Neil Patel

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Top Google Ranking Factors That Will Drive More Traffic

A graphic that says "Top Google Ranking Factors That Will Drive More Traffic."

Are you wondering why your target keywords aren’t bringing in the same levels of organic traffic? That’s because Google ranking factors are changing.

You can count on death, taxes, and the fact that Google will fiddle with its methods for search engine results pages (SERPs).

Marketers are already grappling with phenomena like zero-click content. And now Search Generative Experience is poised to change the game yet again.

Don’t worry: this guide explains the top Google ranking factors so you can implement them on your website and get more traffic—or keep the traffic you already have.

Key Takeaways

  • Google ranking factors are elements of your website that Google’s search algorithm considers when deciding what webpages to show in the SERPs.
  • The top Google ranking factors include:
    • Mobile-first optimization
    • Core Web Vitals (LCP, INP, CLS)
    • E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)
    • Link profile (inbound, outbound, and internal links)
    • User experience (UX)
    • Technical SEO (meta tags, schema markup, etc.)
    • Content relevancy and authority
    • Real business information (Google Business Profile)
  • The upcoming Search Generative Experience (SGE) is expected to reduce organic traffic from search, making it more important to focus on ranking factors like:
    • High-quality, expertise-driven content aligned with search intent
    • Concise, easy-to-digest content presentation
    • Strong link profile and authority
  • Hiring a qualified agency is another way to improve search rankings.

What are Google Ranking Factors?

Google ranking factors are the elements of your website that the Google search algorithm takes into consideration when deciding what webpages to show in the search results for a given search query.

When someone searches for a phrase relevant to your business or service, you want them to find you and not your competition, right?

To truly understand how to get your website ranked in Google search results, you need to understand how Google’s algorithms work. Optimizing your content and your website for top SEO ranking factors can help get your pages to the top of the SERPs—which can drive more traffic to your site.

On the flip side, SGE will likely push lower-ranking pages down even further—so if you don’t have a good ranking now, it’s even more important to focus on this topic.

It’s imperative to understand Google page ranking factors to keep or push your webpages near the top of the results. Knowing the top factors can help you create a plan for how to get there.

Top Google Ranking SEO Factors

Understanding the top Google ranking factors can help you increase your SEO ranking on the search engine. Here are the main ones you should know.

Mobile-First Optimization

In the last quarter of 2023, mobile traffic (aside from tablets) accounted for 58.67 percent of global traffic. The majority of people surfing the web on their smartphone expect your site to work perfectly on their device, and if it doesn’t, they’ll likely bounce from your site.

This is why mobile-friendliness is one of the most important Google ranking factors. If your site doesn’t function properly on mobile, Google is knocking you down a peg.

If you don’t believe me, you can read about it directly from Google. They began mobile-first indexing back in 2019, which means your functionality on mobile is what determines your ranking. Desktop performance is second in importance.

To rank in the Google search results, you need to make sure your site functions the same on phones, tablets, and computers. Make sure the theme or template you select is mobile responsive.

Next, ensure all your images are displayed clearly and load quickly, check whether any words fall off the screen, and limit giant walls of text, which might look fine on desktop but on mobile can cover the entire screen.

Make sure the site loads properly by reducing the number of changing video URLs and limiting the amount of “lazy-load” content on your site.

The Zappos website does a great job of translating the desktop experience to the mobile environment. It loads quickly, even with lots of photos, making it easy to scroll and explore their various product lines.

The Zappos website.

Core Web Vitals

Google introduced Core Web Vitals as yet another one of the ranking factors in SEO in May 2020. These refer to the overall health of your website in terms of the experience it provides for users.

Yet many marketers ignore this factor: a Semrush study showed that nearly 84% of the URLs ranking in the top 10 on mobile SERPs in the U.S. scored low on Core Web Vitals reports.

Can you hear opportunity knocking?

The vitals are broken down into three categories:

  • LCP (Largest Contentful Paint): Google expects your site to completely load its first page within 2.5 seconds. This reduces the number of people who will click away, and it impacts Google ranking SEO.
  • INP(Interaction to Next Paint): Google expects that your pages are responsive to user interactions. This metric covers how quickly a website responds to user interactions, such as clicks or key presses.
  • CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): Google expects your site to load predictably and not change once it’s loaded. Have you ever clicked a link on a site as it’s loading, and then it jumps halfway down the page, taking you to a different link? This factor plays into UX and the overall page experience, which is important for Google ranking SEO.

E-E-A-T

Four words define what kind of content Google ranks highly: experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, otherwise known as E-E-A-T.

In other words, content from experts that answers the questions your potential customers have.

Google prioritizes content that is accurate, reliable, and valuable to users. It’s one of the top Google ranking factors.

How can you create content that aligns with E-E-A-T?

Present content written by experts and authorities in their field. These could be industry leaders or individuals with recognized credentials, qualifications, or experience.

You should also make sure content incorporates and cites accurate, up-to-date information from reliable sources. High-quality sources include industry publications, professional journals, and trusted media.

Link Profile

More than 90 percent of web pages receive no traffic, often because they don’t have any backlinks.

And yes, links are still one of the top SEO ranking factors. Inbound links, outbound links, and internal links are all important ranking factors because they increase the overall authority of your site and help your site prove itself as a valuable resource.

Inbound or “backlinks” are links that come from someone else’s site to your content.

Outbound links show authority by providing additional relevant resources to visitors to your site.

For example, you should include outbound links to help readers learn more about something or back up any facts and stats you include in your content.

Quality is more important than quantity. Make sure your outbound links are from and to authoritative and credible sources.

Content like tutorials, videos, and original research are an effective way to earn outbound links and can cultivate your authority and expertise in your industry or field.

UX

UX (user experience) is another of the top Google ranking factors that can significantly impact where Google ranks you in search results.

Why is UX so important? It means a site was designed to be easy for humans to use.

On the functional side, websites should be easy for users to navigate with intuitive, organized menus, breadcrumbs to help guide them, and pages and images that load quickly. In one survey, nearly 90% of respondents said that slow loading times were one of the main reasons they abandoned a site. Google has incorporated this behavior into its ranking factors.

Design is critical as well. Incorporate a visual hierarchy to guide users’ attention. Headers, photos, and content blocks can have a big impact on how users respond and digest information.

Ensure that branding elements like colors, fonts, iconography, and language are consistent throughout the site.

Don’t forget about the mobile experience! Enabling mobile-friendly interactions like swiping and tapping supports the full user experience.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is still an important Google ranking factor. It refers to the technical factors that can make a website easier for search engines to crawl and understand as well as faster to load.

These includes things such as:

  • keywords in page titles and title tags
  • keyword-optimized header tags
  • properly optimized meta description at 110 to 150 characters
  • keyword-rich alt text and tags
  • proper schema markup

Some best practices include making sure you’re using relevant keywords in all headers and metadata. The key to doing this is having a quality keyword research tool that provides you with complex competitor data and keyword gaps. You can also run an SEO audit, and this guide explains how.

Technical SEO should be one of the easiest things to adjust on your website. Unfortunately, a recent study found doing this takes many organizations far too long: anywhere from a month to up to two years!

However, this suggests that making a point of keeping on top of your technical SEO is a great opportunity to improve your rankings.

Content Relevancy and Authority

Google is paying much closer attention to the actual content that people are producing and putting a lot of weight on whether a website actually provides solutions to people or if they’re writing entirely for the search engine.

If your site provides an exhaustive look into something, Google sees you as an authority.

Similarly, if your site provides information that users are searching for and that they find valuable, Google will rank your pages higher.

Another important point: while longer content still ranks higher, there is a cap. Content that is focused and gets to the point quickly tends to be more effective.

What is that cap? A study from Hook Agency found the ideal length to be between 1760 and 2400 words.

A graphic showing the ideal length of content from Hook Agency

Now, that doesn’t mean go and throw up a 2,000 word-count salad and expect it to rank. You still need to provide value, resources, and incredible information with those words.

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Real Business Information

This Google ranking factor falls into the category of trust signals.

What does this mean? It means people want to know you are a real business. They want to see where you are based and know if they call you, a real person will answer.

You can show you run a legitimate business by building up your Google Business Profile. That’s what pops up on the right when you search Google for a business by name and what you see when you click on one in Google Maps.

Beyond information like your hours, address, phone number, and website, you can also add a description of your business, photos, and other details to your profile to personalize it.

It’s a good idea to check and regularly update your information to make sure it’s accurate. You can even add posts about events and special offers, proving that your business is active.

How Will SGE Affect Ranking Factors?

You’ve probably heard of Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) and how it has the potential to be a game-changer for ranking factors in SEO.

SGE uses generative AI to answer search queries in a panel at the top of the SERP, while also providing links to websites that align with its answer.

SGE responses for "What is Content Marketing/"

This means it’s expected to reduce the organic traffic from search.

How can you optimize your website for SGE? There are a few Google ranking factors you can focus on.

SGE rewards high-quality content that showcases expertise. Follow the E-E-A-T principle when developing content to help your website rank higher. You should also include copy that matches the search intent as closely as possible.

But you don’t want a lot of content that is extremely complex or wordy. While it’s a good practice to provide in-depth and comprehensive information, present it in a simple and readable form for best results. Use short sentences and paragraphs and integrate lists to break up blocks of text, making content easier to scan and digest.

Here’s what Matthew Santos, SVP of Products & Strategy over at NP Accel, says about content: “Based on what I have seen indexed within the SGE prompts on the SERP, we are seeing a shift away from long-form content being the only ranking factor. Short, succinct answers to questions and situations are dominating the SGE landscape.”

Having a high-quality link profile is another factor SGE favors, as it continues to reward authority. Focus on creating valuable content that credible websites will link to. Consider reaching out to other businesses or organizations to develop a linking strategy that benefits both sides.

Optimizing your website according to the other Google page ranking factors mentioned here can also help SGE recognize your site as a valued source of content and information.

FAQs

What is the most important Google ranking factor?

I will always think that the key to Google ranking SEO is high-quality and valuable content. The type of content it rewards may change, but it always needs to be useful.

Does Google release a list of its ranking factors?

While it’s not necessarily a list, it’s a solid explanation of what factors are most important. You can see the focus is primarily on user experience.

How do I improve my Google search ranking?

There are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of Google ranking factors ranging from small to large. Google has a rigorous process to determine what factors are most important. But don’t sweat trying to optimize for them all. Focusing on the main ones is your best bet.

How many Google ranking factors are there?

Improve your ranking by implementing all of the top Google ranking factors in this guide.

Conclusion

While there aren’t any foolproof ways to rank your content, focusing on these main Google ranking factors can certainly increase your chances of ranking, even as SGE is rolled out. Of course, hiring a qualified agency is another great way to rank higher.

Remember: you don’t have to do everything at once or incorporate hundreds of SEO ranking factors. Start with these and take it from there. Results may take a while, but Google rewards those who put in the work.

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