Google reveals its three most important ranking signals

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We’ve already heard that RankBrain, Google’s artificial intelligence system, is the “third most important signal contributing to the result of a search query” and it seems like we may have confirmation on the top two factors as well.

During a live Q&A from WebPromo with Andrey Lipattsev, the Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google Ireland, SEO expert Ammon Johns suggested to Lipattsev that, knowing what we know about RankBrain, it would surely be beneficial to everyone if we also knew what the other two signals were.

And surprisingly, Andrey Lipattsev, obliges…

“It’s content and links pointing to your site.”

There you go.

I think what’s most surprising about this reply is Lipattsev’s candour. It’s a straight answer with little hesitation, that has an air of “look, you know this already” about it. And to be honest, we did. It’s just nice to have the confirmation.

Ammon Johns follows up with, “In that order?” To which Liplattsev replies, “There is no order.”

And although we believed RankBrain to be the third most important signal, Liplattsev reveals that this position is in fact “hotly contested.”

As Liplattsev warns himself, you should take the following with a pinch of salt…

“If you look at a slew of search results and open up the debugger to see what has come into play to bring about these results, certain things pop-up more or less often. Certain elements of the algorithm come into play for fewer or more cases… If you do that, you may see elements of RankBrain having been involved.”

HOWEVER!!!

“It’s not like having three links is ‘X important’ and having five keywords is ‘Y important’, and RankBrain is some ‘Z factor’ that is also somehow important, and if you multiply it all together [you’ll understand how your page is ranked] it’s not how it works.”

Google is trying to get better at understanding natural language and the meanings behind search queries, it’s still very early days for its machine learning algorithms.

Lipattsev also states that although it’s difficult for Google to claim that ’typed queries’ on mobile and desktop are subsiding voice search is certainly becoming more and more important. Google is also expecting this to bring about more stop words and mechanical language from users, because we still overthink our queries.

Before typing a query we often ask ourselves, “What is a query that is completely non-human in nature that sounds like what the machine will understand.”

It’s probably time we stopped doing this and let the machine learning algorithms get used to the way we actually use language.

Ultimately Google wants to support the people who have just started using the internet, those whose first experience is probably on a mobile, who haven’t developed this unnatural approach to search in the way that we have.

For Google, that’s the future of search.

So at the moment, yes it’s links and content that are keeping your webpages at the top of the SERPs, but with machine learning quickly developing and figuring out the best way to serve results as relevantly and naturally as possible, surely it won’t be long before intent is everything.

Check out the full one-hour long video below. It’s a fascinating watch and also features Rand Fishkin from Moz, Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting and Bill Slawski from Go Fish. The key information regarding ranking signals is at the 30 minute mark…

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