There is a lot at stake when it comes to ranking on the first page of results of Google. Not only the first three results will get most of the traffic, but also the branding power of being on the first page of results for a particular keyword can give any website a competitive advantage. Google takes its ranking algorithm very seriously. They constantly optimize it to make sure that any past loopholes that people might have used to exploit it are patched and because of this Google’s algorithm is evolving almost every day.
However, there are some nearly universal rules that Google follows to make sure users are happy. Factors affecting the Google Ranking of a website are classified into two broad categories: Onsite and Offsite.
- On-site SEO refers to factors that are directly within the scope of control of the site owner. For example, the real content of a page, images, links, markup, site speed, etc.
- Off-site SEO deals with factors that are not directly related to a website per se. For example, numbers of followers of the website in Google Plus, numbers of Facebook likes, links from other sites to specific pages, etc.
Because Google wants to give only the best results to users, its algorithm will tend to favor very distinct sets of principles for each group to assign relevancy to a particular page. Traditionally, Page Rank (a numerical value assigned by Google to each page) is a clear indicator of how much Google trusts a particular website or page. Sites with a higher Page Rank traditionally ranked higher in search results when compared to sites with lower page rank.
A List of Google Ranking Factors
Although the following list is not a complete one (Google has over one thousand different metrics they take into account), it will offer some guidance when it comes to what factors Google has historically used to rank websites. The following factors might variate from time to time when it comes to full weight efficiency. However, they remain high as the top priority for Google and, therefore, might represent an excellent way to get started when it comes to optimizing a website for this search engine.
- Website Loading Speed: Google cares a lot about user experience and a slow site will frustrate visitors and might deteriorate their perception of the search results. Therefore, Google will tend to favor lean and fast loading websites that use all the resources within a server efficiently to offer a smooth experience.
- Social engagement and interaction: Google likes to rank sites that are popular and keep users engaged. Sites that promote and actively participate in social media will tend to perform better when compared to static sites.
- Good quality natural links: If your website has very little backlinks and then out-of-nowhere it gets flooded with hundreds of backlinks, Google will be suspicious about this and will try to see what is going on. In certain cases, they apply manual site penalties to websites that have engaged in extreme link spam.
- Use only original content: Do not copy-paste the manufacturer’s description or simply grab something online. Create your content if you want Google to value your site.
- Follow industry leaders: Google will tend to perceive authorities in your niche/field as the best standard of practice. Try to follow their leadership when it comes to design and tone within the articles of your site. It is important that you help Google understand that your site is up to top-performers’ standards.
- Network with influencers: By connecting online and offline with influencers in your field you can leverage your connections to pull content up in search engines. Social mentions, backlinks, and sometimes even images can help Google rank your site.
- Do not engage in keyword stuffing: Adding too many keywords or trying to over-optimize can end up hurting your website. Instead, try to find a balance and keep keywords within a reasonable, normal, natural distribution.
- Create a logical website architecture: Having a useful user interface will go a long way with Google. They will always favor more responsive/adaptive designs since they are the most likely to yield a good user experience.
- Update your content constantly: Having fresh and engaging content is a major ranking factor in particular for certain industries that need to stay top of the line when it comes to their product or service.
- Website reputation: How long a website has remained in good standing with Google is a major ranking factor. This is particularly true when it comes to corporate or industry-specific sites that require a long history of good optimization to rank.