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Guide to Google ranking factors – Part 7: Site-level signals

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Last week we published the sixth instalment of our complete guide to Google ranking factors.

It concentrated on trust signals, authority and expertise, paying particular attention to Google’s Page Quality Rating.

This week we move away from on-page content, and dive into site-level factors.


HTTPS adds an additional layer of security to a standard HTTP protocol by encrypting in SSL and sharing a key with the destination server that’s difficult to hack.

Google wants to keep everyone safe on the Web, so it uses HTTPS as a ranking factor. Here’s Google’s 2014 statement:

“We’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now, it’s only a very lightweight signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals, such as high-quality content.”

According to Moz, as of 2016, HTTPS websites account for 30% of all Google search results.


2) Site speed

Check the size of your page sizes and their load time. You can use Google’s own site speed test to do this. Site speed is a ranking factor, so follow any improvements Google recommends as closely as you can.

3) Mobile friendliness

Ever since the initial ‘Mobilegeddon’ update which debuted on 21st April 2015, mobile-friendliness has been a significant ranking factor in Google search results.

There are many ways that Google recommends in making sure your website is mobile friendly, and these are thoroughly explored in the linked article. However these elements are what you should pay attention to:

  • Don’t use Flash
  • Make sure your viewport is set properly
  • Use large font
  • Space out links and buttons
  • Don’t use full-screen pop-ups

4) Sitemap

Make sure your website has an accurate sitemap in both XML and HTML format. This will help Google index your webpages easily and comprehensively. You can upload your sitemap to Search Console, however most CMSs such as WordPress will automatically build a sitemap for you.

5) Schema markup

You can make your search results appear more attractive by adding Schema markup to the HTML of your pages. This isn’t necessarily a ranking factor per sé, but rich snippets can encourage a higher click-through rate than results without the added information.

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Schema is also the preferred method of markup by most search engines including Google, and it’s fairly straightforward to use. For more information, check out our handy guide to Schema.

6) Accelerated mobile pages (AMP)

AMP is Google’s open source initiative to help speed up the mobile web by providing stripped-down faster loading versions of a site’s existing webpages.

Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, stated during his SEJ Summit Chicago appearance that, “Currently, AMP is not a mobile ranking factor.”

However as AMP results begin appearing throughout the organic mobile SERPS, time will tell how long it takes for Google to adopt AMP into its core algorithm.

7) Links out to authority sites

Although we’ll discuss the value of authority backlinks to your site in a later chapter of this guide, you should also be aware that linking out to authority sites can be a trust signal.

Low value, untrustworthy websites with thin content will rarely link out to bigger publishers. However sites with well-written content, where sources are properly attributed and linked to, will be trusted.

8) Too many outbound links

Conversely, loading a single webpage with a large of number of outbound (or even internal links) can affect the usability and readability of the page, especially if they lack relevance.

9) The number of pages on your site

A large site with many high quality webpages will have a higher authority than a site with very few pages. That’s not to say that a weekly publishing blog can’t outrank a 10 year-old site publishing 20 articles a day, it’s just the latter will probably have more trust from Google.

10) Site downtime

If your website experiences a lot of downtime due to maintenance or server issues, this can affect your ranking. It’s vital that you use a trustworthy hosting platform and your web developers know what they’re doing.

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Search Engine Watch.You can follow him on Twitter: @Christophe_Rock

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