8 Google Ranking Factors You can’t Ignore in 2023
Most Google ranking factor lists are far too long. They prioritize listing every aspect under the sun over those that matter. Worse, they are riddled with myths because no one knows them all. So we’re going to try something new today. Rather than listing 200+ ranking factors, we’ll focus on the ones that deserve your attention the most.
In no particular order, here they are:
- Search intent
- Content depth
- Page speed
- User experience
Most SEO experts agree that backlinks are the most significant ranking factor. How do we know this? PageRank, the core of Google’s ranking system, is built on backlinks.
Backlinks, however, are not all created equal. The two elements that have the most impact on a backlink’s effectiveness are relevance and authority.
Assume you’re looking for the best Italian restaurant in your town. You seek advice from two friends. One is a chef, while the other is a veterinarian. Whom do you listen to for advice? Probably the chef, given their knowledge of Italian cuisine. The opposite would be true if you were looking for dog food recommendations. The same concept is at work on the internet. The most valuable links are those from relevant websites and pages.
Backlinks from strong pages on robust websites are the most effective.
Freshness is a query-dependent ranking factor, which means it matters more for some queries than others. For example, the results for “Brexit news” are incredibly recent. Google even displays a “Top Stories” feature with current results. This occurs because Google understands that people want to see the most recent news. Freshness still plays a role in other queries, but it is less critical. Consider the query “best office chair.” Because companies only occasionally release new office chairs, a good recommendation from last month is still a good recommendation today. Google is aware of this, so they are perfectly content to display a few months old results.
For a question like “how to tie a tie,” freshness is irrelevant because the process of tying a tie never changes. A guide published ten years ago can easily be as good as one posted today.
For each query, Google does not rank the same type of content. For instance, a person who searches for “purchase clothes online” is in the mindset to buy. They want to see what they can buy. Because of this, Google displays e-commerce category pages.
On the other hand, a person who searches for “how to tie a tie” is in a learning phase. Instead of purchasing one, they choose to learn how to tie one. Google displays blog content as a result. Learn the principles of query optimization by looking at the current top-ranking results for the “four C’s of search intent.”
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The four C’s are as follows:
-> Content Style
The dominant style of content in search results is content. It’s almost always web pages, but it can also be videos. Take, for example, the query “iPhone X unboxing”: It would be quite impossible to rank a website on the first page of Google for this query. To rank, you must first create and optimize a video.
-> Content Type
The four most common content types are blog posts, products, categories, and landing pages. For example, the top-ranking pages for “buy a smartphone” are all e-commerce category pages.
-> Content Format
The term “content format” refers primarily to informational content. Standard formats include how-tos, listicles, tutorials, news articles, and opinion pieces.
-> Content Angle
The main selling point of the content is the content angle, and there is usually a dominant angle in the search results.
Google wants to rank the most helpful result for the query, so making sure you cover everything searchers want to know is critical. However, this isn’t about the length of the content. Longer content isn’t always preferable. It’s about covering what the searcher cares about and what they expect to see. Consider the search term “best watch brands.”
You will see that people want lists of the best luxury watches and brands. However, this does not tell us what is essential in terms of content so that you can look at the similarities between the top-ranking pages. First and foremost, they will all mention the price: This makes sense. Searchers are looking for a new watch, and they all have a budget.
Second, they will all mention watches from well-known brands such as Rolex. This makes sense as well. It’s difficult to imagine a list of luxury watch brands that do not include Rolex.
Third, they will all discuss technical specifications such as diameter and thickness. You should also cover these topics if you want to rank for this query. This isn’t about imitating others; it’s about analyzing the similarities between top-ranking results to determine what’s important to searchers.
Since 2010, when it had an impact on 1% of desktop search queries, page speed has been a ranking criterion. When Google began incorporating mobile queries into its ranking algorithm in 2018, this changed. Even yet, “a small fraction of queries” are still impacted by the factor, which primarily affects web pages that “provide the slowest experience to visitors.” That is a crucial point. The goal here isn’t to beat rivals by a few milliseconds. It is crucial to ensure that your website loads quickly enough to prevent a negative user experience.
How fast is that?
In 2018, Google stated that the TTFB (Time to First Byte) for mobile pages should be less than 1.3 seconds and that consumers should be able to view the information in under three seconds. Additionally, they advise that a mobile web page’s overall size should be less than 500kb. Test your site now!
By encrypting data sent between the browser and server, HTTPS enhances security for users. Google declared HTTPS as a very weak signal in 2014, affecting less than 1% of all worldwide requests. Since then, Google has strengthened its commitment to HTTPS, and Chrome now displays a “Not secure” warning whenever you access a page that isn’t secured. You might also receive a warning alert from Google Search Console if your website contains input fields on non-secure sites. John Mueller affirmed at the beginning of 2019 that HTTPS is still a minor ranking influence.
Since over two-thirds of searches are conducted on mobile devices, it is not surprising that Google included mobile-friendliness in its mobile search ranking factors in 2015. When Google switched to a mobile-first indexing strategy in July 2019, it also made it a ranking factor for desktop searches.
Google prefers to rank content that provides visitors with a positive experience. This is obvious, but Google’s actions over the years demonstrate it. For example, Google announced in 2016 that pages with intrusive interstitial ads (i.e., pop-ups) might not rank as well as those that provide a better user experience. But what exactly makes for a good user experience? Here are a few Google recommendations:
- Easy-to-read content
- Well-organized site
- Interesting and useful content
- Responsive design
- No intrusive ads
- Site designed around users’ needs.
The topic of how Google might gauge customer satisfaction is a hot topic in the SEO world. Analyzing data like clickthrough rate (CTR), dwell time, time on page, and bounce rate is a common practice. Google has submitted several patents outlining the potential use of clickthrough rate and other behavioral cues to affect search engine rankings. The business, however, is sure that these elements are too noisy and unstable for usage.
Everything mentioned above can be broken down into eight steps:
- Provide what searchers are looking for.
- Check that your website looks good on all devices.
- Make sure visitors enjoy their time on your site and keep distractions to a minimum.
- Explain everything that visitors want to know in detail.
- Develop expertise in one area; don’t try to be a jack of all trades.
- Obtain recommendations from other websites in the form of backlinks.
- Keep content fresh by updating it regularly.