People say all kinds of things are ranking factors. But the truth is, Google has never confirmed most of them.
This leads to a lot of misinformation and bad advice.
In this guide, we will explore eight ranking factors that we know Google uses.
Backlinks are clickable links from one website to another.
In 2016, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev confirmed that they are one of Google’s strongest ranking factors.
But not all backlinks are the same. Some move the needle more than others.
Nobody knows what makes the backlink perfect, but Google says you should build them from other major websites on the subject.
Google has systems in place to help it understand what users want. You too have to figure this out if you want to rank.
How? There is no foolproof formula, but the best results offer clues.
For example, most of the top results for “air fryer” are blog posts with top picks. This indicates that the researchers are in search mode, not purchase mode. As a result, it probably makes more sense to target this keyword with a blog post on an ecommerce category page.
If you then link these pages to Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool as well, you can see their common keyword rankings. These often reveal important subtopics.
For example, five pages that rank for “air fryer” also rank for keywords related to top brands.
If you want to rank for this keyword, it probably makes sense to mention brands in your post.
Freshness is a query-dependent ranking factor. It is stronger for queries that require new results. That’s why the best results for “new netflix shows” are pretty new, but the results for “how to solve a Rubik’s cube” are old.
If freshness is a big deal for your keyword, refresh your page often or post new articles to keep up with demand.
HTTPS improves security for your website visitors. It has been a slight Google ranking factor since 2014.
If your website does not use HTTPS, you will see an “Not Secure” warning in your browser.
If this is a problem, install a TLS certificate.
Compatibility with mobile devices has been a ranking factor on mobile devices since 2015. When Google moved to mobile first indexing in 2019, it became a ranking factor on desktops as well.
Use the Mobile usability report in Google Search Console to see if you have any problems.
Page speed is a ranking factor on desktop and mobile.
However, when it comes to SEO, the name of the game isn’t making your site lightning fast, but fast enough. This is because Google demotes only the pages that give users the slowest experience.
Here’s a quick way to get an idea of your site’s page speed:
- Get a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT) account
- Scan your website using Site Audit
- Go to Performance report
- Check the distributions “Time to first byte” and “Load time”.
In general, the greener you see, the better.
Core Web Vitals measure the loading performance, interactivity and visual stability of a page. Google uses three metrics to do this: Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
Check the Performance report in Ahrefs’ Site Audit to get an idea of your site’s performance.
If you see a lot of red and yellow, you may want to work on making things better.
The Major Web Vitals report in Google Search Console also provides a good overview.
Interstitials are overlaps of pages. Google considers them intrusive when they obstruct a user’s view of the content. This is because they interrupt and frustrate users, leading to a poor experience.
Google made intrusive interstitials a negative ranking factor in 2017. They are now part of the Page Experience signals.
Here are Google’s recommendations when it comes to interstitials:
- Use banners instead of interstitials.
- Don’t obscure the entire page with interstitial ads.
- Do not redirect the user to a separate page for their consent or input.
Many other things can directly or indirectly affect your site’s ability to appear and rank on Google. Find out more in these guides: