The top 3 Google SEO ranking factors are *finally* revealed

Thanks to Google's Andrey Lipattsev, we now know what the top 3 Google SEO ranking factors are:

1a. Links that point to your site (aka backlinks)

1b. Links that point to your content (aka keywords on your own site linked to other parts of your site)

2. RankBrain

They had always been coy about #1a and #1ab but we knew based on experience that it had to be related to keywords links. Let's look a little bit deeper into what this means - including what RankBrain is.

Keyword-based links TO and IN your site are the most important SEO ranking factors. Period.

We've always advised clients that content is king. Without content, there's no reason for anyone to link to your site. Once you have great content, you can start building a foundation for success as people link to your site or we create backlinks for you.

The important about these keyword-based links is that Google weighs both incoming links and links within your content EQUALLY. Incoming links are considered off page SEO; links in your site are considered on page SEO.

Incoming links are important because it tells Google that other people find your content worthwhile. Google also provides an extra reward with most incoming links: a little PageRank.

PageRank is a score from 1 to 10 that assesses a website's importance, reliability and authority. The higher the PageRank, the better Google considers a site to be and the higher a site appears in the search results.

Now about the reward we mentioned above: when a website links to your site, they also send you a tiny piece of their PageRank. So the more incoming links you have, the more PageRank you get. That's why sites that get linked to a lot - news sites like the Huffington Post, information sites like Wikipedia, etc appear so highly in the search results. They have millions of backlinks to their site and all of the PageRank adds up!

That's why backlinks are so important. But getting them organically can be time-consuming and hit or miss. You can contact local news websites to see if they'd write an article about your business, you can work out guest posting arrangements with another site - there are a lot of options for getting SEO backlinks to your site but it's a longterm and time-consuming process.

That's one reason we offer an SEO backlinking service to accelerate the process. That helps your website rise in the rankings and the more easily you are found in search results, the more likely you are to get organic backlinks where people link to your site just because they value your content. Once the ball is rolling, it's hard to stop as long as you keep pushing!

Now let's consider keyword links IN your site

Google loves seeing keywords linked to relevant content - that's it in a nutshell. Here are the 3 places where these links can be created:

  1. In the main site navigation: This makes sense as it will help visitors find what they need so we need to use the same keywords they do.
  2. In your page and post content: This is the best way to get people to learn about your services and products (you'll notice a link to a blog post and our SEO backlinking service above); this is also critical on a website's home page.
  3. Blog post tags: Take a look at the bottom of this post and you'll see a LOT of tags because there isn't a limit to how many tags we can use. This is an overlooked area too - not that many SEO professionals talk about it but tags are the best way to take advantage of keyword research. (OK, we've given away part of our secret but not all of it!)

These links are all part of on page SEO - all the things we do to make sure our site is setup properly. This is something we provide as a service to all our clients, evaluating their sites to recommend and implement improvements.

Lastly - what is RankBrain and why does it matter?

RankBrain is artificial intelligence. It's a program Google has created to learn. All it needs is data and it learns and evolves. When you search for something on Google, it tries to understand what you want and its input is used to adjust the ranking of the results. It pays attention to what link people click on - and then (presumably) what people do on the site (like click on keyword links, etc). And it uses all this data to continually improve the results.

For one thing, it sounds a little scary - but Google has been doing this for years in different ways (primarily their search algorithm called Panda). But the important takeaway is that search engine rankings are a science, not a mystery.

RankBrain is a machine looking at and interpreting various factors - things that we can improve to help your search engine rankings. We can make sure the keyword links on your site are setup properly. We can create backlinks for you to move you up the rankings.

It's not a mystery how SEO works. We evaluate your site and evaluate your competitors (we can even tell you what keywords they are ranking for). We do keyword research to find out which search terms people are using and which ones give the highest rate of return. We create backlinks to increase your PageRank. This all comes together to propel your business and leave your competitors behind.

You can watch the whole Google Q&A session here: