Google takes over 200 things into consideration when calculating which order to show web pages in its search results. The most important of these are called the ‘core ranking factors’. To be successful on Google, it is important that you know what these factors are and that your site is optimised for them. This post will identify the six main core ranking factors and show you what actions you need to take when optimising your website.
1. Create high-quality content
At the top of Google’s list of criteria is high-quality content. For Google to remain the world’s leading search engine, the search results it provides have to be seen as useful by its users. If it sends people to sites with low-quality content, users will abandon it in favour of Bing and Yahoo and it will lose billions in revenue. For this reason, sites with high-quality content will always get ranked higher than other sites.
The problem for Google is that it’s difficult for it to judge what is or isn’t high-quality content. As the decision is made by an algorithm and not a team of expert human readers, the only way for Google to find quality content is to take a range of other factors into consideration. These include:
- The authority of the domain – .edu and .gov domains rank very highly.
- The number of links to specific pages from other high ranking sites.
- The number of social shares the page has.
- The quality of other pages on the site.
- The amount of time people spend on the page – the higher, the better.
- The page’s bounce rates – the lower, the better.
To Google, many of these factors indicate that previous users have found the page useful and so it is likely to have content which is of high quality. Do note, that the focus here is on individual pages. Google will rank each of your pages separately. Some may rank highly, others may not. It depends on the quality of each individual page. For more information, read our post: High-Quality Content: The Future of SEO
2. Optimised keywords
Keywords optimisation is still a core ranking factor as it is the appearance of these words in the URLs, page titles, text and meta descriptions which indicate the relevance of your content to a particular search query.
However, Google’s algorithm is a lot more sophisticated than most people think and is able to judge relevance through analysing what linguists call ‘latent semantic keywords’. What this means is that, after spotting the keywords in your text, the algorithm will then look for words which it expects to be associated with those keywords.
So, if someone was searching for the best way to boil an egg, not only would Google look for the words ‘boil an egg’ in the URL, title, content and metas, it would also look for words such as pan, timer, egg cup, tasty, etc., which would be associated with the topic. This would help it filter out irrelevant results such as a page with a title ‘Book your holiday in less time than it would take to boil an egg’.
If you want your site to rank highly, therefore, not only must you use the relevant keywords, you must also make sure that the ‘latent semantic keywords’ are included in the content too.
3. Make your site easy for Google to crawl
Google can only rank your content if it knows it is there. It discovers new and updated content by crawling the internet and indexing what it finds.
Crawling is done by search bots which move from site to site and page to page using internal and external links. If your site is poorly structured, there may be sections of it which Google cannot access and which, therefore, cannot be indexed. This means they will not appear in search results.
To make your site easy for Google to crawl you need to do the following:
- Make sure you have a Google Search Console account and that you add your website.
- Enable your website to create automatic sitemaps which Google can crawl.
- Make your website easily navigable with well-structured menus, sections, and categories.
- Use internal linking to help Google’s search bots find related content.
- Check that your website is configured to allow Google bots to access all content.
- Make sure that any software use to block attackers doesn’t accidentally block Google bots.
4. Increase your site speed
Slow loading websites annoy everyone and, for that reason, Google has included site speed as a core ranking factor since 2010. Simply put, slow sites won’t rank highly because they give poor user experience.
To have a chance at ranking well, your website needs load quickly on all types of device, including old phones with legacy network connections like 2G and 3G (you’ll be surprised how many people still use these).
The best way to find out if your site is fast enough for Google is to test it using their PageSpeed Insights page. All you need to do is type in your homepage URL and you will be given a speed score for desktop and mobile page loading. You’ll also be shown a list of improvements you need to carry out to make your site faster.
5. Make your website responsive
Since 2014, we have spent more time surfing the internet on phones and tablets than we do on computers, so, as far as Google is concerned, websites that are still not set up to work on different devices fail to offer a good experience.
To urge everyone to update their sites, Google added mobile-friendliness as one of its core ranking factors in 2015, in what was then termed as ‘Mobilegeddon’. So, if you do not have a responsive website, your site will be losing out in search engine results and you need to make changes as soon as possible. To check whether your site is responsive, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
6. Make your site trustworthy
There is no way that Google would ever want to put its users at risk by sending them to a website where they may get hacked or infected. This is why website security is now a core ranking factor. The more secure a site is, the more trustworthy Google sees it and the better chance it has of ranking higher.
How do you make your site trustworthy? Here are some the most important ways:
- Get an SSL certificate to prevent transactions being hijacked.
- Your company name, registration number, physical address and telephone number should be clearly visible on your site.
- Have well written, error free writing on your website.
- Your website and email addresses should not be blacklisted.
- Trusted sites often have links from other high-trust websites.
- Make sure your website is regularly scanned for vulnerabilities, infections and other weaknesses.
Ranking well on Google can have a massive impact on the success of your website and can transform your business. From reading this post, you should now have a much better understanding of the six main core ranking factors that Google uses to rank its search results.
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