Getting your website ranked by Google as highly as possible is one of the most important ways to bring in traffic. However, there are a lot of different factors that Google takes into account when deciding where to place your site in the listings. And there is plenty of conflicting advice out there about which ones you should focus on when optimising your site. Here is a researched based infographic of Google’s Top Ranking Factors from last year (2014):
Google’s algorithms are complex, nuanced and ever-changing, so it’s not really possible to point to one factor and call it the most important. However, a few factors can be definitely identified as top players, including:
Google’s Top Ranking Factors: Links
The goal of Google when ranking websites is to assess how useful and relevant a given website is. Links – both incoming and outgoing – are one of the key ways in which it does this. The assumption is that relevant, informative, useful content will link to other relevant websites, accounting for the importance given to outgoing links. Internal links also carry some degree of weight for similar reasons. As for incoming links, the logic is simple; if people want to link to content, then it is probably useful. Links from social media sites are playing an increasingly important role, as this has become an important platform for people to share content they like.
Google’s Top Ranking Factors: Easy Indexing
Humans like content that is easy to read and navigate, and so do Google’s crawlers. However, a search engine algorithm has a different idea of what makes content easy-to-read from that of a human. Try to make your site as easy for bots to navigate as possible and ensure that every page is going to be found. Site maps are your friends here, while internal links will be useful navigational tools for search bots and humans alike. Make sure you use alternate text for any informative images and videos – ideally a full transcription of information contained in videos. Otherwise, that content will be completely invisible to search engines and will not do your ranking any favours at all.
Google’s Top Ranking Factors: Keyword Usage
Keywords are not nearly as big a deal for SEO as people think – or at least not in the way that people think, but they still play an important role. Keyword stuffing is definitely bad, but it’s debatable whether there is really any “optimum density” sweet spot per se or if this is just a useful guide. The proper use of keywords isn’t about squeezing them into content just the right number of times for Google to decide it has maximum relevance without stuffing. It’s more about the way you use keywords. Specifically:
- Ensure keywords are truly relevant, and don’t focus on more than 2-3 per page.
- Don’t get too hung up on density. If you’re worried about stuffing you can use 1-3% optimum density as a general guideline, but don’t mistake it for a rigid rule.
- Make sure your keyword makes it into key places – title, subheadings (with header tags), and the first paragraphs of your content being the chief examples.
- Don’t be afraid to use pseudonyms. Google has long moved beyond matching only exact search phrases.