How does Google rank your website?
Although more on the end of SEO, content is a large part of the answer to this timeless question. But we’d be misleading you if we told you it was the only one. Not to say the phrase “content is king” is any less valid, but it’s not the only factor Google uses to rank your website. But before we get into what those factors are, let’s answer another important question.
Why does Google rank a website on the 1st page of search results?
When a website pops up on the 1st page, it’s because Google considers it to be valuable. Valuable in terms of quality, relevance, and usefulness. And Google measures these factors using a complex algorithm. An algorithm that takes into account well over a hundred individual micro-factors. But today, we’re going to focus on the most important ones.
Now before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s important to mention that both Google’s algorithms and search results change fairly often. While the core factors usually stay consistent, each algorithm update includes a few tweaks. New ranking factors can be added while existing ones may increase or decrease in significance. And of course, with these updates, changes in Google page rankings can follow. Which leads into the core of this post.
The factors Google uses to rank your website
Quality and relevancy: Whether it’s your About Us page or a blog post, the content on your website should always be well-written, engaging, and relevant. This is what lets your audience know you’re a reliable and trustworthy source of information. Which is especially important since Google rewards websites that provide valuable content — while penalizing those that don’t.
Length of content: Longer content will typically help rank your website more efficiently. Why? Because the longer the content, the more information (and keywords) can be covered. And the more information the content includes, the more valuable it will appear to your audience and Google.
Amount of content: A site with little information or too few pages is ranked lower than a website rich with quality content.
KW usage and density: The more keywords a site ranks for the better. And using those keywords often in your content sends a positive signal to Google.
You’ll additionally want to make good use of KWs in your title tags, descriptions, and even URLs for the best results. Also, try to place your main/target keyword towards the beginning of the content.
Duplicate content: Google significantly penalizes websites that use identical content, and considers it a sign of low quality. Duplicate content can cause a page to be ranked several pages lower than you’d like it to be. (This is especially common on product descriptions, hence why optimizing your product descriptions is crucial.)
Image optimization: Use relevant file names, alt text, titles, descriptions, and captions on your image. This can help with keywords and also provides important info for Google. Info that Google uses to rank your website and index images.
Content updates: Posting and updating content often helps keep your website “fresh”. The freshness factor is one that Google particularly keeps an eye out for. Websites that consistently post quality content are crawled by Google faster and more often.
Outbound link quality and relevancy: The more niche/industry related sites linking to you, the better. A nice mix helps, but you should mostly aim for backlinks from high authority and trusted domains.
Original content: This is a given, but it also ties into the duplicate content factor. Striving to have unique content across the board is one of the best practices to maintain on a website. It establishes your brand as a thought leader and your voice in the community.
Styling (header usage, bullets, etc.): Keep your content clean and well-organized. Optimal readability improves user experience and makes it easier for your audience (and Google) to find important information.
Site Structure & Functionality
User-Friendly Layout: When it comes to having a great website, simplicity is key. Information should be easy to see, and find. Also, make sure your link architecture is organized and easy to navigate through.
Mobile optimization: Google specifically penalizes websites that aren’t responsive. So you’ll want to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. It ensures that all your site visitors, regardless of viewing device, get the best user experience.
Site Speed: A site that loads quickly keeps visitors happy. Especially with how fast paced the internet is. On the other hand, a slow loading site can work against you. Sometimes, it can even mean losing out on a sale or loyal reader.
Direct Traffic: The more direct traffic you’re receiving, the better your website looks to Google
Repeat vs New: On a similar note, the more visitors you have returning to your website after the first visit, the better it is for ranking.
Bounce Rate: Not a major factor, but sometimes used as an indicator of page quality. A page with a high bounce rate can indicate that it’s content is uninformative and lacking, but there are certainly exceptions to this (ie: blog posts, answer pages, form pages, etc.)
Dwell Time: Ideally, you want people spending longer amounts of time on your website. The more time spent, the more engaged and interested the visitor usually is. Google specifically focuses on how much time a visitor spends on your page coming from a search result (organic search traffic). A quick exit usually means that the visitor didn’t find what they were looking for.
Your domain also plays a role in your site’s ranking. Having a domain that contains the keyword(s) most relevant to your website’s focus is ideal. So a website about pet products with the URL “petproducts.com” (exact match URL) would be much better to rank than “clickstore.com”. So if you want to easily rank your website higher on Google, keyword relevancy is vital.
A few tips:
- Include target keyword in Domain (beginning is best)
- Include keywords in subdomain
- Aim for an Exact Match URL when possible (KW)
- Be mindful of URL length (shorter is usually better)
Site reputation: Anywhere where people can rate and review your site online, is worth paying attention to. Although not a major factor, a positive online reputation is always more beneficial than a negative or non-existent one. Having a positive reputation on sites like Yelp definitely seems to help with ranking to an extent.
Backlinks: For the most part, the more backlinks (links to your website) you have the better. But, the quality of the linking domains is also important. The more relevant and authoritative (page rank) the linking domain is, the more valuable the backlink. On a similar note, the quality of the content that includes your backlink is also considered.
Social media accounts: Having an active account on each social media platform helps rank your website faster. Especially since several platforms allow you to associate your website’s URL to the account. And who doesn’t love free authoritative backlinks? Oh, and of course, the more active your accounts are, the stronger the signal they’ll be sending to Google.
Social media engagement: The more Likes, Tweets, Pins, +1s, and Shares your content and links are getting, the more interesting your brand will appear to both Google and your audience. Note: the authority of the accounts engaging with your content is also important. So support coming from popular pages will typically carry more weight in terms of their ranking influence.
Did you find this information helpful? What are some factors that have helped you rank?