Internal links allow for crawling and indexing a website’s content. They also help search engines distinguish the most important pages (relative to other pages), and their anchor text acts as a strong relevance signal.
Touching on the internal linking subject during a Hangouts session, John Mueller claimed the following:
“You mentioned internal linking, that’s really important. The context we pick up from internal linking is really important to us… with that kind of the anchor text, that text around the links that you’re giving to those blog posts within your content. That’s really important to us.“
Google crawls websites following their internal links, thus getting the idea of the overall site structure. Internal links carry the weight from and to pages, so the page that gets many links from other site pages looks more prominent in Google’s eyes. Moreover, internal links’ anchor text is likely to serve as a strong relevance signal. Thus, it’s critical to provide links to the most valuable content, and ensure to have no broken links on your website. It’s also wise to use keyword-based anchors.See more about SEO.
It’s critical that your page layout makes your content immediately visible to users. Especially after the rollout of the ‘Page Layout algorithm’ that tends to penalize sites with abusive and distracting ads and interstitial pop ups.
Introducing the ‘Page Layout’ algorithm improvement back in 2012, Matt Cutts wrote:
“So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.“
Later on, Gary Illyes confirmed the importance of the algorithm, saying “Yes, It is still important” on Twitter.
User-friendly layout is likely to play in favor of a website. If visitors can easily reach a page’s content (without the need to scrape through giant ad blocks) it is considered to be a good user experience. Moreover, it’s clear that Google intends to penalize all sorts of distracting advertising.
It’s believed that a page that appears in a relevant category might get some ranking boost.
An existing Google’s patent on category matching describes a method that matches the search terms to page’s content, as well as page’s category. It determines the category relevance score that may affect rankings:
“…A search criteria-categories score is determined indicating a quality of match between the search criteria and the categories. An overall score is determined based on the text match score and the category match score.“
Google is likely to use category matching as a ranking signal (but at the same time, it uses other approaches that allow it to provide better results). Besides, a hierarchical architecture that includes categories helps Google to understand pages’ content better, as well as the overall site structure.
A poor website architecture that prevents search engine bots from crawling all the necessary pages of your website may hamper the visibility of the website in search results. Besides, it confuses your visitors.
John Mueller highlighted the importance of well-elaborated site architecture saying:
“In general I’d be careful to avoid setting up a situation where normal website navigation doesn’t work. So we should be able to crawl from one URL to any other URL on your website just by following the links on the page.“
He also touched on content accessibility (regarding click depth):
“What does matter for us a little bit is how easy it is to actually find the content.
So it’s more a matter of how many links you have to click through to actually get to that content rather than what the URL structure itself looks like.”
A well-elaborated site architecture allows for better crawlability and provides a convenient way for users to access the entire website content. Content that is hard to find is a sign of poor user experience, and it is not likely to rank well.
HTML errors may signal a site’s poor quality, and thus lower its rankings. And on the contrary, valid HTML helps rank better.
Google’s general guidelines mention valid HTML in connection to browser compatibility.
“Although we do recommend using valid HTML, it’s not likely to be a factor in how Google crawls and indexes your site.“
There’s also a statement by John Mueller:
“As long as it can be rendered & SD extracted: validation pretty much doesn’t matter.“
In the same thread, he was also denying that HTML may have any impact on rankings today.
Though HTML can’t be named a ranking factor, and Google encourages not to fret a lot about it, valid HTML has some virtues you can’t ignore. It positively affects the crawl rate and browser compatibility, as well as improves user experience.See more about SEO.
6.Structured data markup
Structured data markup (schema.org) helps search engines better identify the meaning of a certain piece of content (for example, event, organization, product, etc.). Using structured data on a website may result in having a featured snippet in search results. It is also considered to affect rankings.
Here’s what John Mueller was saying about the use of structured data a year ago:
“There’s no generic ranking boost for SD usage. That’s the same as far as I remember. However, SD can make it easier to understand what the page is about, which can make it easier to show where it’s relevant (improves targeting, maybe ranking for the right terms). (not new, imo)“
Sounds like structured data is not a ranking factor, but it helps ranking a website after all. Structured data acts indirectly, helping search engines better understand, and thus assess your content. Plus, it may improve your visibility in the search results, creating a feature snippet or another rich result.