There are two schools of thought when it comes to Google’s search results ranking factors:
1) there are 200 ranking factors, and
2) there are not 200 ranking factors.
Where did that magic number of 200 come from?
Back in 2009, Google’s Matt Cutts publicly mentioned that Google uses 200 variables to rank search results, and from that point forward, 200 has been the magic number when referring to Google’s ranking factors.
In 2013, Single Grain and Backlinko created a popular infographic that is still passed around and published online today. The infographic listed all 200 of these ranking factors with some details to help anyone and everyone boost their Google search rankings.
Since then, those 200 ranking factors have been updated, but there are many SEO experts who question just how valid a list of 200 Google Ranking factors truly is. In fact, shortly after that infographic was released, the SEO community started questioning it.
It turned out that Matt Cutts also said many of Google’s 200 ranking factors included more than 50 variations or “signals” which brought the total number of signals that Google used to rank search results to 10,000 as far back as 2010.
So what does that mean?
Should you ignore the list of 200 Google ranking factors? Or should you make a checklist of those 200 factors and follow it religiously?
The truth is no one really knows except Google.
However, the SEO community can agree that there is value to each of the 200 ranking factors.
They’re just not all that matters.
In other words, they’re not the complete list of everything Google’s sophisticated algorithm considers as it ranks search results. And of course, the list could change tomorrow because Google is always learning and refining its algorithm – through manual updates and through artificial intelligence and machine learning.
With that said, there are steps that you can take to improve the search rankings for your website without feeling confused or overwhelmed.
SEO experts do agree that certain ranking factors and signals are far more important than others. By improving your website in relation to the most important factors, traffic to your site from Google should increase over time.
Which of Google’s 200 Ranking Factors Should You Prioritize?
The key is to be strategic about SEO. Do you have the time and money to optimize your site (both onsite and offsite) for all 200 ranking factors?
If not, then it’s best to prioritize your efforts and focus on the most important ranking factors.
You can begin by improving your site’s technical SEO to ensure Google sees it as a high-quality site. Poorly written code and structure is indicative of a poor quality site as far as Google’s algorithm is concerned.
Next, make sure your site is optimized for mobile audiences. Google uses a mobile-first index, so it’s critical that your site is mobile-friendly.
In fact, Google penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly, so mobile optimization should be one of your top SEO priorities.
You can test your site’s mobile friendliness using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
Page Loading Speed
Your web pages need to load quickly to rank well in Google search results. Google’s spider evaluates page load speed based on your site’s HTML code and based on data collected from Google Chrome users.
Of course, keywords are important to Google search results rankings, so without overstuffing, try to include relevant keywords in the following places:
- Top-level domain
- First word of the domain
- Title tag
- First word of the title tag
- Description tag
- H1 tag
- First 100 words of the page’s content
- H2 and H3 tags
The content on your website has a significant effect on your Google search rankings, and dozens of the 200 Google ranking factors relate to content.
Most importantly, your content should be high quality, authoritative (including author authority), trustworthy, relevant to the searcher’s intent, unique, current, thorough, useful, and structured so it’s easy to read.
Specifically, here are 11 content-related ranking factors to keep in mind as you create and publish content on your website:
- Content length: Longer content that is more thorough typically ranks higher than shorter content.
- Depth of page content: A page that covers a topic in-depth typically ranks higher than a page that provides less thorough coverage.
- Content value: A page that provides useful content that adds value typically ranks higher than a page with thin content.
- Usefulness: Content should be useful as well as high quality in order to rank high.
- Content structure: Use formatting to make your content easy to read for an SEO boost. This includes using bullets and numbered lists.
- Content layout: Google ranks pages higher when they a user-friendly layout so the main content is easily visible to visitors.
- Duplicate content: Don’t publish the same content on multiple pages of your site (even if it’s slightly different) or Google may penalize your search rankings.
- Syndicated content: Don’t copy content from another website (even if you edit it) because if it’s copied (i.e., scraped) from another page that has been indexed by Google, your page will rank lower or may not be indexed at all.
- Content recency: Newer content, particularly for time-sensitive searches, typically ranks higher than older content.
- Amount of content updates: A page that has been significantly updated typically ranks higher than when only minor edits are made to it.
- Historical content updates: How often a page has been updated over time affects its ranking because it shows how fresh the content is. Google likes fresh content.
Backlinks are also an important part of SEO, but while they can boost your search results rankings, they can also get your site into a lot of trouble if you don’t acquire them honestly. Gaining organic backlinks from authoritative sites should be your goal.
Key Takeaways about Google’s 200 Ranking Factors
While SEO experts may disagree on the number of ranking factors or signals that Google uses in its search ranking algorithm, they do agree that publishing high quality, useful content is always the best strategy to increase Google search traffic.
With that in mind, learn the ranking factors and use them as a guide to create the best content possible. In time, your efforts will pay off with more search traffic – the kind of traffic Google likes and will reward your website for earning the right way.