Why Does Google Rank Some Sites Higher Than Others?

You often hear business owners saying “I want to rank first” for their targeted keywords. That is because on average, 71.33% of searchers click on results shown on the first page. Page two and three get only 5.59% of clicks. And on the first page alone, the top 5 results account for 67.60% of clicks.

So from a business perspective, potential customers are much more likely to find and choose your business if you rank highly on Google.

How do you get your page to rank highly on Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s)?

Google uses about 200 search ranking factors in their algorithm.

The overall goal with all the different ranking factors is to deliver the most relevant search results for a given search. By finding the “best” content and delivering that to users, Google will not only be satisfying the searchers but they will also be keeping themselves as the preferred search engine.

More satisfied users, means more traffic on Google and the more Google can charge to advertisers.

To tailor your website to be perfect for every one of the 200 different ranking factors a lot of things would need to go your way. Instead, it is most efficient to focus on the most important ranking factors.

Which ranking factors does Google consider to be the most important?

How can you optimize your website to rank highly for these factors?

Continue reading to find out!

1. Content

The most important ranking factor for Google is the content on your website.

Google has bots that go through every page on the internet. These bots are often called “crawlers”. As they crawl the World Wide Web they index, or save, all the pages into Google’s database.

Then, when you search something in Google, Google scans all these pages using their algorithms to evaluate each web page and then gives you the best results.

So naturally, the content on your site is what Google will look at first.

There are a few different aspects of content that are important to consider

Length

Pages with more content do better than pages with ‘thin’ content. Algorithm updates like Hummingbird and RankBrain are all about optimizing search results to match the searcher’s query. This means that for the query to be answered an in depth examination of one topic in easy to understand language will rank first.

Keyword Usage

Throughout the pages, it should be clear what the page is about. It should also be focused on one central topic. This can be done by determining the keywords you want the page to rank for then creating the page around those keywords.

Use keywords in the H1 text and in the body. Your keywords should come naturally, if you’re talking clearly on the given topic. If you are talking about “Apples”, then the word “apples” will appear in the H1 and Types of Apples, How to Eat Apples and so on will end up being the sub headings.

Correct use of keywords will make sure Google knows what the page is about. But make sure you are not engaging in “keyword stuffing”, a term for unnecessary usage of keywords. Keywords should always flow easily in the paragraphs and be logically placed.

Comprehensiveness

Good content is important but it is also important for that content to be easy to understand for the user.

Correct usage of H1 and H2 text is a good way to tell Google (and the user) what your page is about. Subheadings can also make the page easier to read by sectioning your post.

Using multimedia is another great way to improve the user experience. So include image, infographics, and videos wherever applicable.

2. Backlink Profile

To measure a page’s legitimacy and credibility, Google will evaluate a page’s backlink profile. A backlink profile is made up of all the different sites with links pointing to your site.

How does Google make backlinks a measurable signal? It is done by evaluating the level of quality your links are and where these links are coming from, amongst other factors. Specifically, the number of backlinks, link authority and diversity.

Number Of Backlinks

The more sites you have linking to yours the better. Having links pointing to your site from great sites indicates to Google that your page is socially verified as a useful page. People view your page as relevant and credible enough to link to it on their site.

One thing to watch out for when trying to increase your backlink profile is spam links.

Because the number of backlinks is a ranking factor for Google there are a lot of black hat SEO sites out there which create pages for the sole purpose of getting backlinks.  However, Google has noticed this problem and taken action against it by prioritizing other link factors like quality of the links.

When Google crawls the web it marks pages that have a lot of outbound links and few inbound links as spam sites. Being associated with such sites will negatively impact your page.

In fact, in 2012 Google released the Penguin Algorithm Update. Penguin was designed to better catch sites attempting to inflate their search ranking position with spam links. Specifically, those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.

Link Authority

The number of links is important. But what is equally, if not more important, is the quality of those links. Link authority will be determined by the authority of the domain linking to you. Domain authority is evaluated by looking at the number of links pointing to a site and the quality of those links.

The more links you have coming into your site (inbound links) the higher your domain authority will be. Links from pages with a high domain authority will have more weight than those from pages with a low domain authority.

Spam sites usually have a low domain authority so checking the domain authority of the pages linking to you is a good way to make sure you don’t have any spam links pointing to your domain.

Diversity

Google will typically only count links coming from the same domain once. So even if one domain links to you 5 times those links will carry less weight than if 5 different sites linked to you.

The primary thing to focus on will be getting links from a number of different domains. Also to focus on getting links from domains covering a variety of industries.

How To Optimize Backlink Profile

The first step to optimize your backlink profile will be getting your backlink profile.

At ElementIQ, we use the MOZ Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs to evaluate backlink profiles. This is a free and easy to use tool. It will tell you the domain authority of the site you are evaluating as well as all the inbound links.

If you are link building, checking your competitors SEO link profile is a great way to see what you are up against. It is also a great way to get ideas of websites and blogs you can reach out to for link building.

If you are working on link building, this blog post by Kissmetrics is a great resource.  

3. Mobile Optimization

Google is always working on improving their algorithms to make sure search results are as relevant as possible. Today, more than half of Google queries are coming from mobile devices. So it is logical for Google to be paying more attention to how sites function for mobile users. This was the premise for Google’s new “mobile first” version of indexing.

Up until now when Google was indexing sites they came from a desktop perspective. Now, they will be going through the web from a mobile perspective first and desktop second.

When building your site it is important to make sure it is responsive and optimized for mobile users first and desktop users second.

Additionally, the content on your website should be the same for desktop and mobile

How To Optimize For Mobile

Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly tool to test your website. The great thing about this tool is it will tell you how a Googlebot would rank your site, not just how users view it.

4. Page Speed

Page speed ties heavily into a good user experience and is an important ranking factor.

The rule of thumb is desktop websites should load in 3 seconds or less, and mobile websites should load in 2 seconds or less.

Page speed also affects other ranking factors such as the page bounce rate.

How To Optimize For Speed

You can evaluate your website’s mobile and desktop page speed with Google’s Page Speed Tool. This tool will also recommend ways to make your website faster so you can get started on making the improvements necessary.

Other Ranking Factors

These are just a few of the many different ranking factors for more information on some of the other ranking factors take a look at this infographic from Search Engine Land.

Ultimately your goal should be to make yourself visible to potential clients. As the digital world becomes increasingly important to how customers find businesses having a top position in SERP’s is a great way to increase leads.

Good focused content will be rewarded and the rest is improving your technical skills.

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