Marketers are striving to perform well in organic searches, and optimising content is key for search engine success. More than 3.5 billion searches are made every day on Google, who holds 85% of desktop market share. In a single search, there are are about 200 google ranking factors taken into consideration! So how agile is your algorithm?
Google had never publicly disclosed these ranking factors but what they have confirmed is that it uses “ranking signals” when determining organic search page rankings. And not every signal is equal in importance. There are domain-related factors, on-page factors, off-page factors and site-level factors. Plus there are numerous technical SEO factors that contribute to where your website falls on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) for the various keywords related to your industry.
To help you prioritise and pick the top ranking factors to focus on, we have chosen 8 ranking signals, which we look at in more detail below.
Google Ranking Factors for Search Engine Success
The most important google ranking factors relate to the URL, inbound links, meta tags, the intent of a keyword, how your content is structured, how fast your page loads, and numerous technical SEO specifications. Here are our top 8…
Although not at the top of the list of ranking factors, your website architecture is hugely important. By organising your website into subdirectories, and having clear strings of text (or “slugs”) at the end of each URL, you’ll make it much easier for Google to determine who you are and what topics you want to be an authority on and overall your search engine success.
For example, you are launching a blog post on 3D Gait analysis for runners and plan to publish content specifically about injury prevention and correct running shoes, it is in your interest to organise your content into subdirectories. A good blog post URL might look like this:
2. Domain Security
The ‘https’ at the very beginning of a URL is a very important ranking factor for google.
HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol, and is how Google determines if your website is secure. It is a virtual process that transfers information from a website to the visitor’s browser, it ensures that the information is safe for the searcher. If you do not have a secure website address, google will not rank you. You will need an SSL certificate.
3. Inbound Links/Backlinks
Backlinks or inbound links is a crucial ranking factor for Google. These are the hyperlinks from elsewhere on the internet that direct the searcher back to your page. This factor can make a huge difference as to your google ranking. Even which page your website ranks on, overall affecting your search engine success.
Links from other ‘trusted’ websites lets google know that what you have to say is trustworthy. To Google this is a crucial factor for safety and security. The more trustworthy the source, the greater the impact their inbound link has on your ranking. The influence of these backlinks comes almost entirely from outside domains.
For this reason, “link building” has become an important (but delicate) process for earning backlinks from other publishers. Some publishers, who have the same perceived authority, agree to trade backlinks from each other. Others write a guest post on this publisher’s website and link back to themselves.
4. Topic Authority
Lay the foundations of your page authority, in the form of topics. The more content you process and publish on a particular subject/topic, the more authority and expertise google believes you have over that topic. Each piece you publish, the higher that piece will rank in Google’s SERPs.
Remember our 3D running example from the first ranking factor, above? Let’s say this website has 20 articles all about injury prevention. By now, Google knows this website is probably an authority on the topic of how to prevent injury when running. The website therefore has a much better chance of ranking highly for a blog post about trying our barefoot running than it would for an article on, say, Google’s ranking factors. Even if this article is keyword-optimised and incredibly well written.
5. Keyword Success
When done correctly keyword optimisation is one of the most important factors you can address in your website’s SEO strategy. The earliest ranking factors simply looked for the most instances of a keyword, phrased verbatim, in a webpage or blog post. This was known as “exact match”. Today this means something very different, and the website that carries the most instances of a keyword doesn’t rank the highest for that keyword. Rather, it’s the website that best matches the intent behind that keyword.
Looking at our 3D gait analysis example. If this website wants to rank for the keyword, “best orthopedic insoles,” it won’t rank well by simply including this three-word phrase several times throughout the article. Instead, it should include the keyword a number of times, followed by examples of how they are the best orthopedic insoles. Going further to show how they are made and how they are used. Success stories should be highlighted, where you can buy them and why they’re so highly rated.
When searching the internet for injury prevention for runners, websites that serve this level of information become the experts in the subject. They will receive more engagement by website visitors and search engine success. Google then interprets this increased engagement as a good answer to the visitor’s question, ranking the URL higher as a result.
6. Content is Key
Marketers are becoming increasingly clever and providing thorough answers to visitors on their website, it means the answers to the search term needs to be very well structured in content and using competitive keywords.
Writing good content includes using a variety of headers and sub-headers to make an answer easier for a person to digest and understand. It might also include bullet points, numbered lists, supporting images and infographics and clearly cited research. All of which help keep readers engaged with your content and staying on your website, navigating through the pages for longer. This is another relevant google ranking factor for search engine success and is known as session duration.
7. Meta Tags
Although it sounds like meta tags are behind the scenes programming, they are often underused aspects of content management systems. (CMS) Meta tags help Google identify the specific purpose of a page and what role that page plays to the topic and target keyword. There are several types of meta tags that should be filled in, either with the target keyword or details related to that keyword:
- Title Tag – The title tag is usually the title of your article, represented in the HTML of that article. This helps Google create the blue, clickable headline you see on the SERP itself. Title tags are helpful to non-article webpages that don’t have natural, article-style titles by which to describe themselves. In these cases, you can go into the webpage’s HTML and add a keyword-optimised title tag that serves the same purpose as an article title.
- Image Alt Text – Google can’t read or “crawl” images the same way it crawls text. And that’s a shame, because images can help blog posts and webpages rank well in organic search results. To help Google read images, content creators are encouraged to give their images alt text (or “alt tags”). The text best describes what the reader sees on the web page if the image isn’t displayed.
- Meta Description – A URL’s meta description is the brief text that appears underneath each blue link on Google’s SERPs, this is a summary of the content inside. According to Google, a meta description doesn’t have to include specific keywords, but filling it in is an important box to check off.
8. Page Speed
How fast your page loads when a searcher clicks on it. The faster the website, the higher it will rank on google. Pages that load in less than three seconds are considered fast enough for their visitors. However, this can vary based on the purpose of the website and the type of visitors it attracts. For example, ecommerce websites are encouraged to be a bit faster — fully loading in as little as two seconds, according to Google.
Pages with lots of heavy, complex types of media on the page can cause the website to take longer, and one of the biggest causes of slow page speed is uncompressed images. Sometimes this is hard to avoid, but one thing you can control is the file size of each image on the page. Compress your images before uploading them to your CMS.
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