Important Google Ranking Signals
Here is a list of, in my opinion, the most powerful SIGNALS that Google uses to make a ranking decision. I am quite certain other SEO consultants or Digital Marketing agencies have their own opinion, that’s fine, these are mine. I have listed them in no specific order. The bottom line is this – get these right and you are one step further up the ladder than thousands of other websites.
SPEED – quality of User’s Page Experience
This has been the number ONE aspect of essential website improvement in recent years. If your website is slow to load, hard to navigate, does not load on all platforms and medias .. it’s not going to rank.
Thankfully Google have provided an online tool to help website owners check their websites with this PAGE SPEED INSIGHTS tool. There’s also a built-in module withing the Google Search Console (a tool all website owners MUST make use of). The screen captures below are taken from one of my own websites after SPEED improvements were made
I’d strongly recommend making use of the SPEED TOOLS on Google to see how well, or badly your website is doing. SearchEngineJournal have a great article on the need to improve USER EXPERIENCE (*7)
Bulk Page Speed Tester
As an alternative, for those looking to test MULTIPLE pages at once there is this brilliant BULK PAGE SPEED tester from Experte.com. Janis from Experte introduced this product to me “In the past, I made a lot of use of this tool but became frustrated since it only tests one page at a time. To improve upon this, I developed a page speed check that allows you to test hundreds of URLs automatically. All you have to do is enter a URL, and the tool crawls the website and determines the page speed scores for each subpage. The data yielded is identical to the data of Google PageSpeed Insights.“
Action: please visit https://pagespeed.web.dev/ and get started on the road to better user experience. For testing multiple pages we recommend this great tool from EXPERTE.com Please note – you may need help with a developer to implement the suggestions given by these testers. If you are stuck – please get in touch and I will make a few suggestions
Content is still KING
Daft as it may sound, one of the most important elements of any website is CONTENT. If the content is rich, unique, well written and informative visitors will like it. If visitors like it, Google will also like it (*1). Remember, Google is looking at how people interact with your website. If they land on a page, look at it for 1 second and LEAVE (aka bounce) – then Google will wonder if the quality is any good. If visitors land on a page, read it, look around, click a few links and generally interact then GREAT. We have solid content that both visitors and Google will like.
Hows does your content appear to Google
Google doesn’t want you to write content like a robot, attempting to optimise every word for a search engine. It wants your content to be creative and to flow. Google also like to see a good use of Headers from H1 to H4,H5 and even H6. But what does your website’s onpage body text look like to a searchBOT crawling your page for Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo? One proven method of understanding how your page appears to a SearchBOT is with a Body Text Word Cloud. This professional tool analyses the content, density, frequency and prominence of every word on a page to create this Body Text Word Cloud
Body Text Word Cloud Example
Below is an example from my own website. Just glancing at a Word Cloud should be enough to get a good impression of what a page is about and how GoogleBOT will view it. The example below is my main page about the Seiko Samurai Divers Watch. I’m happy with that, no surprises or wasted emphasis.
Action: Please consider my Body Text Density Cloud Audit for just £30. I will crawl 10 pages of your choice (guided by me if required). For each page I will provide a BODY TEXT CLOUD as shown above, PLUS, an equally revealing and important FREE ANCHOR TEXT WORD CLOUD.
Don’t plagiarise other people’s content
Don’t be tempted to find a website that is already ranking well and simply CUT and PASTE their content to your website. Google is VERY GOOD at spotting plagiarsm. Even changing a few words here and there isn’t good enough. Your content has to be exactly that – YOU CONTENT.
Headers and their proper usage (H2)
Google employs artificial BOTS to crawl a website and pick up ranking signals. These signals are used to help GoogleBOT understand what your website is about. The onpage content, as discussed above, is very important. Each section of that content can be, and should be, separated by HEADERS (*2).
Headers Hierarchy (H3)
These headers are split in to a hierarchy. H1 is the MOST IMPORTANT – followed by H2 to H6. Each MAJOR change of subject should be supported by an H1 (or H2). Subsequent paragraphs breaking down the details should filter down from H3 to H6. If each section is as important as the next, it’s fine to make then all H2/H3.
Most people don’t go beyond an H4 (H4)
I personally don’t go much beyond an H4 and I very rarely use an H5 or H6. The normal pattern of a page goes something like this for me:
H1, H2, H3, H3, H2, H3, H3, H4 (one MAIN topic and TWO secondary headings based on the primary with FOUR tertiary levels expanding the secondary) with a final summary H4 at the end
H1, H2, H3, H1, H2, H3, H1, H2, H3, H3, H4
This one have THREE primary categories all covered by the H1. Each has a secondary and tertiary level. Again, it ends with an H4 conclusion or similar.
Action: please consider using my HTML HEADERS AUDIT. This service is included in both my SEO Audits. It is also available individually for just £15. I will provide a CSV/XLS file detailing ALL your website’s H1 and H2 headers. Included in the file are the SOURCE URL allowing you to locate and optimise the header’s content quickly and effortlessly.
Meta Title and Meta Description
The CONTENT and HEADINGS discussed above are all visible to the VISITOR as ON PAGE content. They are also analysed by the GoogleBOT to understand the page. The next sections look at ranking signals that are NOT visible to the user. The first is the HTML attributes of Meta Title and Meta Description (*3)
As displayed in Google Search Results
The Meta Title has TWO primary functions.
- It lets Google know what a webpage is meant to be about BEFORE it even starts to analyse the CONTENT
- It’s the HEADING that is listed in the Google Search Results as shown above
Meta Description – influencing strapline that gets the click
The Meta Description isn’t used for RANKING purposes – but it is the text generally displayed in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) under the TITLE. The main purpose of the description is to convince the searcher to click on your listing. I say “generally” used by Google – if the search engine thinks the description is too “spammy” it will ignore it and supply it’s own. Don’t write a description like “WOW – this is amazing – the best ever website in the world for Seiko Divers watches – AWESOME”. Keep it to point, factual and informative.
These TWO attributes can be viewed with most browsers. Navigate to the page of interest, let’s use the Met Office. Right click your mouse outside the content and press “View Page Source” – then SEARCH for “title”
Action: please consider using my Meta TITLES & DESCRIPTIONS AUDIT. This service is included in my both my ready made Search Engine Optimisations Audits or can be purchased individually for just £15. I will provide a CSV/XLS file detailing ALL your website’s Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions. Included in the file are the SOURCE URL allowing you to locate and optimise the header’s content quickly and effortlessly. I will also add personal commentary and guidance with each deep crawl test.
Image NAMES and ALT text
So we have started to look at the elements of a website that GoogleBOT needs help to understand. Meta Title and Description above are two examples. The next is IMAGES and their ALT names. Here’s an example from my Diver’s Watch website (chronodivers.com)
What the human eye can see is a yellow watch, possibly a diver’s watch. Can we really expect Google to see that? It probably could guess it’s a watch, but why assume. Let’s help Google understand this image as best we can.
The first thing I have done is give the image file a name that tells a story “PRODIVER-YELLOW-MODDED-SEIKO-DIVER-watch-7002-700A.jpg”. That’s a great start. After that I have added some ALT text (used by assisted browsers for people with difficulty accessing websites) “A bright yellow Seiko SUB200T PRODIVER modified dive watch”. Perfect, I have helped GoogleBOT and at the same time assisted someone with partial sight or similar disability to better understand my website.
Image’s ALT TEXT is particularly important when it’s a LINKED image. Accessibility features in web browsers will use this ALT TEXT to tell their visually impaired visitor what they can expect if the image is clicked.
Action: We are pleased to offer an IMAGE ALT text AUDIT. This service is included in both my VITAL SEO Tests or can be purchased individually for just £15. It provides the customer with an XLS/CSV file of all the linked images that are MISSING image ALT text. I will also supply a list of ALL your website images so you can check them for meaningful and descriptive image file names
Internal Anchor Links
Every website should have an easy to follow MENU. The words used in the MENU should be relevant to the content being served at the destination. Likewise, any LINKS within the CONTENT that direct visitors to other pages in the SAME website should be viewed as little signposts. The words used to link from page A to page B should be informative and relevant.
Do you really know how your website has been constructed and what “anchor text” is used to link from Page A to Page B and from Page B and A to the homepage? Let me tell you. My “Internal Anchor Text – WORD CLOUD” will show you in a simple word density graphic how GoogleBOT views your website with regard to internal anchor text. Below is an example of one of my own – No1 Ranking Pages
Example of an Anchor Text Word Cloud
Example of an anchor text word cloud from my own CHRONODIVERS.com website. This page deals with the sale of Seiko Samurai diver’s watches. I have over 2,000 internal links to this page (inluding menus). I’m reasonably happy with the density of anchor text to this page – although I will try to add some more “SALES” related anchors to increase the emphasis on “watches for sale”. Just doing this simple exercise and selecting a page at random I have given myself a ToDo task ?
This example is from my PRIMARY (parent) Seiko Dive Watches page. I’m very happy with the anchor text density cloud here. I don’t want this page to compete with a SPECIFIC model – this is just the general cover all “Seiko Divers Watches”.
Action: Please consider my Anchor Text Density Cloud Audit for just £30. I will crawl 10 pages of your choice (guided by me if required). For each page I will provide an ANCHOR TEXT CLOUD as shown above, PLUS, an equally revealing and important FREE ONPAGE CONTENT WORD CLOUD as shown below.
Example of a Body Text Word Cloud
This example is again from my own website. This page is the main information page for all the Seiko Divers Watches. I’m very happy with this as I can see precisely where the prominence is placed “Seiko Dive Watches”. A Body Text Word Cloud audit is another great way to understand how a searchBOT views your website
Example of content specific linking words (anchors)
For example. On a food website you might say “Last week we looked at how to bake the very apple and blackberry crumble and how to make sure our custard isn’t lumpy” … What some websites would do is add a “click here for more information” link at the end of that sentence. NO! Use the content rich words themselves as ANCHOR text links to the apple crumble and custard page eg
Use as many different SYNONYMS as possible to link from various pages to EACH page. Google will use this ANCHOR text so next time someone searches for “best apple and blackberry crumble recipe” – your site has a great page all about that topic
This is the hardest one to improve – most importantly – DO NOT pay for someone to build you some backlinks! External Backlinks are links from websites OUTSIDE your control. They are often REFERENCE sites or sites within a similar industry as your own. They may be directories or blogs. But most importantly, they must be relevant and of HIGH QUALITY. The only way to get quality backlinks is by building a QUALITY WEBSITE. A website of unique, interesting content will attract links from other related websites.
Avoid TOXIC backlinks
In 2011/12 thousands of websites where DEMOTED in Google when they rolled out an algorithm that could detect TOXIC BACKLINKS. These backlinks existed all over the world, geographically, and often from diverse interest websites. Google realised that a DOUBLE GLAZING company in Southend shouldn’t have 2,000 websites from Thailand to Pakistan and India to Indiana. Previously, people where literally buying backlinks at watching their website CLIMB up the rankings. Google’s PENGUIN algorithm punished these websites and they tumbled down the rankings (*3)
Today – thankfully – Google ignores a majority of these TOXIC backlinks. If it didn’t it would be possible to maliciously attack a third party website. However, if Google PENGUIN taught us anything, it taught us to NEVER BUY BACKLINKS. Earn them through quality and manual networking!
Broken Links – Error 404 – Page not Found
Google doesn’t directly demote a website with a few 404 errors, they happen so it can overlook a handful. However, it’s certainly NOT going to PROMOTE a website in the search engine rankings if the site is littered with dozens of BROKEN LINKS. For that reason alone, I’m going to say that broken links are BAD for SEO. And that is why I offer a comprehensive Broken Link Audit here. For just £15 I will supply a CSV file with all your Error 404 pages with their source and destination. More details here on why too many broken links damages SEO
References for more information
For those interested in reading more about the subject discussed here, here are some useful links