What Will The Ranking Factors In Google’s Algorithm Look Like In 5 Years’ Time?
In the Creare SEO team, we love nothing better than an SEO workshop – a chance to give our brains a workout and learn a little more about the wonderful world of search engine optimisation. Recently, we all sat down to watch one of Rand Fishkin’s whiteboard Friday videos, Weighting the Clusters of Ranking Factors in Google’s Algorithm.
This video provided a summary of some of the information received from Moz’s semi-annual survey, focusing on Google’s ranking factors. Moz surveyed 128 SEO professionals whom they consider to be “very knowledgeable in the field” (no invite for Creare unfortunately) and asked them what elements of SEO they perceived to carry the most weight in the way Google ranks websites.
Rand collated the information gathered from his SEO experts into a pie chart, which can be seen in detail over on the Moz website if you haven’t already had a look. The main gist I got from it was that traditional SEO go-tos, such as link metrics and domain level keyword usage were seen to be declining in importance, whilst factors such as domain level brand features and social metrics are on the rise. However, domain level link authority (domain authority) and link metrics were still taking up a substantial chunk of the pie – occupying almost 40% combined – so it’s not time to call off your link builders just yet.
So, now it was our turn. In teams, we looked at the results from the video, and tried to determine which of Google’s ranking factors we believe will hold the most weight in five years’ time. Here is an overview of what we came up with.
- Content – You know the drill, content is king – and it’s not going away any time soon. Although Google keeps shifting the goal posts, with updates such as Hummingbird and the growth of (not provided), good quality content will still drive traffic, shares and engagement in the future. The focus may move away from optimising the traditional short, snappy key word phrases and rather try to answer more long tail queries. And it’s not just about written content either; interactive forms of content such as video and infographics are on the rise, with much more potential to go viral and therefore raise more exposure and recognition for your brand.
- Social – Google’s own social media network, Google+, is already having an evident impact on rankings, particularly when it comes to personalised results. But, as a whole, we reckoned that further down the line, the impact of social media as a whole would have risen – and gain a much larger portion of the pie than it was in the Moz survey, where it was allotted an average of 7.24%. This includes links from Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn – and any other networks around in five years’ time.
- Links – Yes, we think that links will still have an impact, but not necessarily in the form we currently know them to be. Google has been cracking down on paid and sponsored links for some time – and now most SEOs have turned to guest blogging, they’re cracking down on that too. The traditional sponsored post with keyword-rich anchor text may not be the future; the emphasis now is on links which appear to be as natural as possible. The views at Creare were mixed when it comes to the role of links in five years’ time, but most believed that paid links are likely to be all but dead, with natural links playing a much larger role. This links would perhaps be gained through PR techniques, such as sending bloggers products to review, and press releases. It is also evident that citations are coming to the forefront, particularly for local SEO, and in five years’ time these may well be treated the same way as links by Google.
- Branding – Domain level brand features incorporate some of the earlier mentioned factors, such as social metrics and natural links. This is about the brand’s overall presence across the internet, including mentions on social media, review websites and blogs. The consensus from our team was that public relations will need to be more incorporated in SEO techniques over the next few years; rather than purely focusing on rising your website up the rankings, if you build a genuine relationship with the public, they will come.
- User Experience – Just like SEO, technology is also constantly evolving, and there is a need for websites to keep up with the times in order to effectively engage with their users. As more and more people are accessing the internet and making purchases using mobile devices we believe that responsive web design will carry a much greater significance in the future. Not having a responsive design will mean that your website is not accessible or user-friendly for a growing proportion of users, and this in turn will have an impact on things like your bounce rate and average time spent on your pages. Google wants to see that users are engaging with your website and its content; if they aren’t, you could find your rankings taking a severe drop.
- Domain Authority & Onsite Optimisation – Although they still have an impact, we considered these factors to have a lower weight than the other factors listed. A domain’s trustworthiness will always be important, but this can be improved using some previously mentioned methods, such as reviews, citations and general branding. Onsite optimisation, including meta data and micro formatting, will still play a role as they are crucial in allowing search engines to easily crawl your website and understand what each page is about.
So there we have it – all of the ranking factors which we believe will be important to Google in five years’ time. In summary, the emphasis here is on a shift from traditional SEO techniques with the specific target of moving a website up in the rankings, to instead a focus on creating websites and content of a high quality, which engages the online community, through written content, video, infographics and social media, whilst still allowing search engines to easily understand what your website is all about.
But five years is a long time in the SEO world, and who knows what will have happened by then? Perhaps we’ll all have migrated to Bing, or some shiny new search engine will have come along and knocked Google off its pedestal. We will just have to wait and see!
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or Tweet us your feedback @crearegroup.