Most business owners already know that the holy grail of search engine optimization (SEO) is landing on the first page of Google and being the number one result for their target keywords. But did you know that over a hundred ranking factors exist? Google is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, search engines today, processing nearly 63,000 search queries every second of each day. (1)
Unfortunately, trying to rank your website high on Google can be a challenge. Why? Because nobody knows exactly which factors Google uses to rank websites. Even in the modern era, the exact Google search algorithm remains a top, closely guarded secret. The search engine also releases updates regularly, which either add new considerations to a marketer’s optimization efforts or shift the weight of existing factors, adding to the mystery of it all.
The SEO community, though, has spent many years studying the different factors. They found that some elements are much more critical when ranking a website as high as possible than others. But before delving into these crucial Google ranking factors, this post will define a few basic concepts influencing search engine optimization first. Read on to learn more.
Why does Google rank web pages?
Google said that it has a ranking system for web pages to help its users sort through a significant amount of information it generates regarding a particular search query. The ranking system enables Google to present the most relevant and useful results to people.
But how does Google rank web pages? To rank websites, Google uses web crawlers. The web crawlers scan and index pages, then Google rates every page according to various factors that influence a page’s authority and usefulness to end-users.
The search engine then lists the websites on a search results page using different ranking factors. Therefore, if you appear higher on Google’s search results pages, you’re the most authoritative and relevant result for a given search query.
It’s essential to note that Google’s AI-powered (artificial intelligence) algorithm is called Natural Language Processing (NLP) for a reason. It actually works similarly to the human brain when understanding and processing human language. It means that it can process queries in concept rather than individual words. And that’s why Google can understand the true meaning or intent behind every query, which significantly influences how it ranks websites. (2)
The good news is that Google takes steps to support and guide web admins to rank higher. For example, the search engine’s representatives hold regular talks with web admins to help them understand the algorithm better. Google even has an official blog where people can find the latest news on algorithmic updates.
Does Google’s algorithm change?
As previously mentioned, Google releases algorithmic updates. A Google algorithmic update is a change Google makes to its search engine to improve the quality of search results and relevance and enhance overall user experience.
So, how often does the algorithm change? Google updates the search engine’s algorithm quite often. In fact, in 2018 alone, 3,200 algorithmic updates took place. Some experts believe that the frequency of these changes has only grown since then. However, most updates go unnoticed, except for significant changes, which Google publicly announces in advance. (3)
Google’s E-A-T concept
Google claims that it considers over 200 factors in ranking websites. It also includes the user’s past search history and location. Web admins are well aware of these things. However, there’s one concept in Google’s ranking system that many web admins and marketers miss—the E-A-T concept. Let’s talk about E-A-T.
Google uses E-A-T to evaluate the quality of web pages. E in E-A-T stands for expertise, A for authority, and T stands for trustworthiness. Although E-A-T is only a principle where algorithm updates are based on rather than an algorithm by itself, it derives from the Search Quality Rating Guidelines of Google designed to establish how a website can be of good quality and rank well. (4)
Here’s a closer look at each of E-A-T’s elements:
- Expertise: This element establishes whether the author possesses the right qualifications or skills to answer a particular question. Take a medical website as an example: Is the page’s author a qualified physician with the necessary license? If the author claims to be someone he isn’t, the web page’s ranking performance can be affected significantly.
- Authoritativeness: A page’s authority becomes higher when other bloggers and experts in an industry or niche start citing that page or blog. It’s synonymous with reputation. It’s essential to note that authority applies to both the company or individual that the website represents and the site itself.
- Trustworthiness: This element is how it sounds exactly. It’s about how trustworthy a site is. Positive customer reviews and having a secure domain for protecting user’s personal information are some of the things that demonstrate the trustworthiness of a website. That’s why receiving too many negative reviews will impact your search engine results page (SERP) position.
If you want to really improve your position on the SERP, your website has to demonstrate E-A-T.
Ranking factors every SEO campaign must consider
Now that you already have an idea of the several basic concepts that influence search engine optimization and Google rankings in general, it’s time to look at the factors that can help you ensure that your website gets maximum visibility online.
Check them out below:
Many web admins might be thinking that security only matters when their websites are transferring credit cards, passwords, email addresses, and other sensitive information. Well, it was the case until Google started really prioritizing website security in 2018. (5)
- Why it matters: Google will recommend only web pages that it’s sure will be useful to users. For the search engine, being useful also means being secured. That’s why you can bet that between a secure website and a non-secure one with similar search points, the former will win every time!
Google doesn’t like seeing web admins lose control of their sites. That said, it will see cybersecurity breaches as a reason to lower your website’s rank.
Also, as previously mentioned, having a secure website demonstrates trustworthiness, which is an essential element of Google’s E-A-T concept. However, security isn’t only a crucial factor for ranking your website on Google’s SERP, but it’s an essential factor every web admin must consider regardless. That’s because a secure site reassures your website’s visitors that their sensitive personal information is in good hands, which will impact your business in one way or another.
- How to get secure: You can follow several practices to improve your website’s security. They include finding a secure hosting option, using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, enforcing a strong password policy, choosing plugins and add-ons carefully, and getting expert support.
- Page speed
Page load time may not be one of the first things that come into a web admin’s mind when thinking about SEO, but it certainly shouldn’t be ignored. Not only Google but also page visitors expect a responsive website. Google’s PageSpeed tool can help you test your site’s speed and gain insights on what needs to be done for overall improvement.
- Why it matters: Page speed has been one of the leading ranking factors for years. Google will penalize websites with excessively long load times. It makes sense because Google, once again, wants to improve web users’ experience. Therefore, it favors fast-loading web pages over slow ones. It’s essential to note that Google also looks into your page’s loading speed when accessed via mobile devices since more than half of traffic online comes from smartphones and tablets. (6)
- How to boost website load time: Some of the things you can do to make your web page’s speed faster are improving time to first byte (TTFB), reducing your server’s response time, enabling caching, and eliminating unnecessary redirects.
- Content quality
They say content is king in search engine optimization and digital marketing in general. It’s still true today. It means that your website’s pages must carry well-researched content that adds value to Google’s users.
- Why it matters: There’s no doubt that Google loves good content. That’s because it wants to offer its users the best possible results. It’s true whether your content is a blog post, image, or video. In fact, to prioritize content’s relevance, quality, and presentation, algorithms were rewritten in a way that link and keyword-stuffing are now penalized.
- How to produce quality content: Understanding the definition of good quality content is key to producing and publishing quality content on your site. So, what’s high-quality content? It solves a problem, and it’s written for humans, not search engines. Also, good content is interesting and informative.
Backlinks are another important Google ranking factor. It’s essential to target quality over quantity when it comes to links. Note that link-building is something that you can incorporate into your overall content strategy:
- Why it matters: Backlinks matter for three primary reasons: It elevates your domain authority, boosts traffic to your website, and builds your online reputation. Google essentially views each of your backlinks as a significant vote of confidence in your content’s quality level. That’s why the number of high-quality links to your site that you can generate will determine your website’s popularity in Google and other search engines.
- How to get quality backlinks: Some ways to earn good backlinks today are writing unique and competitive content (quality links to your website will come naturally this way), building strong public relations, and guest posting.
- On-page SEO
No one should disregard on-page SEO when it comes to ranking with Google. What’s on-page SEO? They’re the measures a web admin employs on his website to gain better organic search performance.
- Why it matters: Google better understands what your web page is all about by making simple on-page changes like updating old content, including header tags, and cleaning up your metadata, thus, improving your organic search ranking.
- How to perform on-page SEO: As already mentioned, things that you can do to improve your website’s organic search performance include updating old content, including header tags, and cleaning up your metadata. Fixing broken links and optimizing your URL structure can also help.
Considering and incorporating the ranking factors mentioned and discussed above into your overall SEO strategy will help you have a website that Google will love to reward with a high SERP rank to satisfy its users. Note, however, that there are many factors out there to consider.
The most important thing here is to keep trying different strategies and see what works and what doesn’t for your website. Also, if you’re unsure how to implement the abovementioned factors, don’t hesitate to work with a reliable SEO agency.
- “25 Google Search Statistics To Bookmark ASAP”, Source: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/google-search-statistics
- “How Search Algorithm Works”, Source: https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/algorithms/
- “Google Made 3,200 Changes To Search In The Past Year”, Source: https://searchengineland.com/google-made-3200-changes-to-search-in-the-past-year-319506
- “Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines”, Source: https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/guidelines.raterhub.com/en//searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf
- “A Secure Web Is Here To Stay”, Source: https://security.googleblog.com/2018/02/a-secure-web-is-here-to-stay.html
- “What Percentage Of Searches Are Performed On Mobile Devices?”, Source: https://www.thesearchreview.com/60-percent-online-searches-mobile-devices-07212/