5 Google ranking factors you must consider
If you’re in business, you won’t last long without a website and your website won’t work for you unless you have a solid plan for search engine optimization. To reach potential customers and clients, you need to follow SEO best practices so you can rank for search terms related to what you offer.
To make matters more challenging, there are said to be more than 200 ranking factors that Google takes into account when deciding where your site will show up in search. Not to mention, these factors are always evolving as Google makes sense of user intent while appealing to the demands of those users.
In optimizing, you’re bound to miss some SEO best practices. Consider whether you’re optimized for the following Google ranking factors, some of which are new, and all of which are more important now than ever before.
Mobile page speed
With mobile web traffic officially surpassing desktop web traffic, Google is looking closely at mobile page speed. In 2018, it announced mobile page speed as an official ranking factor, which means it should be taken seriously if you want to get more people to your site.
If you’re not sure where you stand with this SEO factor, start with Google’s mobile speed tool. Use this as a starting point to figure out where you need to improve and where you’re already optimized. You can share the final report with your development or SEO team or freelance developers.
In general, it’s wise to follow mobile page speed best practices, including compressing images, reducing payload, leveraging browser caching and more. You can find a full list of best practices to use in addition to your Google speed report at Moz.com.
In 2014, Google announced that it would include HTTPS as a ranking signal. In 2018, Google announced that it would start issuing a warning on all-new Chrome browsers for sites that aren’t registered as HTTPS, which can easily drive potential customers away from your site.
If you haven’t migrated yet to HTTPS, now is the time. It’s required for all e-commerce sellers — or anyone accepting credit card payments. If you’re not technically inclined, check out this HTTP to HTTPS guide from Kinsta, with step-by-step directions for securing your site, and the SEO juice that comes along with it.
Voice search factors
In our digital world, voice search is becoming more and more popular. Whether you’re asking your phone or asking Alexa, the words you use dictate what comes up in search. Content that’s optimized for these queries is likely to rank better.
Backlinko analyzed 10,000 Google Home results and uncovered a wide range of factors that determine whether you might rank for voice search. Many of these factors are considered standard SEO best practices, so if you’re already well-optimized, you’ll be on the right track.
- Speed: Backlinko found that the average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds.
- Length: The average voice search snippet is 29 words long, however, the page itself has more than 2,000 words, on average, showing that long-form content may be preferred.
- Social: Pages that tend to perform well in voice have high levels of social engagement.
- Content: Simple, easy-to-read content may be key; the average voice search result is written at the 9th-grade level.
Optimize for these factors to start earning the voice search traffic, that will likely only increase in years to come.
When you think of SEO, you may not think of user experience. While much of user experience (UX) doesn’t directly impact SEO, there are many ways it indirectly affects potential rankings. For example: “Good website navigation makes it easy for your visitors to find what they want and for search engines to crawl. The result: more conversions and greater search visibility,” explains Search Engine Journal.
Your site architecture, in particular, is especially important for online retailers, suggests Yoast: “You probably add new product lines as old stock sells out. Or you write new articles that make old ones redundant. You don’t want Google to show outdated products or deleted blog posts, so you need to deal with these kinds of changes in the structure of your site.”
Assess whether your site structure needs to be updated by assessing whether it follows Yoast’s simple formula:
2. Categories (or sections)
3. Subcategories (only for larger sites)
4. Individual pages and posts
If you find that your site is not structured as such, it’s time to get technical. Depending on the size of your site, this could be an extensive project, so work with a technical SEO expert to determine the best methods for moving ahead.
If you’re well-versed in content SEO, you’re likely strategic with what external sites you link to, as to protect your SEO and web authority. However, have you considered whether or not you’re strategically linking to pages within your own site? SEMrush discovered that many sites are using poor internal linking tactics — most of which are easy to fix — and this, in turn, reduces their ranking opportunities.
Consider some of the internal linking mistakes SEMrush discovered and consider where you need to make link updates:
- Broken links: Linking to pages on your site that no longer exist.
- Too many links: Not only does this look spammy, but SEMrush makes an important point: “PageRank is split between the links, so the more links there are, the less SEO value each one passes on.”
- Redirect chains and loops
- No-follow tags: This is helpful for some internal linking, but not in most cases.
Get Your Site Where it Needs to Be
With more than 200 ranking factors for Google, it’s easy to forget one here or there, especially if you’re doing SEO yourself as a solo business owner. Get your site up-to-date and make sure you’re earning the most SEO value possible in a world where voice search is up-and-coming, mobile search is here to stay, and content continues to be king.
Jessica Thiefels is CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, which help brands use on-site and off-site content to boost SEO, traffic, sales and brand impressions. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.