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Eight Google Ranking Factors You Need to Optimise For

8 March 2021
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Eight Google Ranking Factors You Need to Optimise For

Optimising for Google ranking factors such as page speed, domain authority, user experience and links can help your content to feature on the first page of SERPs.

Featuring at the top of Google rankings is the end game for webmasters and marketers, as it increases the visibility of important pages and is the foundation from where many of the benefits of a well-executed content marketing and SEO campaign flow.

A position front and centre in Google results will increase clickthrough rates and make it easier to convert and drive sales. However, search success is not something you can fast track – it requires a careful management of on-page, off-page and technical factors to achieve consistently. Here are eight of the most important Google ranking factors:

Technical

Google uses its army of bots to crawl and index the content on your pages, so you need to take care of technical elements or back-end building blocks to ensure the page experience meets expectations.

  1. Page speed

Google has really focused on surfacing fast-loading content during the last few years, a trend that has been strengthened amid the surge in mobile searches.

Consumers will not wait around for pages to load; they will simply navigate elsewhere, so you should aim to deliver a Time to First Byte (TTFB) speed of less than 1.3 seconds. Page speed is now used as a mobile ranking factor.

  1. Page/mobile experience

A major trend in SEO during the last 12 months has been page experience. Google is ready to roll out a new signal in May that incorporates its Core Web Vitals and other factors, such as mobile-friendliness, safe browsing and the absence of intrusive ads and pop-ups.

While optimisation for desktop is important, this is the age of the mobile-first index. Google wants fast and responsive designs across all devices, stating that this enables its algorithms to “accurately assign indexing properties to the page rather than needing to signal the existence of corresponding desktop/mobile pages.”

  1. Internal and external links

Creating a robust hierarchy or structure for your site will make it easier for Google’s bots to crawl and index your pages. You can start building an internal linking structure within the blogs and articles you publish. You could even explore “topic clusters” in your content marketing campaigns to build links around a specific “pillar” topic.

SEO will not work if your site is not properly structured or does not work properly – that’s why it’s important to fix any 404 errors and broken links, and use canonical tags correctly. Be sure not to overlook the huge value of external link building. Links pointing to your page from other reputable sites indicate to Google that your pages are worth taking note of. The stronger the page the link is coming from, and the fewer sites it links out to, the stronger the effect will be on your own rankings.

On-page

Optimising individual pages and the content within them is a form of on-page SEO that is crucial to increasing visibility and search rankings, while driving relevant traffic to your site. You have full control over on-page factors, so this is an area you should focus on to improve your positions in SERPs.

  1. Keywords

Keywords are fundamental to a variety of page-level factors. You want to use target keywords in the main body of your article or blog, in title tags and meta descriptions, and within H1, H2, H3 and H4 headers, where possible.

When working with an SEO agency, you can come up with four or five “target” keywords that are brand and product focused, or part of the search queries and terms that you want to tailor content for to improve rankings in SERPs.

  1. Title and headers

A new study by Semrush titled “The Anatomy of Top Performing Articles” found titles with between 10 and 13 words received the most average unique pageviews, shares and backlinks. Your title tags are a window to the content within and should communicate to Google what it is about, so they can index and rank it accordingly.

The same is true for header tags, which are used as a secondary relevancy signal by Google. These should provide context and break up blocks of content to make it more readable. Semrush found content with H2, H3 and H4 tags performs much better than that with just a title tag.

Meta descriptions are not considered a major ranking factor. However, they should also be optimised, as the information within can be surfaced in rich results like featured snippets. They can also increase clickthroughs from search.

  1. URL

A basic but no less important factor is URLs, the colloquial term for web addresses. Research by Ahrefs shows that shorter URLs usually occupy the top spots in Google rankings, so steer clear of anything too long as this could negatively affect your visibility in SERPs.

Google has also stated that keywords in URLs are a relevancy signal, so include one or two target keywords if possible. Any URLs that are closer to the homepage within your wider site architecture can also get an authority boost.

  1. Content depth and authority

Content is king is a well-worn mantra that is still very much true in search, with Google consistently espousing the benefits of high-quality articles and web copy when attempting to improve your Google search ranking.

What that actually means for marketers has changed over the years, though. Google now wants content to align closely with “search intent”, which is the underlying reason why someone would enter a particularly query. Do they want to buy something, or need a review or guide?

Webmaster trends analyst John Mueller has advised brands to focus on delivering relevant answers, relevant experience and relevant usefulness or utility.

Content also needs to be in-depth and showcase E-A-T – expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Research by SerpIQ found the top two positions in search results feature content that has around 2,000 words or more.

Off-page

  1. Backlinks

Off-page factors are out of your control, but many are still central to search success. You want to generate social signals via your social media accounts, for example, and nurture positive online reviews for your Google My Business listing. Most important, though, is your backlink strategy.

Backlinks are hyperlinks that point to your website from content published elsewhere. The best way to build backlinks is by putting out content that people find value in and refer to regularly, as this will generate them organically. You can also work with an agency for outreach SEO, where you create valuable links from off-site to improve your rankings.

As you can see, optimising for search ranking factors can be a vast undertaking, as the process involves your entire website and the content you need to publish regularly to succeed. If you need a helping hand to get your SEO campaigns off the ground, contact us today and our team will provide assistance.

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