Did you know that the first search result on Google receives more than 39% of all clicks? When web users search for your targeted keyword phrase, roughly four out of ten people will click the first result and totally disregard everything else. Knowing that now, imagine what an impact it would have on your business if you could own that top spot for a few of your desired keyword phrases. Anyways, this guide aims to help you understand the most vital Google ranking factors so you can apply them to your website and attract more traffic.
What Are Google Ranking Factors?
Google ranking factors are the components of your website that Google’s search algorithm takes into account when deciding which web pages to show in response to a given query.
When a web user searches for a phrase associated with your business or service, you want them to find you and not your competition, right?
In order to truly understand how to get your website ranked towards the top of Google’s SERPs, you need to understand Google ranking SEO. There are literally hundreds of ranking factors. Some carry a lot of weight and others, well, not so much.
In this guide, we’re going to cover 11 of the more powerful factors so you know where to invest your time and money moving forward.
Why It’s Important to Know the Google Ranking SEO Factors
While the ROI on SEO is less than crystal clear, the bright minds over at Intergrowth provide some sense of clarity on the matter. Their findings show that SEO is arguably the best investment that you can make in your business.
Why? Well, here’s the deal – the first five organic results for most searches garner 67.6% of all clicks. After the front five, the number of clicks drops to 3.73%.
Let’s flesh this idea out a bit more. Say you own the top spot for a keyword with 1,000 searches per month at a 30% click-through rate. That would drive 300 new visitors to your site each month. If you convert only 1% of those visitors, it would still mean three new customers every month for the year.
By earning the top spot on Google for a single keyword, you can bring 36 new customers to your business every year. That’s not too shabby if I say so myself!
Incorporating some of the tips in this guide to rank for a handful of keywords can have a massive impact.
The Top 11 Google Ranking SEO Factors
Let’s explore some of the more important Google ranking factors so you can improve your SEO ranking on Google.
1.) Mobile-First Optimization
In the second quarter of 2022, mobile traffic accounts for 58.61% of global internet traffic. Since more than half of online traffic occurs on mobile devices, it is critical that your site performs flawlessly on mobile devices. Visitors will likely bounce from your site if your site doesn’t perform on mobile devices.
This is why mobile-friendliness is one of the most important Google ranking factors. If your site fails to perform on mobile, Google is most certainly knocking your site down a few rungs on the SERPs.
If you don’t believe me, you can read up on it on Google Search Central. As of mid-2019, Google started mobile-first indexing, which means that your mobile performance dictates your ranking on the SERPs. As you’ve likely surmised, desktop performance is second in importance.
In order to rank in Google’s search results, your site needs to perform well on phones, tablets, and computers. Next, you need to ensure all your images display clearly and check whether any words fall off the screen. You also want to avoid massive blocks of text. Even though a chunk of text looks great on your desktop, it may very well fill the entire screen on a mobile device.
Lastly, you want to make sure your site loads properly by reducing the number of changing video URLs and limiting the amount of “lazy-load” content on your site.
2.) Core Web Vitals
Google introduced Core Web Vitals as another important ranking factor in May of 2020. Core Web Vitals gauge the overall health of your website in terms of the general user experience.
The vitals are divided into three categories:
- LCP (largest contentful paint)
- FID (First Input Delay)
- CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)
A study from 2021 found that only 4% of websites scored well in all three Core Web Vitals categories.
Here’s a look at each of the three categories and how they impact your rankings.
Largest Contentful Paint
Google expects your website to fully load its first page within 2.5 seconds. Any load time longer than 2.5 seconds increases your bounce rate and negatively impacts your Google ranking SEO.
You can improve your overall page load speed by reducing the number of complex elements on your site, shortening pages, limiting redirects, and fixing any broken external or video links.
First Input Delay
Google expects your website to react quickly when users interact with something. When I say quick, I mean quick – you have 100 milliseconds (or less) for a button or window on your website to respond to a user’s interaction.
The best way to improve your First Input Delay is to use Page Speed Insights.
Cumulative Layout Shift
Google expects your website to load logically and not change once it’s loaded. Have you ever clicked a link on a site while it’s loading, and then it jumps halfway down the page taking you to a different link? If so, this is exactly what I’m talking about. This factor contributes to the overall page experience, an important Google ranking factor.
This typically occurs when items on a page load at different speeds, which results in layout changes. The best way to prevent this is to ensure that all images are of the same size, new content isn’t inserted above old content, and animations load at the same time.
3.) Provide Value-Rich Content
SEMRush reports that 55% of brands experienced better results due to the improvements they made to their content. That being said, there simply is no room on the internet for low-quality content. This is arguably the number one most important Google ranking factor in my mind. Why? Well, it doesn’t require anything tricky or fancy. All you need to do is generate great, thorough, and value-rich content. If you do this, then Google will almost certainly work in your favor.
So, what do I mean by value-rich content?
I mean content that people want to read. Content that helps people solve problems. Content that provides more than the rest of the competition. One great way to start is t research questions your customers have and create content that answers those questions. You can find common questions using keyword research tools like Ubersuggest, question forums like Quora, and monitor chatter among your target audience on social media.
If you generate value-rich content that also incorporates the technical elements that we touch on in this guide, you’ll have a strong chance of improving your SEO and ultimately your bottom line.
4.) Domain Age & Authority
Domain age is one of those Google ranking factors that you have no control over. I get it, this one stinks, but it’s just the way things are these days. One way you can get around this one is to purchase a seasoned domain.
Domain age is the amount of time that has elapsed since you registered your domain and authority is basically your reputation according to Google.
Even though John Mueller – aka the “King of Search” – says domain age has no impact, I still have my doubts in terms of any influence it may have on your overall authority.
In order to improve your authority, you need to focus on something called E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
You can improve your E-A-T score by inviting subject matter experts to add guest posts and giving them bylines in your blog posts. You can also include interviews and reviews by industry experts. Another way to improve your E-A-T score is to leverage social proof across your website. Lastly, you can also improve your website’s security.
Remember, E-A-T isn’t a direct ranking factor, but it does indirectly impact your SEO ranking. This may come as a surprise, but with Google’s 2018 medic update, monthly traffic to YMYL sites with limited E-A-T dropped from 2 million to roughly 4,000 by 2020.
Did you know that roughly 90% of web pages receive zero traffic? In most cases, this is because they have no backlinks.
Yes – links are still important for Google ranking SEO. Inbound links, outbound links, and internal links are all important ranking factors since they increase the overall authority of your site. Furthermore, when you effectively employ links, you help prove that your site is a valuable resource.
Inbound or “backlinks” are links that originate from someone else’s site and link back to your content. These links increase authority by showing Google that your content is of high quality and that it is worthwhile to link back to it.
Outbound links also show authority by providing additional relevant resources to those who visit your site. For instance, you should include outbound links to help your audience learn more about something. Outbound links are also a great way to back up any facts or stats that you include in your content.
Internal links are links within your website that link ideas together. Having a web of internal links is crucial to Google ranking SEO since it shows Google that you are a complete resource and you cover everything from A to Z.
6.) On-Page Experience is Definitely a Google Ranking Factor
Bounce rate is one Google ranking factor that can greatly influence how your content ranks on the SERPs. One study found that the average bounce rate is around 49%. Here’s a quick breakdown of bounce rates and what this metric says about your content.
- 26% – 40%: Downright excellent – your content is on point and your audience loves what you have to say!
- 41% – 55%: About average – no need to sound the alarm
- 56% – 70%: Higher than average, but no need to freak out
- 70%+: Anything over 70% is simply disappointing for everything outside of blogs, news, events, etc.
Click-through rate and dwell time are two more meaningful on-page experience Google ranking factors. These two factors tell Google whether visitors like what they see when they click through to your site from the search results for their search query.
You can easily improve your on-page experience metrics by ensuring that your content aligns with your target keywords, metadata, and title tag. Doing so ensures that when someone clicks through to your site, they get what they’re expecting.
7.) Technical SEO
Technical SEO continues to be an important Google ranking factor. Technical SEO includes elements such as:
- keywords in page titles and title tags
- keyword-optimized header tags
- properly optimized meta descriptions at 110-150 characters
- keyword-rich alt text and tags
- proper schema markup
A study focused on technical SEO found the following to be true.
- every fourth website has link errors
- 13% of websites have errors in their sitemaps
- 63% of websites “abandon” meta descriptions
- more than 20% of websites have a low site speed
Thankfully, technical SEO can be one of the easiest things to tweak on your website. Make sure that you’re using relevant keywords in all headers and metadata. The key to accomplishing this is using a high-quality keyword research tool that provides you with in-depth competitor data and keyword gaps. You can also run an SEO audit – this guide explains how to conduct one effectively.
Regarding header tags, you want to make sure that you’re using keywords in the headers of your articles whenever possible. When Google crawls your site, headers are a big indicator of what your content is about. Furthermore, they’re also important for overall Google ranking SEO.
Your meta description and title tag are what display in the SERPs when someone searches for a relevant keyword. You want to use keywords in both the meta and title tag. However, you want to make sure it’s natural and not forced.
8.) Social Signals as a Google Ranking Factor
While slightly dated, this study provides context to the importance of social media in SEO.
The study and graph above show how the number of social shares impacts the ranking of a web page. As the shares go down, the ranking also goes down. Naturally, this factor alone won’t make a tremendous impact on your ranking, but this factor could potentially make a noticeable difference.
You also need to keep in mind that a social presence is also a major trust factor. If visitors can find you on social media and see that you’re active and present, they can potentially be more inclined to purchase from you.
9.) Content Relevancy & Authority
This Google ranking factor is made up of three main categories:
- Search Intent
- Content Hubs
- Topical Relevance
These are three critical factors moving forward in Google ranking SEO. Google pays much closer attention to the actual content that people produce. It also puts a lot of weight on whether a website actually provides solutions to people or if they’re writing purely for the search engine.
Surfer conducted an awesome case study and found that out of 37,000 keywords, about 12% of them changed intent, with many shopping-related keywords turning informational. So…what does this mean? This means that people who were originally looking to purchase something changed their intention and decided to seek out information to help them make the purchase.
As for content hubs, these are destinations where visitors can find everything they need to know about a topic. If you provide an exhaustive and in-depth look into something, Google will likely see you as an authority. By creating these hubs on your site, you’re showing Google that you can provide everything from A to Z.
10.) Real Business Information is a Potential Google Ranking Factor
This Google ranking factor is one that I consider semi-new and would categorize it as a trust signal. As more people turn to the internet for just about everything, you need to translate the in-store experience to your website.
What does this mean? It means people are expecting to pick up the phone and call you. They want to know where you’re based. They expect you to be there to answer their questions in real-time.
Getting a Google Voice number, creating an “About Us” page with real pictures, and adding an address to your website can help increase authority and show Google that you’re a real business.
11.) Is Content Length a Valid Google Ranking Factor?
Experts, gurus, and hacks alike have debated and tested this point of contention time and time again, but it’s always proven that longer content performs better.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should throw a 15,000-word piece of junk on your blog and expect it to rank. You still need to provide a boatload of value, resources, and incredible information with your mass of words. However, if you put together a more comprehensive article that is longer than your competition, you have a far better chance of ranking higher on the SERPs.
Potential Future Google Ranking Factors
Now that we have covered 11 of the more impactful current Google ranking factors, let’s take a look at what the future could hold. Based on research and experience, there are five main factors that could rise to the surface in the near future – Google also confirms that these factors are important.
- High-quality & highly relevant content
- Honest & relevant keyword research/placement
- Flawless user experience and website functionality
- Mobile & voice optimization
- Rock-solid backlink profiles
So…what do these five factors tell us about what Google may take into account in the future? Google wants you to provide users with a pleasant experience when they land on your site!
This study, which Content Science conducted, makes the importance of content relevancy clear as day. In summary, Content Science states that while it’s great to have an abundance of traffic on your site and Google approves of your site, you need to have relevant content to generate goal completions.
User experience and site functionality work in tandem with content relevancy. Regardless of how awesome the content is on your site, you need to have a site that performs well and meets (and exceeds) any technical expectations Google puts in place.
Check out Google’s mission statement page:
Our company mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. That’s why Search makes it easy to discover a broad range of information from a wide variety of sources.
Closing Thoughts on Google Ranking Factors
While there aren’t any guaranteed ways to get your content to rank, adding these Google ranking factors can most definitely improve your chances. Before we part ways, what factors do you think will carry the most weight in the next five to ten years?