Here’s a quick trivia question for you: How many ranking factors does Google take into account when deciding where to position your site’s content in search results?
NB: This is an article from Dune7
The answer is a whopping 200+!
As a business owner or marketer, how are you supposed to keep track of every single search ranking factor? Also consider that Google tweaks their algorithm 500-600 times per year!
Of course, even the best SEOs don’t know for sure exactly how Google ranks web pages. But, through a mix of tight-lipped Google search product managers, and a lot of independent analysis, we have a good sense of what search ranking factors are most important in 2021.
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Here are the top 7 Google search ranking factors that most businesses should focus on.
1. Quality Backlinks
Yes, backlinks still matter. In fact, they’re still the #1 ranking signal. But whereas in the past, just a sheer number of links meant your site had a good chance of ranking page 1, this is no longer the case.
SEO has evolved.
In fact, here’s a recent virtual office hours with John Mueller, Search Advocate at Google where he delves into this very point.
There are two guiding principles to follow when it comes to obtaining backlinks: Authority and Relevance.
Authoritative links are those sourced from sites with a high Domain Rating (DR), aka, Domain Authority (DA). Domain ratings start at 1 and go to 100.
Here’s how leading SEO data platform Ahrefs explains Domain Rating:
“Domain Rating (DR) shows the strength of a website’s backlink profile compared to the others in our database on a 100-point scale.”
News and media sites, like the New York Times, have some of the highest domain ratings on the web (it’s a 94, if you’re curious).
Because other sites are constantly citing articles and linking out to the NYT. So is getting a link from the New York Times the holy grail of link building?
The answer is ‘yes.’ And ‘no.’
Yes, it’s a massive success to get a link from the NY Times, simply from a PR perspective and the social proof it delivers for a business.
But, Google also looks at the ratio of incoming/outgoing links to a domain. The NY Times receives links in from over 1.5 million sites and links out to over 280,000 domains. That puts the ratio at 5/1, inbound/outbound.
Sales and marketing SaaS provider Hubspot, with a DR of 92, receives inbound links from 251,000 domains, and links out to 25,000. This gives it a ratio of 10/1.
So is a link from Hubspot more impactful from an SEO perspective than from the NY Times?
Not necessarily, as that brings us to the next link building principle of relevance.
In addition to the overall authority of a site, Google also looks at how relevant a linking site is in relation to your own. If you sell electric bicycles on your site and receive a link from a fashion blog, that would not be considered relevant ⸺ regardless of how high the site’s DR.
It just makes intuitive sense that Google wants to reward sites that are seen as thought leaders in their specific sector or service area.