Are you tired of struggling to rank high on Google? Do you ever wonder what you're doing wrong? Do you struggle with questions like, what really are Google ranking factors and, what are the most important Google ranking factors?
Well, you're not alone. Over the years, there has been a lot of confusion amongst webmasters and online marketers about what Google ranking factors are. With hundreds of ranking factors to consider, it can be challenging to know where to focus your efforts.
In a bid to help, a lot of articles and guides claim to have the ultimate list of ranking factors. But, do you really have the time and resources to understand and optimize your website for over 200 ranking factors? Or, worse still, are all of these supposedly Google ranking factors accurate or relevant to your website?
In this post, we're going to explore the top 9 ranking factors that affect organic search results. Understanding these factors and optimizing for them, will help you improve your website's visibility so you can drive more qualified leads for your business.
Table of Contents
What Are Google Ranking Factors?
Google's ranking algorithm is essentially a complex set of rules and calculations that Google uses to determine the relevance and authority of a webpage to a user's search query. Google uses it ranking algorithm to decide which pages are the best match for a particular search query and to rank those pages in order of relevance and authority.
For example, when someone searches for “best affiliate programs”, Google uses its ranking factors to determine and display the content that will best help the searcher.
There are hundreds of factors that Google considers when ranking pages. This include things like the content of the page, the quality and relevance of backlinks pointing to the page, the user experience of the website, etc.
The challenging thing is that Google's ranking algorithm is not static. It is constantly evolving. As Google strives to provide the most relevant and useful search results for its users, they are always updating their ranking algorithm. In fact, Google makes hundreds of updates to its algorithm each year. Many of these are minor tweaks but some can have a major impact on search rankings.
To stay up-to-date with the latest research and evaluations of ranking factors you may want to read “Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction”, a guide by Search Engine Journal.
But Why ‘Waste Time’ On Google Ranking Factors?
Now you may be wondering, why care about Google ranking factors when there are other search engines out there?
The truth is that Google is the world's most popular search engine. Reports indicate that over 8.5 billion searches are performed on Google per day. This is over 90% of all online searches which is more than other search engines, like Bing and Yahoo, put together.
From the above, it is clear that Google controls a huge share of the online search market. It follows therefore that as a business owner, when you improve your website's ranking on Google, you can have significant benefits like:
- Improved website's search engine rankings: By knowing which factors Google uses to determine search rankings, you can optimize your website to meet those criteria and improve your chances of appearing at the top of search results.
- Avoid waste of time and resources: Without an understanding of these ranking factors, you might waste time and resources on strategies that aren't effective, or worse, use techniques that could actually harm your website's rankings.
- Prioritize your SEO efforts: By knowing which factors are most important to Google, you can prioritize your SEO efforts and focus on the areas that will have the greatest impact on your search engine rankings.
For example, if you know that backlinks are a major ranking factor, you can work on building high-quality backlinks to your website. Or, if you know that mobile friendliness is important, you can make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices.
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The 9 Most Important Google Ranking Factors
Alright, let’s now consider the nine top most Google ranking factors you should be optimizing your website for.
Ranking Factor #1: Website Crawlability and Indexability
The first factor, and probably the most critical Google ranking factor, is website crawlability and indexability. This might not sound obvious but the fact is, none of the other ranking factors matter if Google can't crawl and index your website's pages.
When Google crawls your website, it follows links from one page to another, examining the content and code along the way. This way Google discovers new pages and determines how relevant and valuable they are to users.
Indexability on the other hand, is about making sure your website's pages can be added to Google's index, so they appear in search results. If your pages are not indexable, they won't show up in search results, no matter how good your content or other SEO efforts are.
So, how do you check if your website is crawlable and indexable?
The easiest way is to use the detailed Chrome extension, which allows you to view a page's robots tag section. As long as you don't see “no index,” you're good to go.
But that's not enough. You should also set up your website on Google Search Console, a free tool that allows you to monitor your website's performance in Google search results. It notifies you of crawling and indexing issues and gives you detailed reports on how Google sees your website.
If you're having crawling or indexing problems, Google Search Console is the first place you should go to diagnose the issue. It provides insights into which pages are not being indexed, which pages have errors, and what you can do to fix them.
If you’re using WordPress for your website you can use the free Rank Math SEO plugin. This will allow you to easily connect your website to Google Search Console so you can monitor your site from within your dashboard.
Ranking Factor #2: Content Relevance
After website crawlability and indexability the next critical ranking factor is content relevance. You simply cannot afford to ignore this one.
But what exactly is content relevance, and why is it so important?
Basically, content relevance refers to the degree to which your content matches the user's search intent. This means if someone types in a search query on Google, the search engine will look for pages that best match what the user is looking for.
If your content does not match the user's search intent, it's unlikely that your page will rank well in the search results. That's why it's essential to make sure your content is relevant and focused on answering the user's query.
Here are a few suggestion on how you can optimize your content relevance:
- Conduct keyword research: The first step to optimizing your content relevance is to conduct keyword research. This will help you know what your target audience is searching for and what terms they are using to find information. By understanding the terms/keywords, you can create content that matches their search intent.
- Create high-quality, informative content: Once you have a list of keywords, it's time to create content that's not only optimized for those keywords but also provides value to the reader. High-quality, informative content is more likely to rank higher in search results, so make sure your content is well-researched and well-written.
- Use relevant headers and subheadings: Headers and subheadings make your content more readable and help search engines understand the structure of your page. By using relevant headers and subheadings, you can signal to search engines what your content is about and help match it to the user's search intent.
- Optimize meta descriptions: The meta description is the short blurb that appears beneath your page title in search results. It's essential to optimize your meta description to include your target keyword and provide a clear summary of what your content is about.
This can help attract more clicks to your page and improve your search ranking.
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Ranking Factor #3: On-Page SEO Factors
On-page SEO is another critical ranking factor that can significantly impact your organic search results. In simple terms, on-page SEO refers to optimizing various elements on your website to make them search engine friendly. This includes everything from your content to your HTML source code.
Here are the top 6 on-page SEO factors you need to keep in mind:
- Title tags: Title tags are the clickable headlines that appear on the search engine results page. They should be concise, descriptive, and relevant to the page's content.
- Meta descriptions: Meta descriptions are the short summaries that appear below the title tag on the search engine results page. They should be well-written and compelling, as they can significantly impact your click-through rates.
- Header tags: Header tags are used to structure your content and make it easier for search engines to understand. They range from H1 to H6, with H1 being the most important.
- URL structure: Your URL structure should be simple, descriptive, and relevant to the content on the page. Avoid using lengthy, complex URLs that are difficult to understand.
- Image optimization: Images can enhance the user experience, but they can also slow down your website if not optimized correctly. Make sure your images are compressed, appropriately sized, and have descriptive alt tags.
- Internal linking: Internal links help search engines understand the structure of your website and the relationship between various pages. They also provide a better user experience by allowing visitors to navigate your site more easily.
Optimizing these on-page elements can significantly improve your website's search engine visibility and overall user experience. So, make sure you take the time to optimize these factors to ensure your website is ranking as high as possible.
Ranking Factor #4: Backlinks
Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors for Google. A backlink is a link from another website to your website. When search engines like Google see that other reputable websites are linking to your site, it signals to them that your site is also trustworthy and authoritative.
It's important to note that not all backlinks are created equal. While high-quality backlinks come from authoritative websites that are relevant to your niche can greatly improve your ranking, low-quality backlinks from spammy websites will, on the contrary, hurt your rankings. So, focus on building a strong and diverse backlink profile with high-quality, relevant, and authoritative links.
How can you acquire high-quality backlinks?
- Create high quality content: One way is to create high-quality content that others will naturally want to link to. This can be anything from a blog post to an infographic. When other websites link to your content, it signals to Google that your content is valuable and authoritative.
- Outreach: Another proven way to acquire high-quality backlinks is through link building outreach. This involves reaching out to websites in your niche or industry and asking them to link to your content. This approach requires a personalized and strategic outreach campaign, as well as a high-quality and relevant piece of content that the website would want to link to.
- Guest blogging: One of the quickest ways is through guest blogging. This involves writing a guest post for another website in your niche or industry and including a link back to your own website within the content. This approach can help establish your credibility and authority in your industry while also earning a valuable backlink.
Please note that building high-quality backlinks takes time and effort. Don't resort to buying links or using black hat tactics, as these can hurt your website's rankings in the long run. Instead, focus on creating valuable content and building relationships with other websites in your niche.
By doing so, you'll naturally acquire high-quality backlinks and improve your website's rankings in the process.
Ranking Factor #5: User Experience
User experience (UX) refers to the overall experience a user has while interacting with a website. It is an important Google ranking factor because Google's goal is to provide users with the best search results possible. And, this includes websites that are easy to navigate and provide a positive experience.
The importance of providing a positive user experience cannot be overstated. Not only does it improve your search engine rankings, but it also leads to more engagement, increased time spent on your site, and higher conversion rates.
So, how can you improve your website's user experience? Here are a few ways:
- Improve website speed: A website that takes too long to load can cause frustration for users and cause them to leave. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to identify areas that can be improved.
- Optimize for mobile: With the majority of internet traffic coming from mobile devices, it's important to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile. Use a responsive design to ensure that your website looks and functions well on all devices.
- Simplify navigation: Make it easy for users to find what they're looking for on your website. Use clear, concise navigation menus and ensure that your website's layout is intuitive.
- Use high-quality images and videos: Visual content can be a powerful tool to engage users and keep them on your site. Use high-quality images and videos to help tell your brand's story.
- Prioritize readability: Make sure that your website's content is easy to read and understand. Use clear headings, short paragraphs, and simple language to ensure that your message is getting across.
By implementing these user experience improvements, you can create a website that not only ranks well in Google but also provides a positive experience for your users.
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Ranking Factor #6: Mobile Friendliness
As mobile devices become more prevalent, it's becoming increasingly important to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile users. This is where mobile friendliness comes into play.
Mobile friendliness refers to how well your website performs on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Google takes mobile friendliness into account when ranking websites in search results. In fact, they have even developed a mobile-first indexing approach, where they prioritize the mobile version of a website's content when crawling and indexing.
But, why is mobile optimization so important?
Firstly, mobile devices are becoming the primary way that people access the internet. In a recent report, it was shown that as of 2021, over 54% of internet traffic came from mobile devices and by the end of the first quarter of 2023 this has risen to 60.89%. This means if your website is not mobile-friendly, you risk losing out on a significant portion of your potential audience.
In addition to improving your website's search engine ranking, mobile optimization also provides a better user experience. When your website is optimized for mobile, it means that users can easily access and navigate your site on their mobile devices. This results in a better user experience and can lead to higher engagement and conversion rates.
So, how can you make your website more mobile-friendly? Here are a few tips:
- Use a responsive design: A responsive design ensures that your website automatically adjusts to fit the screen size of the device being used to view it. This means that your website will look great on any device, whether it's a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer.
- Optimize images: Large images can slow down your website's loading speed, which can negatively impact your mobile-friendliness. To ensure that your website loads quickly on mobile devices, optimize your images for web use.
- Simplify navigation: On a smaller screen, it's important to simplify your website's navigation to make it easy for users to find what they're looking for. Consider using a hamburger menu or other mobile-specific navigation elements.
- Use mobile-friendly fonts: Some fonts may be difficult to read on a small screen. Choose a font that is legible on mobile devices.
- Test your website on multiple devices: To ensure that your website is truly mobile-friendly, test it on multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets. This will help you identify any issues that need to be addressed.
Ranking Factor #7: Page Speed
Page speed is another critical factors to consider when it comes to website optimization. Page speed refers to the amount of time it takes for your website to load. It's a well-known fact that visitors hate slow-loading websites, and if your website takes too long to load, visitors are likely to leave before they even see what you have to offer.
Not only is a slow-loading website frustrating for users, but it can also negatively impact your search engine rankings. In 2010, Google explicitly stated that page speed is a ranking factor for desktop searches and in 2018 this was expended to mobile searches. This means, the faster your website loads, the better your chances are of ranking higher in search engine results pages.
One of the easiest ways to improve page speed is by compressing images. Large image files can take up a lot of bandwidth and slow down your website. By compressing your images, you can significantly reduce their size without sacrificing image quality.
You can also use a content delivery network (CDN) to serve your website's files from servers located closer to your visitors, which can help reduce load times.
Ranking Factor #8: Social Signals
Social signals refer to the activity and engagement that your content generates on social media platforms. While it's a bit controversial whether social signals directly impact SEO, it's evident that they can indirectly affect your rankings.
When your content gets shared, liked, commented on, and receives engagement on social media platforms, it signals to search engines that people find your content valuable and informative. This, in turn, can help increase your website's visibility and authority.
Social media can also be an excellent way to drive traffic to your website and increase brand awareness. The more your content gets shared and talked about on social media, the more likely it is that people will visit your website and potentially become customers.
To increase your social signals, it's crucial to have a strong social media presence. This means creating and regularly posting engaging content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. You can also encourage social sharing by including social sharing buttons on your website and blog posts.
Another way to increase social signals is to engage with your followers and other users on social media. Respond to comments and messages promptly and use hashtags to join relevant conversations and increase visibility.
Finally, don't forget to track your social signals and analyze your social media analytics regularly. This will help you understand which types of content generate the most engagement and which social media platforms are most effective for your brand.
Ranking Factor #9: Domain Age, Authority, and Security
Domain age, authority, and security are crucial ranking factors that you mustn’t overlook.
The age of a domain is an important factor because it gives an indication of the website's trustworthiness and stability. A domain that has been around for several years is more likely to be considered a credible source of information. This does not, however, mean that new domains cannot rank well. It simply means that older domains have a slight advantage.
Domain authority measures a website's credibility and influence in its niche. Websites with higher domain authority are more likely to rank well in search engine results pages. Domain authority is determined by various factors such as the quality and quantity of inbound links, content quality, and user engagement.
To improve your domain authority, focus on creating high-quality content that is relevant and useful to your target audience. Engage in link building and outreach campaigns to increase the number of high-quality backlinks to your site.
Finally, Google prioritizes websites that prioritize their users' security. Websites with SSL certificates, which provide a secure connection, are more likely to rank higher in search engine results pages. Additionally, websites that have security measures in place, such as firewalls and malware scanners, are viewed as more trustworthy by search engines.
By focusing on these factors and taking steps to improve them, you can improve your website's search engine rankings and ultimately drive more traffic and conversions.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How do Google rankings work?
Google rankings are determined by an algorithm that considers various factors, including relevance, authority, and user experience. This algorithm analyzes web pages and ranks them based on their perceived quality and relevance to the user's search query.
How do I rank organically on Google?
To rank organically on Google, you need to optimize your website for the 9 Google ranking factors, such as creating high-quality content, building authoritative backlinks, and improving user experience.
What affects Google search results?
Several factors can affect Google search results, including the user's search query, location, language, and search history. Additionally, Google's algorithm takes into account the content's relevance, authority, and user experience to determine the search results.
Can you pay Google to rank higher?
No, you cannot pay Google to rank higher in search results. Google's algorithm is designed to deliver the most relevant and useful results to users, regardless of advertising or payment.
How can I improve my SEO score?
To improve your SEO score, you can optimize your website for the 9 Google ranking factors, such as improving website speed, creating high-quality content, and building authoritative backlinks.
What are the 3 core must haves of SEO?
The 3 core must-haves of SEO are high-quality content, authoritative backlinks, and positive user experience. These factors are essential for ranking well on Google and driving organic traffic to your website.
How can I improve my Google ranking for free?
You can improve your Google ranking for free by optimizing your website for the 9 Google ranking factors, such as creating high-quality content, optimizing for keywords, and improving user experience. Additionally, building backlinks from authoritative sources and promoting your content on social media can also help improve your Google ranking.
The Key Takeaway: Google Ranking Factors vs Awesome Content
It's always important for website owners and marketers to understand these ranking factors and optimize their websites to rank high on Google. However, do not forget the fact that the purpose of your website is not just to please Google but to please your target audience. Ultimately, your target audience are the ones who will decide whether your content is a success or a failure.
If you neglect your audience’s experience in favor of optimizing for Google's algorithms that will only lead to frustration, bounce rates, and ultimately a drop in rankings. What I encourage you to do therefore, is to strike a balance between creating awesome content for your target audience and optimizing it using the Google ranking factors.
By creating great content that your audience will love and optimizing it for search engines, using keywords, meta tags, and other optimization techniques, you will be helping Google to understand what your content is about and why it's valuable to your audience. This way, you'll not only rank well on search engines but also build a loyal and engaged audience who will keep coming back for more.
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