The Top 10 Google Ranking Factors for 2023 (+How to Optimize for Them)
When individuals seek answers, ideas, products, or services, their first destination is often the internet, specifically Google. They rarely consult traditional directories like the Yellow Pages or rely solely on local resources or personal connections. Instead, they turn to Google for quick solutions. Moreover, many users rarely venture beyond the first page of search results.
Table of contents
- What are Google ranking factors?
- Types of Google ranking factors
- On-page ranking factors
- Technical ranking factors
- Off-page ranking factors
Google ranking factors are the essential elements that influence the position of your website in organic search engine results. The primary objective of SEO is to optimize your website’s performance to achieve a high ranking, with the goal of appearing on the coveted first page of results. In the realm of search, the term “organic” denotes unpaid search results, setting them apart from paid results originating from PPC advertising.
These organic rankings on Google are determined by a complex algorithm that evaluates various attributes and SEO metrics, collectively known as ranking factors.
While the precise number of Google ranking factors exceeds 200, we may not be privy to all of them, but many are well-known. What remains consistent is that these ranking factors and algorithms may evolve, yet Google’s core focus revolves around assessing expertise, authority, and trust, often referred to as E-A-T.
Let’s start by categorizing the various types of Google ranking factors. Before delving into the top 10 ranking factors for optimizing your web pages, it’s important to understand these categories:
1.On-page ranking factors: These pertain to the quality of the content featured on a page and the specific keywords it targets.
2.Off-page ranking factors: Similar to endorsements, these factors involve references from other pages within your website or from external websites, primarily through backlinks.
3.Technical ranking factors: These factors assess your website’s capability to be effectively crawled, indexed, and to deliver content swiftly and securely to searchers.
4.Local ranking factors: This category encompasses all three types mentioned above but places special emphasis on factors like reviews, reputation, and listings within a local context.
It’s crucial to note that there isn’t a single ranking factor that can singularly determine the success of your SEO efforts. Instead, it’s the synergy of your technical, on-page, and off-page strategies working in harmony that will help you achieve higher rankings on Google, drive increased traffic, and establish trust.
The top Google ranking factors according to Beeyond Digital are as follows:
On-page Google ranking factors are specific to individual web pages, and they play a critical role in on-page SEO. Let’s explore some key factors in this category:
1.Relevant, High-Quality Content
The most influential Google ranking factor revolves around the quality of your content. This encompasses consistent publication of top-notch content, user engagement, and niche expertise. So, what characterizes relevant, high-quality content?
1.Trustworthiness: Your content should be comprehensive, accurate, valuable, and free from spammy links and comments.
2.Readability: Ensure your content is logically organized, written in a conversational style, and not overly saturated with keywords (as excessive keyword usage can lead to penalties from Google). Use keywords naturally and in conjunction with related terms.
3.Freshness: Even evergreen content can become outdated over time. In addition to creating new content, it’s essential to update older pages with fresh information and keywords that remain relevant in today’s context. This approach helps maintain a high freshness score.
4.Alignment with Keyword Intent:Besides utilizing keyword research tools to understand your target audience’s online search behavior, perform searches on Google itself to grasp the intent behind the keyword. This ensures that your content addresses the users’ specific needs when they initiate a search.
According to a recent survey conducted by Directive, 78% of marketers highlighted keyword research as a practice with a significant impact on driving new traffic. The research process empowers you to gain a deeper understanding of your audience’s search preferences and craft content that directly addresses their queries.
Once you’ve identified the keywords you wish to rank for, it’s crucial to incorporate them into specific locations on your web page. This includes:
- Title Tag (also known as the meta title): This is the title displayed on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
- H1 Title: The title that appears on the actual page.
- H2 Headings: Aim to include at least two of these.
- URL: Keep your URL concise and well-structured.
- Naturally within the body of the content: Additionally, ensure that your keywords appear in the first 100 words of your content.
- Meta Description: This is the brief description that appears beneath the title tag or meta title. It should accurately summarize your page’s content and entice searchers to click. Note that Google may not always use the provided meta description, but it’s still important to include one.
Keywords in the title tags are, by far, the most important, followed by H2s and URL.
3.Image Optimization : Image optimization holds significant importance, not only due to Google’s image search but also because regular search results are becoming increasingly visual, particularly on mobile devices. Here’s how to effectively optimize your images for SEO:
- Assign Alt Text: Alt text serves as the text alternative for an image and is the means by which Google comprehends them. Keep it concise yet descriptive, and include relevant keywords. Alt text also enhances website accessibility for visually impaired users who rely on screen readers, and it displays if the image fails to load.
- Compress and Resize: Utilize an image compressor tool, such as Tinypng (a personal favorite), to maintain image file sizes at 70-100KB or less whenever possible. Saving images in JPG format instead of PNG often helps. Images typically don’t need to exceed 1,000 pixels in width. Even though a responsive website will automatically adjust image sizes, reducing the number of server requests benefits page loading speed.
- Add Value: When feasible, avoid using generic stock images and graphics in your blog posts. Instead, incorporate screenshots, examples, charts, and illustrations that effectively convey concepts. This enhances the content’s quality and keeps users engaged for longer periods.
- Include the Keyword: Incorporate your target keyword not only in the alt text but also in the image file name. Replace spaces in the file name with dashes to prevent your content management system from replacing them with “%20,” which can create an unprofessional-looking image link.
A properly saved, tagged, sized, and compressed image.
Demonstrating expertise in your niche goes beyond the quality of your content; it also involves the quantity of high-quality content you produce. Consider WordStream, which has consistently delivered top-notch content on PPC over an extended period. As a result, Google recognizes us as a reliable source in this specific niche. However, if we were to create an exceptionally high-quality post on a topic like robotic process automation, our chances of ranking for that keyword would be limited.
To expand your niche expertise, you can employ the hub and spoke method, also known as pillar page and cluster content. With this approach, you start by creating a hub or pillar page centered around a broader, high-traffic keyword. This page acts as the central resource for that topic, while various H2 subheadings address different subtopics (child keywords) within the overarching theme.
In addition to the pillar page, you develop spokes or cluster content, which are supplementary pages that delve deeper into each of the subtopics covered in the pillar page.
In addition to demonstrating your expertise within this niche, this method also helps with your site structure, which we’ll talk about later. Since the cluster pages link to and from the pillar content, as well as to each other, this keeps all of your links tightly organized around the same topic.
Technical Google ranking factors
Technical SEO often requires collaboration between marketing and development teams due to its reliance on understanding website structure and content management systems. However, while it may appear complex, once your website is effectively optimized, ongoing SEO maintenance typically demands minimal effort. Here are the technical approaches to enhance your search engine ranking:
In 2019, Google announced its shift toward mobile-first indexing for all new websites. This means that it assesses a site’s ranking primarily based on its mobile version rather than the desktop version. Subsequently, in 2020, Google outlined plans to extend mobile-first indexing to all sites, and as of 2021, this practice is now applied to all websites.
In essence, even if your desktop site is impeccable, your search engine ranking may suffer significantly if it lacks optimization for mobile devices. Most content management systems offer tools for previewing and adjusting your site’s appearance on mobile and smaller screens. Additionally, you can utilize Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to ensure your site meets mobile optimization standards.
In addition to these tests, you should still always preview and test your web pages on an actual mobile device because there are some things that code just can’t pick up.
7.Core Web Vitals
In the world of SEO, ranking factors tend to remain relatively stable, with few changes. However, in 2021, Google introduced a new ranking factor called “Core Web Vitals” as part of the page experience update. Core Web Vitals measure a user’s experience on your web page, influencing their decision to engage with it. These vitals encompass:
LCP (Largest Contentful Paint): This measures how long it takes for the visible elements on a page to load.
FID (First Input Delay): It gauges the time it takes for your page to respond to the first click or tap.
CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): This assesses whether there are unexpected layout shifts or disruptive pop-ups during the page’s loading process.
You can enhance your Core Web Vitals by implementing strategies like lazy loading, code minification, image compression, and other performance optimizations.
As previously discussed, search engines operate by systematically examining and cataloging the various elements of content on your website. Internal links are hyperlinks that direct users to other pages within your website. The greater the organization and coherence of your internal linking system, the more pathways you establish to any specific page. This, in turn, simplifies the process for search engines and users to locate their desired information.
In an ideal scenario, any page on your website should be reachable with no more than three clicks from the homepage.
To achieve this, you should be mindful of which pages you link to whenever you create new content or pages.
Chances are, your website already undergoes routine maintenance to address issues like bugs or server errors. For SEO purposes, it’s advisable to conduct a technical SEO audit of your site every few months. This audit helps identify issues such as 404 errors, redirect loops, and broken links.
Have you ever wondered about the “s” in “https” compared to plain old “http”? That “s” signifies “secure.” To transform your site from an “http” site to an “https” site, you need to obtain an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. Various avenues lead to acquiring an SSL certificate, with the cost contingent on the security level required and your hosting configuration. For instance, HubSpot provides free SSL certificates for its CMS users.
Off-page Google ranking factors
Off-page ranking factors have to do with entities outside of your website, such as social media platforms, influencers, and other websites, but there is one focal point to any off-page SEO strategy:
Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about backlinks. A backlink is a hyperlink that directs users to your webpage from another website. When a webpage receives numerous backlinks, it signals to Google that the content on that page offers significant value and originates from a reputable source. However, it’s important to note that having a single high-quality backlink from a reputable domain is more beneficial than multiple backlinks from several low-authority websites.
So, how can you acquire backlinks? Here are four link-building strategies:
Original, High-Quality Content: If your content is exceptional, distinct, and offers real value to your audience, it’s likely to naturally attract backlinks. Aim for content that is unique, such as thought leadership articles and data-driven pieces that cannot be easily replicated.
Cold Outreach: Building backlinks through cold outreach is a method that requires patience and persistence. To do this, identify related content and reach out to the authors, proposing the inclusion of your content in their work with a backlink.
Guest Posts: Another effective approach to securing backlinks is through guest blogging. Instead of merely requesting a link, offer to contribute a guest post to another website. Within your guest post or author bio, you can include a backlink to your own site.
Networking: Forge meaningful relationships with others in your industry or niche. When you build strong connections, you may find opportunities for collaborative content or guest posting, leading to valuable backlinks.
The top 10 Google ranking factors [recap]
A strong presence in both paid and organic search results enhances your visibility. Regardless of your business type, search engine visibility is vital for building trust, increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, attracting customers, and boosting revenue. The top 10 Google ranking factors include:
7.Core Web Vitals
Remember, in real SEO, there are no magical shortcuts. Achieving higher search result rankings takes time. Even if you optimize your website for multiple ranking factors today, it won’t miraculously reach the top spot tomorrow.
The optimization process demands consistent effort to maintain a fresh and relevant website for your target audience. As long as your site remains functional and aligns with your ideal buyers, you’ll witness gradual organic growth.
For more opportunities to optimize for Google’s ranking factors, follow our user-friendly 10-step SEO audit or use our free Website Grader tool. Alternatively, explore our comprehensive range of digital marketing solutions to discover how we can assist with your SEO needs.