It is no secret that Google uses around 200 factors in its algorithms to produce search result rankings. Very few of these have been publicly disclosed by Google. However, Google does provide guidelines, tools and resources to help webmasters pursue better rankings. Besides, from officially released documents and guidelines from Google, SEO professionals have also compiled their observations, experiences and speculations about the backend of Google’s ranking system.
What affects Google rankings?
There are three aspects to a website that undoubtedly exert a major influence on search engine rankings. These are the usability of a website, the user experience and last but not the least, the actual content of the website.
Let us begin with the user experience and usability of a website as they are closely related.
Usability and user experience
Although not being a variable that influences ranking directly as some others variable might, such as the use of keywords, site and link structure, user experience and usability do affect Google’s intuitive understanding of your website, which it has acquired through the studying of user behavior and interaction with your site, the manner in which linking is done and learning of its own artificial intelligence.
Since the usability of a website and its user experience makes it trusted and popular amongst users, Google picks up on this and takes it to mean that the website must have value judging by the behavior of the users. This is also called indirect influence, where a third party’s experience of site A is influencing the response of site B towards it.
If your site has been constructed keeping users in mind and designed with some visitor-empathy, feeling what it would be like to visit your own website and what you would want from it if you were a user, and if your website has content and structure that promotes sharing, merits bookmarks and makes users come back and provide backlinks among other positive affirmations, all this will get round to the search engine and influence their rankings for the better.
Content, content, content!
Content is the life and blood of a website and all that a site is in essence. The formula is really simple – have great creative and researched content that is also presented in convenient and effective ways. Let us look at how Google judges your content.
After the dawn of the Google era and the rise of search engines in the late 1990’s, it did not take long for them to realize that a good indicator of quality of websites was how much and in what ways they were liked by other sites or in whatever contexts other users could link to them. And since time and statistics proved this unofficial and indirect voting mechanism to be helpful and accurate in gauging a site’s value, it is still a part of Google’s algorithms today, even though they have reached dizzying complexity. After all, the principle is simple; your website must have something cool to offer if it is earning links. So Google rewards you for your popularity.
Another important indicator or mechanism for judging content is engagement metrics. Every time you conduct a search on Google and then navigate through the results, Google is busy analyzing your behavior and using it to build engagements metrics. If you click the first website on the results page and swiftly head back to results page (in a manner that says thanks, but no thanks) this gets noted down, and with millions of searches being conducted every single day, Google acquires a significant library of data about how users have engaged with your website.
In simpler terms, if your content is not satisfying a visitor, you have made Google look like the bad guy with lousy results and in turn, Google brings you lower in their rankings to avoid the risk of dissatisfying more of their clients.
If you are sick of hearing about spiders and long-tail lizards, this might liven you interest. Google brought something called the Panda Update to the world’s attention in 2011 (also called the Farmer) and changed the philosophy and mechanics of their algorithms in very fundamental ways, so much that websites, which enjoyed high rankings, were ranked much lower overnight and websites which had not even made it to the first page, were celebrating top area positions on the results page.
What basically happened is that Google began to incorporate much more machine learning that mimics human judgment of websites for user experience and overall ‘likeability’ of the website. The Panda update grew more and more intelligent as it learnt and it now makes a lot of subjective decisions normally associated with humans.
The Panda update changes the ranking systems in fundamental ways because it makes ranking more user-centric and it is based on the user’s experience, rather than being search engine centered like it was before.
This changing climate in the world of SEO and the new philosophy behind search engine rankings needs to be embraced if an SEO or webmaster is to flourish in an evolving internet environment. These developments are something to be celebrated as they humanize the whole SEO affair, which was too formulized, mechanical and irrelevant to the user’s side of the perspective.
Tips for improving Google Rank
With over 200 factors to speculate about and, if possible, try to optimize, doing SEO for Google can seem like an overwhelming job. But firstly, try to remember how things have changed after the rise of Panda and secondly, you do not need to know or even concern yourself with 200 variables to rise in the Google Ranks. It goes without saying that some factors are more important than others. As long as you stick to following the Google guidelines and best recommendations in the SEO world, you should be fine.
Before we look at the list of tips, you should have in mind one basic principle and you should make it the foundation of pursuing higher rankings. No amount of optimization will help you rise in ranks if you are not creating great content for users using the most empathy and creativity possible.
Google is more inclined towards keywords found at the beginning of title tags.
Suppose you could choose between two title tags:
1. Organic fragrances promote harmony with nature and the environment. The only way to know it is to experience it.
2. Promote harmony with nature and the environment by using organic fragrances. You can only harmonize when you experience it.
Which one would you prefer as a webmaster? Google would always prefer the first one, because it starts with a keyword, i.e. organic fragrances.
Google prefers lengthy content over short content on a webpage.
Several studies reported that Google generically preferred web pages, which have 1500+ words in its content over web pages with shorter content than that.
Google is very serious about page loading speed!
You can imagine how important this must be, since it is one of the few ranking signals that have actually been announced in public by Google.
Google favors responsive design vs. separate website for mobiles.
With about roughly 50% of the internet’s traffic originating from mobile devices, Google rewards websites, which are designed to respond to the user’s device and load themselves accordingly.
Google pays attention to link relevancy.
Recently, an ex-Google employee was noted saying: “Relevancy is the new PR.” Google has begun paying much more attention to link relevancy as a form of trust and value, so try and make sure that sites which link to your website, are related to the same topic as your own website.