Google SEO Ranking Factors

Google SEO Ranking Factors

Search engines present what they deem to be relevant search results to users looking up various keywords and phrases, and to do this, their automated algorithm programs ‘crawl’ web content continuously.

These crawls pull up a variety of data and intelligence on websites, using this information to understand what a site is about, who its relevant for and what it offers. The elements of a website that are scanned and used by the search engine algorithms to determine where and how to rank them are known as SEO ranking factors.

It’s not known exactly how many webpages or websites are crawled by Google’s systems daily, but we do know that hundreds of billions of pages are scanned continuously; primarily based on previous searches made by search engine users. The crawlers work through site maps, paying attention to the usability and performance of the site overall, links to and from it, changes made to pages it has crawled before, and the content on the site itself.

Each of these SEO ranking factors are taken into account and this helps the system decide where to display a website on relevant SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

What are Google’s SEO Ranking Factors?

There is a common misconception that the only influence on search engine ranking is the written content within a website – and this has resulted in lots of websites being full of content that is stuffed with as many keywords and phrases as possible.

While this was effective in the early days of SEO, technology has moved on vastly since and this activity is now penalised by Google. There are now over 200 SEO ranking factors for Google alone.

Google’s SEO ranking factors change continuously and the algorithm changes and tweaks daily; so it’s nigh-on impossible to hit exactly the right spot for top organic SEO ranking all of the time. The 200+ SEO ranking factors that Google currently refers to includes, by is by no means limited to:

  • Domain factors – security, keywords in domain, domain history, geographic registration
  • Page-level factors – keyword usage, tags and meta data, content, page load speeds, image optimisation, responsiveness
  • Site-level factors – site architecture, site uptime, site navigation, Core Web Vitals
  • Backlink factors – links to and from the site and the authenticity of the sites linking
  • User interaction – user behaviour, content interaction, traffic, bookmarks
  • Algorithm rules – geo-targeting, safe search, shopping results, YouTube results, local results
  • Brand signals – branded text, branded searches, linked social media accounts
  • On-site webspam – pop-ups and ads, poor quality content, hidden links, on-site spamming
  • Off-site webspam – site hacking, unnatural links, fake links, fake likes, spam traffic.

This variety in ranking factors highlights just how much ongoing work there is to be done to demonstrate to Google how useful and genuine a business’ website is.

Ranking Factors for other search engines

Google has by far the highest market share of search engines. However, there are audiences using search engines other than just Google.

SEO ranking factors aren’t made entirely public for all search engines, but all of the algorithms operate along roughly the same lines. There are some differences that should be noted, though, including:

  • Bing have commented publicly that social media is a very influential factor in their SEO
  • Yahoo relies heavily on Bing’s search algorithm and so optimising for Bing will too optimise for Bing
  • DuckDuckGo does not track users and so results are never based on search history
  • Baidu hugely favours domains registered in China
  • Amazon essentially relies entirely on keywords.

Generally speaking, it is best to follow all of the principles of Google SEO in order to rank on other search engines too.

The Importance of Optimising SEO Ranking Factors

Google is an increasingly competitive search engine with 8.5 billion searches carried out daily, so there’s no shortage of traffic. If businesses are to gain competitive advantage over competitors, they must focus on SEO to ensure that they rank higher, are more likely to be found online.

The Most Important SEO Ranking Factors for Google

Not all SEO ranking factors are equal. Although there is no complete transparency over which are exactly the most influential in ranking score, the most important factors are more user-focused than content-focused.

Google prioritises site security, responsiveness and its overall customer experience as a very important SEO ranking factor. This also includes the crawlability of sites – because if it can’t be ‘crawled’, it can’t be assessed for ranking in SERPs.

Content does form an important part of SEO, and Google now considers high quality content more eminent than the presence of relevant keywords and phrases; although they too do influence.

SEO management involves a careful and curated balance of all elements of a website in order to provide the best and most relevant user experience possible – and this acts as an extension of the brand’s overall customer experience. This makes good business sense and cannot be underestimated in its contribution to the overarching brand perception.

Things That Hurt Website Rankings

Things That Hurt Website Rankings

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a digital discipline and an ever-evolving practice; forever at the mercy of Google’s daily changing algorithm and user’s shifting appetites and attitudes.

Ranking on Google isn’t a simple task nor is it a static one, and there are many reasons why a website may not appear as prominently on the search engine results pages (SERPs) as businesses may like.

If you find that your SEO efforts are letting you down and not working as well as you’d like, read on. There are many factors that impact website rankings on Google and not all of them are obvious.

Domain Authority

While it was for many years considered a vast disadvantage in SEO terms to buy a brand domain name and launch a new website, it is not necessarily the domain age that influences how Google ranks it in its listings; but rather, the authority.

When a new website launches, it will usually contain some relevant content but it is only over time that it accumulates a library of high-quality, appropriate content as well as backlinks from other websites. A website that is well populated with content and referred to (ie. linked to) by other sites is considered to have high authority by the Google algorithm.

This means that the search engine’s automated systems believe it to be a reliable source of information for its users and a trusted online presence. A domain with good authority will find itself with a higher ranking on Google than one without.

How to fix it

Domain authority takes time to build. Webmasters can improve their website’s authority through the continuous publishing of relevant, timely and high-quality content as well as through the build up of backlinks from other appropriate domains. This requires ongoing work as a cycle of improvement.

Unoptimised Site Technicalities

SEO is often misconceived as simply a case of publishing lots of written content with relevant keywords included, but ranking on Google now involves many more factors than just search terms.

On-site SEO is also required for a site to rank well, and this includes a whole host of technical aspects that sit ‘behind the scenes’ of a functional website. On-site SEO allows for the easy ‘crawl’ of the site by Google (that is, its automated programs to scan and compute it) as well as demonstrates how good a user experience the site provides.

On-site SEO includes relevant alt-text for images, working internal links between pages, fast page loading times and responsive display to the device on which it is being viewed. Ranking highly on Google highly is very difficult to achieve if a site hasn’t optimised its technicalities.

How to fix it

A ‘health check’ of a website can be undertaken to ensure that it is readable by Google’s bots and also that it works well for users. Every image should have appropriate alt-text, every page should load quickly, all links should work and every page should be created with responsive design to ensure correct formatting no matter the size of the screen being used. It is always worth consulting with a professional in regards to on-site SEO to ensure all aspects are covered.

Unoptimised Site Content

A primary factor influencing a site’s ranking on Google is its content. In order to decide how and where to list a website on its SERPs, Google must be able to understand the topic of the site and match this up with the search terms used by users to present them with the most relevant results.

If a site publishes content that is not clearly relevant to its business niche, is likely of too short a length to be helpful, or is of poor quality, it will not favour it.

How to fix it

Brands should look to position themselves as thought leaders in their fields with the continued publication of high-quality appropriate content. Thorough keyword research should be carried out to identify how users search for the brand, product/s and/or service/s, and content provided throughout, tailored to match.

Violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines

The Google Webmaster Guidelines are a set of rules that stipulate conditions to be met in order to be ranked on Google SERPs.

Many websites are inadvertently in breach of these guidelines because of the use of Black Hat SEO tactics. Black Hat SEO is the manipulation of search engine algorithms in order to rank higher than would otherwise be the case. This often includes the practice of ‘keyword stuffing’ (inclusion of multiple relevant terms even where the resulting text is nonsensical), paying for backlinks and/or paying for false traffic.

Violation of the Google Webmaster Guidelines can result in a website being removed entirely from Google (being ‘no-indexed), being ranked lower down than usual or being blocked from buying paid ads on SERPs.

How to fix it

Once a site has been ‘no-indexed’ or identified as being in breach of Google Webmaster Guidelines, it can be extremely difficult to rectify the situation and prove to Google that it is deserving of new trust. It is always best where mistakes have been made or guidelines breached to consult with a professional in order to strategise how best to work with SEO moving forward.

Woya Digital have a whole team of SEO experts on-hand who can advise and devise plans for recovering from poor SEO performance to rebuild authority, trust and a positive professional reputation. No matter what has been done in the past we are confident that we can help rectify the situation.