There has been a metamorphosis of sorts in the world of search of late, and this has made it difficult to place ranking factors under straight-jacketed categories. In this blog, we’ll explore the latest changes made by Google in its ranking mechanism, which will help you shape your SEO strategy accordingly.
Google has changed the way it defines “ranking systems”. It has grouped a bunch of ranking signals together into one “page experience” category.
They have also enriched content standards by adding another E, i.e. “experience” to the old triad of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. This has formed a new quartet of content standards, namely, experience-expertise-authoritativeness-trustworthiness(E-E-A-T).
Hence, it has become an even more challenging task to determine ranking factors in Google’s search algorithm.
We’ll help you understand the factors that likely impact the search engine results page (SERP) ranking. This will not only help you understand the latest trends but also help you tailor your SEO strategy amidst all the confusion regarding Google’s algorithm.
Possible Ranking Factor Updates
- Page Experience
- In the latest Google’s “ranking systems” documentation, “page experience” has been omitted.
- Although many ranking signals continue to evaluate page experience, it’s no longer classified as an independent ranking signal.
- Other notable omissions include mobile-friendliness, page speed, and HTTPS.
- Google has clearly stated that good “page experience” is rewarded by their algorithm even if it is not a ranking system in itself.
- Other than these, the confirmed ranking factors (not ranking systems) include HTTPS, page speed, mobile friendliness, and core web vitals.
- Alt Text
This is only a ranking factor for image search and not general search.
No special treatment is provided to alt text in general searches.
No longer an active independent ranking signal as it is now included under E-E-A-T.
- Contextual links
Now comes under the bracket of anchor text, natural language processing, and content.
- Deep link ratio
No longer a ranking factor.
- Domain History
Confirmed as a ranking factor. The ranking factor doesn’t change with the change of ownership of the domain. Hence, if a domain is penalized for some reason by the algorithm then that penalty would carry on.
The major edition of “experience” to the triad of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness has significantly changed content standards.
Language is definitely a factor. The crawler detects this automatically and the use of language-based domains, HTML tags, etc. does not impact ranking.
- Link stability
This has been confirmed not to be a factor but if you change a link then it would take some time to be crawled again, but this is nothing major.
- Physical proximity to the searcher
Covered under relevance, distance and prominence.
- Syndicated Content
This includes content that is posted on multiple platforms apart from the source. If not used properly then it can have a negative impact on the rankings. If a website has been automated to repost content then it may be considered as spam. Syndicated content can outrank the original one if the site doesn’t noindex it.
A confirmed ranking factor. It comes into play when Google has never indexed a particular content before. Its impact becomes negligible when the content gets indexed.
Amendments to Google’s Ranking Systems Documentation
Focus on Systems and Signals
A marked shift can be observed in Google’s use of terminologies in its documentation. They have shifted from using “ranking factors” to “ranking systems and signals”. Although it is still a commonly used term in keyword research but is not an accurate term.
Google for a long time has worked on shifting its focus from quantitative signals to qualitative ones. It is trying to build a collection of signals that reflect values and ideals. A prime example of this is E-E-A-T, which means that Google wants your content to reflect expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Although Google currently doesn’t have the metrics to measure trust, it does have a set of signals that help broadly calculate authority.
Understanding Page Experience
Google has downgraded this from their “ranking systems documentation”. Page experience conventionally includes several core SEO metrics. Although there is no clarity on how much of a downgrade it went through. Some of its constituent signals like speed, security and Core Web Vitals still remain in the documentation.
Yet, Google has confirmed that it still holds an impact and “page experience” is rewarded by ranking systems.
The following statement was shared on X(formerly Twitter) by Google’s Search Liason account:
“We also made an update to our page on ranking systems last week. Ranking *systems* are different than ranking *signals* (systems typically make use of signals). We had some things listed on that page relating to page experience as “systems” that were actually signals. They shouldn’t have been on the page about systems. Taking them off didn’t mean we no longer consider aspects of page experience. It just meant these weren’t ranking *systems* but instead signals used by other systems.”
Hence, “page experience” is not a ranking system but a collection of ranking signals that several other ranking systems use to evaluate good page experience.
In hindsight, we can say that the recent changes made by Google were structural in nature and have not significantly impacted its algorithmic function.