Today there are over 200 factors that Google uses to rank websites. The entire purpose of ranking is to discover which websites have the highest quality content. Google’s formula does a good job at weeding out any websites that are either illegitimate or poor quality. In this article, you’ll learn the mystery of how ranking on Google works. We'll also talk about how Google decides which websites to display on the first page of search results.
Watch our Video Tutorial on Google Ranking Factors
We've put together this video which will tell you everything you need to know about how Google ranks websites.
It's a good idea to understand these ranking factors because they have a major impact on how you appear in search results. In this video, we cover everything from external links and structured data to long clicks and keywords.
Ranking on Google In A Nut Shell
Search engines are looking for websites that are appealing to the eye and filled with great information. They favor websites that have easy to understand navigation and layouts. The searcher should be able to easily find what they are looking for. In other words, Google is concerned with the searcher being able to satisfy their thirst for information or making a transaction. Whether they are looking to buy a product or service or find information to a question they have, your website should be able to keep their interest.
User Experience is King
Remember that search engines are just robots. They aren’t humans, so they can’t see all of the cool content on your site. Search engines such as Google use computerized systems to understand what your website is all about. They can’t read your amazing blog article or see your incredible photographs, but they can decipher the names of titles, links, and documents. In other words, these search engines are not humans. Google looks for clues by watching how searchers interact with your website. If the user experience is top notch, a searcher will spend a good amount of time on a site. On the other hand, if a website feels scammy or is lacking information, people are more likely to click back to more search results.
The Panda Experiment
Back in the day, Google had a hard time figuring out how to rank websites in order to improve search results. The result of this was the Panda experiment. They had people look at websites and tell them if they thought it was a good quality website or a bad website (not worth their time). They then funneled these factors into a computer algorithm in 2011. Google implemented this machine learning to figure out who was trying to game the system. Their new ranking algorithm worked out quite well and changed the playing field for millions of websites. This dinged “content farms” who generated low quality articles over and over again just to gain traffic. The effects of the Panda experiment are still in effect today. How ranking on Google works is constantly evolving, but each change aims to benefit legitimate sites who are trying their best to improve their SEO.
Now this seems like a bit of a cliche to say you need awesome content on your site. You would think that is a no-brainer, but this needs to be stressed. Many ecommerce sites spend so much time worrying about which products to list that they forget that they need to also create engaging content on their site. Think of the user’s experience as soon as they land on your homepage. You’ll want to have a clear message. When people visit your site, what is the first thing they see?
If someone is searching for the best dog bed, you’ll want to make sure that your website gives them enough information about dog beds so they’ll purchase from you. You'll also want to create robust product descriptions that answers any questions they might have.
Secondly, does your site have an active blog? Publishing regular content on your site tells Google that you’re an expert in this field. You should aim to write a minimum of 10,000+ words every month on your particular niche. If you're selling dog beds, think about every possible question a customer might have about dog beds and try to write articles about each topic. You can announce a new product, compare products, interview customers, and even review your own products.
Whatever you do, don’t be forgettable. Write to impress and wow your customers with how much you know. And most importantly, tell a good story.
Links from Other Websites
Backlinks are a great way to show Google that your website is shareable and trustworthy. If other websites are willing to link back to your website, your site must be noteworthy. How many links does your site have? This is a good place to start. If you don’t have any links yet don’t worry because you can always start working on a “backlink campaign.” It should be noted that not all backlinks are created equal. You’ll want quality websites to link back to your website. Google gives more weight to reputable websites such as Huffington Post and the New York Times than a website no one’s heard of. It’s ideal to go after smaller trade publications at first and then you can work your way up (once you’ve built a name for yourself). Most importantly, never buy links because it will negatively impact your ranking.
⭐ Structured data
Google uses every bit of information you give it in order to understand what your Shopify store is all about. Adding structured data to your site is an important way to help Google and other search engines understand what you are selling. Although it’s not readable by humans because it’s just a bunch of JSON-LD code, this information is very valuable to Google. Structured data tells Google every detail about your product and company. From your business address to the price and availability of your products, every piece of information is coded into the structured data. When Google decides to crawl and index your site, they will see this structured data. If you’re store has great SEO, Google can award your site with rich snippets. Rich snippets are enhanced search result listings that pop out from the crowd and can contain colorful star ratings. Since rich snippets look better, they tend to get a higher click-through rate. If you want to find the best JSON-LD generator app for your Shopify store, look no further than Get Clicked! SEO.
The Long Click
Getting clicked on in search results is not the end of your battle. You’ll want to make sure you can keep people on your website. The long click vs the short click are key indicators that search engines look for. Basically, are people super engaged and spending a long time reading your company story and clicking through different products? Or, are people immediately leaving your website as soon as they get there? It’s pretty simple and makes a lot of sense. The long click indicates that people found what they’re looking for. The short click means that people didn’t find what they where looking for. Search engines like Google favor websites with a long click because it shows that searchers are engaged with your content.
⏰ Page speed
If you’re store takes an eternity to load, people are probably not going to hang around. People are impatient. The average attention span of a person visiting your website is 7 seconds. How are you going to grab their attention and hold it there? We’ll first of all, you’ll need to make sure that your website loads quickly. Customers should be able to see all of your images, videos, and text instantly. No one wants to buy something from a crummy website. Sometimes page speed can be affected negatively by apps you’ve downloaded. Test out your website on a site like Google Page Speed Insights to get an idea of what you’re working with. The ideal load speed is under 1 second!
If you had to describe the products you sell on your store with 2-3 words, what would they be?
Here at Adolab, our two words would be “Shopify apps.” This communicates to people we build software to help them grow their Shopify store.
Now it’s your turn. Think about what kinds of words people would use to describe your products or niche. Keywords are basically just words or phrases that you are trying to target in your industry. They are important because they are what your customers are typing into the Google search bar. If you do your keyword research and use them appropriately throughout your website, you could possibly show up in search results. Make sure to utilize the power of customer reviews because they are searchable by Google. Product reviews often contain natural language using keywords which can help you rank higher on search results.
A meta description is basically a description. It's a short description that describes what you can expect to see on a webpage. On search results, meta descriptions appear as a little blurb right underneath the URL. They are used for ranking because they help Google understand more about your webpage.
Meta descriptions act as a preview to tell the searcher what they can expect to see on a webpage. They are meant to entice and lure your customers in with persuasive language. Your meta description should be short and straight to the point while also being very descriptive. Keep in mind you never want to deceive people because you'll just have a lot of people clicking away. This will result in a high bounce rate which Google will ding you for.
Instead, write amazing meta descriptions that persuade searchers to click on your site! Meta descriptions are meant to explain in just a couple sentences what your product or company is all about. Never leave your meta descriptions blank. Meta descriptions offer a great SEO opportunity because you can sprinkle them with keywords. If your meta description contains a keyword that matches a search query, search engines can choose to display you in search results.
Meta descriptions are important because they help drive traffic to your online store. Not only can you appear in organic search results, but your ranking can be positively affected. How? If your meta descriptions are top notch and people click on your site over the other search results, your ranking on Google can improve over time.
A title tag is the bold blue text that appears above the description. When you see a list of search results, what makes you click on one of them? The answer is you probably thought it looked like the best option. Google does its best to provide users with relevant websites to choose from, but it’s ultimately up to the searcher to decide which website looks the most appealing. Your job is to grab the searchers attention with your words. You need eyeballs on your search result listing. You have 60 characters to convey your message. What are you going to say?
Easy to Read URL’s
When you see a bunch of search results listed on a page, how do you decide to choose one over the other? Many times people quickly glance at the url to make sense of the webpage. If a webpage has an easy to read URL, the searcher can understand what they are about to view. In this example, the product is a pretty black cocktail dress.
EXAMPLE 1: www.clothingcloset.com/pretty-black-cocktail-dress
If the URL of a webpage is hard to understand, the searcher might think the site is spammy and move on to other search results. In this example, we can’t tell what the product is or about.
EXAMPLE 2: www.clothingcloset.com/249303-dress-03-fgkdl-collection-cocktail-black-2300021u810
Keep it short and sweet with easy to read words that describe what the searcher is about to view. URLs are very important but are often ignored. Ideally, the searcher should be able to tell what kind of product it is. Pay attention to how your URLs look. Do they look legit or spammy?
Did You Know Shopify SEO is a 3 Part Series?
✅ Part 1: How Search Engines Work
Part 3: Tracking Your Progress