Search engines use numerous ranking factors to determine how websites rank on their result pages. These factors are constantly changing, so SEOs must keep up with them if they want to keep their websites ranking high. According to different sources, there are about 200 ranking factors in all. That said, there is a difference between the ones that might help you rank better and those that have been confirmed to help. In this article, we look at the factors Google and its employees say can affect your ranking.
Google has said that it wants to show accurate search results that are helpful for its users and relevant to their search queries. This makes content quality and relevance crucial ranking factors. Several elements that have to do with content can help your website do better.
The first is keyword research and use. You have to research keywords thoroughly to ensure they align with what users may search for. Use these keywords strategically throughout your content, including in your headings, title tag, and meta description.
Google penalizes websites that engage in keyword stuffing, using irrelevant or too many keywords to game the ranking algorithm. They consider content with stuffed keywords to be of low quality and that provides low value, making it unsuitable for its users.
Second, you should always consider the user’s intent when adding keywords and creating content. This means it should align with users’ needs when they conduct a query.
Third, you should create unique and engaging content. This is fresh content that provides value, including in-depth information on a specific topic. Including infographics, videos, images, and other multimedia elements can also help with your ranking.
Lastly, the content should be well-structured, with bullet points, subheadings, and short paragraphs that make it easier to read or skim.
Being the largest search engine, Google has extensive data on which devices users use to search for information and to visit various websites online. Their data indicates that mobile devices far outnumber the number of desktop devices.
With this in mind, they announced a search engine algorithm update in 2018 that focused on mobile page speeds. The company said it could penalize websites that did not load fast enough for mobile device users.
To ensure you know how fast your website loads, Google released its mobile testing tool. After analyzing your website, the tool tells you what is affecting your website’s speed on mobile so you can make the necessary changes.
Google also includes a section in the Google Search Console that updates you on how your website is performing, including if it is fast enough for mobile users.
User experience measures the overall experience visitors have on your website. It is a large category that includes metrics like loading speed, navigation, layout, and mobile responsiveness. All of these are crucial because Google now uses a mobile-first index, where it collects results from websites that provide a great experience on mobile before doing the same with those optimized for computers.
A mobile-optimized website that provides a great user experience avoids being under-ranked. It also typically keeps users engaged and on it for longer. This increases the chance they will convert or share your content. Those with poor user experiences drive users away and have higher bounce rates, which impacts their ranking.
Google’s crawlers follow links on websites to determine which pages to index and rank. They must understand your content and the links pointing to it to understand its context and where it fits in the bigger picture.
For this reason, Google has confirmed that it used anchor text to understand a page’s content and context, helping it rank appropriately. For example, an anchor text like “digital marketing agency” can lead to better results than “click here”. The first tells Google crawlers what to expect when they visit the page, while the second provides no information.
Anchor texts are not the strongest ranking factors, but the fact that Google says it considers them should make you think about them more the next time you are doing link-building.
Google’s John Mueller says that businesses should be careful about the domains they buy. You may be running a legitimate business now, but the person or business who had it before might have been running a scam or spammy website, leading to Google penalizing it.
Research a domain before buying it to ensure it does not have any issues associated with it. The good news, according to Mueller, is that this issue resolves itself over time, especially as you keep improving the domain’s authority and reputation.
There are three main types of links you should know about:
- Internal links – links between pages on your website
- Inbound links – Links that point to your website from other websites
- Outbound links – Those that point from your website to others
Inbound links are arguably the most important because they signal that your content is relevant and valuable. Aim to get inbound links from authoritative websites because that is a massive signal booster for Google.
Internal links help Google crawlers understand your website, and visitors find it by seamlessly moving from one page to another. Your pages can boost each other’s authority and help them rank better, making this another crucial ranking factor.
Outbound links help you provide additional context or information that your visitors can explore. It shows that you do your research and are committed to providing your visitors with high-value content.
This ranking factor applies to local SEO. If you want people in your local area to find you, you must ensure all references to your business online contain accurate information. Crucially, you must complete your Google My Business profile, add your business to relevant directories, and encourage people to leave reviews to show it is a legitimate business.
While there are many other ranking factors you should know about, these are the most important to focus on to rank better. Also, always keep up with Google announcements and algorithm updates on social media to know when things change so you can pivot your strategy and keep ranking well.