In this second and final part of our comprehensive guide, we’ll look at six other major types of SEO ranking factors that can help your business multiply your marketing results as well as your revenues.
Table of Contents
Now that you already know the first three types of major SEO ranking factors—Domain, Site-Level, and Page-Level Factors—it’s time to know the remaining six major factors that can help your website rank better on Google and other search engines. For the sake of clarity, we did not repeat any items below; however, keep in mind that some of the factors may fall under two or more categories. (If you haven’t read it, here’s Part 1 of our comprehensive guide to major SEO ranking factors).
Essential SEO Ranking Factor #4: Backlink Factors
Here are the major factors related to backlinks that may either positively or negatively affect your site’s SEO ranking:
- The number of linking root domains to your website is one of the most crucial factors that affect your site’s ranking based on Google’s algorithm. The more referring domains, the better. It makes complete sense that search engines value this factor because it demonstrates a general consensus that your website and its content are trustworthy and worth referring to.
- The greater the total number of pages that link to your site (despite them being from the same domain), the better it may be for your site. Many SEO experts also believe that getting more links from separate C-Class IP addresses can be even better for your SEO rank.
- The authority or PageRank of the page that’s linking or referring to your site has always been one of the top ranking factors and remains such.
- Google rewards sites that have links coming from pages that contain your page’s main keyword in their title.
- The linking domain’s authority also may affect Google’s perception of the link’s importance.
- Some SEO experts believe that your website can gain Google’s trust (and a higher position in SERPs) if you get backlinks from what are considered authority sites in your niche.
- Getting links from other pages that appear in the same SERP as your site may be more important to your ranking for that specific keyword since those pages are usually extremely related to your topic or business.
- Backlinks from older domains may carry more weight than those from newer domains. And just like the age of a domain, older links have a greater influence on SEO rankings compared to newer backlinks (based on a Google patent).
- The backlink anchor text also serves a vital role in your SEO ranking. In fact, part of the description of Google’s original algorithm stated that anchors usually provide users with more accurate descriptions of pages than the actual pages themselves. Although anchor text is no longer as crucial as it was before, having a keyword-rich anchor text remains an effective relevancy signal. However, keep in mind that over-optimization of the anchor text may result in your content being labeled as spam.
- Speaking of anchor text, the alt tag for image links serves as anchor text for images. It needs to be optimized as well for SEO.
- Pages that enable microformats or Schema.org tend to rank better than pages that don’t use such.
- Backlinks from 301 redirects can lower PageRank, based on a Webmaster Help Video. Ideally, the backlink will forward directly to your site without a 301 redirect. However, you don’t have any control over 301 redirects from another site; so don’t worry about this item too much.
- Although former Googler Matt Cutts said that TLD (top-level domain) is not an important factor, many SEO experts still believe that inbound links to your site from .edu and .gov domains can boost your rank in SERPs.
- Sites that your site links to and sites that have a backlink to any of your pages both affect how search engines perceive your website. Being in ‘bad neighborhoods’ can be detrimental to your ranking on search engine results. These ‘bad link neighborhoods’ include links to any of the three Ps—pills, porn, and poker—as well as sites with bad content. Some examples include payday loan websites and spammy online pharmacies.
- The latter includes websites that have spelling and grammatical errors, incorrect or misleading information, misleading anchor text and internal citations, and so on. It also includes websites with too many ads and sites that are not related to your business or topic.
- TrustRank can be passed on from the referring site to yours. A referring page that has hundreds of external links is less beneficial to your SEO ranking compared to a page that has only a few outbound links.
- According to The Hilltop Algorithm, links from pages that are regarded as hubs or top resources on specific topics are more valued by search engines. The same goes for links from what are considered ‘authority sites.’
- Getting an inbound link from a page that has long content (e.g., at least 1,000 words) is generally better for your SEO ranking, compared to a page that has only a few words of content.
- Besides the number of words, the quality of the referring page’s content is also important. Poorly written (including spun) content has less of an impact on search rankings compared to well-written content.
- Links from country-specific top-level domains (like those that end in .cn, .co.uk, and so on) are also regarded by SEO experts as an important national SEO ranking factor.
- Links that are embedded within a page’s content or main body are more valuable compared to links on an empty page or elsewhere on that page (like the sidebar, footer, and others). In addition, links that are found at the beginning or earlier part of the content may be more valuable than links toward the end or bottom section of the content.
- A positive link velocity—which indicates a jump in the popularity of your content—normally gets an improved SEO ranking. Naturally, on the other hand, a negative link velocity can lower your site’s ranking.
- If the majority of your links are located in one place (such as blog comments and forum profiles—both of which are considered black hat SEO strategies), search engines may view this as webspam. Thus, SEO experts recommend receiving links from a wide variety of trusted sources for effective SEO. Don’t make a major effort to gain multiple backlinks from blog comments or forum posts. If it is organic and makes sense to include a link to your site in one of those locations, that is fine.
- The relevancy of the linking domain also may have an impact on your SEO ranking. Search engines may prefer links from a website that’s in a similar industry as yours. In a similar vein, links from relevant pages also are considered more powerful than links from unrelated pages.
- Former Googler Matt Cutts confirmed that sitewide links are counted as just a single link. (Sitewide links are links that appear on every single page of a website, such as in a menu or a footer.)
- Although Google has refuted this assumption, many SEO veterans believe that getting links from Wikipedia can boost your site’s authority and ranking in SERPs.
- Links from guest posts have some benefits for SEO, but they’re unlikely to be as valuable as authentic editorial links. Also, keep in mind that too much guest posting can bring more risks instead of benefits to your site. Excessive link exchanging and reciprocal links are strongly discouraged.
- The words that normally surround your backlinks give search engines a clue about your page, and may therefore affect your SEO ranking.
- The link title (the words that are shown when you hover over a link) also may serve as a weak relevancy signal.
- Search engines value links that are tagged as “rel=UGC” or “rel=sponsored” differently compared to “followed” or “rel=nofollow” links. In the past, nofollow was used as an umbrella tag for paid as well as user-generated links. However, with these new categories (sponsored links and UGC links) added in 2019, paid and user-generated content are now clearly classified as different from each other. SEO experts believe that the different categories also have different bearings on a site’s SEO ranking. A “rel=follow” link tag is the most valuable backlink for SEO purposes.
- Nofollow Links are one of the most commonly debated subjects in SEO. Google said it generally doesn’t follow those. Be that as it may, SEO experts hold a different opinion. Many believe that a specific number of nofollow links may be a sign of a natural (or unnatural) link profile.
Essential SEO Ranking Factor #5: User Interaction Factors
Here are the major factors related to how users interact with your pages or your site, which may either positively or negatively affect its SEO ranking:
- Google rewards pages that get a high organic click-through rate (CTR) with a boost in SEO ranking for that page’s keyword/s. In relation to that, a website’s organic CTR for all keywords that it’s ranked for may also serve as a user interaction signal or ‘Quality Score’ that can boost its SERP ranking.
- It has been confirmed that Google checks information gathered in Google Chrome to find out the number of users that visit a website and how often they do so. The previously mentioned SEMRush study also has shown a link between the amount of direct traffic a site gets and its SEO ranking.
- Speaking of Chrome, pages that users bookmark may get a better ranking than those that are not bookmarked.
- Getting repeat visitors also is considered an important SEO ranking factor. The more repeat visitors you get, the better your Google rank.
- Pages that get many user comments may get a boost in SEO rank, and a Googler confirmed this as well.
- Google also values dwell time, which refers to how much time users spend on your page after finding it on Google. This also can be referred to as “long clicks versus short clicks.” The more time they spend on your pages, the better for your SEO ranking.
- On a related note, although still widely debated, a site’s bounce rate may affect its pages’ ranking in Google. A study conducted by SEMRush also revealed a link between a site’s bounce rate and its resulting Google rank.
Essential SEO Ranking Factor #6: On-Site Webspam Factors
Here are the major factors related to on-site webspam that may either positively or negatively affect your site’s SEO ranking:
- Websites that have low-quality content (especially content farms, such as article directories and press release distribution sites) rank lower in results after being slapped with a Panda penalty. In connection to this, a Google Patent has stated that the search engine’s algorithm can recognize gibberish content, so make sure to avoid using such (including spun, or auto-generated/computer-generated content) on your website.
- Google frowns upon ‘doorway pages’, which redirect users to another page. However, sometimes you really need to use a redirect; but if you do, avoid using deceitful redirects. Those can lead to a penalty and may even get your site de-indexed.
- If your server’s IP address is flagged for spamming, all websites on that server may suffer the consequences. This is an important consideration when determining whether to host your site on a shared server. Even if you can’t afford a completely separate dedicated server, many web hosts allow you to upgrade to a dedicated IP for just a couple of dollars a month. This is well worth it to avoid being penalized by other spammy websites that may reside on the same server.
- Strictly guarding your PageRank by having all of your outbound links as nofollow also may harm your SEO ranking.
- Also, do not add popups and distracting ads on your site. According to the official Google Rater Guidelines Document, those are signs of low quality, which can derank your website on SERPs. Google, in particular, penalizes websites that show full-page interstitial popups to users on mobile
- Many SEO experts believe that websites that feature affiliate programs are checked more thoroughly by search engines. In addition, websites that feature a lot of advertisements yet minimal content above the fold get penalized through the ‘Page Layout Algorithm.’ Also, hiding affiliate links on your site (particularly using cloaking) will get your site penalized.
- As we’ve mentioned in Part 1 of this comprehensive guide on SEO Ranking Factors, too much of anything is bad. Over-optimization of your website—in the form of keyword stuffing (including meta tag spamming, header tag stuffing, and so on) and other related practices—can harm your ranking rather than improve it.
Essential SEO Ranking Factor #7: Off-Site Webspam Factors
Here are the major factors related to off-site webspam that may either positively or negatively affect your site’s SEO ranking:
- Websites that get hacked can see their ranking plummet. Even the popular website Search Engine Land was totally deindexed when Google thought it was hacked. If you don’t have dedicated IT on staff to protect your site, it may be worth paying for a third-party service, such as Sucuri.net.
- Based on a 2013 Google patent, an unnatural increase in links over a short period of time can derank your site. Moreover, new websites that receive a sudden influx of links may be placed in the Google Sandbox, which limits their visibility in SERPs for a certain period of time.
- Having lots of links from websites that have a totally unrelated topic from yours, along with links from poor-quality directories, both can expose you to a penalty. Your links also should be from a different Class C IP because if they come from a single server, it would look like you’re using a blog network.
- Needless to say, selling links can harm your website’s visibility on search engines. In addition, creating and then quickly removing spammy links also can be detrimental to your website.
- Having ‘poison’ anchor text (particularly pharmacy-related keywords) that direct to your website may be a sign of a hacked or spam website. Either of those can lower your search results ranking.
Essential SEO Ranking Factor #8: Brand Signals
Here are the major factors related to brand signals that may either positively or negatively affect your site’s SEO ranking:
- Having branded anchor text may reap benefits for your SEO as a brand signal. This is often a forgotten SEO strategy since most SEO strategists focus first on keyword-targeted anchor text. But there is an overall value to your website in also having branded anchor text for some backlinks.
- Social media presence and activity also may have a bearing on your SEO ranking. Websites that have a Facebook page and Facebook likes (the more, the better) seem to rank higher on Google. By the same token, having a Twitter profile with a lot of followers also demonstrates a strong brand signal and may boost your site’s SEO ranking. Websites of businesses that have an official Linkedin company page also tend to rank better than if they didn’t have one.
- Having a physical office address listed on your website also may help it rank higher in Google.
Essential SEO Ranking Factor #9: Special Google Algorithm Rules
Last but not least, here are special rules in Google that may affect your site’s SEO ranking:
- Google prioritizes newer webpages for specific search terms. This is especially true for trending or newsworthy topics.
- Google is known to give a higher ranking to websites that have a local server IP, along with country-specific domain name extensions.
- Google tends to show different types of results for keywords that have multiple possible meanings, like “WWF,” “apple,” “Ted,” and the like.
- You may have observed that sites that you often visit rank higher in your search results. The words that you search in a series (for instance, if you Googled “reviews” and then “5G smartphones,” you can expect to see more reviews of smartphones with 5G capability on your individual SERP.
- Google has set more stringent quality standards for content related to ‘Your Money or Your Life’ (YMYL) keywords. Based on Google’s quality rater guidelines, YMYL subjects include news and current events, health and medicine, finance, and others that could seriously affect people’s health, safety, well-being, and financial status.
- Based on a study conducted by SEMRush, if you want to be in Google’s Featured Snippets, you need to consider how long your webpage is, its authority, whether it uses HTTPs or not, and its formatting.
- Webpages that get legitimate DMCA complaints are “downranked” by Google.
- Finally, for local searches, Google usually shows relevant local results above standard organic results. Likewise, it sometimes shows results from Google Shopping above the top organic results. The search engine may also, at times, show results from Google Images at the top of SERPs.
Final Advice on Essential SEO Ranking Factors For Your Website
To recap, the main categories of SEO ranking factors that can either uprank or downrank your site in Google and other search engines are related to your domain, website, page, backlinks, user interactions, on-site as well as off-site webspam, brand signals, and special Google rules.
Always remember that Google’s algorithms are perpetually evolving. The exact set of factors that influence a website’s SEO ranking as well as its national SEO ranking yesterday may not be the ones that apply today. They also will probably never be known fully by the public, or at least, the exact value of their contribution to a website’s search SERP ranking.
Staying updated on the rapid changes involving SEO ranking factors is an enormous challenge for many businesses. Although it’s very important, tackling this task in-house can take precious resources away from your core business. It might be best to entrust this job to SEO experts who dedicated most of their time to this specific field.
One of your best options is Zero Company, a reliable digital marketing and SEO agency that has more than 20 years of success in planning and implementing effective SEO strategies for businesses of all sizes.
Start leveraging those SEO ranking factors to propel your site to the top results in Google and other search engines. Book a free consultation with our SEO experts today!