1.Keyword in the title tag
The title tag tells search engines about the topic of a particular page. Moreover, search engines use it to form a search result snippet visible to users. It acts as a ranking factor that signals about page’s relevance to a search query. However, today it’s less important than it used to be (according to a recent correlation study).
“We found a very small relationship between title tag keyword optimization and ranking. This correlation was significantly smaller than we expected, which may reflect Google’s move to Semantic Search.“
Back in 2016, John Mueller claimed that title tags remained an important ranking factor, but not a critical one.
“Titles are important! They are important for SEO. They are used as a ranking factor. Of course, they are definitely used as a ranking factor but it is not something where I’d say the time you spend on tweaking the title is really the best use of your time.“
Recently, Martin Splitt, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, has highlighted the importance of metadata, titles in particular, naming it among one of the most important ranking factors.
“So the second biggest thing is to make sure that you have meta tags that describe your content.“
“And have page titles that are specific to the page that you are serving. So don’t have a title for everything. The same title is bad.“
Also, in the SEO Starter Guide, Google advises on creating unique and accurate page titles, putting an emphasis on their naturality.
Though there is some evidence that keyword-based title tags might play a less significant role in ranking, Google keeps highlighting their importance as a strong relevance factor. To make the most of title tags, make sure they are unique and specific to pages’ topics and use keywords reasonably. And certainly, it’s better to avoid meta title duplication across a website.
2.Keyword in the description tag
The description tag used to be a ranking signal long ago. Though today it is no longer a ranking factor, it’s important for SEO, as it can affect CTR.
“But, as an indirect signal, there is anecdotal evidence that indirect attributes of better descriptions do help. Things like click-through rate (CTR), perception of the quality of the result, and perception of what your website offers all change when you optimize the meta description correctly.“
Google officially stopped using the description tag in their search algorithm in 2009 (together with the keyword tag). However, it still uses it at large to form snippets in SERPs.
“Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don’t use the description meta tag in our ranking.“
The description tag still plays a significant role in SEO, even not being a ranking factor. Google takes it to create search snippets, so descriptions may serve as advertising, allowing users to see what your page is about right from the SERP. Creating the descriptions that are most relevant to your page’s content may help you catch users’ attention and improve your CTR. Thus, the time you spend working on descriptions is likely to pay off.
3.Keyword in the H tags
The H1 tag (also referred to as the heading) is often called the second title tag, as it usually contains a short phrase describing what the page is about. A piece of text wrapped in <H1></H1> is the most prominently visible piece. Using the H1 tag more than one time across a page is strongly inadvisable. Other H tags, such as H2 to H6, help to make content more readable and give search engines an idea of the page’s structure.
From one of the Google Webmasters hangouts with John Mueller in October 2015, we can get that H tags bring little to no ranking bonuses.
“…we do use it to understand the context of a page better, to understand the structure of the text on a page, but it’s not the case like you’d automatically rank 1 or 3 steps higher just by using a heading.”
As for how many H1 tags should be used on a single page, the same John Mueller simply said — “As many as you want”.
Though there’s no clear confirmation that using keywords in H tags may result in a ranking boost, they do help search engines get a better idea of the page’s context and structure. Moreover, a text in the H1 heading is considered the most significant piece of your content. Thus placing your target keywords there looks like a good idea (if you do it reasonably).See more about SEO.
Images can signal search engines about their relevance through alt text, file name, title, description, etc. They are important ranking factors, especially for image search.
John Mueller highlighted the importance of image alt text.
“Alt text is extremely helpful for Google Images — if you want your images to rank there.“
Google also insists on the necessity of creating relevant image alt text, titles, and captions to increase images accessibility, as well as place images in the relevant context.
“By adding more context around images, results can become much more useful, which can lead to higher quality traffic to your site. You can aid in the discovery process by making sure that your images and your site are optimized for Google Images.“
Images are an important part of a website’s content. They make it more appealing, easier to read and sometimes provide more value than textual content. Optimizing images properly make them appear in image search. And the more relevant they are to the context that surrounds them, the more likely they are to be placed higher in search results. Thus, image attributes all together, such as alt text, titles, etc. are most likely to be significant ranking factors.
TF-IDF stands for term frequency-inverse document frequency. It’s an information retrieval method, and is believed to be a method Google uses to evaluate content relevance. It’s also considered an important factor for SEO and rankings , as an instrument of finding more relevant keywords.
Google confirmed to have been using TF-IDF for quite a long time. But more sophisticated methods have been already elaborated.
“This is the idea of the famous TF-IDF, long used to index web pages.
…we are beginning to think in terms of entities and relations rather than keywords.”
John Mueller has recently dwelled upon it , saying that Google has been using a huge amount of different other techniques and metrics to define relevance.
“With regards to trying to understand which are the relevant words on a page, we use a ton of different techniques from information retrieval. And there’s tons of these metrics that have come out over the years.“
TF-IDF is quite an old technique that’s been widely used for information retrieval in different fields, search engines included. By now, however, more modern and sophisticated methods have come to action. Though it doesn’t work as a ranking factor, TF-IDF may do good differently. Some case studies are displaying the correlation between content optimization with TF-IDF and rank improvement. So, it may turn quite beneficial to use TF-IDF to enrich your content with more topically relevant keywords. Together with other factors, this may help improve your ranks.
On one hand, there are industry studies that show a correlation between ranking and content length. It’s been observed that long-form content (about 2000-3000 words in length) tend to rank higher and get more traffic than shorter copies. On the other hand, there are studies that didn’t find such correlations.
Here’s what John Mueller has recently claimed in one of the Reddit threads, regarding word count.
“Word count is not a ranking factor. Save yourself the trouble.“
Pretty clear, isn’t it?
Long-form content is more likely to allow for covering a topic more in-depth, provide more value, and answer user intent effectively. These factors all together positively affect rankings, while the length of the page’s content can’t exclusively result in higher ranks.
Content comprehensiveness stands for how fully a page’s content covers this or that topic. In-depth content is believed to signal content quality, prove the website’s expertise and grant it with more trust from users. Case studies prove that sometimes in-depth content correlates with rank improvements.
In it’s SEO Starter Guide Google recommends
“Creating high quality content takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.“
Here’s what Google says with regards to content optimization.
“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it.“
Moreover, today Google favors not only accurate and in-depth content but also useful.
High-quality content is comprehensive, accurate, and brings value to users. Avoid creating content for the sake of creation or mere promotion of your business or services. On the contrary, quality content should have a purpose, answer users’ search intent, and provide the best solution to their needs.
After the Caffeine update, Google tends to give a ranking boost to fresher, recently created or updated content.
The Caffeine update was aimed at giving people more live search results, i.e. to let them find new relevant information faster. The update was made to Google’s indexing system, making new info and updates appear faster in search.
“Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index, and it’s the largest collection of web content we’ve offered. “
Though, Google’s John Mueller has recently denied giving better ranking opportunity for more frequently updated websites, there are exceptions from this ‘rule’.
At the same time, there is Quality Deserves Freshness — a part of the ranking algorithm that favors websites that provide the most recent information in certain search areas (such as news, trends, politics, events, etc.).
In general, the answer to whether fresher content impacts rankings will be — it depends. In the areas where users are likely to look for the most recent information, search results are being processed by the Quality Deserve Freshness part of the ranking algorithm for which recency is a ranking factor. For other results, Caffeine comes to action, rapidly indexing the latest updates with no significant impact on rankings.
There’s been some evidence that old, not updated content still might outrank fresher pages. Thus the age of a page might be taken into account by the ranking algorithm.
Discussing one of such cases, John Mueller supposed that content that hadn’t been long updated but remained relevant and referred to could keep good positions in SERPs, even though more fresh content appeared.
“It can really be the case that sometimes we just have content that looks to us like it remains to be relevant. And sometimes this content is relevant for a longer time.
I think it’s tricky when things have actually moved on, and these pages just have built up so much kind of trust and links and all kinds of other signals over the years… well, it seems like a good reference page.“
There’s no confirmation from Google that old content tends to rank better. Such cases happen, but their success is more likely to be connected with other factors, for example, quality, relevance, and a substantial amount of reference to those pages. Thus, it’s not the age that matters, but the quality of content and the value it brings to users.
10.Grammar and spelling
The majority of the top-ranking pages have little to no grammatical and spelling mistakes. So, grammar is affecting content quality and thus, it is considered to be an indirect ranking factor.
Matt Cutts admitted a correlation between the quality of a website and the grammatical correctness of its content back in 2011, hinting at grammar and spelling to affect rankings indirectly.
“…I think it would be fair to think about using it as a signal.
We noticed a while ago, that if you look at… how reputable we think a page or a site is, the ability to spell correlates relatively well with that.“
However, later on, John Mueller spoke a bit differently, saying
It’s always good to fix known issues with a site, but Google’s not going to count your typos.
Although Google doesn’t count your typos and says it doesn’t impact rankings, poor grammar looks unprofessional (especially for such niches as banking, law, medical services) and can leave users less satisfied with your site’s content.See more about SEO.
11.Quantity of other keywords a page ranks for
It’s believed that the number of other keywords a page ranks for, apart from the target query, may be considered a quality ranking factor.
A Google’s patent named ‘Query augmentation’ states:
“When a user submits a search query to a search engine, the terms of the submitted query can be evaluated and matched to terms of the stored augmentation queries to select one or more similar augmentation queries. The selected augmentation queries, in turn, can be used by the search engine to augment the search operation, thereby obtaining better search results.“
Which means that if algorithm chooses your page as the best fit for a certain query, it may also choose it as a result for other relevant queries.
Thus, merely the number of ranking keywords is unlikely to be a ranking factor. However, if the patented technology has been implemented into the search algorithm, it’s highly probable that ranking for one query may simplify for the page ranking for more relevant queries with much less effort.
Since the appearance of Google Quality Raters Guidelines, a website’s Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) have become the terms connected to website quality. Many voices claim that it’s become a strong signal that Google uses to evaluate websites and rank them.
Thus it’s believed that providing additional information, for example, proper NAP, content authors’ names and bio, may improve rankings.
John Mueller gave a comprehensive explanation about what Quality Raters Guidelines were meant for, as well as whether E-A-T may be referred to as a ranking signal.
“A lot of this comes from the Google Raters Guidelines which are not direct search results or search ranking factors.
But rather this is what we give folks when they evaluate the quality of our search results. ”
E-A-T today is a word many people like to repeat regarding website quality and thus, ranking impact. Quality Raters Guidelines were created for Google employees whose task was to look through search results and make sure they are relevant and of high quality. It contains recommendations on what to consider quality results, etc. True, that for some types of websites, like ‘Your Money Your Life’ for example, it’s critical to provide expert information and prove their expertise providing the author’s bio, etc. However, calling E-A-T a ranking factor seems to be a bit premature.
13.LSI Keywords in content
LSI stands for latent semantic indexing. It’s an information retrieval method that finds hidden relationships between words and thus, provides more accurate information retrieval. There’s an opinion that it helps Google to better understand the content of a website. The semantically related words that help the search engine recognize the meaning of words that may have different meanings are often called ‘LSI keywords’, and they are believed to impact rankings.
John Muller has explicitly denied the existence of LSI keywords, saying
“There’s no such thing as LSI keywords — anyone who’s telling you otherwise is mistaken, sorry.“
Moreover, LSI is an old method invented in the pre-web era, and Google uses much more modern technologies.
LSI keywords are unlikely to have any impact on rankings. Latent semantic indexing is an old information retrieval method that modern search algorithms, probably don’t even use, relying on much more sophisticated methods.