It is no secret that Google searches have been a major part of our daily activities, with so many purchase decision made over them. That’s why many businesses are racing to get high placements in Google ranking just to get the share of that pie.
Yet, there is always that big question over SEO ranking: how actually do Google and other search engines determine their rankings?
Even when that question is answered, Google’s ranking algorithm has over 200 components or signals to determine ranking placement. So, another question will arise: which one should we prioritize on with only 24 hours a day?
So, this article will attempt to answer that question, and help you set the right priorities for your SEO Google strategy. Here are the most important SEO ranking factors you should focus on, and how to optimize each one.
While there is much debate over backlinks about their relevance in modern Google ranking, studies by Backlinko and Link Assistant suggested that backlinks remain the most important SEO ranking factor over any others.
However, gone are the days when we can simply do link schemes to increase the site’s Google ranking by linking our site from low-quality sites, as described by this Google’s patents.
According to the patents discussed above, Google quantifies your backlinks by calculating a “link score”. In short, this score is determined by the individual score of each incoming links, as well as the total numbers of links.
As we can see, both the quantity and quality of the links are important. Another fact to consider is that repetitive links from the same domain account for a very little total score.
How then, can we measure the quality of an individual link? In the past, we can use Google’s PageRank to achieve this, but it is no longer available to the public. You can, however, use third-party alternatives that are based on PageRank, such as Moz’s Page Authority tool, Majestic’s Trust Flow, and several other options.
To understand how you currently fare on your backlinks aspect, you should study your competitors and what kind of link scores you are currently competing against.
Thankfully, there are several tools available to make this job easier, such as SEO SpyGlass. This way, you can compare your site with several competitors against numerous factors. The Total Backlinks and Total Linking Domains numbers will give you the right picture on how much improvement your link profile will need to compete.
The saying ‘Content is King’ should be familiar to any digital marketing practitioners nowadays. Yet, what kind of contents will contribute the most to a high Google ranking? Here are the two most important factors you will need to focus on:
Using your focus keywords or their variations on your title tag is still relevant, and is the strongest content SEO ranking signal determined by Google. The second most important aspect is your meta description, although to a much lesser extent. Finally, you should aim for a 0.5%-1% keyword density throughout the page’s body.
Remember that keywords usage must be done naturally, and your article should also appeal to human readers instead of solely focusing on keyword quantity.
The length of your content is also an important factor, as discussed in Google’s search quality guidelines.
There is no clear content length standard you should aim for, but instead, look at other pages that already rank well for your keywords and aim to use similar length.
There are several content analysis tools available, the most famous one is Website Auditor. With Website Auditor, you can simply type in the keywords you are optimizing in, and see the on-page factors you will need to improve upon.
You can also use the Competitors tab to check on your competitors, and see why their contents are successful. When the need to make changes arises, simply move to the Content Editor tab and optimize your content there.
In Google’s own words, users are the best judge for the site’s relevance. So, even if you are currently the top ranking page for a said keyword, you can lose your ranking if users clicked the third-ranked site more often.
How can we quantify user experience and satisfaction? It is by observing and optimizing the Click-Through Rate (CTR).
CTR (Click Through Rate)
The CTR of a search engine ranking is how many times a search listing was clicked compared to the number of times it was displayed. Some studies even suggested that it is the most important Google ranking factor.
Use Google’s own Search Console to check your CTR on the Search Analytics report. Compare it against Clicks, Position, and Impression to get the right picture. A 30% CTR is really good, and you should aim for at least 10%.
If your CTR is below 10%, you should optimize the site’s snippets in the WebSite Auditor.
It is no secret that Google’s newest algorithm is mobile-focused. We should also consider the fact that the slower your page loads, the higher the chance users will abandon it.
1. Page Speed
As a general rule of thumb, two seconds or less is the load time you should aim for. Page speed has been officially confirmed as a ranking signal, and slower speed will affect your bounce rates and conversion rates.
If your page is not responsive for smartphones and tablets, they won’t rank at all in Google’s mobile search. Over half of Google searches come from mobile devices nowadays, and you can’t ignore the importance.
Again, use Google’s Search Console and WebSite Auditor to check and optimize this aspect. Use the Technical Factors tabs to examine page speed and mobile usability.
The one thing to remember is that SEO is not about getting all the little details right. Yet, it is about getting the right priorities and focus.
The important factors we have discussed above are based studies from respective sources and those will help you optimize your site by focusing on the right directions. If you feel overwhelmed you can work with SEO experts to get your marketing strategy and execution right. Remember, however, that the key to SEO Google strategy success is consistency. After you have optimized a certain aspect, make sure to check on it from time to time and update when necessary.
If you are looking for an experienced SEO consultant to take your website to the next level, look no further. I’ve been creating and implementing digital marketing campaigns for small and medium sized businesses since 2008.
I specialize in organic and local SEO, web design, digital strategy, keyword research, paid search, lead generation, conversion optimization and content marketing.
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