If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably found out that you can make money by creating your own website. The holy grail that you’re probably aiming for is to get your blog posts on the first page of Google search rankings.
I’m here to share with you what I think are the most important factors that can take you to the top ( or the first page ). Do know that Google’s ranking algorithm is extremely complicated ( and pretty amazing actually ).
I won’t be going through every single little detail, just the most important ones here, but do check out this list of Google’s 200 ranking factors by Backlinko.
To rank highly on Google, you have to please 2 very important people – your readers and Google.
Both factors are important, but if you write for the sake of your readers Google will notice that, so in essence you end up making both sides happy.
On-wards to the list!
1. Useful, Informative and Unique Content
The main purpose of Google is to provide users like you and me with the best and most informative results for our queries. This is why all websites get ranked, according to how useful Google thinks it is.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can just copy the content from the number 1 ranked page for a particular keyword and hope to get your own post ranked on the first page. If Google thinks your post isn’t really adding anything of value to it’s users, it won’t rank you highly.
This applies even if you pass all duplicate content tests. You should aim to add some uniqueness to your content, add a touch of “you” into it.
It is still useful to check out your competition though, read their highly ranked posts and learn a thing or 2 from them. You should then take in all of the information you’ve gathered, along with your own knowledge and produce your own unique post.
Another point to note is that, your post’s word count matters. A longer post would usually have more information in it. The catch here is that there is a difference between a long winded post and a long post filled with information.
While most of the highly ranked posts have more than 2000 words, if you try to stretch your post too much Google will know that. The best advice would just be to write naturally with the intent of helping your readers.
2. Page Loading Speed
Loading speed is a ranking factor for a very good reason in my opinion. If I was searching for something and a website took ages to load, I’d just leave.
It definitely sends a bad signal to Google if people are leaving your page left and right. Google themselves can probably check your site speed based on the amount of code and such ( I have no idea ) but there are other factors as well like your hosting, using a CDN or just optimizing your images for better performance.
So, this isn’t really more of a page speed issue, rather it is more of a bad user experience issue, which Google doesn’t like, so they drop your rankings. It is worth checking your page speed and fixing the issues for better performance.
3. Social Media
This may or may not come as a surprise to you. Google uses social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and many others to help rank your website.
A post with a lot of social shares and social likes will definitely rank higher.
Google’s algorithm isn’t as simple though, the influence of those sharing your post will have a different impact on how much it boosts your rankings as well. Meaning, if someone like Obama shared your post it would be more significant rather than a random dude with a freshly made account.
On the other hand, if you’ve made social media accounts for your website Google will take that as a positive signal as well. The number of followers on Twitter or likes on Facebook can help in boosting your rankings.
4. Time spent on your page
This point is kind of related to point number 1. But before that let’s try asking ourselves, if a lot of users click on your page from Google search and they leave immediately, what would Google think?
Obviously they would think that your post is irrelevant to that particular search term, and they would most definitely drop your rankings. Sometimes this may or may not be true, your post could just be insanely boring which is why people are leaving.
This is why blogging is also a skill in a sense, you don’t just write, you have to plan your headlines, your content structure, the pictures on your page, etc.
Oh, did I mention that even if your post comes up on the first page and no one clicks on it, it can still have it’s rankings dropped. It’s a crueld world out there.
The key thing to note is that your title or headline is extremely important to hook your readers in. Once they’ve clicked on it your content has to be interesting so that they stay hooked. If you master these 2 factors you’ll be well on your way to the top!.
It is probably no surprise that keywords will influence your rankings. If you want to rank highly for a given keyword, you should aim to put them in your title, h1 tag, meta description, alt text and some other places.
Since keywords on your page are used to determine what your page is about, it would make sense to put them in the most obvious places, like the title.
Keyword density is also a factor, and some people recommend a keyword density of about 2%, but I believe this isn’t something to beat yourself up over.
You should be careful though, if you overdo it Google will think that you’re keyword stuffing, and this will actually hurt your rankings.
Also, latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords, which are keywords that help Google understand the meaning of your primary keyword will also boost your rankings. Some phrases might having more than one meaning, like bow.
How does Google know if you’re talking about the action of bowing down, or the bow and arrow?
This is how LSI keywords can help you, if your page has words like shoot, arrow or archery Google will know that you’re talking about the weapon ( weapon is a LSI keyword too! ).
6. Time and Consistency
Another part of the equation for useful content, is also up-to-date content. If you update your posts or website regularly Google will see it as a good sign. Of course updating by changing a couple of words won’t do you much, your update has to make sense and actually benefit your readers.
This is why you should be consistent. If you blog regularly, with a fixed schedule perhaps, it may have a better impact on your rankings than you bursting out a hundred pages a day and go missing for 2 years.
Another theory that I find interesting is something called the Google Sandbox ( might be just a myth ). But it is agreed that if your website is new, Google might not trust you that much. You’re the new kid in town and Google needs time to evaluate you before they can safely trust your website.
There is no way around this and it is just a myth, but do expect your rankings to go up and down in the beginning. Therefore, in my opinion in order for you to rank, you have to be patient and stick with your site for a few months, consistently updating it.
After this sort of “roller-coaster” period only then will you start to see your rankings improve. Then again this could just all be a myth.
7. Site navigation and structure
So, to know more about your site and index it, Google will send it’s trusty spiders ( called GoogleBots ) and crawl your site. They way they move around is by using your links, much like how anyone would do it.
Imagine if your site’s linking structure confuses the hell out of the GoogleBots, chances are they will tell Google that an average user would have trouble navigating your site as well, and this is a no-no for Google.
Google values user experience, so the ease of navigation around your site is something you should pay attention to. A good practice is to show the breadcrumbs so a user can know where they are on your site. Sending Google your sitemap will also help the GoogleBots navigate your site.
8. Mobile Friendly
Since more and more users are using smartphones to do their searches nowadays, it would make sense for Google to consider your website’s mobile pages a ranking factor.
You should aim to have your website load fast on a mobile phone. Another thing is the difference between the mobile version and desktop version of your site. If your site doesn’t have a mobile version then well, Google will drop your rankings, assuming your desktop version is close to unreadable on a phone.
The mobile version should also be easy to read on a smartphone, again for user experience. The good news is most WordPress themes nowadays have a decent mobile version as well, so you might not have to worry too much. But there isn’t any harm in doing a mobile friendliness test.
There are 2 types of links, links to and from your own website and those going in and out of your website.
Linking to other pages on your own website can help your rankings if you link in such a way that helps your readers navigate around. Something like a related posts section at the bottom of the page is a plus. It also helps keep them on your site, which again will score points on other ranking factors!
Links from the outside are a bit trickier. First things first, if you link to an article that’s useful and can benefit your readers that’d be a good thing.
As for back-links ( other websites linking to yours ). It is more complicated. While they do matter, the website that they are coming from would probably be more important the number of back-links that you’re getting.
If the back-link comes from a high authority and trusted website, preferably a website in the same niche as you, it will carry a higher weightage. On the other hand, if the link is coming from a suspicious website it may have little to no effect at all.
There are some things that you should avoid as well, like buying links or linking to other suspicious websites.
10. Ads and Affiliate Links
To be completely honest with you, the reason that I made my website was to earn money. Many of you might be able to relate. Probably every single website out there will have some sort of advertisement or affiliate links.
I want you to think back for a second, remember Google’s purpose, they are here to provide quality information. While it is okay to have a few ads here and there, if you’re website is chuck full of them you will be triggering Google’s red flags.
Google wants to show it’s users the good stuff, not a website that’s obviously trying to promote a product.
Google also doesn’t like it if your above the fold content ( you know, the top of your page ) is full of ads. Since they prioritize useful information it would make sense that they want the most viewed section of your page to be full of it. Cut down on the ads for now, and focus on providing useful information, the money will come.
It is almost impossible to take into account every single ranking factor each time you write a post, it will just tire you out.
If I were to sum up the most important factor, it would be to write helpful posts. Content is still the king, if you write a post with the intention of helping others and delivering quality information, you will automatically fulfill a lot of ranking factors.
Remember, Google’s complicated algorithm serves the purpose of giving us the best answers to our questions.
Feel free to share your thoughts or questions below!