What Are Google’s Ranking Factors?
Where your business ranks in the search engines will have a direct impact on the number of visitors to your site, and online enquiries you receive. Getting a top ranking means entering an SEO race that’s competitive, and daunting. So having an answer to the question ‘How does Google rank websites?’ is critical as it provides you with a roadmap to search engine success.
How Does Google Rank Websites?
Google’s ranking process is made up of over 200 ranking factors. Each individual factor is designed to assess how ‘useful and relevant’ a website is. The sites that rank best against these ranking factors will appear at the top of the search engine rankings. Whilst the ranking factors are designed by people, they’re applied as an algorithm, so the process of determining where your site will be placed is a purely mathematical one.
“With the vast amount of information available, finding what you need would be nearly impossible without some help sorting through it. Google’s ranking systems are designed to do just that: sort through hundreds of billions of web pages and other content in our Search index to present the most relevant, useful results in a fraction of a second.”
What are the Google Criteria That Determine Ranking?
Google is famously silent on the specific criteria included in its algorithm. However, there’s an active SEO community made up of professionals that share tips and offer experience-based knowledge on the subject. The common consensus is that there are a number of ‘top’ ranking factors which play an important part in determining SEO ranking:
- Site structure
- Site loading speed
- Keyword research and usage
- Bounce rate
- Responsiveness (site works well on mobile devices)
- Data security
- Customer reviews
- Regular content updates
- Proper use of H1,2,3,4 tags
What Does Search Engine Optimisation Do?
The Imagefix SEO team successfully ranks clients high in the search engines, and businesses feel the impact in greater organic traffic, and more online enquiries. We achieve this by keeping the question ‘How does Google rank websites?’ uppermost in our thoughts throughout the design process. Some SEO techniques are technical, others are content based; put together they are designed to do the following:
- Help Google bots to read and understand your site.
- Use keywords to clarify the focus and purpose of the site.
- Demonstrate an understanding of customers’ needs.
- Demonstrate the regard and respect that the brand has built.
Applying Search Engine Optimisation
Now we’ll look at each of the top 10 ranking factors in more detail to find out why they’re so important to SEO success.
1. Site Structure
Your site’s structure is what Google bots ‘read’ in order to understand your website. A sitemap helps them to do this, as it lays out the different categories and their relationship to each other. Internal links also offer a clear indication of how pages relate to one another. Clear and simple navigation is a clear symptom of a well-organised site structure.
2. Site Loading Speed
The internet promises speed, so if your site takes 10 seconds to load it’s not delivering value. Google ranks sites that load extremely fast. A loading speed of 1-2 seconds is now the default. If you’re unsure of your site’s performance, you can test your loading speed for free, and get insights into possible causes for slow loading.
3. Keyword Research and Usage
Keywords are the building block of search engine optimisation. These are the words or phrases that online searchers type in to Google. The algorithm matches search queries with websites offering the appropriate keywords as their focus. Keyword research is all about finding out which keywords are appropriate to your business. These then need to be woven into page titles, subtitles and content in order that matches can be made.
Backlinks, or inbound links are links directed towards your website from other reputable sites. The number and quality of these links demonstrate the reputation and relevance of your business within the wider sector or business community. Google assesses the quality and status of your website by the quality, quantity, and status of the sites linking to you.
5. Bounce Rate
Google defines as a ‘bounce’ a visitor landing on your site and then navigating away from it without opening any further pages. These ‘bounce’ sessions are normally fairly fleeting, amounting to just a few seconds to peruse the landing page. The algorithm reads this as your site lacking in relevance for your visitor, which may lower your ranking for a particular keyword.
6. Responsive Design
Mobile first design, or responsive design, is a key feature for the Google algorithm. The majority of online searches begin on a phone, so it makes sense that your website needs to look and function equally well on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. For the best results, mobile first features should be part of a new website design, but they can also be retrofitted. Check whether your website is responsive by simply taking a look at it on your phone.
7. Data Security
The Google algorithm values sites that care about protecting their customers’ data. If your website doesn’t have a security certificate, therefore, you’ll struggle to get ranked. Sites without one appear as ‘http’ rather than ‘https’ and serve as a signal that the content cannot be trusted. Getting a security certificate is a simple signal that your business takes its responsibilities seriously.
8. Customer Reviews
An algorithm can’t talk to your customers about the quality of service your business – which is why reviews are so important. Visitors to the site need to have a way to assess the promises you make about your product, services, delivery etc. The presence of reviews contributes to the value your website offers.
9. Regular Content Updates
An old, inert, or unloved site isn’t going to be ranked high by Google. Searchers value sites that are relevant, useful and offer reasons to return. For this reason, regularly refreshed content is requisite for a good ranking. An effective content strategy may include blogs, news items about the business, updated pages, new product pages.
10. Proper use of H1,2,3,4 tags
Most visitors to your website will be time-poor, so any help you can give them to scan pages quickly for the information they need is much appreciated. H tags are the coding that creates headers, subtitles, bullets and emphases in your copy. They indicate the focus of the page and clarify the range of topics being covered. H tags also make your copy easier for search engines to read, leading to higher rankings and a larger readership.
How does Google rank websites? By looking for clear evidence that businesses know their customers, provide the resources they need, and recognise their requirements when searching online.
The Imagefix team has been offering high quality SEO services as part of our web design and digital marketing since 2006. We’re passionate about ensuring the digital success of businesses we work with, and our SEO team takes pride in keeping the majority of our clients at the top of the search engine rankings.
Would you like to improve your Google ranking? Call the SEO team at Imagefix on 01525 715608