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You all might know that Google applies over 200 search engine ranking factors in their algorithm. But what are those after all?
Well, we won’t discuss all the 200+ Google ranking factors here but will do discuss the 20 most essential ones that are often mistaken.
With most advancements of 2015 introduced RankBrain search engine algorithm in 2019, we need to accept the changes and discover the ways to get on the top of SERPs. Therefore, the topic of search engine ranking factors is equally concurrent, even in 2020.
Here we will debunk the common misconceptions you might have regarding the top search engine ranking factors and will reveal the real factors that matter to Google.
RankBrain algorithm allows Google to speed up the testing it does for keyword categories to endeavor to determine the best content for any particular keyword search. It makes the strategy to rank with false signals less productive and helps the best quality content from a search aspect, to rank higher in Google.
1 Keyword in Page URL
Most of us believe, using a targeted keyword in a page URL can act as a relevant ranking signal. Moreover, such URLs may contribute to being their own anchor texts when shared. But, John Mueller, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, once confirmed, though keyword in a page’s URL was a ranking signal, it’s trivial compared to other ranking factors. He also advised not to change the already ranking URL just to insert the keyword in it.
Would you like to inspect your website page URLs? Get information about Google’s indexed version of a specific page that includes AMP errors, structured data errors, and indexing issues here!
2 Keyword in Title Tag
Title tags tell the search engines about the subject of the particular pages. Hence, the search engines use the same to form a search result snippet visible to the users.
Yes, it acts as a common ranking factor, however, as per the recent correlation study, it’s not as crucial as it used to be a few years back.
Back in 2016, John Mueller claimed that keywords in title tags are a relevant ranking factor, but not such a compelling one that you spend your best time on twitching the title.
Further, Martin Splitt, developer advocate on the Webmaster Trends Analyst team at Google Switzerland, has recently highlighted the importance of metadata; meta titles, in particular, listing it among one of the most influential Google ranking factors. He also explained, while having page titles specific to the page are good, the same title for all the similar types of pages is wrong.
If you want to learn what Google advises on creating unique and accurate page titles, read it here.
3 Keyword in Meta Description
People often think meta description is no longer a relevant ranking factor, and it’s only valuable for SEO, as it might affect the click-through-rate. Well, while sometimes Google uses meta description for the snippets it shows, Google doesn’t use meta description in the search engine ranking. – Though there is subsequent evidence that the optimized meta descriptions help secondary ranking features, like click-through-rate, understanding of the quality of the result, and perception of what your website offers, etc.
4 Keyword in the H1, H2, H3 Tags
While the H1 tag is often described as the second title tag, using the H1 tag more than once over a page, is completely inadvisable. Other H tags, like H2, H3, up to H6 help in producing content more engaging and readable, and give the search engines an idea of the page construction.
Though John Mueller once said the H tags bring little to no ranking bonuses. They use it to assume the context of a page better to know the structure of the text on the page. Just by using a heading, you can’t promptly rank 1 or 3 steps higher in the search engine.
Content on the web and the full information ecosystem is continually changing, and Google frequently measures and evaluates the quality of their systems to assure achieving the right balance of information relevancy and authoritativeness to keep trust in the results you see. But what are the factors of the content that matter most for search engine ranking? Here we go.
5 Image Optimization
What do you think? Do the images signal search engines about their significance through alt text, file name, title, description, etc. Is this image optimization that important for ranking, especially for image search?
Well, Google Webmaster Central Blog 1000 Words About Images highlights the importance of image alt-text. Alt-text is considerably helpful when you want your images to rank in the search engines.
Google also emphasizes on generating relevant image alt-text, titles, captions, as well as more relevant placement of images to improve image accessibility.
Want to learn to apply alt-text to your images smartly? Learn here!
6 Content Length
Long-form content (about 2000-3000 words in length) tend to rank better and get more traffic than shorter pieces. Though many people put too much importance on the average word count of articles and overlook the significance of having quality more than a certain number of words on each page to rank well. As per Google, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors… Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive…”
7 Inclusive Content
While we consider inclusive content for how fully it covers a specific page and the topic, in-depth, quality content is a more significant ranking factor as it proves the website’s expertise and makes it more authoritative. Google also appreciates creating more factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive content.
8 Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
As we can see the majority of the top-ranking web pages have little to no grammatical and spelling errors, Google admits poor grammar, lots of misspellings affect the content quality and thus, affect the ranking factor indirectly. Therefore, Google suggests writing easy-to-read text that readers can enjoy. Google strongly recommends avoiding writing sloppy text with many spelling and grammatical mistakes, as well as awkward or poorly written content.
9 E-A-T and Search Quality Ratings
Since Google Quality Raters Guidelines introduced, a website’s E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) has become the most significant term to consider website quality. Though the mass claim, it has become a strong Google ranking factor, John Mueller gave a profound explanation about what Quality Raters Guidelines were meant for, as well as if E-A-T can be referred to as a ranking factor. He explains, there are several factors from the Google Raters Guidelines that are no direct search ranking factors, but these are important while evaluating the quality of search results.
10 LSI Keyword in Content
We consider Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI as an influential Google ranking factor. Isn’t it? LSI is a more accurate information retrieval method that finds hidden relationships between words and then offers detailed results. Further, the common belief is that LSI helps Google to better learn the content, and the semantically relevant words help the search engine recognize the synonymous keywords, which are often called ‘LSI keywords’. But, John Muller surprisingly denies the reality of LSI keywords.
Site Structure & Code Factors
Your website structure is vital for both accessibility and usability. While many websites lack a responsive architecture to lead the visitors to the content they’re looking for, having a straightforward site structure leads to a better understanding of your website by the search engines. Let’s check out the primary impact of website structure and coding on Google rankings factors.
11 Internal Linking
As confirmed by Google’s John Mueller, internal linking is important, and the context – the kind of the anchor text, the text around the links you give in the content, are also vital for Google ranking.
Internal links help Google crawling and indexing entire web content, as well to recognize the most relevant pages to a specific search. Further, the anchor texts act as a strong connection signal.
12 User-Friendly Layout
The page layout has a certain impact on content visibility to the users. By introducing the ‘Page Layout’ algorithm improvement back in 2012, Google confirmed earlier that “…sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.”
13 Site Architecture
A user-friendly website architecture supports search engine bots to crawl all the necessary pages of the website and improve visibility of the website in search results. Further, the easy accessibility of your content also matters. Considering Google ranking factors, the number of clicks you go through to access a particular content matters more than a URL structure.
14 Structured Data Markup (SD)
Though most of the marketers believe structured data (SD) on a website helps search engines to recognize the meaning of content, and it may affect rankings otherwise, John Mueller once stated “There’s no generic ranking boost for SD usage. That’s the same as far as I remember. However, SD can make it easier to understand what the page is about, which can make it easier to show where it’s relevant (improves targeting, maybe ranking for the right terms). (not new, imo),” while replying to the popular Search Engine Land columnist Glenn Gabe.
Performance & Security Factors
Along with website structure, website performance and security is also a significant factor affecting Google ranking. Here’s how you can optimize these ranking factors –
15 Page Load Speed
It turns out that visitors wait no more than 3 to 4 seconds for a web page to load before leaving it. Even, only a half a second difference in the load time may cause up to 10% difference in online conversion. Page speed has been a significant ranking factor for a long time already, it has been declared a vital ranking factor for mobile search, as well.
A mobile-friendly website and mobile usability is a strong ranking factor for a long time now. Further, by introducing mobile-first indexing and a growing number of mobile-friendly search results, Google has confirmed the influence of mobile usability for improved rankings.
17 HTTPS / SSL Certificate
Though Google officially introduced HTTPS as a ranking signal back in 2014, the HTTPS is not a direct ranking factor. As per the Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes, if a site is not an HTTPS website, that’s also fine. But in a competitive niche, the HTTPS works as the ranking booster, as Google favors to rank HTTPS websites better, attempting to protect the users. Therefore, having a valid SSL-certificate is a further ranking booster.
User Interactions Factors
You already understand that SEO is more than only link building and adding keywords in the content. User Interaction elements are also crucial in SEO practices.
18 CTR, Bounce Rate, Dwell Time
Though most of the marketers believe user interaction signals, like CTR, Bounce Rate, Page Dwell Time, etc. are vital ranking factors, Google claims, these are not been used as google ranking factors.
Links were and remain the equally vital organic ranking factor for and have a strong association with first page SEO rankings.
19 Number of Links
You might have heard many people saying Google’s ranking algorithm considers the number of domains and pages linked to a website. Several studies show a strong association between ranking and the number of backlinks. But Google states, PageRank stretches this idea but not by simply counting the number of links.
20 Link Relevancy
In opposition to the number of backlinks, from the sources relevant to the referred page are considered to be strong ranking signals. Google continues to protect the value of authoritative and relevant links as an important ranking signal for search.
Google has considerably modified and advanced its algorithm over the last few years. Many SEO practices that were once vital are not the best anymore. However, new SEO ranking factors have come in action, and we’re sure to see more developments in the upcoming years.
We can conclude with the takeaway note that there is a combination of some good old factors with some advanced factors.
What do you think? Your observation, opinion, and criticism are much appreciated.