SEO Ranking Factors for 2021 Facts vs Fiction
It would probably shock a lot of people to learn how much is factored in when Google determines search rankings. As far back as 2009, it was believed to be over 200 ranking factors, and with the time that’s passed, it’s almost certainly much more than that now. New functions, such as neural matching, RankBrain, and others, have been a major part of Google’s evolution into what it is today. So what can we believe about the most common search factors? There is a lot of rumor and guesswork out there. Here are some SEO ranking factors you should be considering as we head into 2021, and some others that probably do not matter that much anymore.
Factors Related to Domain
How Long a Domain has Been RegisteredCommon Belief
Many people have believed for a long time that the age of a domain is a relevant factor. This is why some developers would purchase old domain names with the goal of using that to their advantage for SEO.Reality
However, this is probably not as important as many think. Google has stated many times that the age of a domain has no bearing on rankings.We will classify this as fiction.
Keywords Should Be in the Domain nameCommon Belief
For years, it has been an accepted belief that having a keyword in the domain would help a site rank better. In fact, some developers believed that Google placed too much emphasis on this type of practice.Reality
Google says that for many years, having a keyword in a domain will not affect a site’s ranking for that keyword. It may have been a factor in the past, but it plays no part anymore.This one is also fiction.
Keywords Should Be in the URLCommon Belief
Having a keyword in the URL itself can help identify the site as relevant for that keyword. They can even serve as anchor texts when the site is shared or linked to.Reality
It is true that having a keyword in the URL will help with a site’s SEO rankings. However, the impact is very small, so it will not move the needle as other factors will.We will rank this one as a fact.
Country CodesCommon Belief
A country code will help identify a site with a specific country, which will help with ranking in that country. For example, Canadian sites have .ca for their country code.Reality
It’s true that having a country code in the URL will help a site rank for that country. However, it may hinder ranking efforts globally, so make sure to weigh the benefits with the drawbacks for your site.This one is a fact.
Factors Related to Content
Title Tag Containing KeywordCommon Belief
Title tags help to tell the site indexers what the content on a page or post is about. Search engines use this information to understand what is on a page and to properly rank the site.Reality
The reality is that title tags are an important factor, so make sure to use them. They are not as important as meta tags, but everything can help with it comes to SEO.This one is a fact.
Description Tag KeywordsCommon Belief
It is widely believed that description tags are no longer factors that are relevant to SEO. It does have an effect on click-through rate, however.Reality
Description tags are no longer a factor for rankings. They were in the past, and are valuable in that they help Google provide previews of the content, but they do not help with rankings.File this under fact.
Optimized ImagesCommon Belief
Images should be properly indexed by tagging them with file names, descriptions, alt text, and other descriptors to help with ranking and with Google image search.Reality
Image alt text is very important for ranking. Especially when it comes to ranking images. The more content you add to an image, the more likely it will be to rank for several keywords.This is a fact.
Length of ContentCommon Belief
The longer the content, the better it will rank. 2000 and up to 3000 words of relevant content can be a major factor for ranking.Reality
Google states that word count is not considered whatsoever in Google’s algorithm.This is fiction.
Comprehensive ContentCommon Belief
Content needs to be very comprehensive regarding the topic with which it is dealing with. Going in-depth signifies that a site is an authority on a given subject.Reality
For something to be high-quality content, it must be comprehensive. That means that it is accurate and can be of use to the people who consume it.This is a fact.
Content Must Be RecentCommon Belief
Google prefers recent content that has been updated to reflect the evolution of any particular subject.Reality
Google is looking for new content like it has never before. Fresh content will absolutely help in the rankings. However, if a user is not searching for something that is necessarily new, such as news or current events, then it may not be a factor.This belief is a fact in most cases, but not in all.
Content GrammarCommon Belief
Your content should be mistake-free when it comes to grammar and spelling. These are indicators of whether the content is high-quality. If there are mistakes, then you will rank lower.Reality
While in the past, grammar and spelling were bigger factors, they are not as much now. Google does not check for typos or other mistakes. However, if your content is full of errors, then it could affect the user experience and affect your SEO that way.This is another fiction, but with some grains of fact in there.
Structure and Code
Internal LinksCommon Belief
When Google is indexing a site, internal links make the process easier. It is also useful for search engines so that they can identify the pages that are the most important for certain keyword searches.Reality
Google specifically targets internal links to determine the structural layout of a site. These backlinks provide authority to certain pages and thus are crucial for helping with search engine rankings.This is a fact.
Layout is User-FriendlyCommon Belief
Content should be visible right away to people who visit a site. If the layout is not friendly for users then Google’s algorithm will penalize the site. This can include sites with lots of popups and advertisements that detract from the content.Reality
User-friendliness is absolutely important for site rankings. It gets down to the core of what Google wants to provide to its users. Not just great content, but content that’s easy to consume and interact with.Chalk this one up as a fact.
How a Site Performs and Provides SecurityCommon Belief
HTTPS websites are more secure, and therefore will rank better in Google search rankings.Reality
HTTPS has been an official ranking factor for the past 5 to 6 years. Google wants to protect users and therefore will prefer sites that have HTTPS.
This is a fact.
Location of ServerCommon Belief
Having a server located in a certain country or location will help a website rank higher for that country or location.Reality
In the same way that having a country-specific domain will help, so will having a server in a specific country. It may also harm a website internationally.
There is no doubt that this is a fact.
Page Loading SpeedCommon Belief
Loading speed is possibly one of the top factors when it comes to ranking. This applies even more to mobile sites.Reality
The speed of a site has been a major factor for page rankings for many years. Just recently, it was announced that it will apply to mobile sites for the first time, where in the past it was only a factor for desktop searches.
The importance of speed is a fact.
Using mobile devices has become so commonplace that a site must be mobile-friendly to maximize their search rankings.The Reality
Mobile browsing continues to reach all-time highs, and it will only keep going. Therefore, Google has absolutely made mobile-friendliness a very important factor for ranking websites.This is absolutely a fact.
Bounce Rate, Click Through Rate and Dwell TimeCommon Belief
Google takes into consideration how well users interact with a site. This includes how quickly they leave, how much time they spend on the site, and how many pages within the website they visit.Reality
Through the years, Google has made it very clear that none of those things are factors when it comes to search rankings. That said, these are important things to track to evaluate the success of your website.This is fiction.
As you can see, there are a lot of misconceptions out there, but also a lot of truth. It’s crucial when putting together an SEO strategy or a piece of content to focus on what truly matters for SEO. Use this fact or fiction article as your guide for some of the most commonly held SEO beliefs.