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Shajith Ali
Shajith Ali

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What are the ranking criteria on Google?

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The term “ranking factors” describes the criteria applied by search engines like Google when evaluating web pages in order to compile the ranking of their search results.

Any website editor concerned about their online natural referencing asks all these questions. The referencing of a website and its work of referencing first on Google involves many SEO optimizations that must be deployed to achieve the desired result.

  • How does Google rank the sites that appear in its search engine results?
  • How to optimize the presence of its site to arrive in the first positions on the targeted requests?
  • What are the criteria of relevance that are taken into account by Google?

The algorithms of the Google search engine (whose formulas are secret) analyze the content of websites in order to offer their users the results they want as relevant as possible.

Over the years, the classification criteria have been refined, as has spam detection. The techniques that were effective a few years ago are no longer the same today, forcing SEO specialists to refine their methods and to identify more and more precisely which optimizations are the most interesting to work on in order to hope to obtain the favors of Google.

What are the ranking factors of a search engine like Google?

Google's ranking factors are a set of criteria, managed by algorithms, that determine a page's ranking in Google's organic search results (excluding paid advertising):

There are two types of ranking factors:

  • The internal factors that depend on your website (content, technique, semantics, internet mesh, etc.)
  • External factors that depend on others (netlinking, social networks, brand signals, etc.)

The ranking factors that make up Google's algorithm are secret, but it is possible to get information and leads on this subject through various sources.

  • Official announcements from Google.
  • Analyzes of patents filed by Google
  • The discussions and statements of the search engine's spokespersons.
  • Analyzes by natural referencing specialists and studies of data from referencing software.

The figure of 200 positioning factors is often announced, impossible to really know, there are probably many more.

Important clarifications on the referencing criteria

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Google's exact relevance criteria is a secret formula. The tests carried out by SEO specialists, the studies carried out and the observation of the patents filed make it possible to define criteria that affect SEO and elements that can be penalizing.

A high correlation does not necessarily mean that it is a ranking criterion. Some notions are presented as important for Google even though it may be a cause and effect relationship.

Let's take an example

It has been found that the pages placed on the first pages of Google generally have more than 1800 words. Does this allow any conclusions to be drawn?

  • Some may advertise that the length of a text is a ranking factor for Google.
  • We also know that the most qualitative articles, therefore generally the longest and most detailed, receive more backlinks.
  • Finally, is it the length of the text that is a referencing criterion or simply the number of links received?

The important thing to remember is that:

  • Quality content makes it easy to share and build inbound links.
  • Quality content promotes your brand image and can generate a quality targeted audience.
  • Long content is more likely to rank on long tail keywords and rank more easily on less competitive keywords than short queries.

Whether certain elements are criteria present in Google's algos, or not, the important thing is to build a coherent global SEO strategy according to your objectives.

In the case of content writing, the question to ask is: What should I address in my article to make it interesting for readers? By answering this question and creating quality content, you will see that the articles will naturally be quite long, semantically rich and will need very little editing.

Quality content, the first ranking factor

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In natural referencing it is customary to say that content is king , it is true. Text is the material that Google uses to classify content.

Content quality

Quality content in the eyes of Google will contain key elements that will allow the search engine to fully understand what the page is about in order to rank it better. A quality title and text must therefore contain specific words that allow Google to clearly identify the subject. This semantic work is therefore important.

Most often when content explores a subject as a whole and provides quality information to the reader, these specific words are naturally included in the written texts.

Quality content will also contain media: images, videos, infographics, drawings, podcasts…

With the appearance of the Google Rankbrain algorithm and artificial intelligence, the understanding of search intent and content is increasingly fine-tuned.

Content length

Long-form content is indirectly favored by Google for several reasons:

  • A long content generally addresses the subject in depth.
  • A qualitatively approached topic is shared and receives links that improve its popularity and therefore its ranking.
  • Longer content is likely to rank for many keyword combinations.

The writing of rich content aims to deal with subjects in depth in order to interest readers in the first place . If the objective is met, interactions with this content will have a positive impact on Google rankings.

Content updating

Freshness as a ranking factor only applies to certain types of websites whose information and knowledge is constantly changing. Google and readers like to see new, unique, and resonant content on sites regularly.

According to members of the Google team, frequency does not guarantee increased visibility and presence in search results, but regularly updated content will remain more relevant to readers and to Google.

Content structuring

It is important to create well-structured content, they make it easier for Internet users to read and allow Google to better index the pages to understand what subjects they deal with. This is called having an SEO Friendly site .

The main content structures are as follows:

  • The page title indicates the main topic of the page.
  • Tags H1, H2, Hn, structure paragraphs and sub-paragraphs.
  • Bulleted lists highlight important ideas.
  • Text enrichment (italics, bold, quotes, highlighting, etc.).
  • Using a table of contents at the beginning of the page allows you to quickly understand what the page will be about.
  • Captions on the photos, information on the various specific tags.

Outgoing links

Links to authoritative pages send trust signals to the search engine. If you want users to learn more about the subject covered, it may be relevant to direct them to other sites dealing with the subject. Not being stingy with external links can bring benefits in terms of SEO.

Backlinks and popularity, the sinews of war

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Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors in Google's algorithm. Links are the foundation on which Google was built and remain a key ranking factor.

The number of backlinks

The number of incoming links is a determining factor of a site's authority . Even if at one time the goal was to have the maximum of incoming links and to create them in an industrial way, Google has since put in place measures to limit the most flagrant abuses.

The number of backlinks remains an important factor, but not in any way.

The quality of backlinks

In terms of netlinking, it is better to favor quality over quantity. Google does not give the same importance to all the links and therefore the same power. It is therefore important to have a qualitative link profile.

What are the criteria of a quality link for Google?

  • A truly natural inbound link, as opposed to buying backlinks.
  • An authority link from a relevant source.
  • A backlink from a trusted and authoritative site.
  • A link from a page with authority.
  • A quality link that generates clicks and traffic.
  • A link placed at the heart of the content in a specific context.
  • A link that makes sense.
  • Various sources of external links.

Different algos allow Google to identify dubious link profiles. So beware of penalties for overly flagrant abuse. An analysis of its incoming links is a job to be done regularly so as not to attract the wrath of Google algorithms with a too dubious backlink profile.

Social signals

Social signals can have a positive impact on the ranking of content on the search engine.

The user experience, to position yourself and convert

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CTR or click-through rate

Click-through rate or CTR is the ratio of the number of times people have clicked on your site in search results. This metric can be taken into account by Google to reevaluate the position of your page in the results.

A low CTR tells Google that your web page does not match the search query.

The bounce rate

Bounce rate defines the percentage of visitors who visit a page and leave without visiting any other page on your website.

A high bounce rate is usually negative because it tells Google that there was nothing on your site that was relevant to your visitor and encourages them to continue visiting.

He may also in some cases simply have found the answer to his search. In this case Google will be able to analyze whether the user has gone back to the search page to find other results.

If a user clicks on your link and then quickly backtracks to the results page, this is telling Google that your web page does not match the user's query.

Reading time

The more time your visitor spends on your page, the more likely your content is to answer the searcher's query.

Site speed and SEO

Speed ​​is also a critical SEO ranking factor, and Google acknowledges using it.

Google uses page speed as a ranking factor in SEO because it plays a fundamental role in user experience and indexing. It's a good idea to use a site speed measurement tool to take stock.

According to Google, users want to find answers to their questions quickly, and data shows that people are genuinely concerned about how quickly their pages load.

Mobile experience

Mobile friendliness and responsive design are now ranking factors for Google . Websites that are not mobile friendly can suffer in search engine results page rankings. Use Google's Mobile Readiness Testing Tool to make sure your site meets mobile UX criteria. This compatibility is all the more important in local SEO in order to meet mobile traffic and Google criteria.

Secure site

A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate provides your website URL with the HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) designation, which tells users that you have a secure site. Google uses HTTPS or SSL as a "very light signal", but it plays an important role in user trust.

Architecture and internal networking

A site architecture and a relevant internal linking of pages will allow visitors and search engines to navigate to your content more easily. Each page of your site must be accessible in 3 clicks maximum in order to facilitate the crawl of Google robots.

Website ergonomics

Websites that provide visitors with an intuitive and smooth interface generally rank better than those that are difficult to navigate.

Advertising and popup abuse

Sites abusing advertising, affiliation and popup can be sanctioned and lowered in Google rankings. It is important to maintain an optimal user experience at all levels.


Your SEO strategy must be global and not focus on specific criteria too restrictively . By setting yourself a clear course of action and an action plan aimed at satisfying the requirements of Internet users and Google, you will build a relevant and effective visibility strategy.

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