6 Google Ranking Factors You Shouldn’t Neglect

6 Google Ranking Factors You Shouldn’t Neglect

Most ranking factors have very little weight in SEO and are often used as tie-breakers rather than ranking signals. Each of these factors can make or break your search optimization strategy. We have listed over two hundred of them so far, but there may be hundreds more.

  1. Backlinks

Backlinks are arguably the most important ranking factor. How do we know? Backlinks form the basis of Pagerank, which is the foundation of Google’s ranking algorithm. Independent research also confirms the relationship between backlinks and organic traffic, including our study of over a billion web pages: However, not all backlinks are created equal. Lots of factors contribute to a backlink’s ability to move the needle, and the two most important are relevance and authority.

  1. Relevance

Imagine that you’re looking for the best Italian restaurant in your city. You ask two friends for a recommendation. One is a chef, and the other is a vet. Whose advice do you trust? Probably the chef, as they have experience with Italian cuisine. If you were looking for dog food recommendations, the opposite would be true. This same idea plays out on the web. Links from relevant websites and pages hold the most value.

  1. Authority

Backlinks from strong pages on strong websites tend to move the needle most. You can judge the relative strength of a linking domain and web page by looking at its Domain Rating and URL Rating in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer:

  1. Freshness

Freshness is a query-dependent ranking factor, meaning it’s more important for some queries than others. For example, all the results for “Brexit news” are super fresh. Google even shows a “Top Stories” feature with results from the past few hours. This happens because Google knows people want to see recent news.

For other queries, freshness still plays a role—but a less important one. Take the query “best office chair,” for example. Because companies only release new office chairs from time to time, a good recommendation from last month is still a good recommendation today. Google knows this, so they’re quite happy to show results that are a few months old. For a query like “how to tie a tie,” freshness hardly matters because the process of tying a tie never changes. A ten-year-old guide can easily be as good as one published yesterday.

  1. Topical authority

Google wants to rank pages from authoritative sources—and this goes way beyond backlinks. How do we know? Look at the SEO metrics for the top results for “cast iron seasoning”: Based on metrics alone, you’d be hard-pressed to figure out why those first two results outrank the third. Both have fewer backlinks, fewer referring domains, lower UR scores, and live on lower-authority websites.

The site in position three is a generic cooking and lifestyle blog, whereas the two at the top sell cast-iron cookware—and nothing else. In other words, the two sites at the top have what we like to call “topical authority.”

First, Google’s search quality rater guidelines mention something called E‑A-T. This stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Call us crazy, but we’re pretty confident that no site can demonstrate these three things for every topic. Cultivate a reputation for expertise and trustworthiness in a specific area.

  1. The 4 C’s

Analyzing the current top-ranking results for the “four C’s of search intent” is an excellent way to understand the basics of how to optimize for a query.

Content style

Content style is the dominant style of content in the search results. It’s almost always web pages, but it’s sometimes videos.

Content type

Content types almost always fall into one of four buckets: blog posts, product, category, and landing pages.

Content format

Content format applies mostly to informational content. How-tos, listicles, tutorials, news articles, and opinion pieces are all examples of common formats.

Content angle

Content angle is the main selling point of the content, and there’s usually a dominant angle in the search results.

Final Remarks

Google rankings are seldom for the most current tips, techniques, and buzzwords. It is about bringing content that searchers are searching for into the task, delivering a decent user experience, and showing to Google that it is the right result for the query.

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