Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) may be the single most discussed subject among digital marketers today. It informs web design, content marketing, and so much more. That’s certainly understandable; marketing digitisation advances in strides and Google’s dominance continues mostly unchallenged – save for specific markets like China’s. In this context, SEO pretty much equates to online visibility and ignoring it can bring about catastrophic consequences. Embracing does require a firm grasp on the top ranking factors and trends on Google, of course, so let us explore both in some depth.
What are Google’s ranking factors?
First, let’s start with a disclaimer; mapping, analysing, and catering to every Google ranking factor is nigh impossible. Google has always been less than fully transparent about them, and their vast, expansive algorithms don’t much facilitate exploration. Backlinko has identified over 200 ranking factors, for instance, and that list is still third-party research and experiential conclusions.
Still, Google’s ranking factors are what ultimately allow content to rank in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). They gauge such page and content qualities as:
- Authoritativeness and quality
- Page responsiveness and user-friendliness
- User engagement
In brief, they embody Google’s express goal of delivering valuable content to its users. The closer a page matches these factors, the more Google will promote it. Considering that the top 3 results in SERPs syphon the vast majority of clicks, this is absolutely crucial to success.
Top trends on Google
To better contextualise the top ranking factors and trends on Google, let us begin with the latter. Tried-and-true trends should both help outline Google’s aforementioned values and inform your SEO checklists at their core.
#1 Content quality
Content quality is a very elusive quality to properly pin down, as it hinges on an array of factors. These include:
- Content length and depth. Content over 1000 words that offers depth without keyword stuffing typically performs best as regards SEO. Such content typically offers value and satisfies users’ informational intent.
- Content authoritativeness. Backlinks effectively count as endorsements and inform Google of content’s authoritativeness. Linkdepartment.com finds that this benefit, albeit longer-term, offers immense SEO value.
- Finally, user engagement is the ultimate arbiter of quality. Time on page, pages per session, and similar metrics further contextualise websites’ overall value.
Needless to say, this persistent trend will not diminish anytime soon.
#2 Page Experience
Along similar lines, Page Experience is a vital set of metrics as regards rankings. As the name implies, these metrics gauge the user’s experience, from responsiveness to safety and visual consistency. Should you follow the link above, Google is very explicit about its definition and value:
“Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value. It includes Core Web Vitals, which is a set of metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of the page.”
However, it also notes that content quality comes first, and that Page Experience may act as an effective tie-breaker:
“While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.”
This trend too will not subside anytime soon. In fact, WeAreUV reports that a new Core Web Vital metric is in the works.
#3 User search intent
Finally, among top ranking factors and trends on Google lies user search intent. Rather, content matching the user’s search intent. After all, delivering valuable content hinges on both quality and relevance.
There are three main types of search intent, as Ahrefs identifies them:
- These searches seek information, as the name suggests. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most searches carry this intent – with research quantifying “most” as about 80% of all searches.
- Instead, navigational searches seek to navigate to specific known destinations. About 10% of all searches carry this intent.
- Finally, another 10% of all searches carry pure transactional intent; the user is seeking to make a purchase. While comparatively fewer, satisfying these searches does carry significant revenue benefits.
This final trend is also an understandable Google mainstay, and will most likely remain for years to come.
Top ranking factors on Google
With this context in mind, let’s reiterate; Google ranking factors will align with Google’s goal of delivering valuable content. They will gauge content value and authoritativeness and value an impeccable user experience.
So, in no particular order, the following five should qualify among the top ranking factors and trends on Google.
#1 Loading speed and responsiveness
Modern audiences are distinctly impatient and value their time highly. Most marketers know this and have thus produced the truism that speed is crucial. How crucial is it? Well, Google/SOASTA research directly correlates it with bounce rates:
Understandably, bounce rates directly affect conversion rates, and thus final revenue. Every user lost to slow speeds could have been a customer. Thus, even outside of SEO, loading speed offers immense value.
SEO-wise, too, Backlinko highlights this factor as a major one. Google’s Core Web Vitals do so, too, as they directly measure perceived speed through LCP and responsiveness through FID. These qualities directly inform Page Experience, which too informs final SEO rankings.
In brief, there is no escaping the sheer value of fast loading speeds and responsiveness. Users evidently appreciate them both, and so does Google.
Adjacent to responsiveness comes mobile-friendliness. This website quality also overlaps with generally desirable properties and practices, such as:
- A clean interface
- Easy navigation
- Fast loading speeds
Of course, it comes with its own set of challenges. Mobile devices offer less screen real estate, so web designers must take this into account. They may opt for drop-down menus, intuitive breadcrumbs, and similar mobile-minded practices.
How valuable is mobile-friendliness, however? SEO-wise, Google has been indexing mobile versions of websites first since 2018. Mobile-friendliness is an explicit Page Experience ranking signal. Its definition of intrusive interstitials, another Page Experience factor, relies on mobile devices. It has even explicitly promoted this quality manifold as a desirable SEO quality – unlike many other ranking factors.
Even outside of SEO, mobile devices now generate more than half of all online traffic. “Near me” and local searches are also primarily conducted on mobile devices, and very often result in purchases. So practically, too, striving for mobile-friendliness can only benefit a business’s online presence and final revenue.
#3 The user experience
The above top ranking factors and trends on Google culminate into the user experience. This one we have somewhat covered before, through Page Experience, so let us be brief.
The above and Page Experience aside, the user experience includes an array of otherwise standalone SEO ranking factors. Those include:
- Page-level factors. These include keyword placement and density, LSI keywords, content length and depth, loading speed, and others.
- Site-level factors. These include domain age and history, Domain Authority (DA), HTML sitemaps, SSL certificates, and more.
- User interaction signals. Finally, such metrics as bounce rates, repeat traffic, unique visitors, time on page, and pages per session all inform user interaction quality.
All of the above, along with Core Web Vitals and Page Experience, directly inform the user experience – and thus affect rankings.
#4 Content quality
Another crucial ranking factor we have covered before lies in plain content quality. Neil Patel agrees with Bill Gate’s assertion, and so does his research:
For that matter, Google agrees as well. However, content quality hinges on too many factors to properly cover in one article. In brief, indicators of quality that inform Google rankings include:
- Original content always performs better in SERPs, and Google rarely hesitates to penalize lifted content.
- Accurate content typically matches user search intent best, as it seeks to answer specific questions without fluff.
- Media richness. Finally, images and other media also serve to elevate content, facilitate easier reading, and incite engagement.
Clearly, content quality fuels SERP rankings like few other factors – and users evidently appreciate it as well.
#5 Internal and external links
Finally, among top ranking factors and trends on Google lie links. Specifically, both internal links and external links, or backlinks. Backlinks specifically serve as the backbone of SEO, as they both produce traffic and enhance authoritativeness.
Internal links serve a few different, SEO-valuable purposes:
- They ease navigation, enhancing the pages per session metric in the process
- They ensure faster indexing and that no pages are orphaned
- They contextualise each page’s subject for Google’s crawlers through their anchor text
Similarly, backlinks directly fuel SEO:
- All backlinks, whether Follow or NoFollow, produce more traffic
- Follow backlinks specifically enhance DA, serving as an effective endorsement
- Both backlink types attract engaged audiences that already care for your website’s niche
Still, link-building is no easy process. Quality Follow links take considerable effort to earn, and link detoxing is equally important toward avoiding potential ranking penalties. However, few ranking factors are as valuable as it, both SEO-wise and as regards traffic generation.
To summarise, all of the top ranking factors and trends on Google primarily revolve around a single premise. That is, to deliver valuable content and a pleasant user experience to users. From pure content quality to mobile-friendliness and backlinks, Google gauges a wealth of factors to fuel its SERPs. Hopefully, this article helped guide you in the right direction – and toward SEO success.