Google uses hundreds of ranking signals and tweaks its algorithm around 500 to 600 times per year and many of these ranking factors can’t even be looked at independently.
It’s not to say that they’re unimportant but an average person doing SEO for their site doesn’t need to worry about 200 plus ranking factors.
So today I’m going to discuss the most important google ranking factors so you stay focused on the things that matter most stay tuned.
The first and arguably most important ranking factor is quality backlinks. Backlinks form the basis of PageRank which is the foundation of google’s ranking algorithm.
They mention it on their house search works page. They’ve tweeted about it and independent studies confirm the relationship between backlinks and organic traffic but not all links are created equal.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to a backlog’s ability to push a page higher in the SERP. The two most important are relevance and authority we will make a full tutorial that goes deep into the attributes of high-quality backlinks.
The next ranking signal is freshness is a quarry-dependent ranking factor meaning it’s more important for some quarries than others.
For example, a quarry like a tesla news has super fresh results and that’s because people want information on current news, not something that happened four years ago but freshness isn’t limited to just news topics.
If we look at the SERP for the quarry ‘best headphones’ you’ll see that all of the top-ranking pages have the current year in the title and that’s because people don’t want to know about the best headphones from 2014. Technology is advancing and there are always new models and manufacturers coming out.
But for a quarry like how to tie a tie freshness isn’t as important, since nothing has changed so for queries that require freshness keep your content up to date.
The next ranking factor is search intent while backlinks are arguably the most important ranking factor search intent is likely the most overlooked search intent represents the reason behind a searcher’s query.
So when someone searches for how to make chicken soup they want to find a recipe when they search for the best headphones they want to see a listicle with a variety of different headphones.
3 C’s of Search
The way we determine search intent is by looking at the top-ranking pages and identifying the three c’s of search intent:
The first c is content type so the top pages are mostly blog posts product category or landing pages for best headphones they’re blog posts.
The second c is the content format. So most of the top pages are how-to’s tutorials, listicles, or opinion editorials. Again for best headphones, their listicles are kind of obvious since the word best implies that comparisons need to be made.
Finally is the content angle and this is the most dominant that the top-ranking pages are using for the query best headphones it looks like they’re going with the freshness up by including the current year and the titles.
The three c is the content type and content format are critical to match otherwise you’ll be hard-pressed to rank high for any meaningful query.
Next up is the topical authority of the website google wants to rank pages from authoritative sources and this goes way beyond backlinks.
For example, if we look at SERP 4; how to unclog a toilet? You’ll see that the dr42 site is outranking much more powerful websites with significantly more referring domains well this page comes from a website that’s just about plumbing.
So it’s likely more authoritative on that topic now if we’re being honest this is just an educated guess but there are more clues to help us solidify our argument.
Number one google search quality rater guidelines mention something called EAT which stands for Expertise Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. I don’t know about you but in our opinion, we believe that it’s near impossible for a person or website to demonstrate all three qualities on every topic.
All right so the second point of support for topical authority is in google’s SEO starter guide, they say cultivate a reputation for expertise and trustworthiness in a specific area.
Number three, pages on websites that are focused on one particular topic will have more internal links from pages about similar things, and not only do internal links help increase authority but they also help Google understand what the pages are about.
Finally, there’s evidence to suggest that the perceived authoritativeness of a site is quarry dependent on this google patent.
All right the next ranking factor is content depth. It is about hitting the talking points of a topic that searchers want and expect to see.
For example, if we look at the SERP 4 ‘best watch brands’ you’ll see that search intent tells us that we need to create a listicle blog post specifically about luxury watches. But this doesn’t tell us what’s important from a content perspective.
Other than the fact that we should be talking about Breitling instead of time to figure that out you need to visit the top-ranking pages and look for similarities between the content.
If you look at the top-ranking pages you’ll find that they all mention something about the price they all mention popular brands like Rolex they all talk about technical specifications.
So if you want to rank for this query you should probably talk about these things too. It’s not about limiting your creativity or copying others but google is ranking similar pages at the top.
It’s telling us what they want to see and since google’s job is to deliver the most relevant results for any given query it’s probably what the searcher wants to see too.
Another way you can find talking points is to look at the people also ask box in the SERP as well as the related searches at the bottom.
Now one other thing I highly recommend is, to do a content gap analysis at the page level. This is a bit different because it’ll show you common keyword rankings between the top-ranking pages just go to ahref’s content gap tool and add the top three relevant ranking results in the top section leave the bottom section blank and then run the search.
So as you can see people want to know about the most expensive watch brands. They want high-end watches and so on. Try and extract subtopics from here and get a better understanding of the language people use when they’re searching for content on this topic.
Next up is page speed. It has been a known ranking factor since 2010 and a lot of people obsess over improving their site speed by fractions of a second from an SEO perspective.
It doesn’t matter much for most sites google said the speed update will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of quarries.
Its bottom line is to improve your page speed. So it’s not super slow you don’t want people to bounce because your page wouldn’t load, what’s more, Important about page speed is that if visitors won’t wait for your page to load they won’t see your content, contact you or purchase anything from your site.
Next is to ensure your site uses the HTTPS protocol. In 2014 google announced HTTPS as a very lightweight signal affecting fewer than one percent of global queries and using HTTPS probably won’t make a huge impact on your site’s rankings.
It’s a quick win that you can do in under five minutes so if you’re still using the insecure HTTP protocol then it’s probably worth changing.
Finally user experience, Google wants to rank content that offers visitors a positive experience because if people are finding good results from their search engine then they’ll keep using it.
So the absolute basics would be to try and keep visitors on your site for as long as possible without any kind of trickery, so create easy-to-read content, a well-organized site responsive design, and go easy with the ads and pop-ups.
Basically, you want to have a site that’s designed around the user’s needs first. Now in terms of the way they measure user satisfaction is debatable.
There is no definitive proof that google uses things like dwell time or ctr in their ranking algorithm but if we look at the patent from google, they describe how click-through rate and other behavioral signals could be used to influence search engine rankings.
While Google remains rigid that these factors are too noisy and unreliable marks have tried experiments and found ctr to be effective in higher rankings.
So the key takeaway instead of obsessing over metrics like ctr and dwell time focus on creating excellent content and an overall positive experience for visitors.
Now was any of this advice new or exciting nope but that’s kind of the point ranking in google is rarely about the latest tips, algorithm updates, or buzzwords. It’s about putting in the work to create content that searchers are looking for providing a great user experience and proving to Google that it’s the best result for a query.
Now a topic like google ranking factors can be pretty controversial. So are there any other ranking signals that I missed and you think are critical to focus on. Let me know in the comments and if you enjoyed this article make sure to share with friends and follow the blog for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. I’ll see you at the next one.