3 Most Important Ranking Signals for Google Search in 2017

That Google’s ranking algorithm is made up of more than 200 different ranking signals is a badly-kept secret. While this is certainly impressive, it can be daunting considering there are only 24 hours in each day. Lucky for you, being an quality SEO expert is less about getting everything right and more about knowing your priorities. Below is a list of six of the most important factors to look out for according to researches done by various industry experts.

  1. Backlinks

Backlinks still remain the strongest ranking signal for authority according to Google. These are made up of:

  • Link score – In several patents, Google has explained that they assign a link score according to various quantifiable signals. This score consists of PageRank, which gives a quality score to every single inbound link and the number of links the page/site has. Therefore, it is important to have more links, but it’s 2017, so spammy low-quality links are a complete no-no. It should be noted that links from the same domain (internal links) don’t have a lot of weight; only one is typically counted within your profile. The quality measurement is not as straightforward as the quantity aspect, now that the public version of PageRank was pulled by Google.
  • Relevant anchor text – Anchor text is another important aspect of backlinking. Just like your page content, anchor text for backlinks notifies Google crawlers what the content is about and what it should be ranked for. Remember there’s Penguin, and so it’s important to ensure that your anchors are natural and diverse, rather than just a spammy collection of your keywords.

You can use a tool that allows you to scan your competitors’ link profiles to see what you’re up against and what you’ll need to do to catch up and bypass them.

  1. Content

There are three important aspects considered by Google as far as copy writing quality is concerned, and these are:

  • Keyword usage – Your title is the strongest signal for content relevance. You are advised to naturally use your target keywords or variations thereof in the title tag (closer to the beginning, if possible). Your meta description can also boost relevance, but less so. Be sure to include keywords naturally in the body, bearing in mind that H1 tags have the greatest SEO significance.
  • Length – The amount of content does play into the overall content quality and hence rankings. Of course, there isn’t an ideal length in this regard; simply put, the amount necessary is different according to the topic of discussion and purpose of the page. A realistic assessment might be to consider well-ranking pages within your site and emulate that content strategy.
  • Comprehensiveness – RankBrain is a factor that forms part of the Hummingbird rollout which contributes to every query. One of its main purposes is to analyze results that have good user satisfaction scores and identify common features. Since most online content occurs in textual form, it studies features like phrases and terms used within the page. This isn’t always cut and dry; again, it will vary depending on the subject being covered in the query.

You can use tools such as WebSite Auditor to analyze numerous on-page factors including content-related factors. This tool also analyses content quality and comprehensiveness and can give recommendations according to top competitors within your niche.

  1. Technical SEO

Your website’s technical content is most important for SEO, and the two most important aspects in this regard are:

  • Page speed – The standard, according to Google, is to have pages loading in 2 seconds at most, and speed has been officially confirmed as a ranking signal. Speed also plays an important part in good user experience; slow-loading pages have lower conversion rates and high bounce rates. Uncompressed resources are the leading cause of slow load times: CSS files, images and scripts.
  • Mobile friendliness – All your website pages must be optimized for mobile devices like smartphones, or else they will NOT appear anywhere in mobile search results. Given that more than half of all Google searches are now happening on mobile devices, this isn’t something you can afford in 2017. Focus on mobile will only increase given Google’s intention to change over to mobile-first indexing.


SEO is ever-changing, complex and multidimensional. While you cannot focus on every detail, no matter how good you are, knowing where to spend your energies can go a long way in improving your status without much effort.


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