There are a lot of articles talking about the top 200 ranking factors used by Google to rank websites…
Those ranking factors were cracked down by Brian Dean in his article. You can check out the article on the following link:
Ok. There are 200 factors.
How the hell am I going to analyze each and every factor?
Well, I have good news for all of you…
Focusing on the most important ranking factors is the key.
The websites that appear on the first page of Google for a given keyword or phrase has the right relevancy and offers a solution to the searcher’s problem.
For example, you’re searching for “how to get rid of pimples”. You can see the results of the first page where only the most relevant and useful ones appear.
Google uses complex algorithms to analyze and position the right content for the right audience.
As a Malaysian SEO Consultant, I have hands-on experience and made extensive research on how Google ranks websites.
Let’s move on to the most important ranking factors that matter in 2019. ( these factors are not essential for ranking on Google but also to improve the overall performance of a website)
Most SEO consultants claim that domain age doesn’t really matter when it comes to Google ranking factors. But for me, I would strongly disagree with them.
As I mentioned earlier, I want to share things that I’ve personally researched and experimented.
According to a recent study by Ahref of 2 million pages, 60% of the sites ranking top 10 on Google are 3 years and more.
Despite this study, let me share my personal experience.
Last year I consulted a recycling company that’s been operating for almost 10 years. They had two domain names which were both 3 and 5 years old. The 3 years one had been running over the last 3 years where the 5 years old site was still active but there were no updates.
I suggested them to perform an experiment with both domains to determine which one performs better. I developed a content calendar where the same content published on both sites.
To my surprise the 5 years old site that was not updated regularly outperformed the 3 years old site on search ranking. From this small experiment, I found out that domain age plays a vital role in ranking.
As for my understanding, if your domain is active for a long period of time, it indicates Google that your site is alive for a reason.
If you’re registering a new domain, make sure to register it for more than 2 years. You want to let Google know that you’re serious about your business here.
Security and Accessibility
What’s the point of having a website when Google bots have difficulties in reaching and crawling your website?
Google bots need to visit your website URL and crawl your content to understand what your website is all about. There are two important things you need to make sure in place:
- Robots.txt file will provide instructions to Google bot on which information it could crawl to understand your site.
- A sitemap will list all the pages available on your site with clear architecture. You can use the online sitemap generator to generate a sitemap for your website. If you’re using WordPress, Yoast SEO plugin will help you create a sitemap.
As for security, Google has announced in 2014 that HTTPS is a ranking factor in their search algorithm.
But it was not taken seriously until Google started to show “not secure” in their Chrome browser which was followed by other main browsers like Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.
A study by Backlinko of 1 million websites to find correlations of search ranking, shows that domains with SSL Implementation have a moderate correlation with higher rankings.
Other than search ranking, if a person visits an unsafe website which shows “not secure” will most likely close that site and look elsewhere.
This behavior will increase the bounce rate of your website visitors which results in low search ranking.
Page Load Time
Web page loading speed has become one of the important ranking factors in 2019. With the mobile-first index in place, mobile page loading speed has become crucial than ever.
According to the research conducted by Akamai, a two-second delay in page loading time can increase bounce rates by 100%.
And you know what happens when your bounce rate increases. Your search ranking gets affected.
Another research by Dotcom-Monitor found that 75% of all users typically bounce as page load time passed the 3 seconds mark.
If you have an e-commerce site, customers easily get dissatisfied if your site takes a long time to load. HubSpot mentioned that 80% of customers less likely to purchase from the same website that has loading speed issues.
It is easy to optimize your page loading speed with Google guidelines.
You can check your page loading speed with the following resources:
Heard of Google’s Mobile-first index?
Google will determine the ranking factors based on the mobile version of the site before looking into the desktop version.
As mobile searches have exceeded desktop searchers, Google gives more priority to mobile searches.
Page loading speed is a major ranking signal as I’ve mentioned earlier. Even if your site is responsive, the page loading speed for mobile version will get affected unless you micro-optimize your site for loading speed.
*Note- There are two other device-specific mobile optimization methods; Dynamic serving and Parallel URLs. I won’t be talking about this in this article 🙂
The alternative method will be AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Google led this initiative to help sites to overcome SEO and page loading speed issues.
The core unique feature of AMP pages is speed. Google wants searchers to have a fast mobile experience. When you implement AMP, some elements of your page will be removed and cached on Google server for quicker response.
Take a look at one of my web pages with and without AMP.
If you have excellent hosting and able to optimize your site for mobile with fast loading time, you don’t have to implement AMP. AMP is suited for information based sites like news portals as they focus more on text-based content.
When we talk about SEO, the content will somehow pop-up. Developing contents such as articles, infographics, videos, podcasts, etc. enhances your SEO efforts. If you’ve been following the SEO industry since its inception, I’m sure you know that rankings and content have always belonged together. Content creates a reason for people to visit your site.
What benefits can people if your website only has the basic Home, About, Products & Services and Contact pages?
As I mentioned earlier, people visit a website to find a solution to their problems. So, you need to provide a solution in the form of content and educate them before making any sales.
Google has rolled out two major algorithm updates; Panda and Fred update which aims to make websites useful and beneficial for the visitors primarily content-wise.
Your site might have well-written content pages but that’s not enough.
As Google wants to provide the best search experience for its users, the standards are raising and your content should fulfill certain criteria. These are some of the criteria you should be aware of:
- Understanding user intent – You need to understand that not all audience prefer a particular format of content. For example, people are more engaged in video reviews about the latest movies and they are less likely to be amazed by review articles. You also need to find the simplest way to give answers to your audience queries.
- Content uniqueness – Your industry might be saturated with thousands of content and it becomes hard to come up with something new. Leverage on those available contents. Analyze those contents and develop a content strategy on how you can make the existing contents better and engaging. The content uniqueness is not about coming up with something new, it’s about how you develop better versions of the existing contents.
I just don’t want to miss this one… Do you have outdated articles published a few years back?
Update those articles to suit the current trends. Google provides priority for updated contents.
According to Ahrefs, updating an old blog post boosted page views by 468%. You can use the following checklist by Ahrefs to boost your search ranking on Google for outdated articles.
- Rewrite out‐of‐date paragraphs
- Add links to your new content (so all the links aren’t pointing to ancient sources)
- Update the title to include the keyword
- Update the slug to include the keyword
- Include the keyword in the first 100 words
- Mention it in at least one sub‐heading
- Edit your metadata to include your target keyword
- Change the publishing date to today
- Bump it up onto the first page of your blog
- Email it to your subscribers
- Run your promotion process (post to Reddit, share to social media, etc.)
- Keep a close eye on the rank over the next few days
User Experience (UX)
I’ve worked on hundreds of SEO campaigns over the last 7 years. That gives me the experience and valuable data to figure out works and what doesn’t.
One particular factor still remains critical in SEO. UX (User Experience)
We are not talking about exclusive design and layout that stands out from the crowd (this is UI). You just need to provide the right user experience for your audience from the awareness stage until the purchase stage.
UX focuses on three main components:
- The flow of users
- The layouts for desktop and mobile devices
- Site structure and architecture
UX of your business site should represent the deep understanding your business has on potential customers.
The best example of UX as a ranking signal for Google ranking was discussed by Ryan Stewart with his WEBRIS agency which has been acquired recently by FTF.
Initially, his agency site was only attracting marketing professionals who enjoyed reading his insights on digital marketing. The site was not attracting enough customers looking for SEO services.
So he decided to change his strategy by studying in-depth about the audience and rebuilt the site and published contents, guides tools, and resources for marketers.
These changes have helped him reduce the site’s bounce rate from 75% to 50% while getting some of the competitive keywords to the top of SERPS.
From my personal experience, the latest Google algorithm update, RankBrain revolves around UX.
RankBrain emphasizes on user behavior metrics such as bounce rate, CTR, page views per session, and dwell time. RankBrain is the AI algorithm that provides Google with the required information on how users navigate through your website.
So, when a user visits your site, clicks on your links and engaged with your offerings and resources, RankBrain will identify this activity and use those behavior metrics for ranking purpose.
If the visitor to your site leaves just after visiting your site without navigating to other pages, it will provide an indication to RankBrain that your site is not optimized for good User Experience (UX) or not relevant to the visitor.
The image above shows how RankBrain actually works and the importance of UX.
Again… You don’t need an extraordinary design for your site. All you need is a site that creates a positive user experience. Improving your user experience not only increases the likelihood of the visitor to purchase your products or services but also increases the search ranking on Google.
If you’re in the SEO game for a long time, it’s of no surprise that backlinks have been one of the most critical Google ranking factors. It still remains the strongest ranking signal in 2019. The fundamentals of backlinking remain the same. But performing quality link building is no easy task.
It is pretty hard to build authoritative links today. Google is pretty strict in overseeing your link building methods.
Ten years ago it was pretty easy to acquire links from various sites and rank higher on Google search Engine but the scenario has changed now.
In 2019, you should focus on acquiring links from credible sites related to your niche.
I will suggest using two link building methods in 2019.
Develop evergreen content – You need to spend time in coming up with irresistible link-worthy content. The content should be a better version of the ones which already ranking on the Google search engine. It requires in-depth research to come up with epic content. The content should be backed by reputable sources as well. If you tend to develop content without serious credentials, Google will label your content to be inaccurate and position it lower on search results.
Guest Posting – Guest posting method has been misused by many organizations for link building purpose and got penalized badly. Guest posting should focus on providing great insights for the audience of other websites rather than fully focusing on acquiring backlinks. According to a survey conducted by Referal Rock, 60% of companies took part in their survey wrote 1-5 guest posts per month. Take a look at sites like Entreprenuer.com and Inc.com. They often have articles published by contributors. The contributors tend to improve their personal branding through guest posting on those sites. But it also helps them to get backlinks from authority sites.
No matter how many Google algorithm updates surfaces in the future, backlinks will always remain as the most critical ranking factors.
These are the most important Google Ranking Factors that are high in priority when you run SEO campaigns for your business sites.
Over to you, are there any other important Google Ranking Factors I’ve missed out?
Please do comment below with your thoughts.