, and load on slower mobile bandwidths.
Go Forth and Rank
Google will continue to make daily, weekly, and monthly changes to its algorithm in effort to keep its users happy with the quality of its search results. In order to attain and maintain high search engine rankings for your website, it is important to keep future search ranking factors trends in mind.
Remember, it’s all about the user. If you make your visitors happy, you will make Google happy!