The most important factors for SEO and high visibility in Google Search

You may have heard, Google uses hundred of what they call “signals” to determine where a website ranks in any given keyword search results.

Google even has people who rate website quality, meaning they have a set of Quality Rater Guidelines which you can read about in detail here that helps them identify good websites from the not so good websites.

However, there are just two main factors (signals) that matter the most. What are they?

Links and content. And that’s it. Yep! Let’s explain those…

Google ranks website pages in its search results based on how authoritative the page is. One major way of doing this is through what is called “links”.

A “link” is when one website links to another website using a hypertext link (e.g. a link to our home page). And the more links your website has from other sites, the more authority it has to rank for keyword searches in Google.

Think of a popularity contest or a simple majority vote. The website that has the most popularity or votes (“links) the better it can rank.

But not all links are created equal.

Over the years Google has gotten really good at understanding what is a good link vs a bad link. Good links still count toward a website’s authority. And Google is now very good as discounting and even penalizing websites that attempt to acquire bad links to their sites.

Good links still matter and are what many people believe is still the number one ranking signal. A good link is really hard to fake. And that isn’t going away any time soon.

But what is a “good” link?

A good link helps your website’s authority to rank well in Google search and is helpful to visitors who may click that link.

Imagine you have a business relationship with someone. You’ve done work for them or vise versa. That’s a real thing. That took you time to build. And a link from that business partner’s website to your website is a signal of that real thing. Google likes those kinds of links. So that’s an example of a good link.

And what makes a good link even better is if the link text contains keywords that you’d want your visitors searching in Google. For example if a website linked to my website with “website designer” as the keyword text in the link, that would be nice. Also if a link appears “editorial” or is surrounded by text describing the website being linked to, that is a bonus.

So, what’s a “bad” link?

Bad links may harm your website’s authority to rank. Bad links are usually acquired easily and at the same time aren’t helpful to website visitors.

Some examples:

  1. Suppose you setup a new website (website B) just for the purposes of linking to your existing website (website A). While that is a link, it isn’t worth much because website B is brand new with no authority and no in-bound links of its own. This isn’t a terrible link it just probably wasn’t worth your time to create. What could be a bad link or links is if you did this many times over and had many sites created and all of a sudden all starting linking to your site. Google can tell when a link was created and how long it’s been around.
  2. Now, suppose you contacted a website and paid them some money for a link back to your site. But that link was setup in a way so it is “hidden” meaning the link text is white, the web page background is also white, so to the human eye the link is hidden. But Google can still see it (because the have robots that crawl web pages and they only see code). And this kind of link may actually do damage to your site’s authority to rank.


Content is the written text on your website. It is the page copy, the title tag copy, meta description copy, link text, image alt text or any other text that appears on your website pages.

You have have even heard the phrase “Content is King”. After all, content is the thing visitors interact with when they visit your website. It’s what converts the user to take action. To call you. Or pay for your product or service.

There are a few key elements worth mentioning on a web page:

Engaging Content

Is the content easy to consume? Does it help inform the user? Will they remember your brand?

And also very important –> Does your content answer the users Google search query?

If the answers to those questions are a “yes” then you web page (and website) is headed in the right direction.

It used to be a long time ago that people would stuff their web pages full of keywords as a tactic to influence Google to ranking their pages higher. That doesn’t work anymore. Google uses AI (artificial intelligence) and understands what a web page is about. If that page has a bunch of oddly placed text that a person would find odd, then that isn’t a good signal.

Page Title Tags

A page title tag is not typically visible to the user except on the search results page in Google. It’s the blue underline link, the actual search result that a user must click on to arrive at your website.

Why is that imporant?

Because again, the user needs to read that title and be interested enough to click through to your site. So it’s really important that those title tags are well crafted and are setup to match the intent of the user doing the search.

Page Headings

The way that content is organized on the web page is also very important. For example, the use of headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to organize content helps Google better understand the intent of the page – and helps them match that intent to the intent of the people doing a Google search – makes sense right?

Image Alt Tags

Image alt tags are text assigned to an image on a website page. They help Google understand what an image is about. Because an image is not text, fundamentally an image on a web page is a series of 0s and 1s and that doesn’t mean much to Google until it is described with text.

And to clarify, image alt tags are not normally visible to a website visitor and are usually reserved for website accessibility. That means folks who may be blind or have other disabilities need their computer to read out loud the alt image text to know what the image is about.

We talked about links from other sites earlier in this article. And the same thing goes for individual web pages, even on the same site. If one page on your website is linked to from other pages on the site and those links include consistent, descriptive text (the link “anchor” text) then that helps to build the reputation of that web page in the eyes of Google and in the eyes of your website visitors.

Additional Ranking Signals

There are as I’ve pointed out hundreds of ranking signals that Google uses to rank websites.

That’s because people search Google in different ways, meaning they may have a different intents when they search.

For example

  • Informational searches: One person could be doing an informational search to find more info about a topic they heard about in the past.
  • Transactional searches: Another person, might be ready to buy a product and is looking at pricing.

Here are some additional ranking signals worth mentioning

  • Location (IP address) of the person doing the search and do the keywords used convey they want something locally
  • Type of search query, is it informational in nature or more transaction like I want to buy something (as mentioned above)
  • Domain factors such as how old is the website (domain name) and how long is the domain registered for. And older website and also a longer registration may be a signal that the owner finds the domain valuable and is not a throw-away domain used for creating “bad” links.
  • Site-level factors such as do you have a secure (SSL/TLS) connection setup for your site. Also, how quickly does your web page load to a visitor? I think this last one doesn’t have a huge impact however I can say it is always nice when a web page loads quickly.
  • User interaction – do people actually click to your website from Google’s search results? And also, a person’s past searches may impact future results, e.g. search for “reviews” and then later search “vacuum cleaners” Google may more likely recommend vacuum cleaner review websites.
  • Brand signals – does your brand appear across the web in a consistent way and do people talk about it on Social media sites like Twitter?
  • Special rules – for example, authoritative sites who have brand new website content such as news or other breaking stories may be promoted for certain searches.

We help our customers get more Google traffic by creating and adjusting their website content and links to help get those sites ranked higher for their target keyword searches. You can read all about our service offering on our SEO page.

And I hope this has helped you better understand how Google ranks websites in its search results 🙂

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