What Are Google’s Top Ranking Factors?

Whenever you do an online search for products or services, do you ever wonder why certain websites come up first? Although Google uses more than 200 criteria to rank websites, according to a recent article in Search Engine Journal, there are four ranking factors that are far more important than others: 2017’s Four Most Important Ranking Factors.

If you are a local business owner, primarily seeking clients from a specific geographic area (San Rafael, Marin County, Berkeley), you may also want to read my last month’s blog post to find out which ranking factors are most important for local businesses: How Does Google Rank Local Businesses in Search Results?

Here are 2017’s most important Google ranking factors:

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Your website content

Online searchers want the most relevant result for their search, whether it is a product that will fill their immediate needs (best raincoat for hiking) or answer a question (how do I repair a leaky roof?) Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, Google is constantly getting better at determining which web pages will give online searchers the most useful information for their query. How does it know which pages searchers find most useful? One important criteria is whether the website is clicked on whenever it shows up in a list of search engine results.

What can you do as a business owner to improve your ranking? Whether you are a product or service provider, create the most informative content possible for your website, targeted to your audience.

High quality links to your website

A major way Google determines if your website is credible is to look at other websites that have linked to your website, and the authority of those websites. What Google is looking for is quality of links, not the quantity of links to your website. In the past, many businesses purchased links to their websites because Google was just “counting the number of links.” Over the years, Google has learned to weed out the bad links and give more importance to the most credible links. A link from a reputable newspaper, for example, wins out over a link from a neighborhood blog. The key to getting more quality links is to create content that people are interested in knowing about, and then promoting that content to reputable sources.

Mobile friendliness

Google is all about providing searchers a user-friendly experience. Websites that aren’t easily readable on a smart phone without needing to zoom in, no longer cut it. It is also important that a website loads quickly – desktop websites should load in 3 seconds or less, while mobile websites should load in 2 seconds or less. If you want to check out how fast your website loads, you can use Google’s free page speed tool.

Other Technical Factors

There are other technical factors that, taken together, play an important role in a website’s ranking with Google:

HTTPS Encryption – To help users browse the web safely, Google is moving toward wanting all websites searched via its Chrome browser to be encrypted, even websites that do not collect passwords or credit cards. Look for more websites to be HTTPS in the future.

H1 and H2 Headings: Using these headings on your website pages is important for boosting Google rankings.

Keyword-rich anchor text when a website links to your website – for example, an authoritative website that uses the words “best raincoat for hiking” in the link text when linking to your website helps boost your ranking for that query.

Avoid pop-ups and anything else that provides a less than ideal user experience. Examples: Showing a popup that covers the main content that a user must navigate around or displaying content that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content of your website.

Although the techniques for good SEO are ever evolving, in the past few years we’ve seen Google make a steady push for rich content, quality links, and a great mobile experience. If you continue to work on improving these factors, you’ll be making progress toward getting higher rankings in Google search results.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can boost your online presence, please shoot me an email or call for a complimentary website content strategy session.

Carolyn Kohler is an SEO writer who specializes in helping businesses get found online. Her company is Website Wordsmith, and she is located in the San Francisco Bay Area.