If you’ve ever wanted to know why your competitor’s site ranks first in Google’s organic search engine result pages (SERPs), you might be able to identify those factors right alongside the results for specific searches. That’s because Google recently introduced a new feature referred to as the “Ranking Factors Box.”
This feature highlights the reasons for a given page’s ranking in SERPs, creating more transparency between Google, users, and even businesses trying to improve their ranking. The Ranking Factors Box expands the “About This Result” box introduced by Google back in February 2021. Those law firms that are in competitive keyword and geo markets will greatly benefit from this information. Searchers themselves are provided with more direct feedback information than ever before, and thus able to refine their search. With this addition, Google is clearly trying to give more power to the persona searching, but also provide businesses like law firms and SEO’s with additional potential keywords and geography to target.
Is This Feature Currently Live?
Google expects the Ranking Factors Box feature to be 100% live across the United States sometime in August 2021 on both mobile and desktop devices. It currently applies only to English-language searches. The search engine giant plans to expand this feature to other countries and languages in the future.
What Factors Are Included in the Ranking Factors Box?
Google does not disclose all of the factors included in this new feature, but may notice the following when you test the feature:
- Exact search terms – Google will show you which terms from your query matched in the ranked content.
- Related search terms – In addition to exact matches, Google matches terms related to your query.
- Linked websites – If other websites link to the search results, Google will show which links helped rank the page.
- Related images – The box discloses that images on the website related to your search helped the rank.
- Language – Right now, this feature is only available for English language queries, but eventually, Google will expand this to include other languages. If you search in French, for instance, then Google will prefer results in that language. Additionally, if you are conducting a Google search in France, Google may be likely to show you results in French.
- Location – Google might utilize the searcher’s location as well as the site’s location to help searchers find results in their region.
How Are SEOs Reacting to This Feature?
It’s too soon to know how this feature may change SEO as we know it, but it’s fair to say that none of the features in this rollout are surprising. In a way, it confirms what SEOs already know about how Google ranks pages.
Old SEO hands (like us) could imagine a scenario in which the accessibility of highly ranked Google search terms could lead to optimizing pages for the same keywords to the point that well-ranked sites blend together. On the other hand, this may make creative SEO practices such as keyword research and ranking trackers even more crucial.
The new accessibility of this information will give every business the same advantage, so competitors will have to be more innovative to find ways to best one another in the digital marketing sphere. In any case, Google may reveal which keywords led to a certain search result, but that does little to inform your digital marketing strategy.
Google’s Ranking Factors Box doesn’t show you how to optimize your site for those keywords, nor does it demonstrate how to build crucial backlinks into your site. So, while having this information does level the playing field a bit, it also encourages SEOs to differentiate sites from their competitors.
If you own a local business, you might wonder how this affects your business’ site ranking. If you recall, one of the factors in the Ranking Factors Box pertains to location. That provides ample evidence that organic Google search results are localized, and the searcher’s location will inevitably lead them to localized results. That’s good news for your local business.
Credit to Google for its recent hiring of top SEO experts over the last few years. Many of these folks have ended up integrated into their engineering teams too, and not just liaisons or people spinning messages to us SEO’s. Many of these folks are truly invested in Google getting better at its core job: returning the best search result possible.
Ranking Factors Box Takeaways
At the end of the day, the Ranking Factors Box generates much-needed transparency between Google and its users, thereby creating more trust in search results. While this change might be irksome for some SEOs, it could be Google’s way of acknowledging the hard work and creativity that goes into SEO. One thing is for sure: this change signals a fundamental shift in Google’s approach to the SEO sector. And we think that is something that is much needed.
What Does This Mean For Law Firms?
Potential. Greater potential to reach more people. The more Google understands about people doing searches and what results they are looking for an ultimately use, the more opportunity there is for you law firm to be shown. Often these minor tweaks to search don’t make a great impact, but sometimes they lead to other innovation in search like the map pack or the aforementioned “suggest results”. We will have to wait and see.