Ranking Factors: A Short Guide to Understanding What Contributes to High Ranking

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The positioning of a website in the search results is calculated by an algorithm, which takes into account many factors that can improve or even worsen the ranking of a website. Some ranking criteria are known, others are kept secret by the search engine operators.

Good SEO — Good ranking

The success of SEO is always measured by the positioning in the SERPs, even if this position is not solely influenced by on-page and off-page measures. Measures in the areas of social media, SEA, conversion rate optimization or content marketing naturally also contribute to this. But the fact remains — the better your website is found via search engines, the more traffic you generate.

The ranking amongst the top 10 plays a decisive role, because already on the second result page, the click rate drops considerably.

And yet placement is not everything. As Google gets better and better at recognizing the user’s intention and incorporates other user data such as location in the search results, the number of specially marked elements increases. So it’s not only a good ranking that counts, but also an appealing search result look.

Ranking factors of Google

According to Google, about 200 factors flow into the algorithm. Many of them are, of course, secret to prevent manipulation of the search results. In addition, the criteria are constantly adjusted to provide the user with better results. For example, the weighting of backlinks and keyword density has changed.

The following overview of the ranking criteria is therefore not to be regarded as complete and unchangeable, but just as an indication to improve the ranking at Google, both on the page itself and with external factors.

User-friendliness

Times in which websites were optimized for search engines alone are long gone. Instead, the user is the focus of attention. He should feel comfortable on the site, i.e.:

Google can track user behaviour, can see how long a user stays on the site, how quickly he jumps off and switches to the next search result, whether there is any interaction with the page, etc.

Navigation architecture

This must be structured in such a way that search engine crawlers can easily and securely capture the website. For example, each subpage should contain a link to the home page, among other things.

Backlinks

Even if Google has often pointed out that the role of backlinks as a ranking factor has changed, the search engine still cannot do without them, if only because they form a relatively easily measurable value. So the ranking is still influenced by backlinks, but not simply by the number of links, but by their quality. The link quality is influenced, among other things, by the topic relevance, the link texts and the quality of the linking page.

Keywords

The keyword density, which once was one of the ranking criteria, is no longer important today, but this does not mean that pages should no longer be optimized for one keyword. A keyword is still relevant for every single page to show Google what the core of the page is about. Whether it is then relevant for this term and rewarded with a good ranking depends on the subject environment of this keyword, i.e. Google checks to what extent the entire text content matches it. This is to prevent that pages are optimized for a certain keyword, but that behind it a completely different offer is hidden.

Text contents

Here the keyword is — Unique Content. But it is not only the uniqueness that counts, but also the quality of the text content: How are they structured? Do they deliver relevant information? Do they offer added value? Are the expectations of the headlines fulfilled? All of this flows into the ranking, in some cases not directly, but indirectly via the user experience.

Mobile optimization

As early as 2014, Google has announced that the mobile friendliness of a website will become a ranking factor. Since April 21, 2015, this has been anchored in the algorithm worldwide, i.e. since then mobile-optimized websites have been preferred in mobile searches over non mobile-optimized sites.

Mobile optimization can be realized either through a Responsive Design or a mobile website variant (e.g. as http://m.domain.com/). However, responsiveness alone is not sufficient. You also need to adapt certain technical aspects of the site, e.g. JavaScript, redirects or page speed. Only then can a comprehensive mobile-friendly display be guaranteed.

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