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Getting the Best Out of Search Results in 2018

SEO 2018

There are a multitude of factors that can influence keyword rankings for a website. In the past, Google has said that over 200 factors are in play. To add to the confusion, Google’s algorithm is constantly changing in real-time, and is getting smarter since it began using artificial intelligence in its algorithm. At a high level, here are factors that influence a site’s keyword rankings as we head into 2018.

1. Technical SEO

A solid technical foundation is a prerequisite for good rankings performance. Site content that is not discoverable by people or search engines cannot rank. Other technical considerations include:

technical seo

Mobile Friendliness

Now that more Google searches happen on mobile, coupled with the fact that Google will be moving to a mobile-first index, it is critical that sites are mobile-friendly – which means that content largely mirrors its desktop counterpart, and user experience does not suffer on mobile devices.

Site Speed

While it’s a minor ranking signal, site speed is a factor applicable to every acquisition channel, and slow load times can impact other ranking factors. Pages with longer load times also tend to have poorer performance in engagement metrics. With the emphasis that Google is placing on mobile organic search, where load times are often slower, it is critical that site speed be a priority.


Google wants to serve secure pages to users, and therefore prioritises the HTTPS version over its HTTP counterpart. Sites that have not switched to HTTPS are now marked as “Not Secure” in Chrome browsers. Google has officially stated encrypt by July 2018 or else.

2. On-Page Factors & Meta Data

These are factors that we can influence directly. The objective of SEO Content Audits at BrightPixel Studio is to identify improvements for on-page SEO and user experience. A well-planned keyword strategy lays the foundation for good performance in organic search.

page content optimisation

Page Title

One of the strongest levers we can pull, the title of the page should incorporate primary, and if possible, secondary keywords. These keywords should be closer to the front and be written in a natural way.

Header Tags

Page headers are a formal way to highlight key sections of a web page, and they provide context to users and search engines about the page’s content.

Meta Description

This snippet of text appears under the URL in organic Google search and acts like ad copy. These descriptions should entice the user to click with a compelling call-to-action. While these are not a ranking signal on their own, their impact on click-through rate can influence rankings.

Body Content

The actual copy on the page needs to be relevant and useful. Factors for success include:

Keyword Usage

While there’s no precise number of times a keyword needs to be used, it’s a good idea to incorporate them into the page’s body copy if your goal is to achieve rankings for a specific keyword theme.


Does it offer anything of substance around the keyword topic or theme that the page is targeting?

Length & Comprehensiveness

The amount of content on the page will vary depending on topic and the purpose of each page. Address keyword topics in-depth with high-quality content if you hope to succeed in organic search.


Sites can take advantage of this factor by creating quality, relevant content that matches the real-time pulse and search trends within their vertical.

Internal Linking

Incorporating links that point to relevant pages inside your domain is not only ideal for user experience, but it helps establish information hierarchy and spreads link equity throughout the site.

technical seo audit

3. Off-Page Factors

There are a handful of factors that sites can influence by producing high-quality content, along with a sound link acquisition program and public relations strategy.

off page ranking factors


Domain Authority & Page Authority are scores developed by Moz that provide directionality in predicting a site’s ability to rank. Scores are calculated based on backlink profiles and not any on-page factors.

Number of Backlinks

How many domains and pages are linking to the site? Links from third-party sites act like “votes”, which pass “link juice” to the page they are linking to.

Quality & Diversity of Backlinks

The concept of “quality over quantity” applies to backlinks. A healthy backlink profile contains links from a diverse set of domains and pages; the more authoritative, the better.

Link Relevancy

This ties back to backlink quality. There should be content relevance overlap between sites linking to each other.

Anchor Text

Words within a link, the anchor text, is seen by search engines as the way one website describes another. Exact match anchor text can influence rankings for that text. For example, Adobe Reader ranked well for the keywords “click here” since it has often been linked to using that anchor text.

4. Algorithms

What sets Google apart is how itsalgorithm effects search results, which in turn determines the order Google displays results on its search engine results page (SERP).

To be clear, Google does not function with a single algorithm. There are multiple algorithms that work (both together and separately) to allow the search experience that we have today. Some of their algorithms have been publicised and given names, while others remain somewhat of a mystery*.

*through testing, Webmasters have made educated guesses towards additional algorithms
*additionally, patents that Google has filed also can help shed light on algorithms being created

The first algorithm developed by Google and given a name was their PageRank algorithm. The algorithm was a way of measuring the importance of a web page, for the purpose of ranking within Organic search. Below is a bullet list of some recent notable (and confirmed) algorithms from Google:

algorthm examples

assigns a measure of web page importance to help with organic rankings

Caffeine (2010)

the first huge update to the way Google handled searches, this update allowed Google to boost their speed at which they crawled and indexed the web

Panda (2011)

placed an emphasis on content, specifically the quality of content towards fulfilling the need of the end user

Penguin (2012)

went after spammy backlink profiles, over optimised anchor text, and linking practices that were outside of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

Hummingbird (2013)

this is the name given to Google’s Search Algorithm after the huge update/overhaul; prior to this, Google’s main algorithm didn’t have a name any reference you might hear to “the core” algorithm is now synonymous with Hummingbird Hummingbird was a complete overhaul to the way Google handled searches, with a special focus on conversational search and natural-sounding language

RankBrain (early 2015)

the artificial intelligence machine-learning algorithm that helps Google process search results specifically, RankBrain helps Google to understand unique long-tail queries occurring more and more with the increase in mobile devices and voice search

How we Identify Algorithm Changes

Google used to announce and confirm big/major changes. All of the algorithms listed above were confirmed by Google and explained to the SEO/Webmaster community. Beyond Google confirming, visual tools have been created that track large sets of websites in an effort to identify fluctuations in their SERP visibility

Outside of these tools, your site’s organic rankings and traffic can be key indicators of your site being re-evaluated after an algorithm update. If there has been an update, what do your organic rankings look like? Did they fall off the map? This might not be a bad thing; you could possibly be ranking on new terms/keywords you just aren’t tracking. Next step would be to look at your analytics and organic traffic. Regardless of you falling off for some ranking keywords and maybe gaining visibility on others, if your traffic has taken a nosedive, you may have been negatively affected by an algorithm update increase.

Now – to be clear- there can be anywhere from 500 to 600 tweaks to Googles algorithms each year. Algorithm updates happen almost daily! However, most of these algorithm updates are small and not noticed by the SEO community. In the past, Google has announced major changes to their algorithm(s). Many members of the community believe that after the introduction of RankBrain, Google will begin to slow down and/or stop making announcements in respect to algorithm updates.

How do You Know If You’ve Been Affected and Why

It’ll be nearly impossible to completely understand; there isn’t just one algorithm, and no single algorithm is completely known by the SEO community. Some algorithms are understood better than others, and the SEO community has identified key contributing parts of confirmed algorithms that help clients and brands to optimise towards (take Panda, for example; we know this focuses on devaluing thin content, duplicate content, and/or content that doesn’t provide value to the end user). In a post RankBrain world, let’s say an algorithm update happens tomorrow. What can you do?

Last Words

It’s about trying to be as proactive as you can be in a relatively reactive industry. For the Google algorithms that have been publicised and confirmed, your site should already be strategically placed in search results. If you have a spammy backlink structure or a thin content strategy with individual pages that speak to every iteration of your keyword strategy – you’re clearly not optimising for what’s already known.

It’s nearly impossible to optimise for what you don’t know, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot for what you do already know.

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