Chances are that you have heard that Google ranks contents based on a lot of factors. There are over 200 ranking factors used by Google to increase or decrease the prominence of contents published on its portal.
Google updates its ranking algorithm frequently, sometimes several times in a day. Google also announces some key algorithm updates so website owners and publishers can amend their contents.
This note explains 13 key Google ranking factors. You will increase your chances of getting better prominence in Google’s SERP if you familiarise yourself with the ranking signals I will explain shortly.
How Does Google Ranking Factors and Algorithm Work?
Google algorithms are designed with over 200 ranking factors. Nobody knows the exact ranking factors and their weights, they are proprietary to Google.
Google uses its algorithms to place contents in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) positions it feels will be beneficial and useful to those retrieving information for its search engine.
Google as a search engine uses its algorithms and ranking factors to display web pages when queried by users. The algorithm ensures that the web pages displayed are relevant to the query of the user of the search engine.
Google updates its algorithms intermittently. Some of the major algorithm updates are announced beforehand.
Some of the major Google algorithmic changes include Fred, RankBrain, Panda, Hummingbird, EMD and Pigeon etc.
Confused? You need not; mastering just few of Google’s ranking factors can go a long way in optimizing your content on SERPs.
Top 13 Google Ranking Factors for SEO
Authoritative, Relevant and Well Researched Content
Google compensates contents that answer users’ search queries with high prominence on its SERPs. Contents should cover all the topics on the key subject matter or keyword.
For example, if you are writing an article on social media marketing. You need to also write on Facebook marketing, Instagram marketing, Twitter marketing and all other topics under social media marketing. This will make your article authoritative in the eye of Google.
Published articles on your website should contain well referenced data and information. Google loves contents with proven facts backed with statistics.
Contents that are updated frequently with new facts are also seen as relevant and fresh in the eyes of Google. Google has a ranking factor called Google Freshness Factor; it rewards contents that are fresh.
The length of your article also matters. I am sure you are happy that can write a long article and get it rank on SERPs. Let me dash your hope, it’s not that easy. Writing long article that is full of nonsense will not get you anywhere near the top of SERPs.
Though Google’s John Mueller has consistently said word count is not a quality ranking factor for Google, research has shown that most articles that rank in the 1st to 3rd position on SERPs have above 1,500 word count.
Long articles must be relevant and full of facts.
Google hates thin content. Writing articles with terribly low word count with no relevance can make your website be penalized by Google. Google has a penalty called ‘Google Thin Content’; an algorithmic update was done to emphasize this issue.
Do you know that your content can be ranked lower on SERPs by Google if you have duplicate content? You should not have duplicate or several copies of an article or post on your website. This can negatively impact your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) efforts.
The use of bullet points or numbered lists can also make Google understand your content better. You need to know that even if your content is authoritative and relevant and Google does not understand it, it will not rank in SERPs.
You have to write in a simple yet relevant and authoritative manner to satisfy users’ intent and also to be meaningful to Google.
Sound Keyword Research and Placement
Google uses the keywords in your article or content to know what your article is about. This is why thorough keyword research is important if you want to rank on SERPs.
Most SEOs will agree that you need to do the following for Google to rank your article:
- You should ensure that the target keyword appears in the topic of the article. Some argue that it is better if your main keyword appears as the first word in the topic of your article.
- You should insert your keyword in the first paragraph of your article or at least in the first 100 words.
- Your target keyword should appear in the URL of your article. The target keyword should also appear in the meta description.
- Your target keyword should be inserted in all the H tags. That is, the target keyword should be in the H1, H2, H3 and other H tags in the article.
- The target keyword should not be overly stuffed in the article. The keyword density should not be more than 2-3%.
- Latent Semantic Index (LSI) keywords should also be extensively used in published articles. LSI keywords are keywords that are similar to the target keyword. For example a LSI keyword for drip irrigation is trickle irrigation. www.lsigraph.com can be used to generate LSI keywords for a target keyword.
Google through John Mueller has said that it does not put much weight on insertion of keywords in different places in published contents. This is a debatable assertion.
There are arguments that Google is intelligent enough to know the keyword you are targeting even if you don’t place it in conspicuous places in your article. Some will also argue that sometimes you do the opposite of what Google says through John Mueller and get positive results.
Aside putting the target keyword in the topic and the URL, you just need to write to satisfy users’ intent.
You may ask, how can I do keyword research?
There are a number of web apps that can use for keyword research. Keyword Revealer, KWFinder and SEMRUSH are some of the apps that you can use for keyword research.
It is always better to target long tail keywords as you can easily rank them because they are less competitive.
Imagine you trying to rank the keyword ‘Social Media Marketing’ on SERPs, this can be an almost impossible task for you as a lot of authoritative domain are targeting the keyword. Targeting long tail keyword like social media marketing for students can be easier to rank.
Keyword research apps can show you keywords with less competition score and good volume which you can target.
You can also use the “ALLINTITLE’ tag to check the competitiveness of a keyword on Google search.
Aged and Secured Website
Would you rather trust a business that has been around for a long time than a business that is just a few weeks old? I am sure you will trust the business that has been around for long.
This also applies to Google. Google trusts aged website than new websites. I have observed over time that it takes 3 – 6 months for new websites to appear on SERPs.
No matter what you do, new websites do not get prominence on SERPS until you wait for some months. This is why some SEOs use aged domains when building new websites.
Google also penalizes websites that are not secured. Using HTTPS is a ranking factor. You should endeavor to get a HTTPs label on your website.
Hacked websites or websites with phishing and other malicious characteristics are also penalized by Google.
Producing Articles in Related Clusters
Have you ever seen a website with low domain authority score and little or no backlinks ranking in the first position in Google SERPs? If yes, chances are that the website is highly niche and it has articles written in clusters or silos.
Writing several articles that are related to each other or in the same niche can shoot up the ranking of a website in Google’s SERPs.
Google Mum Multitask Unified Model is all about topical SEO. Google wants you to write support articles for your target keywords.
For example, if you want to rank for the keyword ‘Keyword Research’. You will need to write an authoritative long form article on keyword research, say 2,000 – 5,000 words and write 15 – 50 support articles on keywords relating to keywords research.
The support articles can be written on, how to use KWFINDER for keyword research, how to use Longtailpro for keyword research, will keyword research make my target keyword rank and what is long tail keyword?
All the support articles must link back to the main article through internal links. The main article also has to link to all the support articles.
Once Google notices that you have produced several articles on key topics related to “keyword research”, you stand a higher chance to be ranked higher for your target keyword.
A question! How will you know the topics to write on for the support articles?
To know the keywords to develop support articles on, you need to query Google Knowledge Graph and retrieve keywords related to the keyword in your main article.
Wikipedia can also be used to get keywords for your support articles.
I have ranked for some keywords on new domains with no backlinks, I even ranked higher than websites with high Domain Authority (DA) scores and several good backlinks.
What did I do? I simply used topical SEO, I wrote several articles to support a main article all in the same niche.
Backlinks from Authoritative and Niche Websites
Getting backlinks from trustworthy and authoritative website remains Google’s most important ranking factor
When you get a backlink from an authoritative website, Google sees this as a sign of authority and your article may likely rank higher in SERPs.
Google gives better accolades to dofollow backlinks than no follow backlinks.
Getting backlinks from websites that are not related to your niche or content can earn you a penalty from Google.
You should avoid buying backlinks from Private Blog Network, you can get an instant boost in SERPs but it will be short-lived as you would be caught and your website will be penalized and even totally removed from Google’s index.
You can get backlinks through the following ways:
- Guest posting
- Local SEO
- Press Release
- Media Mentions
- Infographic Sharing Websites
- Video Sharing Websites like YouTube
- Audio Sharing Websites etc
Knowing how to use anchor texts is necessary while looking for backlinks. Trying to manipulate SERPs with same anchor texts may lead to Google issuing your website a penalty.
You should note that you can still rank your articles without backlinks. However, getting backlinks will make the process faster.
About 60% of all online searches are now carried out on mobile devices. Do you see why Google takes mobile searches very important?
Mobile friendliness of a website is one of Google’s ranking signals. If your website provides poor searcher experience on mobile devices, Google will decrease the prominence of your website or article on its SERPs.
A lot of themes on WordPress support mobile friendliness. If you want to build your website with WordPress, I suggest you use Thrive Themes. Thrive Themes are mobile friendly.
If your website is not mobile friendly, you can contact us for us to remedy the situation and improve your chances of ranking in SERPs.
The speed of a website is one of Google’s ranking factors. Google recently updated its algorithm and added core web vitals as one of its new ranking factors.
Google core web vitals have the speed component and the user experience component. Google expects your website to load the largest contentful paint within 2.5 seconds.
You should try to make your website load within 2 seconds.
Semrush noted that if your website loads within 2.9 seconds, it is faster than 50% of the websites in the world.
The Use of Images, Videos and Infographics and other Multimedia
Google uses the number and relevance of images, videos, infographics and other multimedia used in contents as part of its ranking algorithm.
Images should be optimized with the target keyword. The target keyword should be in the description, caption and title of the image
People like to view images and other types of multimedia on articles and posts. These multimedia can also increase the dwell time of users on web pages.
The length of time users spend on your web pages can also count as a positive when it comes to ranking on SERPs.
There are apps you can use to create and design images, videos, infographics and even audios for your content. I use Canva and I strongly advise you use it.
Videos are especially very useful when it comes to ranking in SERPs. You can also get a backlink from YouTube if you upload your videos there.
One of my article moves from the third page of Google SERPs to number 2 on the first page of SERPs because I added a video to the article.
Research has shown that about 85% of internet users in the US watch online video contents every month.
Google also shows a video thumbnail next to a search result about 26% of the time, and users are more likely to click that listing according to a research by Bright Edge.
Good Website User Experience
Google hammers on the need for users to have good experience on websites. Users’ experience is also one of the ranking factors used for Google ranking algorithm.
The following are some of the factors that make up web users’ experience:
- Website Interactivity: The website should be entertaining and engaging to visitors.
- Website loading Speed: The website should load in a fast manner. Loading time of less than 2 seconds is advised.
- Web Page Stability: The pages on the website should be stable. Web pages should not jump around.
- Security: The website should be secured with HTTPS.
- Safety of Browsers and Users: The website should be free from malware, deceptive requests for details of users and unsecured downloads etc.
- Mobile Friendliness: As discussed earlier in this note, the mobile friendliness of a website impacts on how Google rates if it has a good user experience.
Google Core Web Vitals algorithm update also notes that user experience is important for ranking on SERPs.
The use of internal links and insertion of clear contact details on web pages can also boost users’ experience.
Would you engage a lawyer who has a 5 years experience or a lawyer who is just a few months old in the bar? I am sure you will pick the more experienced lawyer. Aged websites have a better domain authority in the eyes of Google than new websites.
Google says domain age is not a ranking factor but in reality aged websites perform better on SERPs than new websites.
Sometimes, you just don’t want to take the advice of Google when it comes to ranking ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’. A study by Ahrefs showed that the average top 10 ranking websites on Google SERPs is 2+ years old.
Socia signals are comments, updates, retweets, tags and shares on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok etc.
When the links of your websites are frequently shared on social media platforms, Google notices and it may positively impact your website’s ranking on SERPs.
Social signal is known to be one of the top ranking factors used by Google.
Grammar, Spelling and Readability of Content
Do you like using big grammar and words when writing? If yes, Google’s ranking algorithm may not be friendly to you.
Your content should be able to be read and understood by a 9 year old. You should write in a way that anybody can read and understand.
You should also write articles free of grammatical errors. Shorter sentences should be used. Your paragraph should not exceed 2 – 3 sentences.
Grammarly can help a great deal to I prove your writing.
Expertise of Author
E-A-T which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness is one of the factors used by Google to know where to place a web page or content on its SERPs.
For example, Google will likely rank an article on hypertension written by a cardiologist higher than one written by an accountant.
Google can also trust your expertise if you keep writing on a particular subject for a long time.
Now that you know some of the top ranking factors Google uses to design its algorithm, you need to master these ranking factors and implement them in your content strategy.
You should also note that the ranking factors are dynamic. You should keep yourself abreast with Google algorithm updates.
Create authoritative and relevant contents and ensure that users have good experience on yur site and you can be sure that your site will rank in no time.