What are the most important SEO ranking factors in 2022?
While SEO strategies are developed for the medium to long term, they need to include some room for flexibility. It’s well-known that new Google SEO ranking factors keep arriving without much warning.The more significant updates such as E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) evaluation can also make or break online business visibility almost overnight. With thousands of ranking factors and algorithm updates to keep abreast of annually, it can quickly feel overwhelming. So, which Google ranking factors should we prioritise for 2022?
What are SEO ranking factors?Google (and search engines in general) aim to provide the most accurate and relevant information available in response to a user’s search query. If you’re looking for men’s trainers and kids’ crocs turn up as a top result, you’d very quickly lose interest in using a search engine delivering results that were repeatedly unhelpful or irrelevant. In order to categorise, prioritise and display the 6 billion indexed web pages to find the closest match for each search query, thousands of Google ranking factors are taken into account.
Some of these are widely known, but plenty are kept under lock and key by Google. This means plenty of trial and error, even by SEO experts.
What are the four most important SEO ranking factors?With the above in mind, let’s take a look at some ranking factors that we know will be a priority for SEO in 2022.
Page experienceOne big change we’ve seen in the past decade or so is a considerable shift away from creating websites that search engines like, but disappoint users. Now, Google prioritises technical and on page SEO ranking factors based on user experience. The “Page Experience’” update was completed on 2 September 2021. A new report available on Google Search Console gives key insights on what’s taken into consideration as part of their new core web vitals ranking factors. In essence, core web vitals look at:
- Site speed
- Site responsiveness
- Visual stability
- Largest contentful paint (LCP): A measurement of the time a website takes to show the visitor the largest content on the screen – content “above the fold”.
- First input delay (FID): A measurement of time between the user first interacting with a page and the browser’s response to that action.
- Cumulative layout shift (CLS): A measurement of how stable a website is – does the page content shift as users interact, and scroll as they view it?
Product reviewsIn April 2021 there was another new ranking factor focused on product reviews. Google says that this update rewards “product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarises a bunch of products”. Instead of thin “yeah, this product is great thanks” customer feedback, and with 93% of shoppers reading an online review before buying a product, in-depth product reviews are now a priority for Google. Ultimately, the company wants to provide better product information for shoppers. Google has outlined some questions to consider for optimising your product reviews, and they include considerations such as:
- Does your review set your product apart from the competition?
- Does the review show what the product is like in-person, with content that’s not provided by the manufacturer?
- Do the reviews discuss the benefit and drawbacks of that product?
Schema markup and rich snippetsSchema markup and rich snippets are more SEO technical tools. Schema markups on your website allow search engines to understand and communicate on-page content by providing context. These schemas are then used to display rich snippets, which add more information to your organic results on the SERP (search engine results page). The most common rich snippets use cases include:
- Product markup – price, availability, reviews
- Music – release dates, albums, length
- Reviews – yellow star ratings out of five
- Events – times, dates, and locations
- Recipes – rating, calories, and upvotes.
Mobile usabilitySince spring 2021, mobile-first indexing has been critical for Google. The rollout is complete, as Google has auto-applied this to new websites since 2019. That means that, although you absolutely should have a brilliant desktop experience, Google will index (and therefore rank) your website and web pages based on the mobile experience only. With the majority of the world’s internet access taking place on smartphones, your website needs to be fully optimised for smaller screens and devices. There are plenty of ways to do this that involve technical SEO, but some key requirements are:
- A fast and responsive experience
- Clear icons, images, and videos
- A clean and clear design
- Optimised text and fonts for good readability
- Easy-to-press buttons and menu items.
Make sure mobile and desktop sites contain the same content, as only the content on the mobile site is used for indexing. If you only have significant pages, some text, or tweak the navigation for mobile alone, you may not see the full benefits of mobile indexing. Google recommends using the same primary content on both desktop and mobile versions.