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We’ll Never Know How Google Ranks SEO (But It’s Vital to Keep Up)

On the 26th September 2002, Google released the first of its major search updates – Google Dance. The changes made to Google’s algorithm gave greater significance to anchor text quality allowing Google to increase the relevance of the sites it displayed when a user typed in a particular search query. Since then, Moz has documented a massive 170 Google Core Algorithm updates, with the latest ‘Medic’ confirmed as recently as August 2018.

It is important to remember that the likes of ‘Panda’, ‘Penguin’ and ‘Hummingbird’ – names every digital marketer should have heard before – are just the major search engine updates that are identified and confirmed by industry watchers such as Moz or Search Engine Land. In between these SEO seismic shifts, Google is constantly tweaking and refining its algorithms to make sure users get the best possible results for their query. John Mueller, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trend Analyst, has even gone as far as to say “Google makes changes almost every day”. That’s’ a lot of updates to keep up with!

Google’s Web Page Ranking Factors

With between 500 – 600 Algorithm updates happening each year, you might not be too surprised to hear that there are an estimated 200 factors that can influence how Google ranks a page. Unfortunately, Google has never outright confirmed what any these ranking factors actually are – often hints are given or senior members of Google teams say something cryptic, only for SEO agencies to spend weeks trying to decode new SEO ranking methods to give their clients an edge in the SERPs.

What we do know however, is that the majority of SEO ranking factors are likely outside the influence of SEO agencies or businesses. This means that the elements we can affect – such as keywords, backlinks and technical elements – are incredibly valuable to SEO work and can have a huge effect of the ‘success’ of a web page.

So, What Can We Directly Influence?

As is becoming clear, your website’s page rank is a complicated matter. When a digital marketing agency talks about how to improve your organic traffic, they’re likely thinking about at least three distinct strategies that are covered by the term ‘SEO.’

On-page is the most common form of website optimisation – and the one you probably think of when talking about SEO. Is your content unique, relevant and interesting to the user? Does your content add something new to the web? Does every page have its own unique page title, meta description and content?  Are your pages correctly structured, with all images given Alt Tags?

Technical SEO covers how the site itself is structured & presented to promote a positive user experience. Google considers page load times, server response times, mobile device compatibility, Ref-Lang tags, canonicalisation and other criteria for an overall ‘health check’. Chances are if your keyword optimised website is still struggling to rank, it’s a technical SEO problem holding you back.

Finally, a SEO agency will consider your backlink profile. This where other websites – such as bloggers, industry recognised websites and even other businesses – provide a link from their website to your website. Google sees this as a vote of confidence (indeed backlinks are a core part of the founding PageRank principles of the search engine) and can help increase your overall authority. This is without doubt a hugely effective way of improving rankings.

Your SEO Is Out of Date

Last year, I wrote how SEO isn’t Dead– and concluded that on-page refinements to your SEO can still have significant impact on how your page is ranked by Google. Twelve months later, and I’m more convinced than ever that ongoing SEO work is the cornerstone of all online digital marketing activity.

With so many changes being made to Google’s algorithms every single day, ask yourself this question – when was the last time your website was optimised? John Mueller (that name again) recently revealed the importance of domain-level authority metrics, sub-domains & algorithm changes that Google now considers important ranking factors.

So, if you’re reading this thinking “well I optimised my site last year”, your page might already be lacking some SEO signposts that Google now considers to be important to Page Rank.

Of course, I’m not about to suggest that your website needs an entire SEO audit every couple of months – in fact, the stability and age of a webpage is often cited as a contributing factor to search engine rank. However, it is important to make sure that your pages are as optimised as possible for Google’s ever-changing algorithm, and that means making SEO work part of your day-to-day digital marketing strategy.

If you need to optimise your website, Mackerel can help! Get in touch today at