You have created a beautiful website but unless it is discoverable to your users, it won’t offer you the kind of dividends you are looking for. As we all know, Google is the most popular search engine in the world. It is important for your site to rank high on Google’s SERP (search engine results pages).
But have you ever wondered how Google rank’s a website?
Or why your competitor’s site ranks higher than yours?
It is believed that Google takes note of more than 200 factors while ranking websites. While a majority of them play a small role in rankings, 50 odd factors are vital to your ranking in Google’s search results.
Here I shall run you through 50 Google ranking factors that are important to your success in Google search. These latest Google ranking factors also offer you insights on what you need to do to rank fast on Google.
Google Ranking Factors (2018 Update)
1. Domain Name: The TLD (Top Level Domain) you book is crucial. If you wish to reach out to global audience choose .com, .edu, .net etc. as TLD, whereas in case of a country or region-specific sites choose TLDs such as .eu, .aus and .uk as you will get the boost in local search results.
2. Sub-Domain Names: Sub-domains that have a primary keyword have more chances of success on the search engine. If you are creating a microsite or a separate section in the website use your target keyword in the URL.
3. Domain History: Given that your domain name is your identity, Google offers weightage to the age of your domain as older domains technically have higher chances of ratings. If you are buying an already registered domain watch out for its history as previous penalties may affect your rankings.
4. Keywords in Domain: While this doesn’t offer you the kind of advantage it did in the past, having a target keyword in the domain adds to your advantage. Placing the keyword first followed by your brand name gives a significant boost to your rank.
5. Exact Match Domain: Exact Domain Names were the shortcut to success in the past where the domain name is the exact search query that users would try on Google. Today you need to back it up with top quality content but it surely does offer you some advantage.
6. Keywords In URLs: URLs are an important factor for Google and using keywords in URLs is known to boost traffic. However one should refrain from using long URLs as they are known to hurt SEO score.
7. URL Structure: Good URL structure attracts incentives from Google and you should focus on a logical URL structure. Try and minimize dynamic URLs as much as possible and keep sub-categories in navigation to maximum two or in other words no page should be more than three clicks away from the homepage.
8. URL Length: It has been proven beyond doubt that sites that have shorter URLs are ranked higher than those with never-ending ones. Keep it short, simple and complete with relevant keywords and logical structures.
9. Coding Quality: If your website is full of HTML and CSS errors that aren’t going to go down well with Google and such sites are heavily penalized. Use the Google Webmaster Tools to identify such issues and fix them.
10. Content Relevance: Irrespective of the type of business you are on your web pages and blog posts need to have content relevant to your business. When you get it right you are in the good books of Google.
11. Content Engagement: Using videos, infographics, images, galleries, and animations are known to enhance readability and Google draw positive signals from them while ranking your site.
12. Click Through Rate: It is defined as the ratio between the numbers of clicks compared to the number of times the links are displayed by Google. The higher this rate, Google shall rank you high on the result pages.
13. Content Length: ‘500 Words’ had become synonymous with SEO writing but those days are dead and gone. The longer your content the higher chances you have leading the ranking charts. In fact, the top ranked sites have content upward of 2000 words.
14. Expletive/Obscene Words: Using expletive and obscene words in the Meta or Content puts your website off Google’s safe search and these should be taken note of while preparing the content.
15. Quality Content: This is one area that Google has been focussing on for a long time and Hummingbird update was specifically linked to the quality of the content. For success, you need to publish content that is unique, informative and adds value to a user’s search query.
16. Auto-Generated Content: Google hates auto-generated content and its Panda update sealed the fate of sites that used this strategy. To avoid earning penalty avoid auto-generated content.
17. Post Comments: Google gauges the popularity of a website based on comments it attracts. Web pages that have a long list of comments are usually ranked higher on the search engine.
18. Contact Information: It is one of the most neglected areas of a website but it is an important Google ranking factors. Detailed contact information enhances the possibility of ranking high on the search result pages.
20. Content Update: You have seen the small date stamp on the search results and it is there for a purpose. If you keep your website posted with fresh content on a regular basis you have the best chance of earning higher rankings.
21. H1 & H2 Tags: Using H1 and H2 tags are seen as a sign of improving readability for the users and this is an invitation for Google to rank your site above competitors whose site doesn’t have such nice flow.
22. Domain Ownership: If the information on WhoIs changes too frequently Google does red flags such sites in many cases. So beware about the number of times the domain has changed hands previously.
23. Anchor Text: Anchor texts have been grossly misused and this is where you need to use them carefully to prevent the penalty from the search engines. Your website’s name or brand name should be mostly used in place of common terms.
24. Mobile Friendly: If your domain isn’t mobile friendly you aren’t going to attain higher rankings. Today majority of users surf the web using smartphones and tablets and hence Google ranks mobile responsive sites higher.
25. Server Location: Yes server location is also among top search ranking factors and in case you want to reach out to the global audience you need to choose servers either in US or UK. For region-specific sites, you can host them anywhere.
26. Bounce Rate: It is defined as the percentage of users who leave the website after visiting a single webpage. Higher the bounce rate, Google sees is a quality issue. Top ranking sites maintain bounce rate of 40% or below
27. Repeat Audience: If you are able to attract repeat users to the website it will boost your rankings. The logic is simple – sites that offer quality content and information are likely to generate repeat visits.
28. Social Media Signals – Google is now using social media signals to determine website rankings. If you can add more likes and followers to your Facebook page or that of Instagram and Twitter handles you can rank fast in Google.
29. Sitemap: Sitemap serve as a guide for search engine spiders indexing your website and without a sitemap, all your pages aren’t likely to get indexed on the search engine.
30. Direct Traffic: Now this may sound like the antithesis of the search engine but it has been proven that sites that receive lots of direct traffic rank high on Google. This is a sign of authority and interest among users.
31. Backlinks: Backlinks aren’t bad as some people believe but if you are building the large number of unnatural backlinks over a short period of time your site is likely to invite penalty.
32. Contextual Links: When linking to other websites and pages try and embed these links in the page content rather than in empty spaces as Google see this as natural linking and boosts your ranks.
33. Link Location: When links are at the beginning of the content they are seen to add more value to your SEO score compared to those at the bottom of the page. But make sure all linking is natural.
34. Link Authority: If you want to rank fast in Google you need to focus on the quality of links to your website over quantity. Link authority is one of the most important factors that Google takes into account.
35. Outbound Links – Too many outbound links spoil the quality of reading and Google is hell-bent on improving search results for its users and hence it doesn’t encourage too many outbound links.
36. Broken Links: This is one of the most important factors that Google uses to rank websites and if you have too many of them you are inviting penalty. Carry out a thorough site audit to fix this problem.
37. Page Load Speed: Not only will the users turn their back on you if the page loads slowly but so will Google. The search engine uses Chrome browser to collect data on page load speed. You should make sure your page is light and loads fast.
38. Manipulative Redirects: Redirects should only be used when they are extremely necessary as unnecessary redirects are seen as the manipulation of user’s search experience.
39. Title Tag Keywords: After the domain name this is perhaps the most important signal that Google uses to rank your site and you should make sure that keyword(s) are smartly used in title tag to maximize your odds.
40. Meta Description: Along with the Page Title, it is Meta Description that offers an overview of the content on the page and appears below search results in SERP serves as an important signal for Google’s rankings.
41. Duplicate Description: The use of duplicate Meta Description across several pages lowers your SEO score. Google’s latest search engine algorithmic updates focus on the uniqueness and quality of this information.
42. Optimization: You have heard the term ‘Black Hat SEO’ and you should stay away from it. Don’t try to fool Google with too much of on-page or off-page optimization strategies as they can backfire on you.
43. Keywords in Content: We don’t even need to enlighten you on this, do we? However, the only thing that you must keep in mind is keyword density. Don’t go beyond 2% as Google sees this as spamming.
44. Breadcrumbs: Using of breadcrumbs and categories at the bottom of the page helps in smoothening experience for the users improving navigation and this helps in earning higher rankings.
45. Sponsored Links: When you buy or sell links you must make sure they are on the no-follow list of Google as the search engine’s Penguin update has set a clear line between linking and link farming.
46. Annoying Ads: Pop-ups, interstitials, and ads that spoil the experience are a big no when it comes to Google rankings as the search engine considers them intrusive and signs of a bad website.
47. Image Optimization: Images are a great way to boost traffic not only on image search but also general search. The right use of Alt Text, Captions, Keywords, Image Names, and Descriptions helps increase traffic.
48. Time on Site: The more time users spend on your website, your odds of high rankings significantly improve. Google considers time spent on site and individual pages as an important ranking factor.
49. Bookmarks: Google is known to use Chrome’s bookmarking data as a way to rank websites and when your site or pages are bookmarked your ranking profile also goes up.
50. Uptime: If your site is regularly down due to technical glitches or maintenance you are likely to invite penalty from Google. So you should try and keep maintenance downtime to the minimum.
Where do you stand on these 50 Google ranking factors? I am sure most of these may sound Greek to you or you lack the expertise required to fix them. This is where you need to get in touch with a seasoned digital marketer who can help you attain higher ranking on search engine and earn you your way to glory in the ever competitive search engine rankings.