With more than 3.5 billion searches made on Google every day, it’s important that marketers know what factors Google takes into account when ranking content. This is the only way we can make sure we are going to rank well in SERPs. However, Google has never publicly announced all of the factors that contribute to ranking content, so as much effort as we put in to optimising our content for search, we can never know exactly what Google's algorithm is searching for.
In spite of this there are a number of factors we do know and can consider when optimising our pages for search. They are: on-page factors, off-page factors, domain-related factors, site-level factors, and endless technical SEO factors.
To try and focus your priorities, we have narrowed down 8 of the most impactful ranking factors to focus your time on.
The topics you cover in your content are typically the most influential factor in your Google ranking, they help you to lay the foundation for the page authority you need to build a strong reputation and a credible brand. Simply, the more content you publish surrounding a specific topic, the higher each piece of content about that topic will rank in Google's SERPs.
Inbound links, also known as backlinks are all of the links that are linked from another website to your own and they can make a huge difference in your Google ranking. Inbound links are important for SEO because they tell Google that people trust your content and that it’s worth sharing. Trust is an important factor for Google, the more trustworthy the site is that is linking your content, the more likely you are to get found for it.
Although topics are a more important focus in the long term, keywords are still an essential factor to consider. When properly researched and executed well keywords are arguably one of the most important factors you can address when analysing your websites SEO strategy. When Google first crawled sites for keywords it simply looked for the most instances of the word in a web page - ‘exact match’. However, now Google crawls for the pages that best match the intent behind the keyword.
When ranking content under more competitive keywords it’s not enough to write the copy without understanding the impact of where they're placed. How the answer is structured and presented can be an important deal breaker when Google ranks content for more competitive, highly searched keywords. You can achieve an effective content structure through consistent use of headers and subheaders to help readers digest information. It is also good practice to include elements such as: bullet points, numbered lists, clearly cited research and supporting images. All of these elements help you to engage with the reader, lengthening the duration of their session and increasing the absorption of your content.
Meta tags are an important aspect of your SEO management, they are also a nice quick win tactic to rank well in Google. The purpose of a meta tag is to indicate to Google the specific role a page plays to a topic or keyword. Meta tags you need to nail:
Meta description - A meta description is the brief paragraph of text that is shown underneath each link on Google's SERPs, summarizing the content within the website.
Title tag - The title tag is usually the title of your article, written in the HTML. This helps Google create the blue, clickable headline you see in your search results.
Image alt text - Google can’t see what your images look like, but they CAN look at alt tags to see what the image is about. Some images are an aid to the text and serve an important purpose on the page. Because of this, we are encouraged to add in ‘alt text’, this is text that provides a short description of the image.
When you forget the colours, the fonts, the graphics, the images, and the white space, good site design is really about a great structure. Essentially, a good site structure should provide your site with plenty of sitelinks. Sitelinks are a listing format in the SERPs that show your site’s main page along with several internal links below. Overall, a good site structure is vital because it means better crawling and better crawling means a better chance of getting found.
Have you noticed the https in the URL above? This is what Google uses to identify secure websites from non-secure sites. HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol which is a virtual process that transfers information from a website to the visitor's browser. HTTPS is the secure version of this protocol, it confirms to Google that the information its indexing is safe to the searcher.
Many on page factors can contribute to the speed of your page after it's been clicked from the SERPs. However, it’s a crucial element of SEO. Essentially, the faster your page loads, the higher it can rank in Google. Pages that load faster than three seconds are considered to be fast, any slower than this and you risk people bouncing from the page due to impatience. There are a number of contributors that can cause your website to load slowly, however the usual culprits are uncompressed images and complex forms of media. If you want complex forms of media on your website then there is often little you can do and they will inevitably slow down your sites speed, however, you can always make sure you compress your images before uploading them to CMS.