This article is the first in a weekly series that will cover SEO news from just the past week. It’s designed to be your “executive summary” that will keep you up to date with all the latest and greatest SEO information.
Here’s what’s new and noteworthy in SEO from this week.
Google Shared Some Ranking Secrets:
It’s not likely that anyone outside of Mountain View, California will ever fully grasp all the factors that Google uses to determine the rank for any given web page. However, the company will sometimes briefly pull back the curtain to give us all a glimpse of its magic formula.
Just this week, Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev spilled the beans on the top three ranking factors.
Spoilers: the top signals are: backlinks, content, and RankBrain (Google’s artificial intelligence system).
Those are listed in no particular order of importance, by the way. That’s because Google won’t reveal the order.
More Help for Local SEO
Just yesterday, Google posted in the features updates page for Google My Business that the company has updated its help document for businesses that want to improve local rankings.
That document also gives us a peek into what it takes to rank locally. The factors for a strong local rank include:
Relevance – How well the local listing matches with what people are searching for. You can score well here by offering detailed information about your business.
Distance – How close is the listing from location term used in the search? While there’s not much you can do to change your location, you can make sure that your location is provided on your website.
Prominence – How well-known is the business? The search results will reflect the fact that some businesses are more prominent offline than they are online. You can expect brands that are household names to fare better in rank than their competitors that aren’t so well known.
More Evidence That Mobile Is Mandatory
Google’s Paul Haahr announced on Twitter this week that he thinks Google Quality Raters use mobile devices to rate the quality of search results and Google test results.
When asked if the quality raters are using desktop or mobile devices, Haahr replied:
.@balibones I don’t know. The primary mechanism, I think, is raters using their phones.
— Paul Haahr (@haahr) March 31, 2016
That’s just one more piece of evidence (as if we needed one) that mobile is everything.
Rumors of Ranking Changes
Both whitehat and blackhat SEO practitioners said this week that they’re seeing some of the sites that they monitor drop in rank. That’s led to speculation that Google might be pushing out another update.
Here’s what one person had to say: “I ran some searches today and, wow, the SERPs look awful. So many non-relevant sites appearing. .ru, .com, .fr, appearing and none were what I was looking for. How strange, i havent seen it this poor for a while, yet tge adwords were right on the money. No need to be cynical but the organic serps needs some work.”
Tools like SERPMetrics, SERPs.com, Mozcast, and AccuRanker have reported ranking fluctuations as well.
We’ll see how this shakes out next week.
On-Site Duplication? Don’t Sweat It
By now, every SEO professional knows about the danger of duplicate content. However, that danger might have been overhyped, at least when it comes to duplicate content within the same site.
Specifically, Google’s Gary Illyes was asked by a concerned citizen if he’s going to get penalized because he has a PDF document on his site that contains the same content as a web page on his site.
Here’s the brief, but telling, reply that Illyes offered: “you need not to worry much about onsite duplication.”
Your High Bounce Rate Might Not Impact Your Rank
A report over at Search Engine Roundtable challenges the narrative that a high bounce rate could impact your rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Apparently, that’s not the case.
Why? Three reasons are offered:
- Google doesn’t retain bounce rate information.
- Google said back in 2008 that low bounce rates can essentially be faked with bought traffic.
- Just last week, Google said that high bounce rates might be the expected behavior at certain websites (e.g., news-related websites).
Google Recommends an Individual URL for Each Language
If you’re running a website for a multi-national business that caters to people who speak different languages, Google says it’s best to use a separate URL for each language.
It’s often the case that webmasters will use just one URL that will handle all languages. However, Google prefers a per-language URL.
During a recent Google Webmaster Office Hours, a questioner asked about the best-practice concerning sites that support multiple languages.
Here’s what John Mueller had to say: “So in general for multi-lingual pages we recommend making the language clear per URL. So you have one page in English, one page in Spanish and the whole page is in English and the whole page is in Spanish and with that it’s a lot easier for us to recognize that this is the English page and we should redirect people to the English page, and we don’t have the situation where the page is partly in English, part Spanish and we don’t really know which language this page should be ranking for.”