How Does Google Rank Keywords in Blogs?
You’ve given your blood, sweat and tears (so, so many tears) to writing white-hat, fully optimised blogs that you’ve made sue are so fully optimised that even Yoast gives you the green light.
But you just aren’t ranking. And they amount if times you’ve asked yourself “Why” almost surpasses the amount of attempts you’ve made to rank again.
Here is a list of everything Google uses to rank your keywords – h/t to backlinko.com for this excellent article!
Google Ranking Factors for Blogs
- Domain Age
“The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one year old is really not that big at all.” In other words, they do use domain age…but it’s not very important.
- Keyword Appears in Top Level Domain: Doesn’t give the boost that it used to, but having your keyword in the domain still acts as a relevancy signal. After all, they still bold keywords that appear in a domain name.
- Keyword As First Word in Domain: A domain that starts with their target keyword has an edge over sites that either don’t have the keyword in their domain or have the keyword in the middle or end of their domain.
- Exact Match Domain: EMDs may still give you an edge…if it’s a quality site. But if the EMD happens to be a low-quality site, it’s vulnerable to the EMD update:
- Keyword in Title Tag: The title tag is a webpage’s second most important piece of content (besides the content of the page) and therefore sends a strong on-page SEO signal.
- Title Tag Starts with Keyword: According to Moz data, title tags that starts with a keyword tend to perform better than title tags with the keyword towards the end of the tag:
- Keyword in Description Tag: Another relevancy signal. Not especially important now, but still makes a difference.
- Keyword Appears in H1 Tag: H1 tags are a “second title tag” that sends another relevancy signal to Google, according to results from this correlation study:
- Keyword is Most Frequently Used Phrase in Document: Having a keyword appear more than any other likely acts as a relevancy signal.
- Content Length: Content with more words can cover a wider breadth and are likely preferred to shorter superficial articles. SERPIQ found that content length correlated with SERP position:Content Length SEO17. Keyword Density: Although not as important as it once was, keyword density is still something Google uses to determine the topic of a webpage. But going overboard can hurt you.
- Page Loading Speed via HTML: Both Google and Bing use page loading speed as a ranking factor. Search engine spiders can estimate your site speed fairly accurately based on a page’s code and filesize.
- Duplicate Content: Identical content on the same site (even slightly modified) can negatively influence a site’s search engine visibility.
- Rel=Canonical: When used properly, use of this tag may prevent Google from considering pages duplicate content.
- Page Loading Speed via Chrome: Google may also use Chrome user data to get a better handle on a page’s loading time as this takes into account server speed, CDN usage and other non HTML-related site speed signals.
- Image Optimization: Images on-page send search engines important relevancy signals through their file name, alt text, title, description and caption.
- Recency of Content Updates: Google Caffeine update favors recently updated content, especially for time-sensitive searches. Highlighting this factor’s importance, Google shows the date of a page’s last update for certain pages.
- Magnitude of Content Updates: The significance of edits and changes is also a freshness factor. Adding or removing entire sections is a more significant update than switching around the order of a few words.
- Keyword Prominence: Having a keyword appear in the first 100-words of a page’s content appears to be a significant relevancy signal.
- Keyword in H2, H3 Tags: Having your keyword appear as a subheading in H2 or H3 format may be another weak relevancy signal. Moz’s panel agrees:
- Keyword Word Order: An exact match of a searcher’s keyword in a page’s content will generally rank better than the same keyword phrase in a different order. For example: consider a search for: “cat shaving techniques”. A page optimized for the phrase “cat shaving techniques” will rank better than a page optimized for “techniques for shaving a cat”. This is a good illustration of why keyword research is really, really important.
- Outbound Link Quality: Many SEOs think that linking out to authority sites helps send trust signals to Google.
- Outbound Link Theme: According to Moz, search engines may use the content of the pages you link to as a relevancy signal. For example, if you have a page about cars that links to movie-related pages, this may tell Google that your page is about the movie Cars, not the automobile.
- Grammar and Spelling: Proper grammar and spelling is a quality signal, although Cutts gave mixed messages in 2011 on whether or not this was important.
- Number of Outbound Links: Too many dofollow OBLs may “leak” PageRank, which can hurt that page’s rankings.
- Multimedia: Images, videos and other multimedia elements may act as a content quality signal.
- Number of Internal Links Pointing to Page: The number of internal links to a page indicates its importance relative to other pages on the site.
- Quality of Internal Links Pointing to Page: Internal links from authoritative pages on domain have a stronger effect than pages with no or low PR.
- Broken Links: Having too many broken links on a page may be a sign of a neglected or abandoned site. The Google Rater Guidelines Document uses broken links as one was to assess a homepage’s quality.
- Reading Level: There’s no doubt that Google estimates the reading level of webpages. In fact, Google used to give you reading level stats:
- Affiliate Links: Affiliate links themselves probably won’t hurt your rankings. But if you have too many, Google’s algorithm may pay closer attention to other quality signals to make sure you’re not a “thin affiliate site”.
- Page Host’s Domain Authority: All things being equal, a page on an authoritative domain will rank higher than a page on a domain with less authority.
- Page’s PageRank: Not perfectly correlated. But in general higher PR pages tend to rank better than low PR pages.
- URL Length: Search Engine Journal notes that excessively long URLs may hurt search visibility.
- Human Editors: Although never confirmed, Google has filed a patent for a system that allows human editors to influence the SERPs.
- Page Category: The category the page appears on is a relevancy signal. A page that’s part of a closely related category should get a relevancy boost compared to a page that’s filed under an unrelated or less related category.
- WordPress Tags: Tags are WordPress-specific relevancy signal. According to Yoast.com:
- “The only way it improves your SEO is by relating one piece of content to another, and more specifically a group of posts to each other”
- Keyword in URL: Another important relevancy signal.
- URL String: The categories in the URL string are read by Google and may provide a thematic signal to what a page is about:
- Bullets and Numbered Lists: Bullets and numbered lists help break up your content for readers, making them more user friendly. Google likely agrees and may prefer content with bullets and numbers.
- Page Age: Although Google prefers fresh content, an older page that’s regularly updated may outperform a newer page.
- User Friendly Layout: Citing the Google Quality Guidelines Document yet again:
- Useful Content: As pointed out by Backlinko reader Jared Carrizales, Google may distinguish between “quality” and “useful” content.