Optimizing your web pages using SEO ranking factors translates to a higher ranking in Google search results. This is because Google takes these factors into account when ranking websites. And we know that higher ranking leads to more traffic and ultimately, greater sales and leads.
In this guide, we’ll talk about the most relevant Google ranking factors to keep in mind when optimizing your web pages.
But first, let’s refresh our knowledge about ranking factors.
What is a “Ranking Factor” in SEO?
Google takes into account certain “ranking factors” when deciding how to rank web pages on its SERPs. These ranking factors go into Google’s ranking algorithms which then determine in what order the website pages should appear.
According to Chitika, 95% of people stay on only the first page of the search results. This graph by Backlinko shows that the first search result gets the highest organic CTR:
(image source: Backlinko)
This is why these factors must be kept in mind when optimizing your webpage if you don’t want your content to be buried at the bottom of the search results page.
How Does Google Search Ranking Work?
Google operates in three main steps, and ranking factors fit into step 2 and 3:
1. Crawling the web
Google’s search bots, which are automated pieces of code a.k.a spiders, search for web pages and add them to a list that Google maintains. This is known as crawling. The more optimized your page is, the more likely it is to be added to this list.
After crawling web pages, Google analyzes the page contents and adds that information to its database known as the “Google Index”. Google takes note of certain factors–like keywords and website freshness–when adding pages to the index. If you want your page to be added to this database, you have to keep these ranking factors in mind:
- Create short page titles
- Use relevant page headings
- Text is better than images when conveying information.
3. Showing the Search Results
At this point, the ranking algorithm comes into play. When someone types a query, Google uses some more ranking factors in its ranking algorithms to determine which results from its index are most relevant to the search query.
These algorithms look at factors like the keywords the user used, the expertise of the sources, location, and settings.
The Most Relevant Google Ranking Factors in 2021
There are over 200 ranking factors that Google uses to rank web pages. These are the most important ones:
1. Page Speed
According to statistics, a delay of two seconds in page speed can increase bounce rates by 103%. And improving your load time by even 0.1 seconds can raise conversion rates by 8%.
It’s no wonder Google takes into account page and website speed!
A slow-loading website can ruin your search engine ranking. For this reason, you should test the load time of your website using a tool like GTmetrix or Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
2. Internal Links
According to John Mueller, paying more attention to technical SEO factors (like Internal Links and Page Speed) is going to be more advantageous for your web page ranking. The more properly you organize your internal links, the easier it’ll be for Google to crawl your web pages and find relevant information to index.
A good way to categorize your internal links is to have a main topic and subtopics that all link back to each other.
3. Mobile Usability
Mobile usage statistics say that 52.2% of all web traffic is from mobile devices.
Google has started indexing its web pages based on how mobile-friendly they are. If your website isn’t, you could needlessly suffer from lower search engine ranking.
You should keep these factors in mind when trying to make your pages mobile device-friendly:
- Your page should resize to fit the screen
- Easy navigation menus
- Use large fonts
You can also check how mobile-friendly your device is through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Keywords are the most important factor that weighs into search rankings. According to a survey, 78% of marketers say that researching keywords is very important for getting more traffic towards your page.
These keywords allow you to give your reader the exact information they searched for.
You must select 4-5 keywords and insert these into your text and on-page elements like the title of your page.
5. Title and Header Tags
Statistics say that 36% of SEO experts believe that the title tag is the most important SEO element. This is why you must incorporate your keywords into both your title and header tags. Google will then index your page based on these keywords and then serve up your page to the user according to keyword relevance.
6. Meta Description
A meta description is that bit of text that appears under the title tag on the search page. This is what it looks like:
(image source: Google)
It needs to accurately summarize the content of your page. This is because the more informative the description is, the more likely readers are to click on it. It is also a fact that pages with a meta description get 5.8% more clicks than pages without it.
On top of that, Google occasionally uses the meta description tag to generate a search results snippet.
7. Image alt-text
If your images have alt tags, Google ranks your page higher. According to John Mueller, it’s not just one factor that weighs into high web page rankings. There are a bunch of factors, one of which is using HTML meta tags.
Alt tags are descriptions that are displayed if the image can’t be loaded. Google directly says that since search engines can’t actually “see” images, these descriptions help them understand what the image is about and serve it up for the relevant queries. Alt text raises the chances of your image rising to the top of the image results, which improves ranking chances for your web page.
8. URL Structure
A URL that includes target keywords and is easy to understand is an SEO-friendly URL. Google automatically ranks such web pages higher in search results.
(image source: Wordstream)
9. Quality of the Information
If you have a list of “best picks of 2019”, chances are Google isn’t going to rank those pages very high. Google takes into account the “freshness” of your page when ranking it. A simple solution is to update these articles with current keywords, or rewrite them and incorporate the newer publication date.
Backlinks are the links that other websites make to your site. The more backlinks you have, the more authority Google will think you have. Google’s ranking algorithm takes into account the number and quality of links to a page in determining the quality of that page. The more backlinks a page has, the more organic traffic it gets.
Which Ranking Factors Are The Most Crucial?
According to John Mueller, you just need awesomeness to rank in google.
(image source: Twitter)
So how do we make our web pages awesome? The answer: taking into account all these ranking factors to develop an awesome user experience. With that, here are some ranking factors you should prioritize:
Content is king. All technical SEO aside, it is important your website content feels authentic and is useful. According to statistics, high-quality content and link building are the two most important factors that Google uses to rank your websites.
There are three basic types of links in SEO:
- Inbound Links
These are also known as backlinks and these kinds of links increase your authority when done right. For example, if a renowned website links to your page, Google will consider you more knowledgeable than if some random, low-quality blog links to you.
The first step is to have relevant, informative content. This way more people will link to your site and Google will improve your search rankings.
- Outbound Links
Outbound links are the links that you provide in your blog posts. Link to web pages that have high domain authority so that not only are you providing your readers quality content, but you’re also allowing Google to notice your authority in your niche and rank you higher.
- Internal Links
Internal links bind your web pages together. These are very important because they make it easier for Google to crawl your website.
Social Media Shares
A study demonstrated that there was a clear connection between the number of social media shares and the search engine ranking of your web page.
(image source: Cognitive SEO)
While Google does say that social shares aren’t a direct factor in contributing to higher rankings, they do indirectly influence it. This could be because more shares mean more traffic towards the page.
It has been found that 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the layout is unattractive. If your bounce rate increases, Google will assume that your page isn’t relevant. You want people to stay on your site, and one way to do this is to ensure that they get a satisfying user experience.
Here are some tips on how to enhance the user experience.
John Mueller says that HTTPS is a “lightweight ranking factor” and “having HTTPS is great for users”. In 2014, Google introduced HTTPS as a ranking signal in their search ranking algorithms.
HTTP pages have started to display “Not Secure” warning messages, which could increase bounce rates for your website. Switching over to HTTPS would be the ideal move here.
This kind of optimization deals with updating and improving the tags on your pages. The company Mockingbird found that by improving its H1 tags, its organic traffic rose by 62%. Here are a few ways you can carry out on-page optimization:
1. Write better meta descriptions
Sometimes, Google will use your meta description as a description in the SERPs if it is most relevant to the search query. So you should try to write succinct descriptions that accurately summarize your blog post and provide the most relevant facts.
2. Add Schema to your Page Header
According to Rotten Tomatoes, there was a 25% higher CTR on pages that have markup. Schemas allow search engines to spot relevant information quicker. Andrew Valente in a Google session mentioned how schema markup improves engagement and CTR on websites.
3. Internal Link Structure
You should categorize your link structure based on five criteria:
- How helpful they are for users to navigate (e.g. by allowing them to carry out conversion in a certain sequence of steps)
- Managing the flow of traffic
- Prioritizing the indexing of certain pages
To sum up, it is important to optimize your web pages according to the ranking factors that Google finds most important. All of the factors we’ve mentioned above play a significant role in how well your page ranks in Google’s search results.
Taking all these factors into account will help you create a well-rounded SEO strategy that will give you long-term marketing success for your business. Focusing on quality – like better content and user experience – will help raise your ranks in the SERPs. If you have any additional questions about ranking factors or SEO, send us a message and let us know!
Mandy Schmitz is a freelance consultant and project management expert with 10+ years of experience working internationally for big brands in fintech, consumer goods, and more. Join her on Changeaholic.com to learn how to optimize your business operations and find the latest software reviews.