Stay Ahead of the Curve: Predicting Google’s Next Ranking Factor

How many distinct ranking factors do you think Google’s algorithm uses to determine a website’s position in the search engine results pages? No one knows for sure – Google is notoriously quiet about how it works. However, it’s believed there are over 200 different ranking factors in total, covering:

  • Domain factors
  • Page-level factors
  • Site-level factors
  • Backlink factors
  • User interaction
  • Brand signals
  • On-site webspam factors
  • Off-site webspam factors

But Google likes to tinker. It plays with its ranking algorithm. There’s always something new.

The latest ranking factors, which arrived in 2021, were Core Web Vitals. The company’s statement said, “We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience.”

And really, the addition of Core Web Vitals into the ranking algorithm shouldn’t have been a surprise. In retrospect, we could see that Google had been edging towards this, slowly, for a few years. If we’d known the clues to look out for, we could have prepared. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

So, knowing that all the clues for Core Web Vitals were already there should get us thinking. What clues are out there right now which could hint at the new ranking factors of tomorrow?

What’s next in SEO?

Of course, no one knows for certain what’s next except Google. And with Core Web Vitals still being relatively new, maybe even they don’t know! But we can use little clues to take a good guess.

Here are my three predictions for the future of Google SEO:

1. Accessibility

Google has a developer tool called Lighthouse. This is an open-source tool that’s designed to help developers improve the quality of web pages. It provides feedback on areas such as performance, SEO, and accessibility. And the latter is very interesting. Through Lighthouse, Google is already capturing accessibility data and reporting on it. Yet it’s not really doing anything with it. Why? Perhaps because it’s set to become the next ranking factor? It makes sense, after all. Accessibility is the right thing to do. And what better way to encourage people to do it than to link it to ranking?

2. Sustainability

While the technology may be digital, websites can have a significant impact on our physical environment. For example, each Google search is understood to be responsible for 0.2g of carbon dioxide. And if we’re sticking with this idea of Google wanting to do the right thing, making sustainability its next focus makes a lot of sense. Once again, Google already holds the data it needs. It knows page visits. It knows load speed. It has server information. It just needs to put everything together. This would, perhaps, be one of the quickest and simplest updates to the Google algorithm.

3. Non-textual data

Google could decide not to go down the ‘it’s the right thing to do’ route, and instead continue on the path of user experience. In this case, we expect non-textual data to be a major contender for the next ranking factor. Why? Because of MUM. The Multitask Unified Model was born from some interesting research. It shows that the average user has to make 8 Google searches to get all the information they need to answer a complex query. It’s designed to pull data from multiple sources – including images, video, and audio files – to provide more in-depth results. Non-textual data could be big in the near future.

Is it worth predicting the future?

Is attempting to predict things like this a waste of time? Well, it could be! But it could also help you get ahead of the curve. When Google rolls out new ranking factors, businesses can spend months reacting to it, redesigning their sites to ensure they align with the new rules. When you’re prepared, however, there’s no need to retrospectively re-engineer your site. You can build it from the ground up in the best way possible.


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