Google Ranking Factors: Everything You Need to Know and Capitalize On in 2022

Google Ranking Factors

Given that it generally takes time for your site to rank in search engine results pages, it’s important to ensure that you’ve done exceptional work in terms of digital marketing and SEO. Another thing you should know is what all of the crucial factors are and how they affect your site’s SEO ranking. Stuffing your website with high-ranking keywords won’t help improve your Google search engine rankings.

You may already know that Google ranks websites based on over 200 different factors. But, do you know what they are? Last year, Google introduced an algorithm update on site speed, which became a critical ranking factor in 2021.

Now that 2022 is in full swing, it’s essential to stay up to date on the newest Google algorithm updates and adapt your digital marketing plans accordingly if you want to make it through the year. The tricky part is determining which updates to capitalize on. For this reason,  we’ve come up with a list of the most important Google ranking factors you need to be aware of in 2022. So, let’s get started!

2022 Google Ranking FactorsWeight (%)
Regular Publication of Engaging Content26%
Keywords in Meta Title Tags17%
Backlinks15%
Niche Expertise13%
User Engagement11%
Internal Links5%
Mobile-friendliness/Mobile-first Website5%
Page Speed2%
Site Security / SSL Certificate2%
Schema Markup / Structured Data1%
Keywords in URL1%
Keywords in Header Tags1%
Keywords in Meta Description Tags and Other Factors1%

Principal Ranking Factors

Regular Publication of Engaging and Relevant Content 

Years have passed since engaging content surpassed backlinks as the most critical factor in Google’s search algorithm. While content maintains the top spot in the algorithm in 2022, links fell off to an extent. The previous year alone witnessed a flurry of different digital marketing trends. Also, it further proved that Google evaluates newly-published content to see if it responds well to the keyword’s search intent. If the searchers’ activity or behavior indicates that the page’s content satisfies their intent, it gets promoted. Generally, Google’s AI rewards thought leadership content published at least twice every week.

Originally, backlinks were the foundation of Google’s ranking algorithm. However, they began to lose footing in 2018 with the emergence of keywords in meta-title tags and the publication of engaging and relevant content, as mentioned above. While backlinks remain a significant factor in Google’s decision to rank a website in its search results, content should be your primary point of emphasis since it gets you links organically while also being the most important ranking factor in and of itself.

Keywords in Meta Title Tags

Since the late 1990s, inserting the keywords that your page is targeting within its meta title tag has been a critical part of ranking efforts. While any professional SEO marketer knows this, keyword strategy is a grueling intellectual process usually takes 20-30 minutes per page. It’s also worth mentioning that the placement and concentration of keywords in a title tag are critical. Ideally, title tags would only contain your targeted keyword. However, there’s the need to place articles and adjectives around it for readability.

Structured Data/Schema Markup

Schema markup, a more current version of meta tags, is code that you may add to your website’s pages to help Google display more visual search results such as snippets. You might’ve already encountered search results that are lengthy and list out a website’s top pages, highlight a critical piece of information and data, or include a 5-star ranking system or list of events. Then, you’re already familiar with schema markup. Google promotes pages that employ schema markup because it makes the search results for those pages more helpful to searchers. They also make specific search results stand out from the rest on search engine results pages.

Niche Expertise

In 2017, Google began promoting websites it recognizes to be niche specialists. Being a so-called niche expert entails having a cluster of 10+ authoritative pages centered on the same “core” keyword. For example, “automotive services” can be the main keyword for an automobile company that has industry landing pages targeting “automotive services for new car owners,” “automotive services for [vehicle model],” or “automotive services for [location].” Also, it can serve as the core keyword for FAQ landing pages targeting “automotive services pricing,” “automotive services benefits,” and “best automotive services 2022.” The consistency of the core keyword across the website’s pages serves as a sort of magnetic field wherein the site attracts traffic from any Google search that includes the core keyword. 

In 2017, Google placed a more significant premium on internal links, which are frequently mentioned alongside hubs. The larger the concentration of pages with the same keyword in their title tags, the higher your website will rank for that keyword, as long as internal links connect them. Publishing 25 articles on different perspectives of a subject and linking them all back to one authoritative page will be a profound expression of that page’s value and would impart higher ranking ability on that specific page.

Note: The “hub and spoke” model, which combines Keywords in Meta Title Tags, Niche Expertise, and Internal Links remains the most effective and comprehensive SEO strategy in 2022. 

Mobile-Friendly Website

If you want your site to gain visitors in 2022, your website must be simple enough to navigate all devices, particularly mobile phones and tablets. Previously, the requirement was “mobile-friendliness,” but Google has switched to a mobile-first world. This means that the search engine expects mobile visitors to be the main focus of your web design. In essence, a desktop version of your website shouldn’t even be existent. Your primary objective should be as follows: 

  • your website should be identical on mobile and desktop platforms
  • the layout should be straightforward
  • Optimize site navigation to ensure a pleasant experience for mobile users.

Site Security

Hackers have become more adept as the internet has become increasingly fundamental to everyone’s lives. Google’s worst nightmare would be to serve up sites that it deems harmful to its searchers. As a consequence, if your domain is even susceptible to hacking-for example, if your site lacks an SSL certificate (marked by the “s” at the end of “https”), it will lose its ranking ability. An SSL certificate is usually free and may automatically be obtained from your registrar.

Page Speed

Google has always prioritized user experience above everything else, which is why it has invested in thousands of data centers around the world to deliver search results in milliseconds. Your website should take a page out of Google’s book and prioritize page speed. To earn full ranking credit for this criteria, you want sites to load as rapidly as possible in no more than 3 seconds. Although Page Speed lost some momentum in 2022 since Google no longer awards extra points to super-fast pages that feature a one-second load time or very fast pages with one to two seconds load time, quick load times remain essential. You can use Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool to test your page speed. 

User Engagement

The most significant change to Google’s algorithm in the past five years has been the increased significance of User Engagement, which was introduced to the ranking algorithm in 2016. Google used to be apprehensive of placing weight on an on-site factor that site owners could easily influence. However, Google’s highly sophisticated technology-borrowed from its advertising business’s click fraud detection side-has made user interaction a significant aspect of its algorithm.

User engagement is connected to the overall factor, Consistent Publication of Engaging Content. Engagement, which comprises bounce rate, time on page, and pages per session, is a good measure of the content’s quality. 

However, keep in mind that user searches have different intents, some of which show that the searcher wants to quickly lookup information. Therefore, more isn’t always better.

Keywords in URL

Putting the keyword(s) you’re targeting in the URL of the webpage is still considered good practice from its heyday in the 2000s.  But, its weight in the algorithm has exponentially declined since.

Google Algorithm Updates

The following are noteworthy changes and updates implemented by Google to its algorithms since 2021: 

Regular Publication of Engaging Content

Google continues to reward reliable providers of high-quality content by awarding them competitive rankings – frequently on the first page – for their target keywords within a few days after publishing. While it can take more than six months to see improvements in your domain authority, the regular content publishing required to achieve said improvements is by far the most heavily weighted factor in Google’s algorithm. 

This year, consistent publication of engaging content remains the #1 Google ranking factor, considering the more significant share of the pie now allocated to user experience.  

User Engagement

This year, user engagement more than doubled in importance, making it the fifth most important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm behind Backlinks and Keyword in Title Tags. As we look forward to the future of SEO in 2023 and beyond, we’re confident that providing the most rewarding experience for searchers based on query intent will continue to increase in importance.

Niche Expertise

This year, the value of niche expertise increased slightly, stressing the significance of hub and spoke SEO, in which high-level pages targeting major keywords link to a cluster of other pages targeting similar keywords.

The weight of backlinks fell marginally, reflecting the ongoing decline of this once-dominant Google ranking factor. While it remains the fourth most important algorithm component, it’s now considered a relic from when Google’s AI wasn’t smart enough to assess the quality and originality of web content on its own and required the assistance of other websites. Still, the concept of determining a page’s credibility based on links from other websites, which is somewhat similar to the academic citation system, will always play a significant role and will most likely plateau at 10% in Google’s algorithm once everything settles.  

Keywords in Meta Titles

Among the ranking factors, keywords in meta titles decreased in weight the most as Google increased its practice of autogenerating meta titles in specific instances. However, this factor remains particularly unique in the sense that choosing the correct keywords for each page of your website remains a vital need for ranking. So while it’s not as important as it was last year, it’s still critical. 

Offsite Brand Mentions

Once a promising ranking factor due to its performance in the Google My Business ranking algorithm, offsite brand mentions have been completely removed from the list. Its share was absorbed by niche expertise, consistent publication of engaging content, and user experience. 

Google Ranking Factors: What You Need to Do to Capitalize in 2022

Create Consistent and Engaging Content

Ultimately, Google’s end goal is to provide consumers with exactly what they’re looking for. As a result, the content on your website must be informative, meaningful, and engaging. 

The importance of digital marketing services remains crucial, but search engine algorithms are designed to track how many clicks your content receives and how long users stay on your website. 

Therefore, ensuring your website publishes timely and meaningful content is crucial to keep users engaged.

Implement a Mobile-First Approach

With mobile devices accounting for more than 55% of web traffic, Google recognized their importance and developed mobile-first indexing. If you haven’t done it yet, you should prioritize optimizing your website for mobile devices. 

You’ll maximize the likelihood of users reading your content and exploring your website from mobile devices if you ensure your website is mobile-friendly, mobile-optimized, and mobile responsive.

Ensure a Pleasant User-Experience

Another critical SEO factor that affects your digital marketing campaigns is user experience. To improve significantly on this aspect,  you should work on page speed, site structure, and security. Catering to these three fundamental parameters will ensure that your site is optimized for a best-in-class user experience.

Site Security is Crucial

These days, the web is more vulnerable than ever. For Google, it’s a nightmare to serve such potentially risky websites. If your domain is at high risk in terms of cybersecurity or lacks an SSL certificate, Google will immediately deem your site vulnerable, which negatively affects your SEO ranking. If you feel you’re site security is falling behind, consider hiring a professional digital marketing agency to help you.

Schema Markup

Most digital marketing service providers overlook this ranking factor. However, schema markup should be considered with the highest level of precision. Although it’s only a type of microdata used to build enhanced descriptions that display in search results, it can help you rank higher and gain more conversions. Schema markups serve as a “virtual business card,” allowing users to learn about your site, your location, and what you do.

Finally, there are backlinks. Yes, they’re still one of the most crucial SEO ranking factors since they significantly influence your page’s rank. The more sites that link to your website, the higher your domain authority will be and the more beneficial it’ll be for your business. To get the best results, you should avoid buying backlinks and focus on quality rather than quantity.

Conclusion

Google and other major search engines don’t reveal all of the ranking factors that influence their search results. However, they do provide adequate guidance. For instance, you can learn in detail about the key Google ranking criteria.

Currently, there are over 200 documented Google ranking factors. Thousands of algorithm changes have also been implemented through the years. Identifying which still works and which are already obsolete appears to be challenging, and it is.

You should keep in mind that not all of those ranking signals and factors have the same weight. Some have a more significant impact than others. The challenging part is determining what they are. Although there are varying opinions among SEO experts, there’s a consensus that these are the top SEO ranking factors in 2022.

About the Author

Sherwin has been in the customer service industry since 2011 before landing his first job as a content writer three years ago. In 2016, he decided to pursue Psychology as a second degree. In between social experiments and case studies, he continued to fuel his passion for writing by serving as the chief editor of their university publication for three years.

At present, he’s a full-time writer for Reach Digital, writing mainly about SEO and online marketing topics, and has been a part of the company’s pool of writers since October 2020.

When he’s not traversing the alleyways of digital marketing, you’ll most likely find him backpacking as he tries to find inspiration for his next book.