Google Ranking Factors Explained

Google Ranking Factors Explained

Posted on September 27, 2023 nerdymind

A Google search provides near-endless results in the matter of seconds. With so many results delivered in less than 0.39 seconds, a consumer might think this is some sort of magic. Don’t start singing and skipping along the yellow brick road just yet!

Digital marketers are a skeptical bunch and we’re sorry to say there's no wizard. There’s hardly even a man hiding by a control box. Behind the curtain is a complex and sophisticated process called "Google ranking." Understanding how Google ranking works is crucial for website owners, digital marketers, and anyone seeking to improve their online visibility—oh my!

"I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore..."

How Does Google Work?

Somewhere over the rainbow, Google evaluates and ranks web sites in its search results pages (SERPs). The basis of this evaluation is on the results' relevance and quality to a given search query. The goal of Google's ranking algorithm is to provide users with the most relevant and useful information.

Also known as search engine ranking or SEO ranking, Google's ranking algorithm is a closely guarded secret. It's known to consist of hundreds of factors and sub-factors that determine a webpage's position. While the exact algorithm remains a mystery, Google provides some insights into the key principles that guide its ranking system.

"Are you a good witch or a bad witch?"

How Does Google Rank Search Results?


Google assesses how well a site’s content matches the user's search query. Pages with highly relevant content are more likely to rank higher. Factors like the presence of relevant keywords, synonyms, and context within the content all play a role. The more relevant your page is to the user's search, the higher it ranks.

A girl far from home, a talking scarecrow, a gentleman of metallic proportions, and a lion with a long list of phobias may seem like odd traveling companions. Together, however, they can make a big impact.


Google evaluates the overall quality of a webpage and its content. This assessment includes factors such as trustworthiness, authority, and credibility. If the website seems suspicious, Google won't rank it as high in SERPs. Google also pays attention to user-friendly designs and positive user experience. High-quality content from reputable sources is more likely to rank well. Magic spells and glittery wands will only get you so far, you know!


Similar to quality, Google considers factors related to the user's experience when visiting a webpage. For example, some of these elements include page load speed, mobile-friendliness, and the overall ease of navigation. A positive user experience contributes to higher rankings. A house dropping from the sky? Not so much.


Backlinks play an important part in Google ranking. Also referred to as inbound links from other websites, backlinks are a strong signal of a webpage's authority and trustworthiness. High-quality backlinks from authoritative sources can significantly boost a page's ranking.

Fresh Content

Google favors up-to-date content. Timely and relevant information is more likely to rank well. This is especially for queries related to current events or rapidly evolving topics. If your content isn't updated, or Google finds the same content on multiple sites, it won't rank high. It's important to monitor your site traffic and see how users engage with your content. Regular content updates can maintain or improve your performance.

User Behavior

Google monitors how users interact with search results. This monitoring is fancier than a crystal ball, though. Click-through rates (CTR) and dwell time (how long users stay on a page) can influence higher rankings. A bounce rate is the percentage of users who leave a page quickly. A higher bounce rate means a greater portion of users navigate away from a site or page. This activity is a red flag to Google and can negatively influence rankings. Conversely, if a consistent amount of users click on a particular result AND stay on the page, Google may interpret that as a signal of relevance.


Google considers the user's search history, location, and other personalized data. Google wants to tailor search results to individual preferences, so these factors all matter. It can impact rankings by showing users content that is more relevant to their specific interests and context. Those off to see the wizard are familiar with this idea.

Schema Markup

The use of structured data, or schema markup, helps search engines better understand the content and context of a webpage. Good schematic markup can lead to rich snippets and enhanced search results. The use of structured data can potentially improve click-through rates and rankings.

Algorithm Updates

Google frequently updates its search algorithm to improve search quality and combat spam. Major updates, like changes to Google's core algorithm, can have significant impacts on rankings.

"Nobody can see the Great Oz! Not nobody, not nohow!"

Why Does Google Keep Ranking Methods Secret?

While the information above is helpful, it's not very specific. Google sometimes acts like a cranky guardsman to the Emerald City. While there are some good reasons behind not divulging all its magic, it can make digital marketing efforts more difficult. For the most part, Google keeps its ranking methods and the specifics of its search algorithm secret.

Protecting Against Manipulation

A primary reason why Google doesn't disclose its algorithm specifics is to maintain a level playing field. Google wants to prevent website owners and marketers from playing the system. If the inner workings of the algorithm were fully known, malicious people could use it to their advantage. People could exploit it to boost their rankings, leading to lower-quality search results.

Like good witches and bad witches, there’s a balance. Someone misplaces a house on one of those witches, however, and things get complicated.

Maintaining a Competitive Edge

Google is one (GINORMOUS) company in a competitive industry. Other search engines want a larger market share. By keeping its algorithm secret, Google maintains a competitive advantage. Secrecy makes it more difficult for competitors to replicate its search results and technology. Google invests significant resources in research and development to create its search algorithms. Protecting these intellectual property rights is another reason for not disclosing the algorithm's specifics.

Adapting to Changing Trends

Google's search algorithm undergoes constant updates and improvements to stay ahead. The web is constantly evolving, and so is user behavior. Revealing the algorithm's details would make it easier for those seeking to manipulate search results to adapt and counteract Google's efforts.

Horse of a Different Color
A horse of a different color

Balancing User Experience

Google's primary goal is to provide the best possible search experience for users. Sometimes, revealing algorithm details might lead to unintended consequences. As we've said before, Google worries about users trying to "game" the system for themselves. If that were to happen, it could degrade the overall quality of search results. Google's secrecy balances user experience with marketers.

Complexity and Scope

Google's algorithm is wildly complex, comprising hundreds of factors and subfactors. Sharing the full details could overwhelm and confuse most users and website owners. Instead, Google focuses on providing guidelines and best practices. This helps webmasters and marketers improve their sites, without having to become Great and Powerful.

While Google keeps the specifics of its algorithm secret, it does provide some transparency. Google has its Search Essentials and SEO best practices. These guidelines offer general advice on how to create websites that are more likely to rank well in Google's search results. Additionally, Google communicates major algorithm updates to the SEO community. That way, website owners understand and adapt to changes in search rankings.

"Take special care of those ruby slippers!"

What are a Few Known Methods for Helping Websites Rank?

Improving a website's ranking in Google's search results involves implementing best practices. While Google's algorithm is complex, there are several known methods that can help websites improve their visibility.

Keyword Research and Optimization:

Thorough keyword research can identify the terms and phrases users search for in your industry. There are several platforms to do this—the NERDs prefer UberSuggest and Moz. Keyword research allows you to optimize your content including titles, headings, and body text. Remember, however, to incorporate relevant keywords naturally. Google can tell when you're repeating keywords and not making sense.

Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Universitartus Committiartum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby confer upon you the honorary degree of ThD... That's... Doctor of Thinkology.” –The Wizard of Oz

High-Quality Content and On-page SEO:

Create informative, valuable, and engaging content. Consider the needs and interests of your target audience. With a bit of keyword research and writing skills, you can craft helpful content. Ensure your content is well-structured, easy to read, and provides a comprehensive answer to the user's query.

Optimize on-page SEO elements. Things like title tags, meta descriptions, header tags (e.g., H1, H2), and image alt attributes can boost your ranking. Use descriptive and compelling meta descriptions to improve click-through rates.

Mobile-Friendly Design:

Remember, you're not just competing with desktop browsers! Ensure your website is mobile-responsive. Your website should provide a seamless experience for users on smartphones and tablets. Google uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor, so mobile optimization is crucial.

Page Load Speed and User Experience (UX):

Optimize your website's performance to reduce page load times. Faster-loading pages tend to rank higher. Compress images, leverage browser caching, and use content delivery networks (CDNs) to improve load times. Even with a yellow brick road right to the capitol, flying monkeys and other dangers can slow things down.

It's important to focus on a positive user experience. Make navigation intuitive and content easy to find. Also remove intrusive pop-ups or ads that disrupt the user's experience. There are plenty of bad website design horror stories—don’t be one of them!

Secure and Accessible Website:

Implement HTTPS encryption to secure your website. Google considers security as a ranking signal. Also, make sure your website is accessible to users with disabilities. You should follow accessibility guidelines such as WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

Backlink Building:

Use high-quality backlinks from reputable websites in your industry or niche. Just like with keywords, make sure it's natural and organic. Google can tell when backlinks are spammy or irrelevant to the content. Focus on natural link-building strategies, such as creating exceptional content that attracts links.

Regular Content Updates and Tracking Performance:

Update and refresh your content on a regular basis to keep it current and relevant. Google favors fresh content. Also consider adding things like blog posts, new articles, or updates to existing pages.

Use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to track website performance. You can track keyword rankings and identify areas for improvement. Also pay attention to things like bounce rate. It helps Google rankings if people stay on your webpages.

Social Media:

Another way to improve your Google ranking is to maintain an active presence on social media. A social media presence helps to increase brand visibility and engagement. Social media may not be a direct ranking factor, but it can help. Social media makes your website credible and can impact your online presence.

Local SEO (For Local Businesses):

It's important to optimize your website for local search by creating a Google My Business profile. Having an updated NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) makes your website more credible. It also helps to have good reviews from customers. If you don't have many reviews on your Google listing, encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings.


Dorothy Sleeping in Poppy Field
Dorothy Sleeping in Poppy Field

Optimize for Core Web Vitals (User Experience Metrics):

Pay attention to Google's Core Web Vitals. These include metrics like page speed, interactivity, and visual stability. Google uses these metrics as ranking factors and to assess user experience.

"Oh Auntie Em, there's no place like home!"

In Conclusion

If we can provide any takeaway, remember that SEO is an ongoing and tedious process. Like our friends learned in The Wizard of Oz, there are no easy solutions or quick results. Well, a bucket of water might do the trick, but we don’t recommend that in this case. Any effort worth doing is worth doing well.

Keep at it, use your brain, listen to your heart, and have courage. Results may take time to materialize, but the reward is worth it. Stay informed about industry trends, algorithm updates, and best practices. Over time you can improve your website’s rank in Google’s search results. A better search result rank can give you that edge over your competitors.