Ever wondered about the top Google ranking factors that can actually help boost your site?
Search engines don’t reveal exactly how they rank websites, but SEO experts estimate that search engines use between 90 to 200 different ranking signals.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about all of these ranking signals – just a few make up the majority of what produces results.
Let me mention before we dive in that SEO strategies are consistently changing. There are many opinions and some controversies surrounding ranking factors. Most SEO experts agree on many of these top factors, but not all.
Take this guide as a foundation of information but understand that an algorithm update may result in ranking factor changes.
So, without further ado, here are the top search engine ranking factors that you should focus on to get more SEO traffic to your website!
In order to rank in the search engines, you must have a digital marketing strategy that creates content and uses that content to answer search queries.
Many people just try to rank their homepage for every single one of their keywords.
Research suggests that content that is packed full of information covering all areas whether it be long or short form does better in SERPs than content that lacks valid information.
Here are a few tips to make your content valuable to Google:
- Study your competitors, and then do it better
- Cover all areas of your subject and provide as much knowledge as possible
- Make your content readable by including images, a clickable table of contents, and jump links
Providing content that is valuable yet unique is not always the easiest part of SEO. That is why it would be best to make sure that you are an expert on your niche or topic, or at least can research your subject in-depth.
While you don’t need a degree to convince your audience that you are a specialist in your field, having valid certificates can boost the trustworthiness of your content. If you aren’t an expert, you can always hire a writer or use a service such as The HOTH to ensure your content is written by a professional.
Don’t produce content with unnecessary fluff, and make sure that your content provides factual information that answers your audience’s questions.
You need to show search engines what your website is about by creating a page for each service you offer, each product you offer, etc.
Without these optimized pages, search engines don’t know what you’re relevant for. That’s why having optimized content is one of the most important Google ranking factors.
Content length can affect search engine performance.
A study from Backlinko shows that longer content (content above 1800 words) tends to get higher rankings than short content.
In many cases, Google tends to prefer long-form content that fully addresses the user’s questions. When you write long content, you’re more likely to cover everything that a searcher is looking for.
With that said, long content does not always rank better if the search intent doesn’t match.
Some queries like searches for recipes or quotes might work better with short content because the user is likely looking for some quick info.
So how long should your content be to optimize search engine traffic?
A simple answer is that content should be as long as it needs to be to provide value to the reader.
When creating content, take a look at the competing content that is already ranking. Ideally, your content should be at least as good as the articles that are currently ranking. This usually means that your content will be at least around the same length or slightly longer.
You may have heard of content freshness and wondered what exactly that means. Fresh content doesn’t really mean ‘new’ as in buying fresh vegetables at your local store.
Content freshness can be better understood by viewing it as a relation to how new the data is that your content reflects.
How frequently you post your content is important for ranking; however, it isn’t always the same thing as content freshness. Google likes an up-to-date website but it’s more important to create high-quality fresh content than to post low-quality content more frequently.
Creating fresh content is a top ranking factor. Like I said, Google doesn’t like to show outdated information, so make sure your articles and blog posts are up-to-date.
This will help you rank your website and increase your organic traffic.
A snippet is a chunk of a search result that is in a set of other search results. It usually consists of a title, URL, and a description of the page. The content of a snippet should match parts of the search query. You should also see your targeted keyword highlighted somewhere in the snippet description.
Search engines will use pieces of your content to fill in the necessary parts that make up your snippet. In a lot of cases, search engines determine the best snippet for you.
You can attempt to override that by adding a meta description; however, it’s more common for Google to create a snippet for you.
In fact, Google rewrites meta descriptions 92% of the time! Although Google rewrites meta descriptions, it is still a good practice to make sure that you try to create one yourself that is optimized for SEO.
After you create your content, you’ll want to make sure that your on-page SEO is complete so that search engines understand what it’s about.
The first step is to make sure your HTML is optimized and your targeted keywords are in your title tag, alt text, and meta description. A web page’s title tag is the text in the link that shows up on the search engine results page.
You should include your target keywords in your meta description. A well-written description can convince searchers to click on your link from the search engine result pages (SERPs).
You should also include your target keywords naturally in the content of the actual web page.
Search intent is another important factor to consider. Even if you do everything right to optimize your web page, it still won’t rank if you are targeting the wrong keywords with the wrong content type.
For instance, Google tends to rank more articles over product pages. If you search right now for “best email marketing software,” you might notice that Google is ranking articles about the best marketing software, as opposed to a product page from one of the top brands.
Google thinks the intent of the search is not to buy software immediately but to figure out which software is best through reviews.
In this case, it would be very difficult to rank your product page for “best marketing software,” and if you wanted to rank for this term, you would want to match the content type that is ranking.
To evaluate search intent, see what types of web pages are currently ranking when you type in a search query.
Keywords in Headings
Headings and title tags are an indication of what your posts or content are going to be about. You should include your keywords in your H1.
SEO experts believe that using the same sentence in your H1 and meta title is proof of keyword stuffing, so the best practice would be to use secondary keywords, synonyms, or related words.
Organic Click-Through Rates
Organic click-through rate (CTR) helps Google figure out if your content holds authority and value. The more users that click on your content, the more that Google will think your posts or articles are relevant to your targeted keyword.
As I mentioned above, meta titles and descriptions are an important ranking factor and they also improve your organic click rate.
Here are a few tips on ways to improve your meta tags:
- Use keywords
- Keep your meta title under 62 characters
- Keep your meta description until 160 characters
- Make sure your meta description is helpful and relevant to your audience
Keywords and metadata are important for on-page SEO and for ranking in Google. The Click-through rate increased based on your traffic and how often your site is searched through.
If you wish to increase your CTR, then you need to keep your website optimized for SEO as much as possible.
Actually, did you know that ranking as the top result for Google generates an average CTR of 39.6%? That’s how absolutely vital optimization is for your website.
Website Domain Authority
Website domain authority or DA is also a top Google ranking factor. Moz has developed a system that actually predicts how likely a website is to rank in search engine results based on their developed ranking system. Domain authority scores can range from 1 to 100. The higher you score, the better chance you have at ranking.
So, how is DA determined? Domain authority is determined by calculating top ranking factors including link root domains and the number of links. By figuring out your score, you can compare your website to your competitors.
You can then track your ranking strength to find how authoritative your website is.
Domain authority itself isn’t necessarily a ranking factor, but optimization is. The better your website scores, the higher chance you can increase your traffic, which increases your rank.
Here are a few other domain factors that matter for ranking:
- A secure website
- Optimized on-page content
- Technical SEO
Another important ranking factor is link building, including links from other websites to your website as well as internal links within your own website.
Links are like votes for your website – If a lot of people are linking to your website, search engines see your website as popular and therefore will rank you higher.
Quantity Of Links
Getting a large number of links to your website can help you rank in the search engines if those links appear natural. Generating awareness for your brand and publicity will result in other people linking to your site naturally.
You can also get more links to your site by doing email outreach and building relationships with other website owners or even asking for links.
Learn how to get backlinks in our guide!
Quality of links
Another important factor to consider is the quality of the links you receive. Your website can rank well with just a few high-quality links from high-authority sites. Low-quality links aren’t as helpful, so focus on valuable, up-to-date links.
For example, a link from CNN.com would have much more value than a link from your friend’s personal blog. The reason is that CNN already has a ton of inbound links from other sites as is therefore considered an authority site.
The anchor text (also known as link text) can influence your rankings as well. “Anchor Text” is the text that is linked. Achor text can let search engines know what your webpage is about.
Another ranking factor that websites should pay attention to is usability and user experience. Websites that are not user-friendly could cause users to get frustrated and even leave, even if the content is good.
Have you ever visited a website, realized it’s not what you were looking for and immediately closed the window?
That’s called a “bounce” and in analytics, you can watch your bounce rate to make sure that it’s not too high.
If a visitor comes to your website and immediately returns to the search results page to click on something else, then this behavior could tell the search engines that your web page is not a result that people want to see.
Backlinks from Relevant Sources
Backlinks to your site are a signal to Google that other sites are vouching for your content. If a lot of websites link to the same page, then Google can confirm that that content is worth linking to and worth ranking in the SERPs.
Some backlinks hold more value. If your backlinks are from trustworthy sites, then they are considered more desirable than low-authoritative websites. Even just a quick mention from a high-quality source can give your brand the boost it needs to rank.
It’s important to remember that about 55.24% of pages don’t have any backlinks, so make sure that you either organically get backlinks, or use a service to get backlinks if necessary. Your website needs them.
With today’s fast internet speeds, users are impatient.
Page loading is an important factor to keep your bounce rate low and your audience engagement high.
If your website loads too slowly, visitors will leave before your site even has a chance to load–- which is why having a fast website is increasingly important.
Core web vitals are the subset of web vitals. This concept applies to all web pages and is measured with metrics by webmasters and is surfaced across Google tools. Each core web vital represents an aspect of user experience. As mentioned, it is measurable and reflects the real-world experience of a user outcome.
- Largest Contentful Paint: This measures loading performance. A good loading time would be 2.5 seconds after the page begins to load.
- First Input Delay: Measures interactively. For a good user experience, it’s important to have an FID of 100 milliseconds or less.
- Cumulative Layout Sift: Measures visual stability. For a good user experience, your pages should maintain a CLS of 0.1.
For these metrics, it is important you’re topping the recommended target for your users. A good place to stay is around the 75th percentage of page loads. This also matters for mobile and desktop devices.
Search engines also like websites that load quickly, so be sure to optimize your website for speed. Slow loading pages frustrate users and cause them to leave.
You can use a tool like GTMetrix to check how quickly your site loads.
Mobile-friendliness is very important for SEO. In fact, 65% of searches take place on a mobile device. Making sure your website has great mobile usability is very important.
One big reason to focus on mobile search is mobile-first indexing. Google predominantly uses mobile versions of the content for ranking and indexing.
Google used to use the desktop version of websites to evaluate relevancy. Because most users perform searches on their phones or tablets Google now views the mobile version of a site to help calculate rank.
If you aren’t sure if your website is mobile friendly, you can always do a test on your website to make sure it’s compatible with various devices and web browsers.
Google Algorithm Rules
With the massive amount of available information on the web, finding what you’re looking for would be pretty much impossible without some form of sorting through it all. Google’s ranking systems are created to do that so you don’t have to sort through billions of pages.
With that said, Google has ranking rules, and those rules are important for your website to follow, so you can increase your ranking and audience visibility.
Let’s go into more detail on Google’s algorithm rules:
RankBrain is Google’s machine learning AI. It’s the ranking algorithm that Google uses to create search results. It helps Google understand search requests from users.
What RankBrain does, in short, is adjust its algorithm on its own without human intervention. Depending on the keyword, RankBrain will either increase or reduce the importance of a website based on backlinks, content freshness, length, and other top-ranking factors.
Before Google’s RankBrain, all of Google’s algorithm was hand-coded and it was much more difficult for businesses and bloggers to really know what goes into ranking.
In 2022, it is believed that RankBrain will be one of the most important factors in deciding a website’s ranking and reaching that first page of SERPs.
In 2018, Google came out with an algorithm update called Medic. This update emphasized Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. This term is often referred to as E-A-T. This update is a major ranking factor. Google wants websites to focus on high-quality content and make sure that they keep their E-A-T high.
E-A-T is a super important ranking factor for most websites. Not all SEO experts agree, but there’s evidence that rankings were and are impacted by E-A-T.
If your site is a medical, legal, or financial site, then having a good E-A-T is crucial. Your site may also be considered YMYL (Your Money Your Life) if your site gives advice that helps people make an important decision.
YMYL is basically just a type of content that describes your money and your lifestyle. Certain niches fall into this category and many have good E-A-T.
Site architecture is important for how a website’s pages are linked together and structured. The best website architecture helps users and search engine crawlers find what they are looking for.
This includes meta descriptions and other important on-page information. The better optimized your website architecture, the better chances you have of ranking.
Pagerank is also one of Google’s top ranking factors. Your website is dependent on how easy it is for your potential customers to find your website. The higher your Pagerank is, the more likely it is that a customer can find you and the more likely Google will rank your content page.
User engagement is any and all ways a user or member of your audience interacts with your digital properties and takes an action on a platform. This doesn’t include browsing passively. This includes liking, commenting, or sharing.
There are a few different types of engagement such as click-through rate, which I’ve already mentioned. However, there are also outside source engagement that brings a visitor to your landing page.
For example, say someone shared a link of yours, and someone else clicked on that link. That is outside source user engagement.
Dwell time is also a type of user engagement. It is a measurement that shows search engines that a user’s needs were met by a result and clicked through a top result. It basically just tells the algorithm that your site was good enough to answer a user’s questions.
Key Takeaways for Google Ranking Factors
By focusing on these top Google ranking factors, you can start ranking and getting traffic from Google and other search engines.
If you’d like to see where your web pages stand in the search engines, you can use our free Google SEO Ranking Checker or check out our other products.
Focus on creating great content, getting links, and providing a great user experience, and search engines will reward you with the traffic you deserve!
If you feel a bit overwhelmed, don’t stress, we got you! Schedule a call with one of our experts today.