Have you ever wondered how Google determines your website’s position in search engine results? What’s the method behind the madness?! In this article we will discuss what a ranking signal is and highlight some of the known signals that are valued most by Google and are important to optimize for.
Ranking signals, also referred to as ranking factors, are characteristics of a website that influence your position in search engine results. There are a lot of different signals. In fact, there are over 200 unique ranking signals that impact how a website will rank. Like all things in SEO, ranking signals are not static and are constantly changing. The value and importance of a particular ranking signal may be high today but not seen as strong of a signal tomorrow. Google does not divulge the details of their algorithm. They keep it a secret to prevent people from ‘gaming’ the system. However, we do have a good idea as to what ranking signals are important from case studies, Google Webmaster Guidelines, testing, and statements from Google themselves.
Ranking signals can be classified as Onsite Signals and Offsite Signals.
Onsite Signals are those that are directly controllable by site owners. They include things like Content Signals (i.e. relevant, quality content) and Technical Structure (i.e. the presence of a sitemap and schema markup). Onsite signals refer not only to the site’s overall performance, but also individual factors such as the quality and relevance of the site’s content and ease of user experience.
Offsite Signals speak to trustworthiness and legitimacy of a business; search engines use other reputable sources of information to help determine how a business should rank. Offsite ranking signals include things like Online Reputation Signals (i.e. reviews), Citation Signals (i.e. business listings), and Social Signals (i.e. likes and shares).
It’s important to know the signals that are the valued most by Google so that you’re able to optimize for them and help your site stand out above your competitors. SEO is an ongoing process. Remember there is no single element that should be optimized, it’s everything put together that will make the difference over time!