What are SEO ranking factors? Discover crucial Google ranking factors startups shouldn’t ignore and actionable steps to drive business success.

If you want your startup to succeed in the highly competitive online world, you must optimize your website for search engines.

While your idea might be groundbreaking, Google determines who sees it. So, how can you stand out on Google? Which SEO ranking factors can elevate your startup to digital stardom?

This comprehensive guide reveals Google ranking factors every startup should prioritize.

Discover actionable steps to amplify your brand’s online presence, drive organic traffic, increase lead quality, and accelerate business growth.

But first, let’s define ranking factors and why they’re crucial for search engine optimization.

What Are Ranking Factors on Google?

A ranking factor is the criteria Google uses to evaluate web pages and search queries. The search engine uses these signals to determine page rankings in search result pages (SERP).

Google’s algorithms use over 200 ranking factors.

The ranking systems sort through billions of web pages and content in Google’s Search index. Then, it presents users with the most relevant results for their search queries.

Why Are SEO Ranking Factors Important?

SEO ranking factors are important to provide users with the most helpful and relevant information for a search query.

When someone searches for a phrase relevant to your business, you want them to find you. Optimizing your site to rank higher in search results will help potential customers find your products and services.

In fact, the #1 position in Google’s organic search results has an average click-through rate (CTR) of 27.6%. Also, the #1 organic result is 10x more likely to receive a click than a page in the #10 spot. (Source: Backlinko)

Startups that ignore Google ranking factors will struggle to improve online visibility, organic traffic, and business growth. They’re a vital part of a digital marketing strategy.

How Many Google Ranking Factors Are There?

According to Hubspot, Google uses over 200 ranking factors in its Search Algorithm.

However, no one knows the exact number. Regardless, we can broadly categorize important Google ranking factors into the following:

  • On-page SEO ranking factors: These signals measure content quality, various on-page criteria, and user experience.
  • Off-page SEO ranking factors: These signals measure criteria outside your website, like backlinks.
  • Technical SEO ranking factors: These signals measure your website’s performance and user experience.
  • Local SEO ranking factors: These signals measure various criteria for local businesses with a physical location or local service area.

Let’s dive into the SEO ranking factors we think will help your startup business rank higher in Google’s search results.

The Top 9 SEO Ranking Factors (That Get Results on Google)

Instead of listing 200+ ranking factors, I’ll discuss the top nine that deserve your attention.

1. Relevant and Authoritative Backlinks

Backlink IllustrationBacklinks are incoming links from one website to another. They’re crucial for SEO because they signal credibility and domain authority.

Acquiring high-quality backlinks can improve a site’s ranking and prove itself as a valuable resource.

For example, backlinks from trustworthy and high-authority websites like The New York Times boost your chances of ranking higher. They’re like a vote of confidence for your website.

Pages with high-quality backlinks also tend to have higher search rankings. However, not all backlinks are equal. Some have more value than others.

Here are two top attributes of a valuable backlink:

  1. Authority of the linking page
  2. Relevance of the backlink

Backlink Authority

High authority backlinks are links from highly trusted and credible websites. A backlink from a reputable, high-authority site boosts your site’s SEO more than one from a lesser-known source. It’s pivotal in determining your site’s ranking in search engine results.

Quality backlinks from these highly authoritative and trustworthy websites pass some of their authority to your site. This signals to Google that your content is trusted, which helps improve search result rankings.

According to Ahrefs, the more backlinks a page has, the more organic traffic it gets from Google. (Source: Ahrefs)

In contrast, backlinks from low-quality or spammy websites can send negative signals to Google and hurt your rankings.

Backlink Relevance

Backlink relevance is how helpful and topically similar a linking website is to your content. Links from relevant websites and pages also have more value than irrelevant links.

For example, backlink relevance signals to Google your content is a relevant and trusted source. The linked anchor text also signals relevancy and helps Google understand your content.

Say you have a blog post about the best dog food brands. A backlink from a related site like Purina would be a quality backlink.

In contrast, a link from Pepsi would not be relevant or helpful, regardless of its authority.

The more relevant links, the more authority your site will gain. As a result, Google will rank your pages higher for related search queries.

In contrast, links unrelated to your content or niche don’t offer value. Also, irrelevant or spammy backlinks will harm your rankings and organic traffic.

2. High-Quality Content (That’s Helpful and Provides Value)

WordPress Add PostContent marketing helps startups build brand awareness, engage target audiences, and establish authority in their niche. It’s a cost-effective way to drive organic traffic and convert leads. It also builds trust and credibility in the early stages of business growth.

82% of marketers actively use content marketing. (Source: Hubspot)

Google pays attention to various signals on a web page to determine its quality, relevance, and helpfulness.

Google also has human quality raters who manually review content. Learn more by reading Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

Startups should consider these ranking factors in their content optimization efforts:

Content Freshness

Fresh content is recently published or updated content.

Google aims to serve users the most helpful, up-to-date content in search results. Startups must update their content regularly to provide relevant and accurate information.

Outdated content will cause a drop in rankings and organic traffic. It also signals to Google your content is not helpful.

Topical Authority

Topical authority is a website’s established expertise and credibility within a specific subject or niche. It achieves this by consistently offering high-quality, relevant content.

As a result, search engines prioritize the content as a trusted source for that topic.

The more authoritative your site is on a topic, the higher it will rank in search results for related queries.

Build topical authority by covering a topic in-depth. One technique is the hub and spoke model (or content cluster). For example:

  1. Create a single page targeting a general topic (hub).
  2. Write multiple supporting subtopic pages (spokes) related to your hub topic.
  3. Link the pages together to organize your content into a topic cluster.

Also Read: What Is Topical Authority in SEO (And How to Build It)

Content Depth and Accuracy

When creating quality content, focus on topical depth and accuracy.

Content depth is the comprehensive coverage of a focus topic. This means providing supporting subtopics that thoroughly cover the main idea.

Don’t confuse content depth with length, though. Long-form content does correlate with higher rankings.

However, word count is not a Google ranking factor. Naturally, in-depth content that provides value will be longer.

Also, ensure the information you provide and reference is 100% accurate. Misleading information can negatively affect your business.

3. On-Page SEO Optimization

On-page SEO (or on-site SEO) is optimizing individual web pages to rank higher in search engines. It focuses on content quality, keyword placement, meta tags, URL structure, and internal linking.

The goal is to attract organic traffic by making content friendly for users and search engines.

Startups should consider implementing these on-page SEO best practices:

Optimize Title Tags

SEO for Startups Title TagTitle tags are clickable headlines that appear in the SERPs. To attract more clicks, create compelling titles that match user intent.

Ways to optimize your title tag:

  • Create a unique title tag for each web page on your site.
  • Add your target keyword and other relevant terms.
  • Add power words to attract clicks (e.g., Best, Affordable, or Fast).
  • Keep the length under 580px (about 40 to 60 characters).

Optimize Meta Descriptions

SEO for Startups Meta DescriptionThe meta description is a page summary displayed below the title tag. It helps users learn more about your page and attract clicks.

Meta descriptions are not an SEO ranking factor. However, they influence the click-through rate (CTR), which is a ranking signal.

Ways to optimize your meta descriptions:

  • Create unique descriptions for each web page on your site.
  • Add your target keyword and other relevant terms.
  • Include a Call to Action (CTA).
  • Incentivize users to click your web page with compelling copy.
  • Keep the length under 920px (about 60 to 160 characters).

Use an SEO-Friendly URL Structure

An SEO-friendly URL is short, relevant, and includes your target keyword.

Google will use the web page URL to understand your content. Also, short, concise URLs are easier for users to remember and share.

Ways to optimize your URL slug:

  • Create a unique URL for each web page on your site.
  • Use lowercase letters separated by hyphens.
  • Add your target keyword or phrase.
  • Keep URLs simple, concise, and short (2-4 words).
  • Avoid adding numbers, dates, and months to keep URLs evergreen.

In fact, Backlinko analyzed 11.8 million Google search results and found short URLs tend to rank higher than long URLs.

Image Optimization

Image SEO improves images for search engine performance. Optimized images help startups reduce page load times, improve user experience, and attract more organic traffic.

Ways to optimize your images:

  • Write short but descriptive file names and include relevant keywords. Also, avoid long file names and vague titles like IMG003.jpg.
  • Write descriptive Alt text and include relevant keywords.
  • Compress your images before uploading them to your site. Aim for 150kb or smaller file size.
  • Scale your images to the actual display size. A max width of 1200px is ideal.
  • Use relevant and original images to support your copy. Google knows if you’re using generic stock photos.

Page Structure and Headings

Content header tags (H1-H6) structure content hierarchically on web pages. They help Google understand content organization and relevance.

Using these tags correctly boosts SEO by emphasizing keywords and improving user readability. A proper structure also aids in better search rankings and user engagement.

Ways to optimize your page structure and headings:

  • Every page should have only one H1 tag to identify the page title.
  • The H1 tag should contain your target keyword.
  • Use H2 tags to introduce the main subtopics.
  • Write descriptive headings and add relevant keywords.
  • Separate your content with H2 headings every 200-500 words.
  • Use H3-H6 tags for additional subheadings within each H2 section.
  • Maintain header hierarchy, and don’t skip levels. For example, don’t jump from an H2 to an H4.
  • Use bullets and number lists to organize your content further.

These list elements make your content more readable, scannable, and easier to find key details. They also help earn featured snippets in Google’s SERP.

Add Relevant Keywords and Phrases

Keywords and phrases help users find your content online. They also help Google understand and rank your content for related search queries.

Optimize your content by adding your target keyword in the title tag, meta description, URL, subheadings, and body copy.

Also, use semantically related phrases (LSI keywords) to improve relevance and help Google better understand your content.

However, avoid keyword stuffing and don’t force the keywords in the content. Place your keywords in areas that make sense.

Structured Data (Schema Markup)

Schema markup is code that tells Google what a web page is about and how to categorize it.

For example, structured data:

  • Enhances search results with rich snippets, increasing click-through rates (CTR).
  • Helps search engines understand the context and content of web pages.
  • Boosts local SEO by providing specific business information, such as hours and locations.

Check out this helpful guide from Search Engine Journal to learn more: What Is Schema Markup & Why It’s Important for SEO.

4. Match Search Intent

Dogs Google Search IntentSearch intent (or user intent) is the reason a user conducts a specific online search.

Google aims to provide users with the most relevant search results for their queries. If your content fails to match a user’s search intent, it will not rank.

For startups, it’s essential to tailor content that meets users’ needs. As a result, you can drive targeted traffic, boost sales, and build stronger relationships with potential customers.

For example, if you want to rank for “How to learn SEO,” write an informational guide, not a landing page about SEO services. It will never rank for that transactional query.

There are four main search intent types:

Informational Search Intent

These users are looking for specific information. They may have a question or a pain point.

For example, “What is SEO?” or “How to book cheap flights?”

Navigational Search Intent

These users search for a specific web page or website. Their search query is often a branded keyword, such as “Instagram.”

Commercial Search Intent

These users are buying a specific product or service but need more information.

For example, commercial search queries include “Best SEO company for startups” and “SEO vs. PPC services.”

Transactional Search Intent

These users are in the decision stage of the buyer’s journey. They usually know what they want and are looking for a place to buy it.

For example, transactional search queries include “Samsung Galaxy lowest price” and “Buy MacBook Pro.”

5. Internal Linking

Internal Linking Web PagesAn internal link is a link from one page to another on your website. They connect your website’s content.

Internal links are essential for your users and search engines:

  • Users use internal links to navigate through your site and find helpful content.
  • Search engines use internal links to crawl and index your site’s web pages.

Ways to optimize your internal linking:

Use Proper Anchor Text

Anchor text is a link’s clickable text. This ranking factor helps search engines and users understand the link’s relevancy.

To ensure proper anchor text:

  • Make it Relevant: Anchor text should relate to the linked page’s content, giving users a clear idea of what to expect.
  • Use Descriptive Phrases: Avoid generic terms like “click here.” Instead, use descriptive text that offers insight into the linked content.
  • Avoid Over-Optimizing: Using exact-match keyword-rich anchor text repeatedly can look spammy and result in penalties. It’s better to vary the phrasing.
  • Stay Natural: Write for readers, not search engines. Anchor text should fit naturally within the content.

Following these guidelines creates user-friendly and search engine-friendly anchor text.

Link to Relevant Content

Link to relevant and helpful content when adding internal and external links.

Linking to relevant content enhances user experience by providing deeper insights or complementary information. It also boosts SEO because engines view such links as indicators of a cohesive and valuable website structure.

Conversely, linking to irrelevant content confuses users, leading to unexpected or unrelated information. This disruption hinders seamless navigation and diminishes the user’s trust in your website’s relevancy and value.

Use Contextual Links

A contextual link is a hyperlink placed within the content body. They enhance user experience by offering deeper insights or related information on the topic.

Contextual links also have higher value than links in the header, footer, and sidebar for these reasons:

  • Relevance: They’re directly related to the content, making them more relevant to readers and search engines.
  • Visibility: They’re more likely to be seen and clicked in the main content.
  • Engagement: Readers are more inclined to follow a link that’s contextually relevant to the topic they’re already interested in.
  • Search Engine Trust: Search engines often give more weight to links within content, recognizing them as organic and user-centric.
  • Natural Placement: Contextual links are typically seen as naturally occurring, while sidebar and footer links seem more “forced” or promotional.

Overall, contextual links’ inherent relevance and organic nature make them more valuable for users and search engines.

Create User-Friendly Navigation

User-friendly navigation makes navigating your site easy for users and search engines.

Websites that provide an easy navigational experience are more likely to reduce bounce rates and improve user experience.

Ensure your navigation menu and links are clear and organized. Also, create a site structure where users can quickly access pages within three clicks.

6. Google Page Experience (UX)

Google Search Console Page ExperienceGoogle Page Experience (UX) is a set of metrics and factors that evaluate how users perceive their interaction with a web page.

Key components include mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, absence of intrusive interstitials, and Core Web Vitals.

Reasons why UX is important for startups:

  • Search Ranking: Google considers page experience in its ranking algorithm, influencing a site’s visibility.
  • User Retention: A positive page experience keeps users engaged, reducing bounce rates.
  • Conversion: Good UX facilitates smoother user journeys, potentially leading to higher conversion rates.
  • Credibility: Startups can establish trust and credibility with a good user experience.
  • Competitive Edge: A superior UX can differentiate startups from competitors, capturing more market share.

By prioritizing Google Page Experience, your startup can attract, engage, and retain more users. This fosters growth and long-term success.

Ways to improve rankings and create a better page experience for your site visitors include:

Improve Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are metrics Google uses to score a user’s experience with a web page.

Core Web Vitals have three user interaction and page speed measurements. The metrics include:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures page loading performance.
  2. First Input Delay (FID): Measures how long it takes for the page to react after the first user interaction.
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures the visual stability of your web page.

Improving these metrics is vital because 53% of mobile users will leave a site if it takes over 3 seconds to load. (Source: Google)

Ensure Mobile-Friendliness

A mobile-friendly site prioritizes mobile user experience. Mobile-friendliness is important because most users coming to your site are likely using a mobile device.

In fact, 58.16% of global web traffic originates from mobile devices. (Source: Statista)

Viewing and using a site on a mobile device can be difficult when a site is not mobile-friendly.

For example, a non-mobile-friendly site requires users to pinch or zoom to read the content. Users find this frustrating and are likely to abandon the site.

In contrast, a mobile-friendly site is readable and immediately usable. This provides a better user experience and will help improve your search rankings.

Google has an in-depth guide on creating a mobile-friendly site. Read Get Started with Mobile-friendliness.

Avoid Intrusive Interstitials

Intrusive interstitials are pop-ups or other page elements obstructing a user’s view of the content. They make accessing the content hard for a mobile and desktop user. This frustrates users and creates a bad user experience.

Improve user experience by removing intrusive pop-ups. Also, follow Google’s intrusive interstitial guidelines to avoid penalties.

Create a Secure Website (HTTPS)

Startups must secure their websites with an SSL certificate to enable HTTPS.

HTTPS safeguards the integrity and confidentiality of data between a user’s computer and your website. Users will also consider your website more trustworthy.

HTTPS secures sensitive data through the Transport Layer Security protocol (TLS). It provides three layers of protection:

  • Encryption
  • Data integrity
  • Authentication

7. Website Page Speed

Gravitate Page Speed InsightsPage speed is how fast the content loads on your web page.

Fast page loading speeds improve search rankings, organic traffic, user experience, and conversions.

In contrast, slow page loading speeds make your site unusable for users. It also makes it harder for search engines to crawl and index your site.

According to Google, a one-second delay can cause a 20% conversion drop.

Startups can evaluate website page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This tool will help you find and fix issues slowing down your website.

8. Accessible Site Structure

Flat Website ArchitectureImage by Backlinko

Startups must make it easy for Google’s bots to crawl, index, and rank their web pages. The following tips will help you get the job done.

Submit a Sitemap to Google Search Console

A sitemap is a file that helps search engines find, crawl, and index your website’s content. Sitemaps also tell search engines what pages and files on your site are most important.

Startups can submit their website’s sitemap in Google Search Console (GSC). Once submitted, you can track your website’s indexing status. You can also find and fix indexing issues using GSC.

Tip: Anytime you make changes to your content, resubmit your sitemap. You can also request a crawl of individual URLs with the URL Inspection tool.

Create a Robots.txt File

A robots.txt file is a set of instructions for search engine bots. It tells search engine crawlers which URLs to access or cannot access on your website.

However, a robots.txt file is not intended to control page indexing. To keep a web page out of search results, use password protection or a noindex tag.

Maintain a Flat Site Architecture

A flat website architecture is where all pages are within three clicks of the home page.

Reasons to create a flat site structure:

  • Search engine crawlers can find and index website pages faster and more efficiently. It improves indexing, rankings, and backlinks.
  • Users can quickly and easily access each page on your website. It improves user experience and conversions.
  • An optimized site structure improves internal link authority (PageRank). This can help improve search rankings.

9. Google Business Profile (Local SEO Ranking Factors)

Gravitate Google Business Profile

Local SEO is a strategy that improves your website’s visibility on local search results.

Startups can improve local rankings with a Google Business Profile (GBP). Claiming a Business Profile makes it easier for customers to find you. It also adds legitimacy to your brand.

With a Business Profile on Google, you can:

  • Point potential customers to your website
  • Collect and respond to customer reviews
  • Maintain accurate information about your business
  • Interact with customers and attract new customers
  • Show your local products in free local listings
  • Post photos of your business, products, and services
  • Use Google Maps and Search to improve your online presence
  • Access insights to see how customers find your business

Key Takeaways for Google Ranking Factors

Ranking in Google is not difficult. And you don’t need to remember 200+ ranking factors to grow your startup.

Startups will see growth by following these ten easy steps:

  1. Ensure your website provides a GREAT user experience.
  2. Ensure users and search engines can access your website.
  3. Secure your website and develop an optimized site structure.
  4. Ensure users and search engines can easily navigate your website.
  5. Create high-quality, valuable content that offers relevant and helpful information.
  6. Ensure your content answers the search query and matches search intent.
  7. Optimize your content to improve search result rankings and organic traffic.
  8. Build topical authority and demonstrate expertise on topics relevant to your business.
  9. Regularly update and keep your content fresh (where needed).
  10.  Gain backlinks to build authority and establish trustworthiness.

Improving your online visibility is a long-term SEO strategy. If you put in the work, your startup business will see growth and success.

You could optimize your website on your own. However, partnering with a reputable SEO agency like Gravitate will ensure a better outcome.

Our SEO experts have proven strategies to accelerate business and revenue growth.

Schedule Your Free Consultation


Keep Learning

Want to learn more SEO tips for startups? Gain incredible insight into effective marketing strategies that get results.

This comprehensive SEO for startups guide includes ten chapters of invaluable information:

SEO Ranking Factors FAQ

Frequently asked questions about Google ranking factors.

How to Check Your SEO Ranking on Google?

There are various tools and ways to check your rankings on Google.

Here are three ways to check your search result rankings:

  1. Check your rankings manually in Google. Open an “Incognito” tab in the Chrome browser and search a keyword you’re trying to rank. Examine the SERPs to see what position your page is ranking.
  2. Use Google’s free Search Console tool. Access your Google Search Console account and click the Performance Report. Next, click the Average Position metric to see ranking positions for search queries.
  3. Use paid keyword tracking tools like Ahrefs and SE Ranking.

What Are the Local SEO Ranking Factors?

Local SEO focuses on optimizing a business for local search results. The top local search ranking factors include:

  1. Google Business Profile (GBP) Listing: It’s vital to claim, verify, and optimize your GBP listing. This directly interfaces with Google Maps and local search results, making it a cornerstone of local SEO.
  2. Reviews and Ratings: The quantity, quality, and recency of online reviews influence local ranking. Positive reviews build trust with potential customers.
  3. NAP Consistency (Name, Address, Phone Number): Ensuring consistent business details across all directories and platforms is crucial. Inconsistencies can confuse search engines and reduce trustworthiness.
  4. Local Backlinks: Earning links from reputable local businesses establishes local authority and credibility, boosting local rankings.
  5. On-Page Local SEO Factors: Including local keywords in titles, meta descriptions, and throughout content ensures relevancy to local searches.

Prioritizing these factors can substantially enhance your business’s presence in local search results. This leads to more foot traffic and local online conversions.

What Is RankBrain and Why Does It Matter?

RankBrain is a machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) system Google uses to process search results. It also helps Google understand the intent of search queries.

How does RankBrain affect SEO? RankBrain is essential for SEO because it helps the Google algorithm:

  1. Understand search queries (keywords users search).
  2. Deliver the most relevant search results to users.
  3. Measure how people interact with the search results (user satisfaction).

Ways to optimize your site for RankBrain:

  • Ensure your content and metadata match search intent.
  • Optimize your title tags and meta descriptions to attract clicks.
  • Create relevant and helpful content that provides value.
  • Cover your focus topic in-depth with supporting subtopics.
  • Ensure your content answers users’ questions, problems, or pain points.
  • Write in the same natural language and tone as you speak.
  • Regularly update content to keep it fresh, relevant, and up-to-date.