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10 Google Ranking Factors Every Website Must Focus On In 2017

10 Google Ranking Factors Every Website Should Focus On In 2017

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Q: What do Entrepreneur.com, Forbes.com, Backlinko.com and Jeffbullas.com have in common?

A: All four of these sites rank high on Google SERPs and enjoy untapped authority.

Now, here’s the big question.

How do these sites consistently rank high on Google SERPs?

Well, these sites do two things very well.

Firstly, they focus on the Google ranking factors that have the biggest impact.

Secondly, they put all of their resources into scaling these ranking factors.

By now you’re probably thinking: Google uses more than 200 ranking signals to rank websites. So how do I find out which factors I should focus on to get a higher Google ranking?

Well, you’re in luck because I’m going to tell you the top 10 most significant Google ranking factors that websites should focus on in 2017.

1. Page authority

Page authority is one of the most critical Google ranking factors that every website owner who is hoping to rank highly on Google SERPs needs to be mindful of in 2017.

Page authority refers to the authority/credibility of your page in the eyes of the Google spiders/crawlers. The ‘Big G’ determines the credibility of your webpage by looking at your website’s link profile.

Basically, the higher the quantity and quality of inbound links pointing to your webpage, the more authority it will enjoy on Google SERPs.

Image Source: Backlinko

In fact, if your page isn’t authoritative, Google won’t rank it at all.

I’m sure you’re wondering how to increase your website’s authority now?

The answer is simpler than you might think: practice white hat link-building strategies. Reach out to similar bloggers, website owners or businesses who enjoy untapped authority on the web, and pitch for guest posts, infographics, etc.

For each and every page of your website, try to embed as many high-quality inbound links as possible. But don’t take the easy route of buying links! Trust me, this is not going to do you any good.

Instead, try a deep linking strategy to build better page authority.

Image Source: theoffbeatstory

2. Link relevancy

As discussed above, Google determines how authoritative your website is based on the quality and quantity of links connecting back to your website/web page.

But there’s a catch: it’s not just about getting many high-quality inbound links, it’s also about getting relevant inbound links.

Yeah, you heard me right!

Google pays more and more attention to the relevancy of the inbound links that point back to your website.

In fact, as Andre Weyher, the former head of Google’s web spam team, revealed in an interview, the relevance of links is the new PR as far as Google rankings are concerned.

Aim at getting as many high-quality inbound links as you can, but make sure all of these links are relevant. Focus on link building only from authoritative and relevant sites. This will help ensure that links pointing back to your site are from sites or blogs that are from the same industry and niche as yours.

For instance, if you’re a digital marketing agency and publish content on technical SEO, social media marketing and content marketing, you should aim at getting inbound links from sites with a higher page authority that publish content on the same topics as yours.

3. Content length

It may surprise you to learn that content is one of the most important ranking factors. In fact, content is the second most important signal that Google uses to rank websites on its SERPs.

But it should be no surprise.

For over a decade, content has been the essential fuel that drives modern-day marketing machines. More and more businesses now rely on content marketing to increase traffic, generate leads and optimize lead conversion rates.

The only problem is that now 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing, there’s a lot of white noise on Google. So how do you make sure your content is able to cut through all of the white noise, drive traffic to your website and rank higher on Google SERPs?

Here’s how: don’t keep on creating and publishing short-form (aka useless) content, day in and day out, as it is not going to help you rank higher.

Instead, create long-form content that is ideally more than 2000 words in length.

Longer doesn’t necessarily have to mean boring. Carefully craft your content to cut through all the fluff and only include information that your target audience is looking for.

As this study by SERPIQ (one of Google’s top 10 results) shows, long-form content consistently ranks better on Google SERPs.

Image Source: theoffbeatstory.com

4. Content ‘thinness’ 

Now that I’ve spilled the beans on the impact of content length on Google rankings, it’s time to impart that sites with ‘thin’ content which offers little or no value to people are dropped like a stone by Google.

Let’s talk about what ‘thin’ content is.

‘Thin’ content is any content that adds no or little value to a related search query. Remember Google’s Panda and Penguin updates? They sought to identify content farms (sites with low-value content stuffed with keywords to rank higher) and scraper sites (sites that featured duplicate content) and penalize them. These days, Google’s updates are focused primarily on sites with ‘thin’ or near-duplicate content.

Though Google doesn’t formally penalize sites for having ‘thin’ content, it may potentially misguide Google spiders when they are trying to find unique page content amongst the ‘thin’ content. This may result in low SERP rankings.

So what should you do?

Google crawlers prefer assigning better rankings to sites that provide original, robust content. So remove or no-index pages with thin or duplicate content. Include archived and category pages in this list. Delete or ‘no-index’ such pages.

After all, these pages often add no value to Google searchers anyway. So, if you are holding on to these pages, you’re actually pushing down your Google ranking.

5. Average time spent on page

Here’s a shocker for you: most blogs have an average bounce rate of around 70 to 98%.

This means that when someone lands on your blog page, they don’t spend more than a few seconds there before abandoning it.

So how does this impact your Google ranking?

Google pays close attention to how much time people spend on your web page when it comes to ranking your site on its SERPs. If people tend to spend more time there, Google assumes your page is informative and ranks you well.

Image Source: Backlinko.com 

If you’re thinking your bounce rate doesn’t really impact your ranking, please be advised that they are a very important ranking signal for Google.

Now it’s time for the big question: how do I reduce my bounce rate?

Here’s your answer: be clever when creating content. Add a lot of ‘Bucket Brigades’ and compelling headings into your posts. Structure your blog posts well, too, by including data points and quote boxes.

Here’s what Bucket Brigades look like:

Image Source: theoffbeatstory.com

Make sure your web pages are visually compelling and clutter-free. Ensure that your links and calls to action are properly positioned, and leave a lot of cell padding around your CTA buttons and links.

Remember, the better, more informative and more interesting your website looks, the higher the average amount of time spent on your page and the better your Google SERP rankings will be.

6. Domain authority

You might not know that the domain authority of your website or web page plays a significant role as far as Google SERP ranking is concerned, but it does.

Domain authority is actually a metric that includes 40 different ranking signals and rates websites on a scale of 1 to 100, where 1 is rated as the worst and 100 is rated as the best.

Obviously, the better your domain authority; the higher your ranking.

Image Source: Backlinko.com

While a large number of experts believe that you can’t really do much to increase your domain authority because it takes time, it doesn’t solely depend on domain age.

Here are a few things you can do to quickly increase your domain authority: first, extend the expiry date of your domain name to send a signal to Google that your site is trustworthy. Try to get as many high-quality and relevant inbound links as possible pointing to your website, then smartly sprinkle your target keyword throughout your long-form content.

7. Keywords in title tags

Keywords are so important that you can’t really think of ranking your blog or website without it having keywords in it.

But did you know that Google carefully considers keywords used in your title tags when ranking websites on its SERPs? It actually gives more weight to pages that use keywords in the beginning of their title tags.

Image Source: Backlinko.com

This is because Google spiders are able to instantly figure out what the page is all about if target keywords are placed in the beginning of title tags.

For example, let’s say your target keyword is ‘Google Adwords Tips’ and you have two title tags.

Title Tag #1: Google Adwords Tips: 5 Tips to Get More With Google AdWords

Title Tag #2: How to Get More with These 5 Google AdWords Tips

Now, can you guess which title tag will rank better on Google SERPs?

No prizes for guessing which! It’s Title Tag #1. That is because this title tag uses the keyword right at the start of it, making it easy for Google spiders to understand what the page is all about.

8. Keyword positioning and relevance

Now that we’re talking about keywords, let me also reveal that Google pays close attention to how you position your target keyword on your webpage.

This means that Google crawlers carefully check for keywords in your page URL, in your posts, and in your H1, H2 and H3 tags. Placing keywords in these areas makes it clear to Google spiders that your page is focused on the target keyword.

But here’s a shocker: if your page content doesn’t really match with your keywords, your site may be penalized by Google. Yeah! That’s true!

The days when Google only paid attention to the keyword density are long gone. Today, it looks for keyword relevance too.

So what should you do?

Smartly structure your page using relevant keywords. Place keywords in the first 100 words of your posts, in your page URL, and in your H1/H2/H3 tags. Don’t forget to include keywords in the beginning of your meta descriptions. That’s important, too.

9. Page load time

Slower page load time dramatically affects your pages’ performance. In fact, a one-second delay in page loading time means 11% fewer page views.

It gets worse: 25% of visitors will abandon your site if your page doesn’t load within 4 seconds.

Remember, Google is the world’s largest search engine and it takes its’ user experience seriously. So naturally, it penalizes sites with a slower load time by drastically dropping their rankings.

Image Source: Backlinko.com

Now, it’s not rocket science to understand why page load time remains one of the most significant Google ranking factors that you should be mindful of in 2017 and beyond.

The question is how you can improve the load time of your slower web page.

First, analyze your pages’ loading speed using Google’s flagship product, PageSpeed Insights tool. Then, based on the analysis of your page speed, upgrade your server. Don’t forget to minimize your HTML, CSS and JavaScript files as well as all redirects.

Optimizing images may also help you reduce your page’s load time.

10. Responsive design

Mobile devices make for 51.3% of internet usage globally. Considering how many people now use mobile devices for Google searches, it’s easy to understand why Google takes responsive design so seriously when it comes to ranking websites.

A study conducted by Google revealed that over 67% of users prefer buying from responsive sites and 61% of users abandon non-responsive sites.

Image Source: theoffbeatstory.com

Google penalizes sites that aren’t responsive by dropping their rankings.

Image Source: theoffbeatstory.com

Remember, if you’re looking to rank higher on Google SERPs in 2017, you’ll need to adopt responsive design.

Bonus tip: Steer clear of website pop-ups!

As you may already know, if not used correctly, pop-ups can annoy your visitors to such an extent that they will abandon your site and never return. Statistics show that 70% of Americans get annoyed by irrelevant pop-up ads.

Since irrelevant pop-ups can ruin your user experience, Google recently announced that it will start penalizing mobile sites that feature irrelevant pop-ups. Google may soon implement this update for desktop sites, too.

So it makes good business sense not to use irrelevant pop-ups on your site. Better yet, avoid using pop-ups at all.

Wrapping up

So, there you have it – 10 of the most significant Google ranking factors to consider when looking to boost your website’s ranking!

Go ahead and put this learning into practice, and get set to rank higher on Google SERPs in 2017 and beyond.

I’d love to hear what you think of these top 10 Google ranking factors – let me know by leaving a comment down below.

Guest Author: Saumya Raghav is the founder of The Offbeat Story, a blog that aspires to help small businesses and startups minimize the marketing costs of generating traffic and improving conversions. A blogger and conversion scientist by day, he is an avid Jeff Bullas and Brian Dean reader at night. He loves to write on topics related to digital marketing, technical and international SEO, web analytics, startup and small business strategies, growth hack strategies and conversion optimization strategies. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

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