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SEO: The Top 3 Google ranking factors revealed

Businesses and individuals with an online presence are always interested in the top Google ranking factors.  Last year, the field of search engine optimisation was thrown into a state of frenzy with the release of Google’s search quality raters guideline.  This guideline gave most webmasters and digital marketing professionals an insight as to what Google looks for in web pages.  Although, it failed to clearly highlight the top ranking factors used by Google.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Google revealed the launch of an artificial intelligence algorithm known as RankBrain.  So what is RankBrain and why do we need it? Before explaining what RankBrain is or does, it is important to state that 15% of Google Search Queries have never been seen before by the Search Engine. Simply put, on a daily basis 15% of the questions or queries typed by users have never been used in the past. This paved the way for RankBrain. So RankBrain, is a machine learning algorithm that helps Google make an intelligent guess on the appropriate results or web pages that are best for these complex and unique queries.


Google’s Top 3 Ranking Factors


A few months ago we learnt RankBrain was the third ranking factor used by Google and most digital marketing professionals were all interested in finding out about the top two.  To put us all out of our misery, in a Q&A session, a senior search strategist with Google revealed that content and links are the top two ranking factors and RankBrain as the third. Akin to the scenario of the Chicken or the Hen, which comes first?  Some argue links are first and contents are second whilst others state otherwise. In this blog, we’ll be having a quick look at the top three ranking factors with useful tips on how to make the best out of each.



Content is believed to be king and this is integral to a site’s keyword ranking and traffic. It is important to ensure the contents on your website are crafted with users in mind. These contents could be in the form of web copies on the service you provide, blogs, infographic and videos. In the case of written contents, it is important to ensure they are easy to understand with the use of appropriate language, legible fonts, bullet points, grammatically correct, short sentences and appropriate references to sources.  Whilst it is important to have appropriate keywords in mind when writing a given content it is essential for the content to have a natural flow. Good quality content will encourage users to spend more time on a given site and this will be a hint to the search engines on the importance of your website.  It is important to have a plan before you put together contents for your website.  Also, going an extra-mile in your content creation is quite instrumental to a higher ranking. A good practice will be to go a step further on the current articles on contents that are online.


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The example above indicates a search for “5 property buying tips,” and the first result is an article with 50 tips. It is a content that went the extra-mile to provide value and authority. With a longer blog article, there is a higher possibility to attract more links and rank for more keywords than a shorter one.



Contents provide value to users and links help Search engines to gain a better understanding of the value and authority of your websites. When you have quality sites linking to your web page it is an indication to search engines that your website holds relevance.  There are different techniques you can employ to attract quality links to your website but it is much easier when you’ve got quality content.  Some links happen naturally whilst others will require a bit of an effort or an outreach to other website owners or publishers.  A tool like Buzzstream can help you find link building opportunities and other tools like Dealinkchecker and DomainHunter+ can help you find dead links on other websites and lead to link building opportunity. Without over-complicating things, links are very important ranking factors used by Google and other search engines.  Receiving a quality link from a website is better than ten low-quality links from 10 different websites. Link building remains an integral part to the field of search engine optimisation.



As earlier stated, RankBrain is the third-most important signal used by Google. It helps Google to provide the most relevant results to users. Based on a users’ query, RankBrain predicts and serves the most relevant webpage for complex and long-tail queries. Offline, Google trains the RankBrain algorithm with batches of historical searches so it can effectively predict the best web results for future searches made by users. To get the best out of RankBrain, it is important to ensure the user journey from search engine results page to your website is almost flawless.  Larry Kim of WordStream, wrote an interesting piece on how to set your website up to benefit from RankBrain.  As RankBrain is designed for complex long tail queries, it is important to consistently monitor your search term report on Google Search Console and optimise your title tag, Meta descriptions and web page accordingly. This will help improve the click-through rate, which helps RankBrain understand your website is effective in addressing complex search queries of that nature.


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From the example above I typed in a query that seems not to make much sense. It does seem like Google’s RankBrain Algorithm was able to predict the best result to my question. Quora’s website has a title tag that seems a better version of my question and does produce the right answer.   I typed the same question on Bing and got a less than relevant result. It is safe to say that Google’s RankBrain refined my query and produced a better result than Bing’s RankNet.


The Top 3 SEO ranking factors by Google in 2016 image


It is, therefore, important to continue to utilise the search queries on your Google Search Console as a guide to refine your title tag, Meta descriptions and web page. RankBrain attempts to make sense of complex and long tail queries and you stand a better chance if you detect a pattern of queries and refine your contents where relevant.

The ultimate aim of most search engines such as Google is to provide users with the most relevant results or web pages. It is important to craft useful contents that can be easily linked to by other websites.  Ensuring that the user journey from search engine results page to your actual website is seamless and relevant is vital. Also, constantly monitoring complex search queries to guide your on page effort is important.  If you are trying to get a grasp of all of these SEO developments, we’ve got a team of specialists who can provide your business with the much-needed help. Please do get in touch for professional advice.