Google Ranking factors explained
Nobody can say with absolute certainty what all the Google Ranking Factors are, but after extensive testing by SEOs and the addition of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, we’re pretty sure we know some of the factors that are most likely to affect your rankings.
There is no magic formula that guarantees success in search engine optimisation, and there never will be. Ranking higher than your competitors in search results requires constant monitoring and optimisation of many different factors that contribute to your success.
The following are a few elements that are either immediate ranking signals or areas that should be optimised for search. Some of them, on the other hand, aren’t particularly significant.
Quick Reference Index
What are 301 Redirects?
301 redirects are specific HTTP status codes that tell search engines that a page has permanently moved. Search engines will then pass some link juice to the new location of the resource, along with its ranking signals.
Why are 301 Redirects Important?
Just like on-page SEO, redirection is an important part of implementing effective off-page SEO. 301 redirects can be an easy workaround to a poorly performing site, as they allow you to send the majority of link equity from a source page to a destination page.
Are 301 Redirects a ranking signal?
No. 301 redirects are not a ranking signal; however, they can be considered part of your overall off-page SEO strategy.
404 and Soft 404 Pages
What are 404 and Soft 404 Pages?
A 404 page is a server response that indicates that the requested webpage was not found. On the other hand, a soft 404 occurs when a webpage returns an HTTP 200-level code and the content is not found.
Why are 404 and Soft 404 Pages Important?
Even though Google previously stated that they do not penalise websites with broken links, they recently changed their mind. If you fall into the soft 404 category, ensure that you are 301 redirecting broken links to an internal page or www subdomain.
Are 404 and Soft 404 Pages a Ranking Signal?
No - 404 and soft 404 pages are not a ranking signal; however, broken links can dilute the user experience on your site.
What is Alt text?
Alt text (alternative text) is an HTML element (img and area tag), and together with the src and the href attribute, it allows images to be displayed on a website.
Why is Alt Text Important?
According to Google's guidelines , alternative text is "recommended but not a ranking factor." Notwithstanding, alt text has been known to increase clickthrough rate (CTR) and overall conversion rates, so it is still important to use.
Is Alt Text a Ranking Signal?
AMP (accelerated mobile pages)
What is AMP ?
AMP is a new technology that allows for webpages to load faster on mobile devices. AMP works by limiting what can be done with the webpage, so it only loads the necessary content.
Why is AMP Important?
It's no secret that speed matters in SEO . The fact of the matter is, if Google wants to compete with the mobile web, it has to prioritize speed and AMP is their best shot.
Is AMP a ranking factor?
No - At this time no, but that doesn't mean it can't or won't become one. It's worth checking out the AMP Project to see how you can help push AMP forward for mobile users.
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are incoming links to your website from other websites. They're often referred to as "incoming links" or "backlinks."
Why Is A Backlink Important?
Backlinks serve as an endorsement of your website because it means another site believes in the quality of yours enough to link to it. They're also a strong influence on where you rank and can help to positively or negatively impact your rankings.
Are Backlinks a ranking factor?
Backlinks are a direct ranking factor, they're important for SEO because they indicate the quality of your site and how well it deserves to rank.
High-Quality Natural Backlinks are a very important part of SEO. They play a big role in where you rank.
What is Bounce Rate?
Google defines bounce rate as, "the percentage of single-page sessions on your site." In other words, it's the percentage of visits that only view one page before leaving your website.
Why are Bounce Rates Important?
Bounce rates are important because they indicate the quality of traffic on your site. They give Google an idea of how interested people are in your site and what kind of content they're looking for when they visit. If most people leave your site immediately after viewing one page, it typically means they came to the wrong place.
Is Bounce Rate a ranking signal?
No - But - For many years Google wouldn't confirm that bounce rate was a ranking factor, but it no longer feels the need to be shy about it. Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts mentioned in June 2013 that bounce rate is "a reasonably good predictor of how useful your page is."
What is breadcrumb navigation?
Breadcrumb navigation is used to show the user their current location within a site hierarchy.
Why are Breadcrumbs Important?
Breadcrumbs help users find what they're looking for on your website by giving them an idea of where they are and where they've been. If you think about the directory structure of your website.
Are breadcrumbs a ranking signal?
No but - In late 2013, Google made a strong case for breadcrumbs being considered a "very lightweight" ranking signal. Even is it isn't considered a ranking it is still a great way to help users navigate easily through your web pages, which will improve page experience which is a ranking signal.
What is Canonicalization?
Canonicalization is the practice of using a single URL for a page to avoid duplication.
Why are Canonicalization Important?
Duplicate content can be hard for search engines to crawl and index, which can have an impact on your rankings. When you use canonicalization, you're telling Google that only one version of each page should be indexed.
Are canonicals a ranking signal?
No - but If you have a single page that can be reached via multiple URLs, or pages with similar content (for example, a page with both a mobile and desktop version), Google interprets these as duplicate versions of the same page. Google will select one URL as the canonical version, and all other URLs will be treated as duplicate URLs. Google will make the decision for you if you don't explicitly state which URL is canonical, or it may weigh them equally, resulting in undesirable behaviour.
What is Click Depth?
Google defines click depth as, "the number of clicks to get from the homepage (that is, http://www.example.com/) to a specific page." In other words, it's how many steps away from your homepage visitors go on your site before viewing another page.
Why are Click Depth Levels Important?
Having deeper pages means that your content is more specific and relevant to the user's search query. For example, if a user searches for "shoes," are they looking for reviews on men's dress shoes or reviews on Nike Air Max running shoes?
Are click depth levels a ranking signal?
While there hasn't been much talk about click depth being an official ranking factor, it is a strong signal that Google uses to determine the quality of your content.
What Is Click-Through Rate?
Click-through rate, also known as CTR, is a ratio between clicks and impressions on a specific page.
Why are Click Through Rates Important?
Having a high CTR means that your page is desirable and relevant. The higher the CTR, the more likely it is that users find your content interesting and want to learn more.
Are Click-through rates a ranking signal?
No - Google does not publish information about CTR as a ranking factor, but it does use it to determine the overall quality of your site.
Code to Text Ratio
what is Code to Text Ratio?
Google defines the code to text ratio as "the percentage of CSS text on a page relative to HTML text."
Why are Code To Text Ratio Important?
Having less code is important because it makes your site faster. The more code you have, the longer it takes for your site to load. If you can make your website faster without losing any important content, then you should.
Are code to text ratios a ranking signal?
No - Google does not use code to text ratio as a ranking factor.
What is Contact information?
Contact information is the information you provide for users who want to get in touch with you, including your street address, phone number, and email.
Why is Contact Information Important?
Having this type of contact information allows a user searching for your services to find it. They can also see what other people think about your products by viewing reviews written by your customers.
Is Contact Information a ranking factor?
No - Google has not made any statement about using contact information as a ranking factor
What is content ?
Content is the words, images, and videos on your site. It's what you publish to tell your audience about yourself and your products or services.
Content can also include useful information that benefits people searching for something specific. The more content you have on a page, the better it is likely to rank, because making a website with great content takes time and effort.
Why is Content Important?
Having relevant content means that you can give users the information they need to make a purchase decision. If your site is filled with mediocre or irrelevant content, then people may not want to buy from you because your site isn't trustworthy or doesn't provide them with what they were looking for.
Is Content a Ranking Factor?
Yes, content is extremely important for SEO. Google uses page speed in combination with the relevance of your site's content to determine how high you rank in search results.
What is Content length?
Content length is how long your content is. Referred to in number of words.
Why is Content length Important?
Why Does Content Length Matter? The longer the content, the more users will get out of it. A site with a lot of shorter pages may not provide enough information to make a purchase decision, or they could be separate parts that are missing important information. If you have great content that is relevant to users, then it will be a lot more beneficial.
Is Content length a Ranking Factor?
No, although length is important because it means that the content on your page is valuable. Keep it to at least 500 words and around 1500 if possible. According to Google, though, the length of your content isn't going to make a significant difference if it's not relevant.
What are crawl errors?
Crawl errors are when Google detects that there's a problem with crawling your website, such as unreachable pages or server time-outs.
Why are Crawl Errors Important?
If you have too many crawl issues, then your site may not rank well in Google Search results because it takes them longer to crawl and index your website.
Are Crawl Errors a ranking signal?
No, crawl errors are not a ranking signal.
What is direct traffic?
Direct traffic is when people go to your website without typing anything into the search bar or clicking on a specific result that brought them there.
Why is Direct Traffic Important?
While direct traffic isn't as valuable as "organic" (natural) traffic, it still indicates that people are viewing your site and potentially interested in your products.
Is Direct Traffic a ranking factor?
What is domain age?
Domain age is how long your website has been live.
Why Does Domain Age Matter?
Older domains are more likely to have established the authority required for Google to rank them well. If your site is new, then it may not have enough time or content for it to rank as highly as an older domain would.
Is Domain Age a ranking factor?
What is domain authority?
Domain authority is a score Moz created to measure how well your site would rank compared to another website with the same content. This number ranges from 0-100, with 100 being the highest.
Why Is Domain Authority Important?
A higher domain authority means that your website is likely to rank higher in search results.
Is Domain Authority a ranking factor?
The Domain Authority is a Google ranking signal that has no bearing on the SERPs. The calculation of a domain's DA score comes from a machine learning algorithm's expectations regarding how frequently Google will use it in search results, as of the Domain Authority 2.0 update in early 2019.
What is domain name?
The domain name is the URL of your website.
Why Is the Domain Name Important?
If you have a highly relevant domain name, then it will be easier to attract more organic traffic since users will have an idea of what they're looking for. If your site has a generic or irrelevant name, then it will be more challenging to get organic traffic.
Is the Domain Name a ranking factor?
Domain name is not a ranking factor, but it can help with user experience and relevance of your site's content. Also, it's considered good SEO to use keywords that people might search for in your domain name if you want your website to rank well in search results.
E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust)
What are E-A-T signals?
E-A-T is a Google ranking signal that stands for expertise, authority, and trust.
Why Are E-A-T Signals Important?
They signal to Google whether you're an expert in your field and can be trusted by users when providing information about your product or service.
Is E-A-T a ranking factor?
E-A-T is not a ranking signal, but it has been mentioned by Google in the past as a potential idea for an update in their algorithm.
What are .edu links?
.edu links are backlinks from accredited colleges and universities.
Why Are E-A-T Signals Important?
They can signal to Google that you're a trustworthy website, since it's more common for educational institutions to link out to credible sources. This could positively impact how your site ranks in search results.
Is a .edu link a ranking factor?
No, it's not a direct ranking factor. However, they may serve as an endorsement from another reputable website and help to build your authority with internet users.
Google My Business Signals
What are Google My Business signals?
Google My Business signals are factors that Google uses to rank local businesses in search results.
Why Are Google My Business Signals Important?
It's important for your website to have a presence on Google my business if you want people to find you through map or local search results. Some of these signals include reviews, addresses, hours of operations, etc.
Is Google My Business a ranking factor?
G-MB is not a direct ranking factor, but it's important to have a presence on Google my business if you want your website to rank well in map and local search results.
What are .gov Links?
.gov links are backlinks from government websites.
Why Are .gov Links Important?
They can signal to Google that your website is trustworthy since it comes from a government entity. If a government site is linking to you, then it also means they're endorsing your business or service as well.
Is a .gov link a ranking factor?
No, it's not a direct ranking factor. However, they can build your site's authority and potentially help your website to rank well in search results.
Google Authorship Signals
What are Google Authorship signals?
They are factors that Google uses to determine whether you are the author of a piece of content.
Why Are Google Authorship Signals Important?
They can help your site to rank better in search results since you are more likely to be able to provide accurate information about the topic that matches what users are searching for.
Is Google Authorship a ranking factor?
Google Authorship is not currently used to rank websites, but there are strong indications that Google will be using it in future algorithm updates.
What are Google Ads?
Google Ads are the sponsored ads you see at the top and on the side of search result pages.
Why Are Google Authorship Signals Important?
Why Are Google Ads Important? They can help to increase your brand's visibility, by placing your business in front of users who may be interested in your service or product. They're also a good source for backlinks.
Is A Google Ads link a ranking factor?
H1 Heading Tags
What are H1 heading tags?
H1 heading tags are one of the most important on-page SEO factors. They're what people see when they scan through your website, and can help to quickly determine if your site is relevant to the topic that interests them.
Why Are H1 Heading Tags Important?
They are what people see first when scanning through your site, so it's important to use an H1 tag that accurately represents the topic of each page.
Are H1 tags a ranking factor?
H1 heading tags are not currently a direct ranking factor, but it's important to use an H1 tag that accurately represents the topic of each page so your site doesn't look spammy and rank poorly.
H2-H6 Heading Tags
What are h2-h6 Tags?
H2-h6 tags are subheadings that help to break up your content.
Why Are H2-H6 Tags Important?
They provide more context for your users. They're what people look to after they read your H1 tag, so it's important to use them to accurately represent the topic of each page.
Are H2-H6 Headings A Ranking Factor?
The H2-h6 tags aren't currently considered to be a direct ranking factor, but they're crucial to accurately define each page's subject so that your site doesn't appear spammy and ranks low.
Google does consider heading tags to be valuable as it provides more context for your users.
What is HTTPS?
IP Address What is an IP Address? An IP address is a series of numbers that can be used to identify any device connected to the internet.
Why Is An IP Address Important?
It's important that you use a dedicated IP address because it will positively impact your rankings. If your site's hosted on shared hosting, then you'll have the same IP address as other sites on your server. If Google sees that, then it could potentially rank you lower.
Is An IP Address A Ranking Factor?
An IP address isn't currently a direct ranking factor, but using a dedicated IP address is still important because it can help to positively impact your rankings.
What is an IP Address?
An IP address is a series of numbers that can be used to identify any device connected to the internet.
Why Is An IP Address Important?
An IP address indicates the location of a device on the internet, which can help to identify the location where your website visitors are located. If you'd like to get better results in specific areas, it's important that you choose an IP address that will provide more accurate geotargeting for your users.
Is An IP Address A Ranking Factor?
No, however it is not in Google's best interest to serve spammy or low-quality sites. Having your site hacked or sending spammy links to other sites could lead to a demotion or even being removed from search results entirely.
What is new content?
New content is any type of digital media that has been published within the last one to three months.
Why Is New Content Important?
It's important for your website to have fresh content so you can provide users with current information about what's going on in your industry or niche, because it's unlikely that old content will be as relevant and helpful.
Is New Content a ranking factor?
New content is not currently a direct ranking factor, but it's important for your website to have fresh content so you can provide users with current information about what's going on in your industry or niche. Google does emphasise content freshness.
What is keyword density?
Keyword density refers to the number of times a particular word or phrase appears on your website. it's what many SEOs looked at when analyzing how important certain phrases were in their content, which can actually have negative consequences.
Why Is Keyword Density Important?
It used to be that if a phrase appeared many times throughout your content, then it would be seen as more relevant to that topic. In reality, if you're using the same words and phrases over and over again, then Google will think your site looks spammy and could negatively impact your rankings.
Is Keyword Density A Ranking Factor?
Keyword density isn't an exact ranking factor, but it's important to use variations of phrases throughout your content because it will make your site look more natural.
What are local citations?
Local citations are also known as NAP, which stands for "name, address, and phone number." They're the information that appears on other sites about your business. You should always ensure that this information is consistent across all of your profiles.
Why Are Local Citations Important?
Citations assist Internet users in finding local businesses and may even influence search engine positions.
Is Local Citations A Ranking Factor?
Local citations aren't an exact ranking factor, but they're important for SEO because it indicates the quality of your site and has a big impact on where you rank.
What Is A Meta Description?
The meta description is the short summary that appears underneath your page title in search results. It allows searchers to see why they should click through to your site.
Why Is Your Meta Description Important?
Meta description is important because it's the next thing searchers read when deciding whether or not to click through to your site, so you want yours to make an impact and convince them to do so.
Is The Meta Description A Ranking Factor?
Meta description isn't a direct ranking factor, but it's important to use one that accurately represents the content on each page and entices searchers to click through.
What Are Meta Keywords?
Meta keywords are the keywords and phrases that appear in the code of your website. They used to be a ranking factor, but Google cut ties with them many years ago.
Why Are Meta Keywords Important?
Are Meta Keywords A Ranking Factor?
What Is Mobile Friendliness?
Mobile friendliness refers to how well your website appears and functions on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Why Is Mobile Friendliness Important?
Responsive design allows for a better user experience, which can positively impact rankings. It's also important because almost 50% of all Google searches are made with mobile devices, so it's important for your site to be visible on these.
Is Mobile Friendliness A Ranking Factor?
Yes. Mobile friendliness is a direct ranking factor.
What Is PageRank?
PageRank is the Google algorithm that calculates how important your page is based on links to
Why Is Page Rank Important?
Slow and low quality links can greatly impact your site's rankings. A fast and high-quality website will usually rank better than a very popular but slow site, even if they have the same PR.
Is Page Rank A Ranking Factor?
Yes, Page Rank is a direct ranking factor.
What is page speed?
Page speed refers to how fast your website loads. You should aim for under 1 second, or as low as possible.
Why Is Page Speed Important?
A slow site can hurt user experience and decrease conversions, which can impact rankings.
Is Page Speed A Ranking Factor?
A high page speed has a direct impact on rankings, as evidenced by the Google Algorithm Speed Update. Indirectly, poor performance may have an impact on ranks by increasing the bounce rate and lowering dwell time.
What is a page title?
The page title is the text that you see in the browser tab and is what people read before they click on your site.
Why Is Page Title Important?
It's important to use a page title because it's what people read before they decide to click through to your website, so it's a big part of drawing them in.
Is Page Title A Ranking Factor?
Page title isn't a direct ranking factor, but it's important to use one that accurately represents the content on each page. It also helps Google understand what the page is about.
What is schema markup?
Schema Markup is a microdata format that enhances your site's search engine visibility. It's basically tags added to the code of your site that provide additional information about the HTML document
Why Is Schema Markup Important?
Schema Markup is important because it helps your site to be more visible in search results.
Is Schema Markup A Ranking Factor?
No, Schema markup isn't an actual ranking factor..
What is Social Media ?
Social media is a platform that allows people to share, discuss and create user-generated content in the form of posts or messages. I
Why Is Social Media Important?
Having strong social profiles can positively impact rankings by increasing your overall visibility in search results.
Is Social Media A Ranking Factor?
Social media is not used as a direct ranking signal, but it can help to improve your overall visibility.
Spelling & Grammar
What is Spelling & Grammar ?
Why Is Spelling & grammar Important?
It's important because it's a quality signal that tells search engines that your site is worth ranking. It also shows your professionalism .
Are spelling and grammar a ranking signal?
No, spelling and grammar aren't directly used as a ranking factor.
What are URLs?
URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) are the web addresses of your site's pages.
Why Is A Unique URL Important?
Having a unique URL allows search engines to know exactly what each page on your site is about, without any guessing.
Is your URL a ranking factor?
No, URLs aren't a direct ranking factor. However, they do play a big role in the optimisation of your pages and sites. This is because having unique titles and descriptions allow search engines to know what each page on your site is about.
What are URLs?
What Is An XML Sitemap? XML sitemaps provide a list of your site's pages to search engines, allowing them to more easily crawl and index your site.
Why Is A Sitemap Important?
Having an XML sitemap allows you to keep track of all the pages you have on your site and makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site.
Is An XML Sitemap A Ranking Signal?
No, XML sitemaps aren't a direct ranking factor. However, they do allow search engines to more easily crawl your site, which can positively impact rankings.