What Are Google’s Top Ranking Factors?

Tablet displaying Google search engine.

Back in 2016, a Google engineer famously said that Google’s top three ranking factors were content, links and RankBrain. However, this was later disputed by more than one Googler.

Sure, those three factors are likely a huge part of how Google determines rankings, but that’s not an exhaustive list.

It is wrong to think that the algorithm is made up only of these three factors and that each of them carries one-third weight for each query. That’s because the factors in Google’s algorithm change from query to query.

That said, I’ll spend the rest of this article shedding more light on what I believe are the top factors in how your website ranks.

Content

If I were to choose the No. 1 spot among the top ranking factors, it would be content. Content is the fabric of the web. Without content, Google’s search results simply wouldn’t exist.

Now, any website can have content, but quality content is how you rank. That’s because the content you create is important to the efficacy of Google’s search results.

Google wants its users to have a good experience. To do that, the websites featured in its search results must offer good answers to their users’ queries.

To ensure that Google is featuring the best content in its search results, it has created things like:

For more, see:

Technical Factors

If your site is not crawlable and/or doesn’t perform well, it will likely not do well in the search results.

One of the most important things you can do is make sure your site is optimized from the ground up so that search engines can access, crawl and understand it with ease. And it must provide visitors with a good user experience.

Case in point: Google’s Gary Illyes once said:

“I really wish SEOs went back to the basics (i.e. MAKE THAT DAMN SITE CRAWLABLE) instead of focusing on silly updates and made-up terms by the rank trackers and that they talked more with the developers of the website once done with the first part of this sentence.”

In Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, it states that unmaintained sites are low quality:

… unmaintained/abandoned “old” websites or unmaintained and inaccurate/misleading content is a reason for a low Page Quality rating.

In 2021, Google rolled out its page experience update, outlining various technical factors that should be followed to ensure a good user experience. If you want to be rewarded with better ranking, optimize your site to address these signals.

For more, see:

Links

If content is the fabric of the web, links are the strings that tie it together. Ever since PageRank, links have been a significant way search engines determine rankings. Why? Links have always served as a “vote” from one website for another.

Even though Google says links have less impact now than they used to, they are still important.

However, not all links are created equal. Google doesn’t give every link to your site an equal vote. In fact, some links can even result in a negative impact on your website’s ability to rank.

Today, links are no longer a numbers game. Even though Backlinko research shows that the No. 1 result in Google has an average of 3.8 times more backlinks than positions No. 2 to 10, we have seen sites with fewer but higher quality links outrank sites with more.

To get links right, you want to focus on link earning rather than link building and the quality and relevance of links versus the quantity. Link earning first starts with creating excellent content and a trusted site so that it naturally earns the links it deserves.

In 2020, Google’s John Mueller said links were “definitely not the most important SEO factor.” What does that mean? Google wants people to focus on making a great site first and not worry too much about building tons of links.

For more, see:

RankBrain

RankBrain is probably one of the most misunderstood ranking factors. RankBrain is a machine learning component of Google’s algorithm. It uses multiple data points at the time of a search to help the search engine better interpret the intent of search queries and serve the most relevant search results.

With RankBrain, Google can go beyond factors like the quality of the content or the links to a webpage to help identify the very best answer to a search.

So to survive RankBrain, you have a lot of work to do to ensure that you are creating the type of content that satisfies the query / your keywords. If you don’t, you risk the chance of RankBrain deciding that your content is not relevant to a search and you can lose rankings.

For more, see:

There are countless factors that go into ranking a webpage, video, or image. And those factors change based on the search query. Understanding the top factors, though, is an important first step in knowing how search works.

Unlock your website’s potential with our expert SEO strategies tailored to Google’s dynamic ranking factors—let’s boost your visibility and climb the search results together. Talk to us

FAQ: How can I increase the ranking of my website with Google using its top ranking factors?

Today’s digital world necessitates having an effective online presence for any business to remain viable; and Google’s top ranking factors play a pivotal role when it comes to your website’s SERP ranking. So, how can these elements help boost website performance and how can businesses utilize these factors to their benefit? In order to understand more on this subject and gain some valuable insights.

At first, it’s essential to recognize that Google uses a sophisticated algorithm to rank websites. Although this algorithm incorporates numerous factors, here are a few primary ones which you should focus on:

  1. Content Quality: Producing high-quality, engaging and relevant content is of utmost importance for Google to recognize websites as providers of valuable information to their visitors, so invest time into producing engaging articles, blog posts, videos and other forms of media content creation such as books.
  2. Backlinks: An authoritative backlink network can make all the difference for improving website rankings. Partner with prominent industry websites when possible and prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to backlinks.
  3. Mobile Responsiveness: Being mobile-first makes having a mobile-responsive website essential. Google prioritizes websites which deliver seamless user experiences on all devices; to maximize this benefit for mobile visitors optimize both design and functionality to provide optimal experience across devices.
  4. Page Loading Speed: Slow websites can lead to poor user experiences and reduce Google ranking, so make sure yours loads quickly by optimizing images, minifying code and employing caching strategies.
  5. User Experience: Google prioritizes websites that focus on user experience. Focusing on elements like easy navigation, intuitive design and clear calls-to-action will not only increase rankings but will also foster engagement and conversions.

Moving forward to enhance your website’s ranking:

  1. Leverage Keywords Precisely: Conduct keyword research to identify relevant search terms, then incorporate these naturally into the content, meta tags and headings on your website.
  2. Optimize meta tags: Create attractive titles and descriptions that accurately capture your webpage content while encouraging viewers to visit it.
  3. Take Advantage of Header Tags: Header tags can help structure and simplify your content for users as well as search engines alike, making it more readable for both audiences.
  4. Include alt text with images: Alt text can help search engines understand your images more readily, making your website both accessible and search-engine-friendly.
  5. Regularly update content: Stagnant websites tend not to rank well; to stay ahead, ensure yours remains fresh by regularly publishing articles, blog posts or product updates.
  6. Leverage Social Media: Utilize social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook to increase exposure, drive visitors directly to your website, and potentially secure backlinks from outside sources.
  7. Monitor and Assess Website Performance: Utilizing tools like Google Analytics can be useful in monitoring website performance, user activity and traffic sources — providing valuable data that reveals areas requiring improvement and potential problem areas.
  8. Engage Your Audience: Responding to user comments, queries and feedback is vital in building relationships and maintaining your website’s visibility and reputation. Engaging and building relationships will pay dividends!
  9. Increase Website Security: Search engines prefer secure websites; utilize SSL encryption technology and regularly upgrade software updates in order to protect it against malware attacks.
  10. Optimize for local search: If your business has physical presence, pay special attention to local SEO factors like Google My Business listings, customer reviews and local keywords when optimizing for local search.
  11. Generate an XML Sitemap: Generating an XML sitemap helps search engines understand and index your website more effectively.
  12. Stay Abreast of Your Competitors: Keep tabs on what strategies, keywords and tactics your competitors employ in order to increase the ranking of their website.
  13. Create an effective internal linking structure: Internal links enable search engines to navigate your website more effectively while also helping establish its hierarchy, dispersing authority more evenly among pages and improving user navigation.
  14. Strive for positive user experience: Prioritize providing visitors with an engaging user experience on your website by prioritizing fast loading pages, intuitive interfaces and fast access to pertinent data.
  15. Stay current: With search engine algorithms ever evolving, staying informed on latest trends, updates and best practices is key for maintaining and improving the ranking of your website.

Utilizing Google’s top ranking factors is the cornerstone of improving website rankings. Apply these expert strategies, deliver valuable content with exceptional user experiences and watch as your rankings soar higher and higher on search engine result pages.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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8 Replies to “What Are Google’s Top Ranking Factors?”

The article provides insights into Google’s top ranking factors, emphasizing the importance of factors like content quality, backlinks, mobile-friendliness, and user experience. It highlights the dynamic nature of SEO and the need for staying abreast of algorithm changes for effective online visibility.

A really good article – thank you :-)
*seeing technical aspects becoming more and more important

Very informative blog.. Quality content will always remain one of topmost reasons for google ranking.

Amazing articles, very helpful and informative. Thanks for sharing it

Interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue, so thanks for posting. It’s very nice and useful. Thanks

Interestingly since October I am starting to see sites with wildly inaccurate information ranking ahead of sites with accurate information in some niches. I’d rather an older slower site with correct information than a fast one with great core web vitels but information that is factually wrong.

The breakdown of the various ranking factors was like a roadmap through the SEO jungle. I appreciated how the article not only highlighted the crucial factors but also explained the nuances and importance of each. It’s like having a seasoned SEO guide walking me through the intricacies of Google’s mind. Your insights on the evolving landscape of SEO were particularly eye-opening. As someone navigating the ever-changing currents of digital marketing, having this kind of knowledge at my fingertips is pure gold.

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