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What Does Google Look For When Ranking Websites?

By Erin Sparks
June 5, 2013

Google has not released all of the 200+ ranking factors in their search engine algorithm, but Backlinko and Single Grain has put together this infographic that lists several of the ranking factors. It is a pretty extensive list and can be overwhelming, but it is definitely something to keep in mind when optimizing your website, or when you are starting a new one. The infographic breaks all of the ranking factors all down into 10 different sections and I have summarized them below.

Domain Factors

When you are starting out with a new website, if you can, try and get a domain with your main keyword in the domain. It doesn’t quite have the impact that it used to, but it definitely won’t hurt you, especially if you are producing quality content. Having a keyword in your domain name will also be effective for your SEO on other search engines like Yahoo! and Bing.

Page-Level Factors

This is where your SEO really comes into play. Make sure you are using H1s and H2s that utilize your keywords and you are using phrases that people will search and not what words you think are best. For example, don’t use “Mt. Everest Height” but use “How high is Mt. Everest?” Avoid duplicate content and provide recent and relevant content. Have a good design that users want to interact with.

Site-Level Factors

Having a great site architecture is a great way to improve your SEO. It not only gives a hierarchy for customer interaction, but it also helps Google understand which pages are your most important pages. The use of a sitemap will also give your website an instant communication with Google and will let it know once you have made an update to your website.

Backlink Factors

Getting backlinks from from other websites is still a big factor in SEO. It may not hold the same weight it used to, but it is still pretty important as it is considered a “vote” to the algorithm. There are a bunch of different factors that go into determining link influence too, with a lot of them listed in the infographic. If you need some help, tryout these link building tips.

User Interaction

Google’s goal is to give the most relevant result to its users and they are tracking to see if their top results are doing so. So, Google tracks different websites’ user interactions to see if the best result is being given. So having a high bounce rate, or low time on site, those will hurt your SEO.

Special Algorithm Rules

These would include the special results you would see in the search results. Whether it is for breaking news, or shopping results (try searching above ground pools), there are some different ranking factors that are used by Google to deliver the most relevant result.

Social Signals

This is a growing part of the Google Algorithm. The number of Facebook likes or shares, tweets on Twitter, or pins on Pinterest are all becoming factors. Also, Google Authorship is becoming a big ranking factor for SEO. If you don’t know how to set up Google Authorship, listen to our Edge of the Web Radio Podcast about it.

Brand Signals

Google loves a brand. The stronger of a brand you are, the better rankings you will get. And after the latest Google Penguin 2.0 update, it is becoming a stronger ranking factor as well. The amount of followers you have on your social accounts or mentions on news sites, those are both ranking factors for brand signals.

On-Site Web Spam Factors

Do you have content that you have copied and pasted from another website or a product catalog? Google wants unique content, and if you haven’t been penalized by a Panda update yet, you will soon be. Stuffing your pages with keywords and linking to spammy websites are great ways to penalize your website too. Be authentic, be relevant, provide value.

Off-Site Web Spam Factors

Are you buying links from other websites or have an unnatural, keyword-stuffed anchor text backlink profile? Those are more tactics you need to avoid. Diversify your anchor text links from other websites to help develop your brand (see two sections above). Make sure you have Google Webmasters Tools set up to your website and you can see if you have been given an unnatural backlink warning.

Those are just a few helpful tips from each section, but you definitely need to check out the infographic below for more tips for your website. Bookmark this page and save as a reference too!

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