Top SEO ranking factors 2022, are you struggling with ranking your site on the first page of Google? We believe there must be a number of methods you’ve tried, some tested, others speculated, and the rest just based on the assumptions of SEOs.
Or maybe you’re just building a new site and want to start from scratch with a proper strategy for the quickest possible ranking. Whatever the reason, it’s the list of Google’s ranking factors that you look for, don’t you?
Google’s algorithm is one of the trickiest things since the search engine uses well over 200 ranking factors and a diverse range of metrics. Well, we’ve made it all simple for you right here.
We’ve compiled a list of around 200 ranking factors that Google necessarily, may, or may not use. They include domain factors, page & site-level factors, linking & UX factors, webspam factors, and much more – you’re in for a nice SEO treat down here. Let’s begin:
There’s a wide misconception that Google, by default, ranks older domains and considers them as more authoritative ones. But this isn’t the case actually, since Google’s search advocate, John Mueller, has something else to say. “No, domain age helps nothing”, says Mueller in a tweet.
Keywords in Your Domain
If you have a keyword in your domain name, never think it will contribute to boosting the SEO of your website. The keyword in the top domain might still act as a relevancy signal for the crawler. But it no longer boosts SEO.
Domain registration length is crucial, according to Google’s own patent application. Google determines the legitimacy of a domain based on its registration length. A domain registered for several years is most likely to be legitimate. Similarly, a “doorway” domain is less likely to be used for more than a year, thus deemed illegitimate by Google.
Source: Google patent
Keyword in Subdomain
A keyword in the subdomain works as an important top SEO ranking factors 2022. That’s because it helps you increase on-page optimization in each URL. And that is something agreed upon and acknowledged by the SEO expert panel of Moz.
If a website’s owner is constantly changing or it keeps dropping, Google might delete the domain ownership history. In such a case, the website will end up losing the backlinks leading to that domain.
Exact Match Domains
The Exact Match Domains do not have any significant impact on SEO boosting. The new update has made us get rid of what was believed to be a loophole in Google’s algorithm.
Public vs Private WoIs
It’s understandable to hide WhoIs contact information from users using privacy services. Private WhoIs, however, do not have a direct or indirect harmful impact on your site’s SEO. The reason is that, by choosing private WhoIS, you’re actually letting the search engine know that your site is valuable & trustworthy, and that you do not want to be spammed.
Penalized WhoIs Owner
If any individual is identified as a spammer by the search engine/Google, every other site owned by that particular person is bound to be scrutinized by Google, and rightly so! So, when buying a domain, make sure that the WhoIs owner is not penalized by Google for any other website.
Country TLD Extension
A Top Level Domain with a specific country code may help in ranking a site in that particular country. But ranking globally might become even more challenging for a country’s TLD extension (such as .au, .in, .ca)
Keyword in Meta Title
According to research conducted by Backlinko, there’s “essentially zero” contribution of keyword inside your title tag for site ranking on the first page.
Title Tag Starts with Keyword
A title tag starting with the exact match of the keyword is an important ranking factor, as pages with such title tags are likely to rank higher in the SERPs.
Keywords in Meta Description
Keywords in the description tag may be an indirect factor for ranking on Google, such as the CDR (clickthrough rate) that determines the performance of your keywords and ads. But Google doesn’t directly consider keywords in the description tag for ranking.
Keyword in H1
The H1 tag, right there at the top of the page, is one of the most important tags that tell Google about the content of the page. In simpler terms, it’s a “secondary relevancy signal” for the search engine, thus should contain the keyword alongside the summarization of the page’s content.
TF-IDF/Keyword Frequency in Content
TF-IDF is a crucial numerical statistic to determine the frequency of a certain term in a specific document. Google uses a form of this statistic to determine the relevancy of the search query with your site. Therefore, the more you’re using your keyword throughout your content, the more the chances of higher rankings. However, ensure natural insertion of keywords and beware of keyword stuffing and cannibalization.
Content length or essentially the word count is yet another important top SEO ranking factors 2022 that most SEOs tend to overlook. Google considers lengthier articles as more value-adding ones as compared to short ones since longer content would cover just about every aspect of the search query, as concluded by Backlinko’s research.
Table of Contents
The Table of Contents is a rather simple yet important element to assist Google in ideally understanding the intent of your site. Google might as well create site links using the linked H tags in the Table of Contents.
LSI Keywords in Content
Although the primary keyword is of all importance, LSI keywords hold enough value to dissect the actual meaning of your primary keyword, particularly if the search quality has multiple meanings. This evidently proves that LSIs are an important factor to determine content quality.
LSIs in Meta Title & Description
For Google’s search crawler, LSI is just as important a relevancy signal in meta tags as in the content. The presence of LSI keyword(s) in meta title & description would tell Google the actual meaning of the primary keyword.
If the content on your page offers in-depth coverage of the topic and mentions & explains every aspect, it is likely to rank higher than the pages offering just an overview or partially covering the topic.
Source: Topic In Depth
Page Loading Speed
Website and page loading speed matter a lot! It’s an important ranking factor for Google; the reasons are obvious. The page loading speed determines the user’s experience on the site, something that Google’s algorithm deems crucial.
Accelerated Mobile Pages
The AMP isn’t regarded generally as a direct factor for Top SEO ranking factors 2022. But the Canonical tag for AMP might be used by Google to determine the quality of the content, page, and site.
Your site is likely to get higher rankings if your content matches the entity required in the search query.
The “2013 significant change in Google’s algorithm”, also known as Google Hummingbird, now allows the search engine to emphasize the natural language and take into account the search intent & context of the query, rather than just limiting itself to the keywords.
Duplicate content refers to the matching content (or just slightly different content) on the same site. If your site has duplicate content, you need to change it to 100% unique, as it impacts your site’s visibility on the search engine.
Canonical Link Element
Rel=“canonical” or Canonical Link Element is an ideal tool to resolve duplicate content issues. When used, it would mention to Google that a particular link or URL represents the master copy of the page, rather than the page itself. Having these issues resolved certainly would work as an indirect factor to improve ranking.
Yet another relevancy signal for the search engine is the image, and it’s the crucial one! Optimize the images by shortening the file name, creating the relevant title, writing a short description, using a relevant caption, and adding keywords in the image alt text.
Google tends to prefer newly published or recently updated content, particularly for the queries that require results in real-time. Google might show the date of publishing based on the search intent and time sensitivity.
Content Updating Strategy
It’s not just about a mere update of the content. Rather, your updating strategy, i.e., what you’re updating, how you’re updating, and how much value you’re adding also matters for Google. If you’re replacing the entire section of, let’s say, an H3 or H4 heading, it’ll carry more worth as compared to just rearranging or aligning the readily written content.
Page Updating Strategy
The frequency you’re updating your page also matters! The more often and more periodically you update the page’s content, the more would it be considered “fresh” for Google.
Prominence of Keyword
As suggested by most SEO tools such as Yoast, Semrush, and Ahrefs, your keyword appearing in the first 100 words of the content does contribute to the page or site ranking. When curating the content, ensure that your primary keyword appears in the very first paragraph to improve the clarity of the topic for Google.
Keywords in H2 & H3 Tags
Let me quote Google’s John Mueller again: “These heading tags in HTML help us to understand the structure of the page.” This necessarily means that the keywords appearing in smaller H tags could be a crucial ranking factor as well.
Authority of Outbound Link
An “outgoing link experiment” conducted by RebootOnline that linking to the websites with higher authority contributes to the search engine’s trust in your site, which eventually helps in ranking higher in the SERPs.
The theme of Outbound Link
Now this one is interesting. The theme, or (to be precise) the content of the outbound link may be an important relevancy signal for the search engine. Try to add outbound links that are closely related to the niche of your site.
Grammar & Spelling
Although that is something purely relevant to the content rather than the technical aspects of SEO. But the quality of content holds massive worth for Google, as the search engine would only rank the website with the finest quality content for a better user experience.
A rather straightforward, yet critical point – do not ever plagiarize the content on your site or page. Google won’t index such content in the first place; even if it got indexed, forget about finding it on the first page of Google. Always prefer original & unique content.
The name given to the 2015 update in Google’s algorithm, the “Mobilegeddon” update was mainly to prioritize the websites with smartphone-friendly displays and specifically optimized content for mobile phones.
Similar to “Mobile-geddon”, the websites with better mobile phone usability and smartphone-friendly layout are likely to rank higher against those limited to just desktop-friendly display and layout.
Hidden Content on Mobile
“Hidden content on mobile is okay, as long as it is not some critical information”, says John Mueller. But hidden content is still less likely to get indexed on Google, so try making it fully visible in mobile view as well.
Supplementary content refers to the additional information on the header menu, navigational buttons, and other static bars & elements. It doesn’t directly concern the ranking or SEO. However, it improves the quality of your page which itself is an indirect ranking factor.
Content Behind Tabs
If there’s content “hidden” behind the tabs, it won’t be indexed, as per John Mueller. So, do not bother adding primary keywords or LSIs in that particular space.
Dofollow Outbound Links
Adding the dofollow outbound links is indeed a fancy idea. But too many of them would rather lead Google astray from ranking your page.
Videos & Infographics
Try to add as many infographics as required to cover the topic deeply, that too without hurting the website loading speed. Images, videos, and infographics, particularly to furnish the statistical data help a lot in improving the quality of the content.
Number of Internal Links
Add as many internal links as you can, so as to improve the relevance of your page within the site – a major relevancy signal indeed!
Authoritative Internal Links
Always try to use the authoritative pages with high PageRank for internal linking rather than insignificant pages, since the pages with high authority do have a positive impact on your page’s SEO, according to Moz’s research article.
Look out for the broken links! If there’s a huge number of broken links on your page, Google would consider it as an abandoned page, which might turn disastrous for your page ranking.
Reading level or content readability, although, doesn’t have direct relevance to SEO. However, readable content with a good flow is considered a quality sign by Google, since it offers a good user experience.
Add as many affiliate links as you want on your site, but beware of turning your site into a “thin” affiliate site, one where content lacks originality, product descriptions & features are copied directly, and the content itself doesn’t add value for the users, according to Google.
Flawed Coding or HTML Errors
Coding flaws and errors in HTML may hint at the poor quality of the site. That is the reason W3C validation is regarded as “essential” for many SEO specialists, as complying with these standards would improve the page’s formatting and would result in higher traffic flow.
If certain aspects (such as content relevancy & quality) are considered at par, a page with higher domain authority/rating would rank better as compared to the one with lower domain authority/rating.
According to Moz, “Page Authority is the predictive ranking strength of a single page.” Such pages (with higher authority or rating) are destined to rank better than others.
Long vs Short URLs
Short URL pages are likely to rank higher than long ones. The reason, of course, is the search engine visibility – the shorter the URL, the better the search engine visibility.
URL path determines how close a page is to the homepage, which also works as a ranking factor. The pages closer to the homepage might fare better against the ones having a complex path to the main URL/homepage.
A Google’s patent hints at allowing human editors to manipulate the search engine result pages. However, the confirmation is yet to follow.
Yet another relevancy signal is the page’s category. Make sure that the page is closely related to the category it is put under. If a page does not have direct relevance to its category, it might struggle in ranking higher.
Keyword Appearing in URL
Time to quote John Mueller again: “Keyword in URL is a Top SEO ranking factors 2022, albeit a very small one”, well doesn’t matter if it’s a small ranking factor, you should prefer adding keywords in the URL for obvious reasons.
We just discussed the relevance of the page with the category. Well, the same goes for the URL string. Google shall read your URL string to understand what the page & the category is about, and how closely they are related.
References, Sources & Citations
Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines clearly mention the importance of citing references and sources for certain content (for instance, any sensitive information, statistics, crucial data, facts & figures, legal documents, and more). Please note that citations are purely for content quality and factuality. What site you’re linking for reference doesn’t have anything to do with ranking or SEO.
Bullet Points, Checklists & Numbered Lists
These parameters directly concern the content readability & quality and indirectly concern content optimization. Decluttering the dense paragraphs and creating bullet points, checklists, and numbered lists would make your content reader-friendly.
Sitemap helps the crawler understand the itinerary, or to be precise, the content of your site. Prioritize the pages on the sitemap that you want to rank quicker and higher.
Excessive Outbound Links
As we mentioned earlier, too many “quality” outbound links may distract Google from the main content, as quoted by Google itself!
Ranking for Related Keywords
If you’re ranking a page for multiple keywords, in addition to the primary keyword, it necessarily works as a strong relevancy signal for the search engine, to a level that Google might rank your page for “similar” search queries as well.
It is believed that Google gives priority to the newer content owing to the freshness of the information. However, if you’re constantly updating your existing page, it will rank higher in the results regardless of its age.
A user-friendly layout, according to Google, is one where the main content is immediately visible to the users. Prefer simplicity over intricacy.
Parked domains are no longer “highly visible” in the search results, after the 2011 update in Google’s algorithm.
Useful vs Quality Content
Although closely interrelated, quality and usefulness might differ in Google’s view. The usefulness of the content refers to the popularity or what exactly a user wants. Whereas, the quality concerns accuracy, authority, correctness, and factuality. A balance between both is crucial!
Unique & Value-Driven Content
Yet another point that strengthens the importance of content quality; Google never considers ranking a page with plagiarized or spun content with a dearth of value. That’s one of the reasons that relying wholly on AI-content generating tools may add zero value to your page and eventually to the site.
Contact Us Page Content
Up here in the list of factors, we raised a couple of WhoIs points. Now, before adding your contact information to your site’s “contact us” page, ensure that it matches your WhoIs information. Also, Google would likely prefer ranking a site with significant contact information.
Domain trust refers to the trustworthiness of a website, and this “maybe” another ranking factor as hinted by this patent. There is no standardized set of techniques to build domain trusts. SEO specialists, around the globe, exploit their respective ways to increase the sites’ trust rank.
Optimize the structure of your website for better ranking, as this may allow Google to crawl, organize, and eventually index your pages.
We’ve discussed at length about the age, freshness, and updates of content. But site updates are equally important as well. For instance, when new content is added, the latest products are added, or an all-new section is placed, it’s prudent to check your website for user experience and update it accordingly. It is prudent, however, to note that Google does not care about publishing frequency (how often you publish new content) when ranking a site. John Mueller’s tweet is quoted right here for reference!
Well, this might seem an obvious point after we’ve discussed the page priority on your website’s sitemap. But we still find it necessary to mention that a sitemap would allow a search engine to organize and index your site easily (not HTML site indexes though, if John Mueller is to be believed).
Got site maintenance, structuring, or server issues? Well, resolve them quickly and shorten your site’s downtime as much as you can, or else, you might end up having your site derated or even deindexed.
Server location is also crucial for location-specific searches and might as well play a role in ranking your site in a particular location.
According to Google’s search central blog, HTTPS is a significant Google ranking factor, albeit works as a “tiebreaker” if two sites with HTTP vs HTTPS are at par with all other SEO metrics.
EAT stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness”, and is a significant part of Google’s algorithm according to the search quality evaluator guidelines by Google. Note that EAT isn’t essentially a ranking factor, but rather a criterion for Google to judge content quality. Now, there are no specified metrics to define EAT scores. Prioritize a subject matter expert to gain the required level of expertise, make your website an authority in your chosen niche, and cite references to build trust among your audience.
Make sure all the Metadata across your website is unique. Copying meta information may confuse the crawler, eventually hurting the visibility of your site.
Breadcrumbs in Website
Breadcrumbs refer to the secondary navigation buttons or links that keep you (as a user) updated about your exact location on the website. According to the Search Central documentation, Google categorizes the page’s information in its search results using breadcrumbs, thus improving the visibility of your site.
According to Hitwise research, around 60% of searches come from mobile phones around the world. Google would certainly value its users, so keep your website “mobile optimized” – after all, this is what the previously discussed “Mobilegeddon” update is all about!
Google owns YouTube! So, expect it to prefer YouTube videos over content for certain search queries (primarily, the guides on technical niches).
Want your users to spend more time on the site, take an action, explore pages, and read the content? Well, you need to improve site usability.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console
Google Analytics and Search Console may improve the rate at which your site or page is indexed. But one of Google’s webmasters is not sure about the direct influence of these web services on site ranking.
Google considers customer reviews as one of the metrics to judge the authenticity of the services of a particular website, as revealed by Google’s own blog post. Build a good reputation for your site by rightfully impressing your customers and garnering positive reviews.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals refers to a service that evaluates the speed, user experience, response rate, and friendly layout of websites. “An important ranking factor, more than just a tiebreaker”, says John Mueller responding to a Reddit query about CWV.
Backlinks from Aged Domains
Aged domains’ backlinks would outperform the newer domains. Therefore, domain age does play a role in site ranking when it comes to backlinking.
No. of Referring Domains
Among the most significant ranking factors is the number of websites linking to your site, i.e., referring domains.
Backlinks from Different IP Addresses
Getting backlinks from different IP addresses may hint at a versatile range of sites pointing to your site, which certainly does improve your authority “dramatically”.
No. of Linking Pages
According to an expert survey and correlation data by Moz, getting multiple linking pages from a single domain may correlate with site ranking.
Anchor Text for Backlink
Anchor text may no longer play a significant role in a site ranking or may not work as a ranking factor anymore. But it still works as a relevancy signal, especially if it is based on your primary keyword.
Image Alt Text
Alt (alternative) text for images simply explains what the image is about in a small statement. Adding the keyword “naturally” in your alt text assists in image optimization.
.edu & .gov Domain Backlinks
Even though Google’s webmaster has cleared the air on the irrelevance of TLD with site ranking, SEO experts still believe that the search engine prefers .edu & .gov domains.
Backlink Page Authority
A backlink from an authoritative page is certainly way more valuable than the one from a least authoritative page. The authority of a page that points to your website is an important ranking factor. So, buckle up and look for websites with high page authority for valuable backlinks.
Backlink Domain Authority
As for the site’s domain authority you’re getting a backlink from, it can be a strong correlation signal according to Moz’s correlation data.
Backlinks from the Competitors
Try garnering backlinks from your competitors (the sites readily rank on the primary keyword you’re targeting). Backlinks from such sites carry weightage since they’re bound to have better page & domain authorities and have close relevance to your site.
Backlinks from Particular Websites
A skeptical belief of SEO experts: “To get maximum value from Google, you need to get backlinks from a set of particular websites.” But it’s unconfirmed & skeptical, as we mentioned!
Backlinks from Bad Neighborhoods
Bad neighborhood is based on websites that have been derated by the search engine for alleged violation of its guidelines. Backlinks from such “bad neighborhoods” may bring down your site’s value before the search engine.
Guest posts still help a lot in improving your website’s authority and eventually contribute to ranking. But beware of violating Google’s link scheme guidelines when publishing excessive guest posts for link building.
“Use sponsored (rel=” sponsored”) or nofollow (rel=”nofollow”) attributes for links created via ads and sponsored campaigns”, says Google. Well, whether we like it or not, nofollow or sponsored attributes are the requirements of the search engine that SEM specialists around the world should follow.
Try linking to the homepage of referring sites to let Google understand the site’s authority more easily.
Google “generally” does not follow the nofollow links, but it may follow in some cases. Any link that you pay for basically counts as (or should be counted as) a nofollow link as per Google’s guidelines.
Versatile Link Types
A large number of links from a similar source may hint at web spam whether it’s excessive guest posting, comments, business listings, or other types of links. Go for multiple sources for versatile link types.