With the introduction of machine learning, with systems such as Google’s RankBrain, the role and techniques for SEO are changing. Whilst relevant, high quality content always performs better in search, there are some more specific things that can be done to improve performance in the age of RankBrain.
HTTPS and Security
Back in 2014, Google announced that it was pushing HTTPS as a ranking signal, however, the uptake of HTTPS was not significant across the board. The reason for this is that secure data transfer is more important in some industries, for example, more than half of finance pages in the top position in the SERPs use HTTPS, compared to just 23% of the top results in the travel industry. This shows Google’s attempt to match its results to the user’s intent: those who are looking for financial information are likely to have to enter their personal details, whereas those looking for their next holiday destination are naturally less concerned about the security of that information.
A rule of thumb in SERP has been that the longer the content, the better. This is so because a longer text has a higher chance of being more comprehensive, however, many questions that get typed into a search engine are short and perfunctory. These sorts of direct questions should be responded to with a direct answer, in order to give the user the exact information that they are looking for. By answering these types of questions in under 500 words and stick closely to the topic, you stand a higher chance of entering ‘position zero’, where your site is quoted in Google’s answer box.
To work out the optimal length and form for your content, look to your high ranking competitors. Different industries require different types of content, so make sure to do your research.
Text is not the only way to communicate with users, images, video and interactive graphics are an engaging and concise way to pass on a message – but how many images should you include in an article?
Much like the length of your content, the images should be selected according to the users intent. For example, a search for ‘top XYZ team players’ would do well to include plenty of large images in the result, however ‘top XYZ team stats’ would be much better suited to a table or graph with lots of numbers. Retail is naturally image heavy, whereas a financial site does not necessarily benefit from a large number of images.
It has been widely covered that content should be relevant, but what, exactly, does relevant mean? Relevance depends on context that is specific to your industry, your audience and the device that they are using. Google is applying this level of detail to their SERPs, so sites must also apply this level of detail and relevance to their SEO.