August 14, 2017
Google has a lot of ranking factors. A lot.
In fact, many of them remain mysterious unknowns in the SEO recipe. These are withheld for competitive purposes. Google doesn’t want its “secret sauce” copied.
Though we may not know all the possible ranking factors for Google, we can pinpoint the most effective. These have more weight on the ranking factor scale. As this Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors from Search Engine Land shows, quality is big for any of them.
The most important ranking factors will make a huge difference for you. You’ll see it in traffic and in conversions resulting from that traffic.
In particular, focus on quality for content, links and site architecture for big returns. Let’s plumb each of these factors and explore how to use them.
3 Ranking Factors with Big Payoff Potential
There’s one main idea you should understand about ranking factors. They’re tailored for the user experience.
If you cater to your audience, making it easy as possible for them to get what they need, you’ll rank better.
Of course, it all starts with content.
Content is always, everywhere, number one.
You’ve heard the phrase “Content is king” so often that it has become a cliché. But, like all good clichés, it’s an overused phrase precisely because it rings true.
Providing quality content on your website is one of the best ways to rank on Google. Period.
However, as time marches on and technology changes, how you write and create that content for decent rankings has changed, too.
A short time ago, it used to be all about keywords. Now? Google is placing relevance at the top of the must-haves for content quality.
Relevance means a few different things for content regarding subject matter:
- It must be relevant to the business or company. I.e., if you’re selling designer handbags, you shouldn’t be writing about luxury hotels.
- It absolutely must be relevant to the intended audience and their concerns, needs, and desires. I.e., if your customers are middle-aged stay-at-home moms and dads, you should not be writing anything for young parents in their 20s.
On top of that, relevance also has to do with comprehensiveness. This means you should:
- Choose narrower topics and be exhaustive as well as detailed. Provide useful information and lots of answers.
- Champion long-form content over short articles. Longer articles tend to be more detailed/exhaustive. That’s a circle of influence, right there.
Search Engine Land recommends researching your audience and collecting data about them. This helps you understand who you’re addressing. This data defines consumer intent, which is where they are on their journey to making a purchase.
If you can influence them on this journey through great content, you’re going places.
Surprisingly, Bill Gates coined the phrase “Content is king” way back in 1996.
2. Links (Including Link-Building and Backlinks)
After content, the next-greatest ranking factor is your links. Of course, they can’t be any old links. These must be quality, too.
This means you need to be linking to authority sites, and authority sites need to be linking to you.
Google measures link quality in different ways. Generally, larger, more respectable sites have higher authority. This is just common sense. However, sites relevant to yours that link to you also count, says Search Engine Land.
How do you earn quality backlinks? You need to promote your content and network. This is often called “link-building.”
Helpfully, a great method for natural link-building is creating fantastic content.
3. Site Architecture (Headings, “Crawlability,” and Mobile-Friendliness)
After content and link-building, the third most important ranking factor is site architecture.
There are lots of little pieces that make up this broad category:
- How easy it is for Google to “crawl” your website
- How your pages are structured and organized with headings and subheadings
- How mobile-friendly your site is
There are more, but these are ones you should focus on. Let’s break them down.
Search engines index your site by crawling it. In essence, they read through your pages to help them understand what it’s about. If they can’t crawl your pages, you won’t get indexed. If you don’t get indexed, you don’t show up in search results.
Headings and Subheadings
If you want to rank, pay attention to your H1s and H2s. Search engines use them to understand what a page is about. Keywords in headings can increase your chances for ranking, too.
Plus, without these integral structural cues, your audience will get hit with a wall of text. Believe me, they will not want to wade through it.
Image via Know Your Memes
A computer is no longer the only way to access the Internet. Now we can log-in on our Smartphones, tablets, and even our watches. Accordingly, Google is rewarding mobile-friendly sites by ranking them higher on mobile searches.
Make your site accessible through any device, and you’ll have a better chance of ranking higher.
Combine these aspects of site architecture to support your content and link-building, too.
To Rank, You Need Quality Content, Links, and Structure
The beauty of all ranking factors is they don’t exist in silos. Instead, they lean on each other for support. Remove one, and your quality will plummet, much like a Jenga tower.
In short, you must be detailed and thorough at every turn in order to rank. It’s simple in theory, difficult in practice, but totally achievable.
Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named a Forbes industry thought leader. After dropping out of college, she grew her content agency, Express Writers, to $4.3M in revenue completely through content marketing. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course, and most recently, teaches growth-focused content marketing at The Content Hacker. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter and husband.