About the Author

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Alexander Sperber is the Chief Executive Officer of UnitedAds, a company specializing in digital marketing strategies. With nearly two decades of experience, he has established himself as an expert in Google Ads and search engine optimization (SEO).

Under his leadership, UnitedAds has made a name for itself through innovative approaches to enhancing online visibility and achieving success in digital marketing.

About UnitedAds

Discover how UnitedAds’ search engine optimization (SEO) can propel your website to the top of search results, accelerating your business growth more profitably than ever before.

At UnitedAds, our seasoned experts have been developing innovative SEO strategies for over 20 years, tailored to digitally transform your business. We recognize the unique needs of each company and offer customized SEO solutions perfectly aligned with your specific requirements.

Choose UnitedAds to see how we redefine quality, innovation, and measurable results in the SEO industry.

Trust our expertise to broaden your digital reach, target your audience more effectively, and secure lasting business success.

The 2024 Google Ranking Factors

Incorporating these ranking factors into your 2024 SEO strategy can greatly enhance your website’s visibility and success.

Although search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, their ultimate goal remains to deliver an exceptional user experience.

Companies should concentrate on creating high-quality, user-centric websites that adhere to search engine guidelines and offer genuine value to visitors.

Alt text: Making visual content understandable for search engines

Alt text (alternative text) is still a key factor in helping search engines understand image content.

It improves website accessibility and offers a textual alternative to visual content, which is particularly important for visually impaired users.

Google emphasizes the importance of alt texts in various ways.

From Google’s SEO Starter Guide:

  • Optimizing your image file names and alt texts makes it easier for image search projects such as Google Images to better understand your images

In Google Search Central’s advanced SEO documentation, there’s a section dedicated to best practices for images, specifically discussing the importance of alt text. Google highlights how crucial alt texts are for describing images, aiding screen reader users, and compensating when images cannot load on a web page. Additionally, alt texts enhance search engine optimization by giving search engines more context to determine an image’s relevance to a search query.

By crafting accurate and descriptive alt texts, website operators can not only boost the accessibility of their sites but also enhance their visibility and ranking in Google’s image search. This underscores the importance of alt text as a critical component of any effective SEO strategy.

An example

seltener blauer Schmetterling im botanischen Garten

Let’s say you have a website about botanical gardens and you want to upload a picture of a rare blue butterfly sitting on a flower. The file name of the image is “butterfly.jpg”, which is not very descriptive. Search engines would not get much context from this file name about what exactly is on the image or how it relates to the content of your page.

This is where the alt text comes into play. Instead of leaving the generic file name, add an alt text that describes the image. An effective alt text could be: “rare blue butterfly on a light pink flower in the botanical garden”. This alt text fulfills several important functions:

It describes precisely what can be seen on the image, which is helpful if the image cannot be loaded or if someone is visiting the page with a screen reader.

It provides important context for search engines. Instead of just knowing that it is an image titled “butterfly.jpg”, the search engine now understands that this image shows a rare blue butterfly sitting on a flower in a botanical garden.

It improves the relevance of your image for specific search queries. If someone searches for “rare blue butterfly botanical garden”, your image is more likely to appear in search results or Google Images because you’ve used relevant and descriptive alt text.

By using clear, descriptive alt text that accurately reflects the content of the images, you can improve the accessibility of your website while helping to ensure that your images are properly indexed and presented in search results. This is an essential part of search engine optimization and helps to increase the visibility and user engagement of your website.

Freshness of Content: Stay Up-to-Date and Relevant

If the search query requires it, fresh content is a ranking factor for Google.

Does this mean that you should constantly change the publication date of pages and posts? No.

Does it mean that an article could override other pages based on the date they were published? Yes, if Google believes that freshness is critical to the user’s query.

It is important to understand that constantly changing the publication date of an article without making significant changes to the content itself will not benefit the ranking. Google’s algorithms are designed to recognize and ignore such superficial changes. What really counts is the relevance and substance of the content in relation to the search query.

In certain cases, such as news articles, the latest developments or trend-related topics, the topicality of an article can indeed be a decisive factor that influences the rankings.

Google strives to provide its users with the most useful and up-to-date information. So if a newer article or post contains important, updated information that is relevant to users’ search queries, it could potentially rank higher than older content, even if it has an established history or backlinks

The “Freshness” updates

The evolution of Google’s search algorithm shows a consistent tendency to prioritize current, relevant content, which is underlined by a series of updates, starting with “Caffeine” in 2009.

This fundamental update transformed the way Google indexed information and enabled faster, more comprehensive coverage of web content, making search results much more up-to-date.

Two years later, the 2011 “Freshness” update built on this foundation and further refined the algorithm to reward websites that regularly publish timely and relevant content.

The next big step was taken in 2019 with the “Featured Snippets Freshness” update, which aimed to keep the information presented in featured snippets – a primary focus of modern SEO – up to date.

Anchor text: Precise link descriptions help users and the engine

The anchor text of hyperlinks helps search engines to understand the context of a linked page.

A natural and contextual use of the anchor text can improve the link quality and contribute to the relevance rating of a page.

From Google’s SEO Starter Guide:

  • “The better your anchor text is, the easier it is for users to navigate and for Google to understand what the page you’re linking to is about.

With the right anchor text, both users and search engines can easily understand what the linked pages contain.”

The Starter Guide then recommends the following best practices:

  1. Choose descriptive text instead of general or off-topic text.
  2. Write concise text instead of writing a long sentence or a whole paragraph.
  3. Make links visible, as they should be easily recognizable under normal text.
  4. Use descriptive text for internal links, but avoid excessive use of keywords.

Recently, during one of his regular Q&A sessions with the SEO community, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that anchor text is still a ranking factor.

The topic of anchor text often comes up during Mueller’s Q&A sessions. Here’s another example; this time Mueller talks about the user experience aspect of anchor text.

“If you update the anchor text internally to make it easier for users to understand, this usually also helps search engines to better understand the context of these pages. I would definitely recommend this.”

John Müller, Google Search Advocate

These statements underline the importance of anchor text both for the user experience and for search engine optimization. It not only emphasizes how valuable clear, concise and relevant anchor text is for website visitors, but also how such text helps search engines to better understand the content and purpose of the linked pages.

Therefore, a well-thought-out strategy for anchor texts is essential for anyone who wants to be successful in Google’s search results.

Buying links as a strategy to improve Google rankings is a risky practice that is expressly forbidden by Google

Links play an important role in determining the relevance of websites. The attempt to manipulate the ranking in Google search results through links can be classified as link spam.

This includes all measures with which links to a website or outgoing links from your website are manipulated. Here are some examples of link spam:

  • Purchased or sold links that are intended to improve the ranking.
  • Excessive link exchange (“Link to my website and I’ll link to yours”) or partner sites for the sole purpose of mutual linking
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your website
  • Requesting a link within the framework of terms of use, a contract or a similar agreement, without third parties who are holders of content rights being able to identify the outgoing link.
  • Text ads or native advertising where the website owner is paid for articles that contain links that pass ranking or contain optimized anchor text in articles, guest posts or press releases that are distributed on other websites.
  • Hidden links, poor quality links, or links with excessive keywords in widgets spread across different websites
  • Links distributed in numerous places in the footers or templates of various websites
  • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or in the signature

Click Depth: Making content accessible

The click depth describes the number of clicks required from the start page to reach another page – both for users and for the robot crawlers used by search engines. A page that is linked from your homepage, for example, has a click depth of one.

This concept is particularly important in SEO, as it influences the accessibility and indexing of pages by search engines. Pages with less click depth are often considered more important because they are easier to reach, both for users and for search engines. A flat website architecture, where important pages are only a few clicks away from the homepage, is generally recommended to ensure that search engine crawlers can find and index the content effectively. This also increases the likelihood that visitors will find the information relevant to them more quickly and easily.

“What’s important for us … is how easy it actually is to find the content. Especially if your home page is generally the strongest page on your website and it takes several clicks to get from there to one of these stores, then it’s hard for us to understand that these stores are actually quite important.”

“On the other hand, if it only takes one click from the home page to one of those stores, then that tells us that those stores are probably pretty relevant, and that we should probably give them some weight in the search results as well. So it’s more about how many links you need to click through to get to that content than what the URL structure itself looks like.”

John Müller, Google Search Advocate

Co-citation: Making connections between content visible

Co-citations, sometimes referred to as “linkless mentions”, are situations where a website or brand is mentioned on another website without an active hyperlink. The theory behind co-citations is that search engines not only recognize active links between websites, but also mentions of brands or companies, even if there is no active link.

It is assumed that co-citations can be an indicator of the relevance or authority of a brand in a certain context or on a certain topic. There is often debate in the SEO community as to whether co-citations are actually used as a ranking factor by Google.

So far, Google has not explicitly confirmed that co-citations are used directly as a ranking factor. However, it is known that the context in which a page is mentioned, as well as the surrounding text information, is analyzed by search engines to gain a better understanding of the relevance and authority of a page.

In short, although co-citations may not be directly considered a ranking factor in their own right, they could still play a role in determining the relevance and authority of a website within the broader algorithm of search engines. It is always advisable to work towards natural brand mentions and building authority in your field.

Content: still the undisputed king of SEO

Yes, content is definitely an important ranking factor for search engines like Google. High-quality, relevant and user-oriented content plays a central role in search engine optimization (SEO).

Here are the reasons why content is so crucial:

  1. Relevance: Search engines evaluate how relevant the content of a website is to a user’s search query. Websites with content that exactly meets the requirements and questions of users have a better chance of being ranked higher.
  2. Quality: Google and other search engines prefer high-quality content. This means well-researched, well-written and unique content that offers added value for the reader.
  3. Keyword coverage: While keyword optimization is not the only criterion, it still plays a role. However, content should be written in a natural way and keywords should be integrated organically.
  4. Topicality: Regularly updated content can help to keep a website up-to-date in the search results. However, this does not mean that constant changes are necessary, but rather that the content should remain up-to-date and relevant.
  5. User experience: Content that is well structured, for example through the use of headings, lists and images, improves the user experience, which in turn can have a positive effect on the ranking.
  6. User retention: Valuable content can lead to visitors staying longer on a website (also known as “dwell time”), which can be another indicator of content relevance and quality.

Overall, content not only serves to inform search engines about the topic and purpose of a website, but also to offer visitors added value. High-quality content is therefore essential in order to be successful in the search engine rankings.

Core Web Vitals: Optimizing the user experience

Core Web Vitals are a ranking factor for Google. The Core Web Vitals are a group of specific factors that are part of Google’s “Page Experience” signals and play an important role in measuring the overall user experience of websites.

core web vitals wordpress

The Core Web Vitals focus on three main aspects of the user experience:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures the loading performance and indicates how long it takes for the main content of a page to load. An ideal LCP value should be within 2.5 seconds.
  2. First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity and indicates how long it takes for a page to respond to a user’s first interaction (e.g. clicking a link or pressing a button). An ideal FID value should be less than 100 milliseconds.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability and indicates how often users experience unexpected layout shifts on a page. An ideal CLS value should be less than 0.1.

Google has announced that Core Web Vitals will be used as ranking factors in the search engine along with other page experience signals such as HTTPS, mobile friendliness and the absence of intrusive interstitials.

As these metrics aim to ensure a better user experience on websites, Google places importance on webmasters and developers optimizing these factors. Websites that offer a good “page experience” could therefore have an advantage in the search results. However, it should be noted that high-quality content remains one of the most important ranking factors.

Domain history: The past counts too

Google has repeatedly commented on the topic of domain history and its effects on the ranking. It was consistently pointed out that the previous use of a domain can be a factor in how Google treats it today.

The effects can range from moderate to severe. The most serious problem a website operator could encounter is purchasing a domain with a history of unrectified manual actions.

Manual actions by Google do not disappear by themselves, even after the domain has been sold by the previous owner or after the registration has expired.

If the penalties are not addressed, the next owner of the domain may find that their website is immediately downgraded or removed from the index.

This topic was discussed in a video with former Google employee Matt Cutts, who recommended researching a domain before buying it.

A website owner can immediately find out if there is a manual action against their domain by checking the manual action report in Google Search Console.

This underlines the importance of due diligence before purchasing a domain. It is advisable to utilize any resources available to understand a domain’s history, including checking for potential penalties, reviewing the backlink profile and, if possible, gaining insight into the type of content previously published on the site.

Such measures can help to avoid potential problems that could affect the SEO and ranking of the website.

H1 tags: The first impression counts

H1 tags are a ranking factor, but perhaps not to the extent that is often assumed. They play an important role in the structure and organization of a website’s content, which in turn influences SEO (search engine optimization).

Here are the reasons why H1 tags are important:

  1. Content hierarchy: H1 tags help search engines like Google to understand what a particular page is about. They form the top level of the content hierarchy on a page and should clearly represent the main focus of the content. This helps search engines to categorize the content of the page and decide whether it is relevant to a particular search query.
  2. User experience: Apart from search engines, H1 tags also help users to quickly grasp the content of a page. A clearly defined headline that accurately describes the content improves readability and the user experience, which in turn can lead to a longer time spent on the page and a lower bounce rate. These are metrics that search engines use to evaluate the relevance and quality of a page.
  3. Keyword optimization: Although keyword stuffing (the overuse of keywords) is an outdated and penalized practice, it’s still important that your H1 tags contain relevant keywords. This helps search engines to recognize which search queries your content is relevant for.

While H1 tags are important, they are only one part of a comprehensive SEO approach.

A website with a strong, relevant H1 headline but poor, thin content and few or no quality backlinks is unlikely to rank well.

H2-H6 Tags: Structuring for better understanding

H2 to H6 tags are not direct ranking factors in the sense that they do not have the same direct weighting in algorithms of search engines such as Google as other elements (e.g., backlinks or domain authority).

However, they play a supporting role in good SEO practices, mainly by improving the user experience and structural organization of a site. Here’s how they can be useful:

  1. Structuring content: H2 to H6 headings help to better structure the content on a website. They allow both users and search engines to scan the content more easily and understand the different sections of the content. This can be particularly helpful for longer articles and blog posts.
  2. Improving the user experience: Structuring content well through the use of subheadings (H2-H6) can improve readability by breaking up “blocks” of text and helping users to keep an overview. This can lead to a longer dwell time and a lower bounce rate, which in turn sends positive signals to the search engines.
  3. Additional keyword placement: Similar to H1 tags, H2-H6 tags can also contain relevant keywords that give search engines more contextual information about what your content is about. However, they should be used naturally and in a meaningful context to avoid keyword stuffing.
  4. Support for featured snippets and SEO for voice search: Well-organized and structured content that uses headings can also help you get selected for featured snippets in Google. In addition, clearly structured answers formatted in H2-H6 tags are easier for voice search assistants to interpret.

So while H2-H6 tags themselves are not necessarily considered direct ranking factors, they contribute to the overall SEO health of a website by improving structure, context and usability, factors that are all considered by search engines when evaluating pages. It is important to see them as part of a holistic SEO strategy.

HTTPS: Security as standard

HTTPS is actually a ranking factor for Google. In 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would be used as a ranking signal. This step was taken to make the web more secure overall and to protect the privacy of users. Although it is a “light” ranking factor (i.e. it may not carry as much weight as high-quality content or backlinks), it is still an important aspect that website owners should consider.

Here are the reasons why HTTPS is important:

  1. Data security: HTTPS encrypts the information transmitted between browsers and websites to ensure secure data exchange. This is especially important for websites that process sensitive information, such as personal data, credit card information, etc.
  2. Trust and credibility: Visitors are more likely to trust websites that are labeled as secure. Many browsers mark websites without HTTPS as “not secure”, which can put some users off, especially if they are asked to enter personal information.
  3. Improving user experience: Apart from security, HTTPS can also slightly improve website loading times, resulting in a better user experience. Faster websites are often preferred by users and can lead to a longer time spent on the page.
  4. Potential SEO benefits: While moving to HTTPS alone is probably not enough to achieve high rankings, it can provide a competitive advantage, especially in markets or niches where competition for the top positions is fierce.

However, it is important to be careful when switching from HTTP to HTTPS to avoid common mistakes such as blocking crawlers through Robots.txt, forgetting to register the new HTTPS page in Google Search Console, or having mixed content (both HTTP and HTTPS resources on the same page) that can compromise security. A carefully managed transition will help you take advantage of HTTPS without risking temporary ranking losses.

Inbound links: The foundation of the internet

Incoming links, often referred to as “backlinks”, are an important ranking factor in the algorithms of search engines such as Google. They are fundamental to understanding the authority, trustworthiness and relevance of a website.

Here are the key reasons why inbound links are so important:

  1. Website authority: Incoming links from high-quality and relevant websites show search engines that your content is trustworthy and credible. This is a concept often referred to as “link juice” – the idea that some of the authority of the linking site passes to the linked site.
  2. Link profile: The entirety of your incoming links forms your link profile. Search engines analyze this profile to understand the diversity of links, the quality of the linking websites and the relevance of the link text (also known as “anchor text”). A natural link profile with links from various authoritative domains can significantly improve your ranking.
  3. Relevance and context: Links from pages that are thematically relevant to your content are particularly valuable. They help search engines to better understand the context of your content and how it relates to the topic. This helps to ensure that your site appears as a result for relevant search queries.
  4. Search engine crawling: Backlinks also help search engine crawlers to discover and index your website. This is particularly important for new pages or websites that are aiming for better indexing.
  5. Competitive advantage: A website with a strong backlink structure can have a better position in the SERPs (search engine results pages) compared to competitors who may have fewer (or lower quality) backlinks.

However, it is important to note that not all backlinks are the same. Links from spam-related or irrelevant websites can have a negative effect. Google also applies penalties for unnatural link building practices, such as buying links, which is against the Webmaster Guidelines. Therefore, the focus should be on organically building high quality and relevant backlinks through useful, authentic content and good networking practices.

Internal links: Navigation for user and machine

Internal links are an important ranking factor for search engine optimization (SEO). They link the pages of your website together and help search engines such as Google to understand the structure of your website and visitors to find their way around your website. Here are some points that illustrate the importance of internal links:

  1. Website navigation: Internal links make it easier to navigate your website, resulting in a better user experience. A clear, logical link structure (often supported by a hierarchy of menus) helps visitors to navigate your site and find the information or services they need more easily.
  2. Distribution of link equity (link juice): Internal links distribute link equity on your website. This means that pages with a higher number of internal links pointing to them are often considered more important or relevant. This can help to improve the rankings of these pages in the search results.
  3. Page indexing: Internal links allow search engine crawlers to discover and index new pages on your website. This is particularly important for content that is not directly accessible from the homepage or newly added pages.
  4. Contextual relevance: Internal links provide context about the content of your site. The anchor text used (the clickable text of a link) can give search engines additional insights into the topic or relevance of a page.
  5. User retention: By linking relevant content and pages together, internal links can help keep users on your site longer, which serves as a positive signal to search engines. This can also reduce the bounce rate as users may explore multiple pages during a visit.

While internal links help with SEO, it’s important to use them strategically. Excessive internal linking or the use of irrelevant anchor texts can be confusing for users and have a negative impact on your SEO. As with most SEO practices, it’s best to put the user experience first.

 

Keyword prominence: visibility where it counts

“Keyword prominence” refers to how prominently keywords are placed within a website. The main goal is to ensure that search engines and users can easily identify the keywords that define the content of the page. Prominence can be influenced by various aspects, including their placement in certain parts of the page as well as their frequency compared to other words.

Here are the points that influence keyword prominence:

  1. Position in the content: Keywords that appear earlier in the text, preferably in the first paragraph, or that are used in headings and subheadings are considered more prominent. Similarly, keywords that appear in the introduction or conclusion of an article are considered more important.
  2. HTML tags: Keywords in title tags (especially the title tag), meta descriptions and header tags (such as H1, H2, etc.) are more prominent, as search engines attach particular importance to these areas when crawling a page.
  3. Text design: The use of bold, italics or underlining can also increase the prominence of a keyword, as these designs help to emphasize certain parts of the text.
  4. Alt tags in images: Keywords used in image alt tags can also contribute to prominence, especially since search engines are not able to “read” images directly.
  5. URL structure: If a keyword appears in the URL of a page, this is also a sign of prominence.

It’s important to find a balance when it comes to keyword prominence. Over-optimization through the unnatural overfilling of keywords can lead to a search engine penalty. The key is to ensure that keywords are used naturally within the content and provide real value to the reader. The aim is to optimize the recognizability for search engines without impairing the reading experience for the human user.

Language & hreflang tags: Local relevance in the global landscape

Language per se is not a direct ranking factor for search engines such as Google, but the relevance of the content for the user, the linguistic quality and how well the language is tailored to the target group play a major role in search engine optimization (SEO).

Here are some key points that illustrate this:

  1. Target group-specific content: Search engines prioritize content that is most relevant to users’ queries. If your website contains content in the language your target audience speaks, it will be more relevant to searches in that language and geographic market.
  2. Localization and internationalization: If your content is optimized for multiple regions and languages (by using hreflang tags, specific subdomains or directories for different languages, etc.), this helps search engines understand which version of your content they should display to users in different countries or language regions. This is not directly a “ranking boost”, but it helps to increase visibility for relevant search queries.
  3. Quality and comprehensibility of the content: Content that is written in clear, correct and easy-to-understand language improves the user experience. This can lead to longer dwell times on the page, a lower bounce rate and more interactions, which search engines can interpret as positive signals.
  4. Keyword relevance: Different terms or phrases can be used for the same concepts or products in different languages. By creating content in the language of your target group and including the right keywords, you increase your chances of being found for relevant search queries.
  5. Duplicate content: If you offer the same content in multiple languages, it is important to handle duplicate content correctly (e.g. by using hreflang attributes) to ensure that search engines understand that it is localized versions of the same content and not duplicate content, which is usually rated negatively.

In summary, considering language in the context of the above points helps to ensure that your website is visible to the right audience and meets their needs, which indirectly has a positive impact on your ranking. It’s about optimizing relevance, accessibility and user experience.

Local address data (NAP): Consistent local presence

Local address data is a key ranking factor, especially in the context of local search engine optimization (local SEO). For businesses that operate locally and depend on local traffic (such as restaurants, retail stores, and local service providers), it is critical that their address information is up-to-date, consistent, and accurate across different online platforms.

Here are the key reasons why local address data is important for SEO:

  1. Relevance for local search queries: Search engines such as Google give preference to companies that are most relevant to a user’s search query. When someone searches for a local service (e.g., “flower stores in Berlin”), search engines use the address information to display the most relevant results in that geographic region.
  2. NAP consistency: NAP stands for name, address and telephone number. The consistency of this information across different websites, directories and social platforms helps search engines recognize that a business is legitimate and actually exists. Inconsistencies can cause confusion and undermine the trust of both search engines and potential customers.
  3. Google My Business: One of the most effective methods for local SEO is optimizing your Google My Business listing. A fully completed listing with accurate address details, opening hours, descriptions and customer reviews will improve your business’ chances of being highlighted in local search results (including Google Maps results).
  4. Local trustworthiness and authority: Address data on your website, especially if it matches other online presences, strengthens your local authority and trustworthiness. This can be particularly advantageous for “Near Me” search queries or when users are looking for specific services in a city or region.
  5. Customer ratings and reviews: Positive reviews and feedback from your customers, especially on platforms such as Google My Business or Yelp, can improve your visibility and ranking in local search results. Although this is not directly linked to address data, local customer reviews strengthen the overall relevance and reliability of your address information.

Since local SEO focuses in part on showing users the most relevant results based on their location, accurate and consistent local address data is critical to ranking higher in local search results and driving more foot traffic and interactions from local customers.

Mobile-friendliness: optimization for the hand

User-friendliness for mobile devices, also known as “mobile friendliness”, is a significant ranking factor for Google and other search engines. As more and more users access the internet via their mobile devices, search engines are placing great importance on how effectively a website works on cell phones and tablets. Here are some reasons why mobile usability is so important for ranking:

  1. Mobile-first indexing: Google uses mobile-first indexing, which means that the mobile version of your website serves as the main version for ranking in search results. This means that Google will check the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking purposes, even if a user is searching from a desktop.
  2. User experience (UX): A mobile-friendly website offers a better user experience. If visitors have difficulty navigating your website on a mobile device, they are likely to bounce quickly, which can have a negative impact on rankings. Elements such as readable text sizes, simple navigation and fast loading times are particularly important on mobile devices.
  3. Better engagement metrics: Websites that perform well on mobile devices tend to have better user engagement metrics (e.g. lower bounce rates, higher pages per session, longer session durations), which Google and other search engines can interpret as positive signals of a website’s quality.
  4. Local search: Mobile search is particularly important for local businesses, as users often search for stores, restaurants or services in their area while on the move. In these cases, a mobile-friendly website is crucial to be visible in local search results and on map services.

To ensure mobile usability, website operators should pay attention to responsive design, where the website automatically adapts to the user’s screen size, as well as optimized loading times, easy-to-use menus and easy-to-read content on small screens. Tools such as Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Test” can help to identify and fix any problems on your mobile website.

MUM: The next generation of search

The Multitask Unified Model (MUM) is not a direct ranking factor in the traditional sense, as we understand backlinks, mobile usability or other specific metrics that search engines use to evaluate websites. Instead, MUM is an advanced AI technology developed by Google to better understand and process complex search queries that may require multiple aspects or intentions combined into a single query.

What is MUM and how does it affect the search?

  1. Understanding complex queries: MUM is designed to understand the nuances and contexts of complex search queries that traditional search algorithms may not fully capture. It can combine elements from different queries and pull information from different sources to provide a more comprehensive answer.
  2. Use of language and content: MUM is cross-lingual, which means that it can understand and link information across language barriers. It is also multimodal, so it can interpret not only text but also images and possibly other media formats to deliver search results.
  3. Improved information delivery: Rather than acting as a direct ranking factor, MUM would allow Google to provide answers to search queries that are more comprehensive, useful and relevant to the user’s specific needs by linking different content and sources together.
  4. SEO and content strategy: Although MUM itself is not a ranking factor, it could influence the way content should be organized, presented and optimized. Website owners and SEO experts may need to provide more complex content and answers to potential questions from their audience, as MUM can help make deeper and more nuanced connections between queries and content.

To summarize, MUM is an advanced model that aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of search engine functionality, especially for complex, multi-dimensional queries. It’s a step towards a more intuitive, human-like understanding of queries and a richer, more diverse set of search results, rather than a checklist of criteria a page must fulfill to improve its ranking.

User search history: Offer personalized experiences

Personalized searches are based on individual history. Websites should encourage user engagement to perform better in personalized search results.

Page speed: faster is better

Fast loading times are crucial for user satisfaction.

Slow pages can lead to a higher bounce rate and have a negative impact on the ranking.

RankBrain: AI in the search

Fast loading times are crucial for user satisfaction.

Slow pages can lead to a higher bounce rate and have a negative impact on the ranking.

Relevance, distance & prominence: the triad of local search

Relevance, distance and prominence are actually factors that Google takes into account in local search results:

  1. Relevance: Relevance measures how well a local listing matches what a user is looking for. By adding detailed and relevant information about your business, you can help Google better understand your listing and ensure it shows up for relevant searches.
  2. Distance: This is the distance between the location that a user specifies in their search query and the location of a local listing. If a user does not provide a location, Google attempts to estimate the distance based on what is known about the user’s location.
  3. Prominence: This refers to how well-known a business or service is in the offline world. For example, famous museums, sights or well-known brand stores in the real world are also prominently represented in local search results. Prominence is also evaluated based on information that Google has about a company from the web, such as links, articles and directories.

The combination of these factors helps Google to determine the best results for a user’s search query. However, it should be noted that these factors are mainly relevant for local search results.

Sitewide links: Pointless links only do harm

Sitewide links (i.e. links that are visible from all pages of a website, e.g. in the footer or header) can have an influence on the ranking. However, their effect must be seen in the context of the overall SEO strategy:

Nature of links: If sitewide links are placed organically and for legitimate reasons, such as a link to an affiliate or subsidiary, they may be legitimate. However, links that are placed solely for SEO reasons can be considered manipulative by Google.

Relevance: Links that are not thematically relevant to the linking page can be seen as a sign of an unnatural link profile.

Quantity vs. quality: It is important to note that it is not only the number of links that counts, but also their quality. A large pile of low-quality sitewide links can do more harm than good.

In recent years, Google has further developed its algorithms to better evaluate the quality and relevance of backlinks. Sitewide links that are inserted in bulk and without any real added value for users can therefore lead to penalties.

So it’s best to be careful with sitewide links and make sure they add real value and are not just inserted for SEO purposes.

Spelling & grammar: quality is in the details

Spelling and grammar can have an impact on the quality of a website and thus indirectly influence the ranking in search engines.

The reasons for this are obvious:

  1. User experience: Websites with many spelling and grammatical errors can be perceived as less professional or trustworthy. This can negatively influence the dwell time and other user signals, which in turn could have an impact on the ranking.
  2. Quality indicator: Correct spelling and grammar can serve as indicators of high-quality content. Search engines strive to present the best content to users, and quality plays a crucial role in this.
  3. Comprehensibility: Clear and correctly written texts are easier to understand and offer the user added value, which can have a positive effect on user signals.

While spelling and grammar are important, they should be considered in the context of the overall content and quality of a website.

They are just one of many factors that can influence the ranking. However, it is always advisable to pay attention to correct spelling and grammar in order to offer users the best possible experience.

Text formatting: legibility as the key to user retention

Text formatting is similar to spelling and grammar.

Well-formatted content can improve readability and comprehension and thus indirectly act as a ranking factor in search engines.

But there are other reasons to strive for sensible text formatting:

  1. Readability and user experience: Well-formatted content can improve readability and comprehension. Headings, lists, bold or italicized text passages help to structure the content and highlight the most important points. A better user experience can lead to longer dwell times and lower bounce rates, which can send positive signals to search engines.
  2. Structuring for search engines: Heading tags (such as H1, H2, H3 etc.) help search engines to understand the structure and content of a page. You can emphasize the relevance of certain sections of a text.
  3. Mobile optimization: As more and more users search from mobile devices, it is important that content is well formatted and easy to read on smaller screens.
  4. Highlighting keywords: The right text formatting can help to emphasize keywords and relevant phrases, which can help search engines to better understand the content of the page.

So although text formatting in itself is less of a direct ranking factor, it contributes to the overall quality and user experience of a website, which in turn can influence search engine rankings. It is therefore advisable to pay attention to clear and effective text formatting when creating content.

Title tags: The first impression in the search results

Title tags are still an important ranking factor for search engines.

The title tag of a web document (often referred to as the “page title”) is displayed in search engine results and gives both users and search engines an insight into the content of the respective page.

Here are the reasons why title tags are essential for SEO:

  1. Relevance: A clear and concise title tag helps search engines like Google understand what a particular page is about and how relevant it is to users’ search queries. This is crucial for the ranking of a page for certain keywords.
  2. User experience: Title tags are the first thing users see in search results. A well-formulated title tag can increase the click-through rate (CTR) of your page, as it gives users a quick overview of what to expect on your page and whether they can find the information they are looking for there.
  3. Search intent: By integrating relevant keywords into your title tags, you can better address the search intent of users. This helps your website to rank higher for more relevant search queries.

However, it is important to observe the following best practices for title tags:

  • Avoid duplicates: Each page of your website should have a unique title tag that reflects its specific content. Duplicates can be confusing for search engines and have a negative impact on your ranking.
  • Be precise: Title tags should be concise and relevant. It is generally recommended that they are no longer than 50-60 characters to prevent them from being cut off in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
  • Keyword inclusion: Although it is important to include keywords, you should avoid keyword stuffing. The title tag should be formulated in a natural way and clearly communicate to users what to expect on the page.

URLs: Clean, clear and descriptive

“Keywords in URLs are overrated for Google SEO.”

John Müller, Google Search Advocate

URLs are a ranking factor, but a rather low ranking factor.

There are some understandable reasons why the structure and clarity of URLs are important:

  1. Readability: Clear and understandable URLs can give users an insight into what they can expect on the page. A well-structured URL is easy to understand for both search engines and users.
  2. Keyword integration: If relevant keywords are included in the URL, this can help both users and search engines to better understand the content of the page.
  3. Trustworthiness: Clearly structured and simple URLs can increase users’ trust in a website.
  4. Avoidance of duplicates: Unique URLs help to avoid duplicate content, as each page should have its own URL.
  5. Hierarchy and depth: The structure of the URL can give search engines an indication of the hierarchy of information on a website.

Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that although the URL structure is a factor, it is not the decisive factor for a good ranking. It is always best to optimize URLs from the user’s point of view so that they are logical, clear and easy to understand.

About the Author

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Alexander Sperber is the Chief Executive Officer of UnitedAds, a company specializing in digital marketing strategies. With nearly two decades of experience, he has established himself as an expert in Google Ads and search engine optimization (SEO).

Under his leadership, UnitedAds has made a name for itself through innovative approaches to enhancing online visibility and achieving success in digital marketing.

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