If you Google ‘SEO ranking factors’ you’ll get a return of hundreds of posts. If you read some of these posts, you’ll start to see an aggregate, a common denominator. What is that common denominator? It’s the phrase ‘200 ranking factors’.
Yes, 200. Rumour has it that Google’s algorithm is built on over 200 ranking factors–though no one can actually confirm what these factors are. Even then, each of the factors has several variables.
Google’s algorithm and its host of zoo animals (Penguin, Panda, Pigeon, Hummingbird) are always changing which makes declaring any exacts re: ranking factors to be a bit of a moot point. While we can’t promise exacts, we are going to give you a guide to the ranking factors we think are the most important.
How important are keywords?
If your digital marketing campaign were a person, keywords are your skeleton. They make the base from which everything else grows. Keywords break down into two, in your domain/URL and your onsite SEO.
Back in the day, your domain name was seriously weighted. Say if I wanted to rank for digital marketing Ireland, I could have bought a domain called digitalmarketingireland.ie and that would have been weighted in my favour. While it’s not weighted so much any more, there are suggestions that it does still help. As for URLs of posts, Google puts importance on the first 3-5 words.
For writers, dude, just make sure it’s your name or the pseudonym you’ll use.
Your onsite SEO is one of the most important ranking factors and covers:
- Title tags, blog title, onsite content, structure e.g. H1 tags, meta descriptions.
- Image descriptions and alt tags.
- Outbound/inbound links.
Your keywords need to be present in all those places, though don’t go crazy and have a density that’ll get you de-indexed. Anything above 5% is questionable.
If keywords are your skeleton, then content is the flesh. Content is what gives your digital marketing campaign life. This metaphor is getting a bit odd, but you see my point. (I swear I’m a better writer than this, normally.)
Content breaks down into a whole load of ranking factors of it’s own, so let’s consider them.
Content Marketing Ranking Factors
- Keywords – as above. Keywords, keywords, keywords. Know what you’re targeting and make sure they are present throughout your site. Just be careful not to keyword stuff and have so many occurrences that Google’s bots think you’re a spammer.
- Length – the longer a piece, the more naturally keywords occur. Further again, long-form content typically gets shared more, which increases your social signals.
- Social signals – shares on social media. The more you’re shared, the more trustworthy search engines will find you.
- Amount of time spent on the page. The ‘dwell time’ tells Google how long people were on your page/s. If they came on and bounced after ten seconds, that’s not a good sign.
- Click-through-rates from search – the higher your CTR, the more Google reads you as trustworthy.
- Multimedia – images, video, etc. Mix it up. Google likes multimedia. So do humans.
- Links in and links out to trusted resources e.g. Wikipedia. If your content is good, you’ll earn links. The more good links you have, the higher you’ll rank. With outbound links, it’s a little like telling search engines that you’re using a citation, and are backing your information up.
- Freshness – updating content is always a plus. Updating possibly out-of-date content is a nice way to tell Google that you’re committed to providing great, relevant content.
- Spelling and grammar – Google actually allocates more trust to sites with proper grammar and a higher reading/comprehensive level. Writery folk, you should all be grand so.
- Structure – bullet points, bolded text, etc. Make sure your layout is easy to read on the web and on mobile.
I’m not really sure how to tie links back to the body metaphor except to compare them to blood. Link juice is the mojo that gets a site ranking better. Without a good link profile, ranking gets more difficult.
Link-buidling as a Ranking Factor
- Inbound – links coming in to your site. If someone is linking to you: yay! If they’re a good site, even better. Inbound links tell Google you’re legit, which is exactly what you want.
- Outgoing – as in the ‘Content’ section, outgoing links to trusted resources are an extra SEO boost as they consolidate your info.
- PR of links coming in – Page Rank. Every site on the web has a page rank. A very new site gets a ?. Sites like Facebook are a 10. Wikipedia gets a 9. The higher the Page Rank, the more trusted the site and the more a link from them is worth.
- Age of links coming in. Links slowly but surely get more valuable over time.
- Social shares—weighted for G+. As I said in the ‘Content’ section, social media cannot be ignored. Pinterest provides lots of tiny SEO boosts and Google are totally biased towards G+.
- Diverse links. Some have more sway e.g. .gov and .edu have higher authority than your standard .ie.
- Link location e.g. a link in a blog (contextual link) is worth more than a link in an author bio.
- Relevant directories and citations.
(Sincerest apologies if that coloured monstrosity hurts your eyes!)
And finally: a couple of random ranking factors:
- Usability/User Experience – if your site is hard to use, your bounce rate will be higher, your dwell time lower, and your pages per session will take a dip. All of these will negatively affect your rankings.
- Having ‘Trust’ pages – Contact Us, Terms and Conditions, Privacy. Make sure you’ve got these bad boys.
- User reviews – for an e-commerce website, having user reviews is an important ranking factor.
There you have it: a list to the more important ranking factors. There’s another 100 ranking factors to go, but discussing all of them would take forever, and it gets quite technical.
The sounds lads at Backlinko have a pretty complete list of all the factors, if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s this too, though it’s a bit squinchy and hard to read:
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