A Ranking signal or ranking factor is any characteristic of a website that search engine algorithms might consider when calculating where to rank websites.
Google is infamous for not disclosing the exact details of its algorithms for how they rank websites. Sometimes they give hints as to the metrics they use, but in most cases these pronouncements can be confusing or contradictory.
Most of the time, they just tell website owners to basically not to worry about SEO and that their primary responsibility should be to provide a quality website to their visitors.
SEO is all about making sure the effort is put in so that Google doesn’t find it difficult to find the right websites. And that means identifying the correct metrics that Google uses in its algorithm, so that website owners can then focus on those elements (Ranking Signals) as well.
Just because Google won’t talk about the metrics they use to rank websites doesn’t mean that SEO experts or web creators can’t find out. So if you are doing your own SEO, you may want to focus on the following Ranking Signals / Factors as a priority to increase your rank in the SERP’s.
- Relevant terms. This is the top factor for Google results, and it’s obvious why. After all, you can’t be the top result for “Italian restaurants” if you just have a small blog post about your love for pizza. The top result will probably have a website name that includes “Italian restaurant” in its name, and the website will be peppered with lots of Italian dishes. So if you want to rank highly for certain keywords, you need to make sure that your content focuses on using the relevant terms connected to those keywords.
- Social signals. While some Google reps have said that social signals don’t have any bearing, various studies have suggested otherwise. In fact, of the top 10 metrics suspected of having the most weight in the Google algorithm, 7 of them are social signals. That means you really need to have a strong online social presence, and you need to accumulate Google+1s, Facebook likes, shares, comments, and tweets. It’s an accepted fact that a huge chunk of Internet users at any time are in the social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. And when all these people are talking about your website, Google can’t just blindly ignore these signals. These are obvious indicators that your website is hugely relevant and useful for so many people.
- Back Links. These are the links on other websites which lead back to your own website. The more links you have the better, and they must be high ranking websites themselves. This means that these websites should rank prominently in searches pertaining to your own niche. You may even be penalised if the backlinks come from websites which are entirely unconnected to your own niche. Links in news domains are also valuable, and new backlinks are factored in as well.
It’s estimated that there are about 200 metrics used in the Google algorithm. And it’s obviously, you can’t address all of them effectively all the time. With our above list, at least you can focus on the factors that seem to matter most to Google.