If your business relies on organic search traffic, Google’s algorithm can make or break your business. Websites that rank number one for popular search queries can rake in millions of hits per month. Meanwhile, websites that rank outside of the first ten results are often left fighting for scraps.
The good news? Effective search engine optimization (SEO) practices can launch you from the bottom of the pile to the top of the pack. The bad news? Google’s algorithm relies on literally hundreds of ranking factors.
Thankfully, you don’t need to know every line of code from Google’s algorithm to boost your rankings in search results. So long as you optimize for the following five need-to-know ranking factors, you can achieve first-page rankings for key search terms.
1. On-Page Content
Bill Gates coined the phrase “content is king” back in 1996. Now, more than twenty years later, his words ring as true as ever. Content is far and away the biggest factor for Google search rankings. Barring a total-overhaul of Google’s algorithm, content will hold its crown for years and years to come.
When evaluating content for its search rankings, Google’s algorithm judges content in three key ways:
- Relevance. To determine content relevance, Google looks for keywords from the user’s search query, other words and phrases related to the user’s query, as well as the density and placement of these keywords in the text.
- Quality. In addition to content relevance, Google’s algorithm searches for signals that indicate high-quality content. These signals include the length and readability of content, user engagement metrics, and on-page errors like spelling mistakes or broken images.
- Uniqueness. Google doesn’t want to show users several near-identical results of the same page. So if Google determines that two or more pages are overly similar, it will exclude all but one of those pages from search results.
2. Strong Backlinks
While Google’s algorithm measures certain signals of content relevance and quality, the search engine still relies on users to tell it which pages are best. This is accomplished by evaluating a page’s backlink profile:
- How many backlinks point to this page?
- How trustworthy and popular are the sites where these backlinks are found?
- What keywords are used in the anchor text of these backlinks?
To achieve a first-page ranking for a competitive search query, both your page and your overall website will need a strong backlink profile. You’ll also need to make sure that your profile isn’t filled with low-quality or untrustworthy links, which can result in Google punishing your page in search rankings.
3. Social Signals
Google has spent more than a decade telling users that social media signals are not a part of its algorithm. Yet multiple studies have shown an undisputable link between a website’s social media signals and its rankings in Google search results.
Despite these studies, many SEO experts believe that Google is telling the truth and that it doesn’t measure social media signals. Instead, they hypothesize that social media helps drive other factors that Google does measure. The more a news story is shared on Facebook, the better that page’s engagement metrics will be, the more backlinks it will accrue, etc.
So, while Google might not be tracking your Facebook share counts, social media plays a big — likely indirect — role in the search engine rankings. To rise in Google’s rankings, brands are wise to focus on social media.
Over 60% of internet traffic now comes from mobile devices, and that number continues to grow year after year.
Google knows that most of its users are viewing pages on mobile devices, and its algorithm reflects this. Back in 2016, Google switched to a mobile-first format, meaning pages with mobile-friendly design would rank higher than pages with poor mobile functionality.
More than 80% of all webpages now meet Google’s standards for mobile-friendly content, and pages that meet these standards perform far better in search rankings. So, if you want to rank well against these pages, you’ll need invest in mobile-friendly design.
5. Technical Factors
In the past, technical factors played a bigger role in Google’s search rankings. While the impact of these factors has diminished in the past decade, they still play a big role in the search engine rankings.
Here are three of the most important technical ranking factors right now:
- Meta data. Meta data continues to have a big impact on Google rankings. For best results, your title tag and meta description should include important keywords, encourage user engagement, and fit Google’s character limits (roughly 70 characters for title tags and 160 characters for meta descriptions).
- Crawlability. Google captures data by crawling the web, jumping from link to link to link and capturing page data as it goes. If Google’s robots can’t find your page due to poor site structure, or if your page blocks them from crawling, you won’t appear in search results.
- Encryption. Google now expects HTTPS encryption on every website. If you don’t have HTTPS encryption in place, Google will lower your pages in search results. It may even block users from visiting your website through Chrome.
Click here to learn more about search ranking factors and Qiigo solutions to help you navigate and manage your online presence.