The SEO community is always looking for new ranking factors and we have discovered over two hundred of them so far. But there may be hundreds more actually used by Google. Luckily, we don’t have to work on all of them. Most have very little weight in SEO and are often used as tie-breakers rather than ranking signals. Instead, here is the definitive list of Google ranking factors, each of which can make or break your search optimization strategy.
Even though Google is planning to move away from backlinks in the future, they still remain the most important ranking factor for your pages. Except it is now too risky to use black hat SEO strategies — your links have to come from a variety of high authority websites that are similar to yours. Furthermore, some Google patents say that freshness and traffic may also be important backlink metrics.
The most efficient way to grow your backlink profile is to borrow backlink ideas from your search competitors. All you have to do is launch SEO SpyGlass, go to Domain Comparison > Link Intersection, and add a few of your top competitors. The tool will analyze your competitors’ backlinks and find the backlink gap — websites that link to your competitors, but not you. Those websites are your prime outreach targets. Seeing how they already link to other websites in your niche, they are very likely to host your links as well.
2. Semantic saturation
Your SEO content has to contain an appropriate amount of relevant keywords, entities, and images for the length of the copy. The content should not be stuffed, like in the old days of SEO, it should rather be a natural-sounding copy written in an informative style.
It could be a little challenging to figure out exactly which keywords to use, where to put them, and how many of them are needed. So, if you want to play it safe, a good strategy is to create a benchmark by analyzing your search competitors’ top-ranking pages. To do this in Website Auditor, go to Content Analysis > Content Editor, enter your main keyword and get a detailed list of SEO writing instructions. The SEO Content Editor tool will tell you the right amount of main and secondary keywords, their placement, and the recommended length of the copy.
3. HTML tags
HTML tags tell Google which bits of your copy are the most important. The title and meta description tags are what users see in search results – write them like a keyword-rich promo. Heading tags (H1-H6) split your copy into sections — they should also contain keywords and be written in an informative style. Finally, alt text is used to describe images to search engines and should be filled out if you want to appear in the image search results.
If you weren’t mindful of HTML tags, then there are probably hundreds of pages on your website that are not properly optimized for search. A thorough approach would be to use Website Auditor and review your pages in bulk. First, go to Site Structure > Pages > On-page and sort the pages by their search optimization score. If you spot any pages with a low score, click on them for a detailed report. It will tell you exactly which HTML tags are in need of optimization and what’s wrong with them.
4. Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are the newest user experience metrics that will soon become Google ranking factors. The metrics will measure the first impression the user gets when visiting a page. Specifically, how fast it loads, how soon it becomes interactive, and how stable the layout is. Now, it’s important to note that the vitals are not yet official Google ranking factors. But they definitely will be, so it’s best to use the remaining time to get them into proper shape.
Google has been kind enough to equip each vital with a detailed set of optimization guidelines. For faster loading, Google recommends better server response times, less render-blocking JS and CSS, and faster resource loading. For improved interactivity, Google recommends code splitting and using less JS. Finally, for better visual stability, Google recommends using size attributes for images and videos and loading content from the top.
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