Crucial Google Ranking Factors (And How You Can Optimize Your Site For Them)

by Corey Philip
February 25, 2021

Have you ever noticed that you usually open links found on the first page of Google search results? For example, let's say you're going to cook a lovely dinner for two, and you search Google for the best dishes to cook. You usually find the perfect recipe in the first three results, and don't want to waste time going through the next pages.

The scenario above might sound too specific, but that happens to most queries searched on Google. That's why if you want more traffic for your website, you should be on top of search engine result pages (SERP). Thankfully, you can improve your SERP ranking through search engine optimization. To get the best SERP results you desire, consider these three crucial elements when designing your website.

Three Vital Factors Search Engines Look Out For

Technical Elements

HTML and XML Sitemaps

Optimizing your website's sitemaps is one of the most vital aspects of technical optimization for better SERPs. By uploading your sitemap to Google Search Console, you can inform the search engine about your website's presence and page contents. For this reason, sitemaps are essential for new sites not yet discovered by Google or Bing. To improve your sitemaps, you have to create both HTML and XML sitemaps. Although similar, the differences of each sitemap are:

  • HTML sitemaps are pages in your website that search engine crawlers can easily understand. They are considered your website's directory to lead users to relevant pages on your website. 
  • On the other hand, XML sitemaps are embedded pages within the website that is intentionally meant to be read by search engines. Search engine robots read XML sitemaps to analyze the content of the website.

Your sitemaps' essential inclusions are page updates, page changes, and the relation of different pages in your website. To make this process easier, consider using site crawling tools to create the XML sitemap for you. Using site crawling tools, you can quickly choose pages you want to be indexed and add a canonicalized version of webpages.


Robots.txt is a protocol used for search engine optimization that allows users to specify what pages should be indexed and excluded by search engine robots. Furthermore, robots.txt tells search engines what files they should scan. 

By including and optimizing your website's robots.txt file, you will improve your website's crawlability and reduce site overloads.

Website Load Speed and Mobile-Friendliness

After analyzing your site's sitemaps, pages, and robots.txt file, the next thing search engine bots check for is your site's page speed. The search engine bots, specifically Google, check if you can load your website within 3 seconds.

To optimize your page's load speed, optimize your server and reduce image sizes in your website. It's crucial to minimize HTTP requests, combine files, and use asynchronous loading for CSS files and JavaScript.

Another critical aspect is mobile-friendliness. After all, the majority of web traffic comes from mobile phones nowadays. Due to this, Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites.

You can do this using tools like GTMetrix or Google PageSpeed Insights.

The Best Tool for Technical Optimization

To analyze your website's technical prowess, use SEMrush's or Ahrefs' Site Audit Tool. The site audit tool is an all-in-one program used to check for a website's loading speed, crawlability, content issues, metadata, and more. As a result, the site audit tool's utility proves to be one of the most vital tools for optimizing your website. 

Once a site audit tool has crawled your website, you will now gain many crucial data regarding your site's overall health. The application displays your site's crawl ability score, site performance, internal linking, international SEO, and HTTPS. These metrics are important to make your website more accessible to search engines. With the site audit tool, you can quickly check for any site errors and rooms for improvement.

On-Page Elements


Relevant content is the bread and butter you need to achieve better SERP. After all, what could users want more than results related to what they're looking for? That's why Google prioritizes relevant content when displaying websites in search results. To optimize your content, you should:

  • Have at least 300 words of unique content.
  • Include your target keyword in the first 100 words. 
  • Avoid drowning the content with keywords to avoid flagging from Google.
  • Create valuable, highly detailed content from knowledgeable authors. And;
  • Optimize for searcher intent.

This way, you end up in the search results for people who actually need your content.


Your website should have relevant target keywords that users might search for to rank high in search engines. Akin to the content segment, it's crucial to keep searcher intent in mind when searching for keywords you're going to use. Remember that the better you understand your website's audience, the more precise targeted keywords you'll have.

One way to help your keyword research is to ask yourself various questions about your website's topic. If my topic is Ahrefs, what could searchers possibly type in the Google search bar? Just by asking that question, I can come up with the following:

  • What is Ahrefs
  • Ways to use Ahrefs
  • How Ahrefs works

Here are screenshots of those keywords sprinkled through a previous blog post on Ahrefs.

To help make keyword analysis easier, use SEMrush's keyword research tool or Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer tool to quickly analyze your target keyword's potential, ranking, search volume, difficulty, global volume, and cost per click (CPC).


Last but not least, optimize your website's metadata. Your website's metadata is vital for SERP because it communicates to search engines about your page's relevancy to your target keyword. Furthermore, metadata helps direct more traffic by giving user's a short blurb for a specific page. Hence, your website's pages should have meta titles, meta descriptions, and proper heading tags. 

The Best Tool for On-Page Optimization

Since content is the most important for search engine results page ranking, on-page optimization tools are abundant in the search engine optimization industry. From the multitude of SEO tools at your disposal, it's crucial to have an easy-access tool. That's why we recommend an all-in-one page checker, such as SEMrush's On-Page SEO Checker

The On-Page SEO checker is built to analyze search engine factors that affect your website's performance and distributes ideas for new backlinks, strategies, technical SEO, semantic, content, SERP features, and user experience. And best of all, the On-Page SEO Checker is easy to use. Data gathered from Google Analytics, Site Audit tool, and Google Search consoles are all visible in one table.

Advanced On-Page Optimization

To further hone your search engine optimization, there are a few more elements you can improve. They are:

  • Original Images. Google ranks sites with unique images higher compared to sites that primarily use stock photos.
  • Internal Linking. From the data you gathered with SEMrush's or Ahrefs' link Authority Checker, you can link low-ranking links to high-priority pages on your website.
  • Featured Snippets. Once you have reached the first page of the search engine results page (you can check this with SEMrush or Ahrefs), optimize your high-ranking page to get featured snippets on Google.
  • Voice Search SEO. Since most search engine queries come from mobile, it's best to optimize content that you can easily show in voice search programs like Google Assistant or Alexa. To optimize for Voice Search, add more content that answers: "how, what, when, where, why" questions.

Off-Site Elements

Backlinks and Site Authority

Besides increasing your website's recognition through social media, you can start optimizing off-site elements by improving your backlinks. Backlinks signal Google that your website is essential enough to get linked by another website.

To improve your backlinks, start by providing helpful content that other websites will want and give out valuable infographics that add more value to a particular subject. 

Once you have implemented all SEO changes to your website, you should regularly check your site's authority through SEMrush or Ahrefs. Increasing your site's authority means you'll rank higher for keyword search. 

To check website authority, use SEMrush's Domain Overview tool.

To improve your backlink strategy, use SEMrush's Backlink Analytics tool.

The Best Tool for Off-Site Optimization

The two best tools you need for off-site optimization are Ahrefs' Website Authority Checker and Backlink Checker. Why? Because both tools are user-friendly, powerful, and free to use. Case in point, with the Website Authority Checker you can use their Domain Rating Score to benchmark your website to competitors and get link prospects quickly. In addition to that, the Backlink Checker helps you see the website's number of referring domains, number of backlinks, URL rating, Ahrefs Rank, and Domain Rating.

If you want to improve your website's social media performance, we recommend SEMrush's Social Media toolkit. With the Social Media Toolkit, you gain access to their Social Media Tracker, Social Media Poster, and Social Media Ads management.

Front Page Results Matter

In this digital age of rapidly evolving technologies, it's more important than ever to improve your site's SEO to stay relevant. Optimizing your website to rank higher takes time and effort. However, getting to the front page of Google will yield more increased traffic and boost sales.

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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