Updated: March 2019
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You’ll weep when you read Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List (2018). Because it’s so sad? No. Because it’s so overwhelming. It an encyclopedic explanation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The article makes SEO sound so complex and mysterious – and confusing. It implies little nitpick details make a big difference. It’s anxiety producing.
But still, we recommend reading the whole thing anyway. Some people may then try gaming all silly 200 SEO factors. Don’t go there!
Will these “tricks” help more than writing good content?
SEO fiddling is a waste of time.
Be calm. Good page ranking is within your reach if you:
Write about topics people want to read.
Write content in an interesting way that keeps visitors reading more.
You make text readable. What’s readable? Readability is the appearance or perception text may be easy to consume. That mean placing subhead and captions for skim readers. Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. Then they will spend more time after skimming content cues and clues. Learn more about the best readability.
The article doesn’t reveal the hierarchy of ranking factors. What matters most is the summary list at the very end. Many will never make it there. It requires a lot of boring scrolling to arrive at the real pithy basics.
The author presents a shortlist at the end. These are the real fundamentals of what counts. They’re the most important Google ranking factors (or signals) in 2018 according to the SEO article. But they aren’t explained in plain English. So we’ll attempt translating some more.
Here’s his list with our commentary:
- Referring domains
This is other websites linking to yours. It’s them choosing to advertise your site’s valuable content for free. Again, relevant content is good writing about interesting things. So get rid of your dud articles and uninteresting posts. Don’t make site-noise diluting “user attention.” That’s simple positioning strategy 101. Referring domains is the biggest influence on SEO. If you game inbound links with a link farm or purchased backlinks – there’s bad news. When Google gets wise to your ploy, they’ll punish you. Even blacklist your site. That sharp retaliation indicates the significance of this “ranking factor.” No mercy.
- Organic click-through-rate
Organic means Google non-paid listing. CTR is the percentage of *impressions* resulting in a “listing click” for a website. What’s an impression? That’s the number of times your listing (page title) gets viewed on the search engine page. You can view a page of 10 listings. If your your page title is chosen – bingo – that’s a “click.” If you own most of the 10 first-page listings, that’s called page dominance. When a searching reader suspects finding relevant content on your site, that’s information scent. What affects visitor suspicion or cues most? 1) The page title. 2) The “snippet” constructed by Google RankBrain, and 3) your publication date (freshness) if indicated. Publication dates are changed in WordPress for freshening up evergreen content. The snippet refers to a description extracted from page content.
- Domain authority
The only thing controllable here is the longevity of your domain name. That’s right – the date when you registered your name. You can buy an old domain name that’s in use and re-purpose it. Gaming the system. But then it’s back to writing good relevant content as the main influence of authority. Serve up user-valued information.
- Mobile usability
Mobile-first ranking is only two things: responsive screens and fast speed. And avoiding certain stupid web practices anyway. Like interstitial ads. Google AMP and Mobile Applications aren’t mentioned as good tricks. Praise the Lord!
- Dwell time
This is also called engagement. It’s time spent reading or consuming your wonderful page content. What helps with engagement? Good writing and interesting images. And suggesting relevant articles to keep people on your site reading more once there.
- Total number of backlinks
You can’t game or cheat backlinks without penalty. See the first item “Domain authority.”
- Content quality
Isn’t this about writing quality? Learned skills. Writing stuff people want to read.
- On-page SEO
A page title is a solid suggestion. This is an interesting and attention-getting headline. But it also needs to contain your keywords (positioning statement). Example: Yoast SEO plugin affects mobile WordPress speed. Then change it into a question: How does Yoast SEO affect mobile WordPress speed? or 10 ways Yoast SEO ruins mobile WordPress speed. Use good headline writing styles developed during the direct-mail years of graphic design.
ESOTERIC ON-PAGE-SEO DETAILS FOR THE TERMINALLY BORED
- Outbound links are a relevancy signal.
PagePipe uses outbound links (resources) for credibility enhancement. Readers appreciate offsite links. How do we know? Feedback! They tell us in emails. And they see it as courageous. Because we might be sending them away from our site for good. Risk taking or confidence our content is good enough. But most often, they return to our tab.
- Internal links are good (of course you reference your other written material – duh. Common sense).
- Speed affects repeat visits – is that a surprise?
- Use synonyms for keywords – another “shocking” suggestion.
- Use ALT and title tags with keywords on image file names.
- Longer content ranks higher. Increase average dwell time by writing long, engaging content that keeps people reading. If you love your site topic or focus this shouldn’t be a burden. If you don’t have a fascination about your chosen field, you’d better quit now.
Isn’t “on-page SEO” obvious best practices and common sense for writing?
Here’s the bottom line:
WRITE CONTENT PEOPLE WANT TO READ
That includes readability – not mentioned anywhere in the article or list. Make words look fun, easy, or interesting to read is a goal affecting SEO. Or at least, get out of the way of reading the words like fast speed or responsive sites remove barriers.
On websites, transparent features mean being invisible or undetectable. Speed is transparent when it’s fast. No one notices a fast page. But everyone hates a slow one. The best speed is instant page changes when clicked. Good speed is a transparent feature differentiating a site from competitors.
It’s our opinion, social sharing doesn’t affect page rank directly. But in general, it takes traffic away from your site – and when there the seduced visitor never returns. Social rarely brings quality visitors. Social 1) slows down your pages, 2) causes link clutter, 3) and takes people away. Is that helpful?
We ask clients if they quantify how much profit is because of social media. They can never answer that question. Why? Because it’s immeasurable. They’re following the web herd. All paid themes come with social links built-in. So that feature must be good. Right? Themes sometimes have heavy sliders, too. Uh. Not good. Theme authors include every feature trying to please everyone.
In another article, the author recommends using “2018” “best” “guide” and “review” in titles. Make the title an “H1” tag. WordPress already does this.
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