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15 Google ranking factors

Although it is difficult to weigh up the ranking factors in SEO with great precision, a good knowledge of how search engines work does guide SEO strategies.

Search Engine Optimisation is the implementation of actions in order to improve your ranking on search engines. This is the exact definition of SEO: Search Engine Optimisation. To provide you with a list of SEO criteria, they are broken down into 4 categories: technical, semantic, popularity and others. This list is far from exhaustive. However, these are elements for which there is a broad consensus among web marketing professionals.

1 – [technical] The general site layout: its tree structure

The site’s tree structure is extremely important. It structures your content. An optimal tree structure is beneficial to the Web users and to the bots. It’s logic! You can segment your content according to what you want to highlight or even create entire sections to break down all your topics. Don’t forget the adage: 1 URL = 1 keyword = 1 topic. And above all, don’t underestimate the technologies used! Use SEO-friendly technologies and CMS to maximise your content’s chances of reaching the top of Google’s rankings.

2 – [technical] Internal linking

By optimising the internal linking, you make it easier for the bot to move from one page to another while staying on your website. You help it to get to know the most interesting pages and you facilitate the transfer of popularity from one URL to another.

3 – [technical] Sitemap

The sitemap is an XML file located at the website’s root. You can have one, or several. In concrete terms, this file provides search engines with the URL list of the website as well as additional information such as the most recent update dates.

4 – [technical] Robots.txt

The robots.txt is a file located at the website’s root. As its name implies, it gives instructions to the bots to allow or disallow pages or entire directories to be considered. It is an essential tool for every SEO.

5 – [technical] Loading time optimisation

Loading time is not considered to be a direct ranking factor. It is, however, involved in other factors. Mobile-First encourages the optimisation of all pages towards the mobile environment. Loading time is one of the most carefully worked out criteria. Core Web Vitals updates as well. By extension, taking loading time into account allows the bots to save their « crawl budget« : a bot allocates a limited time to each website. You might as well do it a favour by leading it to the relevant pages!

6 – [semantics] Relevance

The idea of relevance is very broad. In short, bearing in mind that the search engine’s job is to provide its users with the most relevant results possible, at a given time, is surely one of the most important SEO fundamentals! What follows will require you to use common sense at all times.

7 – [semantics] Search intent

Behind a search query, there is an intent. We are talking about navigational, transactional search… the list is quite long! Matching the search intent that Google might value is a strategy in its own right. It is an interesting indicator in order to rank, but also in order not to disappoint the user according to the current trends.

8 – [semantics] Uniqueness

Having unique content is one of the first good practices in writing for the Web. It is important to be aware of the subtle difference between duplication and plagiarism. If it is not a question of reinventing the wheel with each text, a difference in point of view, in editorial line, is often enough to produce a very satisfactory work. Most of all, beware of internal duplication that directly degrades the quality of your website!

9 – [semantics] UX

User experience (UX) is a very broad term that refers to everything that can be done to make content easier to access. Above all, it is a question of enhancing the pages to lead the user to an action (reading, purchasing, requesting information, etc.). Loading time is one of the areas that can be optimised. However, let’s not forget other very important factors such as the absence of 404 URLs, as far as possible, or ensuring that your site remains online. A series of service failures means an unstable website, so it’s relevant!

10 – [semantics] Microdata

As a hybrid optimisation, it is not that easy to classify the microdata optimisation. They allow you to provide additional information to search engines by pointing out, for example, « here is a date », « here is a price », etc. In order to do this, we use tags located in the source code and the possibilities are almost endless! Take a look at the library and you’ll see just how far you can go. So if it’s a question of source code annotation, microdata is a technical matter. But without content… what would we be annotating?

11 – [popularity] Anchor of incoming links

Link anchors are both a popularity tool and a semantic tool. The link anchor is, in short, the clickable piece of text that takes you to the destination page. On one hand, the backlink itself contributes to your SEO. On the other hand, the link anchor transfers semantics to the destination page. In a few words, if you link to a page using the word « tree », this is just like adding this word to the text.

12 – [popularity] Authority of incoming links

An authority link is a backlink received from a highly relevant website. The websites that are said to be authoritative enjoy a very good reputation and are major references in their respective activity fields. These websites are often large medias, government websites, public or private schools, etc.

13 – [popularity] The amount of incoming links

If we consider that a link received is a vote, then the number of backlinks is a major SEO criteria. In all logic, the more links you get, the higher you should rank in Google’s organic results. This is a statement to be taken with a grain of salt, as you also have to consider the link profile as a whole: credibility, relevance, no toxic (spammy) links.

14 – [others] Regular content updates

regularly updated website sends out positive signals to search engines. Not only is an updated website more likely to feature relevant content, but it also gives bots new opportunities to crawl your pages.

15 – [others] Image optimisation

Images are a genuine source of SEO traffic as well. By optimising their names, ALT and TITLE attributes when integrating them, you give them a better chance of being displayed not only in the Google Images engine, but also on the primary results page. Don’t forget to also optimise the weight of the chosen images so that they don’t penalise your website’s loading time.

SEO myths and legends to be wary of

Not all the advice you can find on the Web is up to date. Among the SEO optimisations that have gone by the wayside, we can mention the META Keyword filling, or the uncompromising bolding. Even if the latter might have some impact, the above points should already be keeping you busy!

Another thing: although the META Description is not considered to affect the ranking, it is nevertheless a very important click factor. Therefore, a proper description contributes to traffic acquisition.Image

To sum up, we would like to emphasise that all optimisation is relative. It should be assessed according to what your competitors are doing and, above all, you should monitor your performance! This is why it is advisable to mark the dates of your SEO project implementations and to gauge their influences. Supplement your reports with a watch over what your competitors are doing. This is always an interesting insight.

Translated by Nicolas Piquero. Nicolas Piquero is a seasoned SEO with 6 years experience. He worked as an in-house, agency and freelance SEO, with various major european companies. Being both a and power user, it was obvious that he could be an ambassador for babbar’s tools. So, being based in London, he is the first babbar ambassador for the UK.