How Google ranks your website

You have now optimised your web page and understand of the importance of finding the right keywords, but what are the ingredients that make up Google’s much-fabled search algorithm?

In a bid to ensure continued provision of the highest-quality results, Google does not publish the specific details of their algorithms. However, through extensive research and testing, the SEO industry does have a good idea of the factors considered relevant and those that tend to yield the best search engine results rankings.

Over 200 different factors are used to judge the quality of a web page. Whilst nobody really knows the exact significance and relevance of each of these variables, we do know what some of the key factors are.

The exact recipe for Google’s search ranking algorithm is a closely guarded secret and constantly evolves.


Keywords are words or phrases that are highly relevant to your web page subject. These words will usually be placed in your page title, and frequently within the text of your web page.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO

On-page optimisation is the optimisation of a website’s content, text, tags, links, and other elements for the benefit of search engines.

On-page SEO enables high-quality content, but also ensures that the site uses compliant coding and has links and navigation that are easy to follow, pages that load quickly, and accessibility for search engine web crawlers to effectively index your content.

In addition to on-page optimisation, web pages benefit from a strong link profile. Your link profile is the collection of external links (from other websites) that point to your own website. Google considers the number of links that point to a particular page as well as the authority of the pages that provide the links and their relevance.

Linking is one area of SEO that has evolved heavily over time. Reciprocal links and links from link farms (pages that have been set up to link to one another, providing little to no content) will not benefit your website long-term, and can eventually harm its reputation. Worse still, these types of links could land you with a Google penalty if your site has an unnatural link profile.

Natural links that have been awarded for the provision of quality content, have originated on relevant pages, and have remained in place for a number of months or years produce the greatest benefit.

If you provide regular, significant content, links will come naturally over time.

Outbound link quality

Outbound link quality

An outbound link on your site directs visitors to a page on an external website. In addition to the inbound links coming from other pages to your website, Google looks at outbound links, as well. Too many links can be considered red flags, and Google may penalise web pages packed full of links in every area of the page.

Links on your own website should only direct to trusted and highly relevant sources. If you place a link on your website, you are vouching for its content and quality, so be sure not to link to a page you wouldn’t be happy to redirect a client or potential customer to. Try to avoid linking to websites that are irrelevant to your page content, but don’t be afraid to link to respected websites, where appropriate. Just be sure these pages are useful to your human reader.

If you want to link to a website but don’t wish to pass your reputation on to it, use the “nofollow” tag.

Social signals

Because social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ function as enormous hives of human interaction, debate and opinion, it is only natural that search engines such as Google try to harness the data these platforms provide. A web page that gets tweeted, liked, shared or commented upon must be offering some value.

Social signals

A number of different social signals, such as comments, shares, and likes, are all deemed to be indicators of the quality of a particular web page. A few of the key social signals used by search engines are:

  • Number of likes of your Facebook page
  • Number of shares, likes or comments on a link posted to Facebook
  • Number of followers on your Twitter profile
  • Number of tweets mentioning your brand name or company URL
  • Number of people who have you in their Google+ circles
  • Number of Google +1s that a web page has secured

Of course, using social media provides other fantastic benefits for your business, especially in terms of brand exposure and customer service. Grow your social media presence with our guides to Facebook and Twitter.

Every year, Google make as many as 600 changes to their search algorithm.

Algorithm changes

Google’s algorithms have undergone major changes in recent years, and what was once considered essential to an SEO campaign may be ineffective now. Reciprocal linking and keyword stuffing were popular because they were effective. Nowadays, they are of little value to a modern SEO campaign, and one might actually see a web page penalised for their use.

It is important to stay on top of the latest changes in order to determine what currently works and what doesn’t. Google is constantly moving the goal posts. Social ranking factors, for instance, would not have featured in this list a couple of years ago, but they are now a prominent addition. Only through regular research and study can you stay up-to-the-minute with the latest goings-on in the Google algorithm department.

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