It’s speculated that over 200 different ranking factors determine a site’s performance on Google’s search engine results page (SERP). Some of these factors, such as domain authority, user experience, and click-through rate, are incredibly important to your page’s performance on the Google SERP.
However, optimizing many additional smaller factors can make a huge difference in the fight to improve your website’s rankings on the SERP. Below is our list of lesser-known Google ranking factors that are often overlooked but can have a huge impact on your site’s rankings when optimized.
23 Lesser Known SEO Google Ranking Factors You Should Know
Optimized metadata is a great way to ensure that your site is appearing for the most relevant search queries. Consisting of title tags, meta descriptions, and H1’s, metadata should be keyword-focused yet reader-friendly.
Below are 4 lesser-known Google ranking factors to consider when optimizing your metadata:
Title Tag Starts with Keyword
Google recommends that your title tag, which should be no more than 60 characters, should include your targeted keyword as close to the beginning as possible. This ensures that search engines (and users) will see the keyword early on and better understand the page’s content.
Keywords in Meta Description
While including keywords in meta descriptions is not an official Google ranking factor, doing so can drastically improve click-through rates and in turn, lead to better rankings. Meta descriptions should be written for users, not search engines, so including keywords in a meta description acts as a signal to users that your page includes the content they are looking for. In addition, Google frequently bolds the search query in the meta description, which can help your result stand out.
Keywords in H1
The H1 for your page acts as a ‘second title tag’ and can serve as a relevancy signal to Google. By including target keywords in your title tags, you are providing Google with more information about the page’s content, which can help it rank higher for more search queries.
Duplicate Meta Data
Duplicate metadata is a trap that many sites fall for. It’s easy to use the same title tag, meta descriptions, and H1’s for various pages on your site. However, this is hurting your page’s rankings as your pages cannibalize each other for the same keywords and search queries. We recommend using a service such as Screaming Frog to crawl your website for duplicate metadata and implement unique title tags, meta descriptions, and H1’s for as many pages as possible.
High-quality content is perhaps the most important Google ranking factor. Generating keyword-rich content that is digestible for both users and search engines to understand is the key to ranking high on the Google SERP.
Below are 6 ranking factors to consider when crafting your site’s content:
Similar to the way in which duplicate metadata can have a cannibalizing effect on your site’s Google SERP performance, duplicate content on multiple pages of your site can harm your Google rankings. To avoid this issue with pages that have very similar or duplicate content, you should implement rel=canonical tags. These tags will tell Google to only list a chosen, more authoritative page to appear on the SERP and prevent duplicate content ranking penalties.
While mostly contributing to a better user experience rather than being a direct Google ranking factor, the use of images, videos, audio, etc. has been proven to help your page rank higher on the SERP.
Google favors longer, higher-quality content over short content. When your blog posts and other pages have more content, it gives Google more opportunity to crawl the page for relevant keywords and discern the best search queries to display your pages for. Having longer content also gives you more room to include targeted keywords, synonyms, and related keyphrases.
Table of Contents
A table of contents is a small and simple way to boost both UX and Google SERP rankings for your site. A table of contents helps Google better understand your page’s content and also acts as an opportunity to include more relevant keywords in your H2 and H3 tags.
Keyword density is a tricky balancing act for SEO and content strategists. On the one hand, your content should be stocked with targeted keywords to ensure your page is showing up for the desired search queries. On the other hand, however, keyword stuffing can negatively affect your page’s Google SERP performance. Best practices recommend writing your content to naturally include keywords, related terms, and synonyms without going overboard. At the end of the day, your content should be written for users, not for Google.
Bullets and Lists
Google (and readers) love bullets and listicles. Content that is broken down into bulleted or numbered lists makes reading your page easier for users. In addition, Google seems to favor content with lists, especially for featured snippets. When crafting blog posts and other content, it’s important to consider using lists where possible to ensure higher SERP rankings.
These days, it doesn’t take very much, if any, coding experience to make SEO optimizations to your site. Many tools exist to help you improve the technical aspects of your site and boost your page’s search engine rankings.
Be sure to also check out our Ultimate Technical SEO checklist for additional technical SEO tools and strategies.
Below are 9 simple yet impactful technical ways to improve your page’s SERP performance.
- Page Speed
Google’s research suggests that 53% of mobile users will leave a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Optimizing your page to load as quickly as possible without sacrificing any important or necessary features is pivotal in your SEO strategy. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to learn how your site’s speed fares and see what improvements you can make to decrease load time.
- Outbound Link Authority
Outbound links, or external links, are a great way to increase your page’s authority and trust flow. Where possible, you should link to high-quality, trusted sites to help boost your page’s rankings.
- Inbound Link Authority
Receiving inbound links, or backlinks, from trusted pages with high domain authority signals to Google that your page can also be trusted. That being said, inbound links from spammy sites with low trust flow should be avoided as much as possible. Use a tool like Screaming Frog to regularly analyze your backlinks and disavow ones that seem to be from spammy, inappropriate, or entirely irrelevant sites.
- Broken Links
Broken links serve as a quality signal to Google. A page that is full of broken links indicates a site may be abandoned or of lower-quality. You should regularly check old blog posts and other pages on your site to ensure that there are no links with 404 or other errors.
- URL Length
Google prefers short, concise URL’s to ones that are long, complicated, and full of unnecessary numbers and letters. To help ensure your page ranks well, we recommend implementing concise yet descriptive URL paths that will keep your URL’s short but sweet.
- Schema Markup
Schema markup is a small but important way to stand out on the Google SERP. A snippet of code can be added to your site to show additional information about your organization, upcoming events, and product reviews below your search result. Check out our blog to learn more about the different types of schema markup and how to implement them on your site.
- Breadcrumb Linking
Breadcrumb linking, a type of schema markup, is a powerful UX tool. Appearing just under your page’s title tag on the Google SERP, breadcrumb linking lets Google know exactly where in your site this page is located. This can be especially useful for an ecommerce site that has a large catalog of products across different categories and helps Google better understand the best pages to show on the SERP.
- Excessive 301 Redirects
Having excessive 301 redirects in your internal links and backlinks can harm your page’s Google SERP rankings. In the case of internal links, you should be sure to update links to the final, end-state URL rather than send users through a 301 redirect path. In the case of redirected backlinks, it’s worth reaching out to organizations and other sites that are using your outdated links and ask them to update them accordingly.
The use of secured HTTPS encryption versus the unsecured HTTP has been a ranking factor since 2014, but it’s worth reminding everyone, especially those with older sites, to make the update. Even if you have already made the change, it’s also a good idea to check your XML sitemap to ensure that it is also pointing to your new HTTPS URL’s.
Click-through rate is also one of the most important Google ranking factors. Sites that are user-friendly and intuitive often see higher click-through rates and in turn perform better on the Google SERP. Below are 4 ranking factors to consider when optimizing your UX:
- Mobile Usability
With nearly 60% of searches being done on mobile devices, mobile usability optimizations are essential for performing well on the SERP. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to get a gauge of how your mobile site can be improved to boost UX and rankings.
- Site Usability
While not an official ranking factor, site usability has an indirect effect on your site’s Google SERP rankings. Sites that aren’t intuitive and are difficult to navigate will increase bounce rate and reduce the time users spend on your pages. Check out our UX blog series to learn more about creating a user-friendly site.
- Alt Tags
Alt tags are short descriptions for images on your website. These alt tags, while not having a huge impact on Google SERP rankings, can give your site a small SEO boost. The descriptions make your site more accessible and gives Google more relevancy signals to the type of content that is on your site’s pages.
- Interstitial Pop-Ups
Interstitial pop-ups are large pop-up ads and messages that appear on a user’s screen when they click on a page, blocking the content behind it. These pop-ups can be aggravating and often lead to users bouncing from the page. Thankfully, Google started penalizing pages with interstitial pop-ups and it’s important to consider this when crafting any pop-up messaging on your site.