in Squirrly PRO Coaching Lesson

PRO Course #2: Critical Google Ranking Factors You Need to Know About

In the first lesson, we debunked some of the most common SEO expectations and we’ve also addressed a few important questions related to SEO that we’ve received over the years from our users.

Today, we want to dive deeper into the topic of SEO, so what better way to do it than to discuss the most important Google ranking factors, right?

If you’ve been asking yourself why your site is not ranking, then this lesson is for you.

By the end of it, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of what it takes to rank your site on the first page of Google.

What you’ll learn in today’s course:

  • What are the top 3 most important ranking factors
  • How to optimize your site in order to improve your chances of ranking

The Most Important Google Ranking Factors and How To Leverage Them To Your Advantage

Google’s ranking factors have the purpose of making sure that website owners are doing their best to create an amazing user experience.

There are hundreds of factors included in Google’s algorithm, but we won’t discuss all of them. If you’d like to read Brian Dean’s updated ranking factors list, then head over to this article.

The aspects we will talk about in this section are the most important ones that will help you get a better understanding of why you may or may not be ranking.

Let’s get right into it.

1. High-quality content

Even if you’re an SEO professional and have top ability and knowledge to rank any site on the first page of Google, you can’t do this without writing high-quality content.

Optimizing for search isn’t enough if you want people to love and stay on your website for more than a few seconds.

If people click the back button as soon as they landed on your site, this tells Google that your content is not that great so it will start decreasing its ranking.

Here are the main aspects to keep in mind when writing high-quality content:

  • Content length.

As we’ve already mentioned in the previous course, for a post to rank on the first page, you need to write somewhere around 2.000 words. You can’t really put that much value into a blog post that has 500 words so the more words your blog post has, the more value you can provide to your audience.

  • Good knowledge of the topic.

When you know a lot about cars, then you can write a blog post on the topic that will resonate with people who are passionate about this. If you plan on writing about a topic that you know little about, then you won’t be able to create a powerful piece of content that people will love.

  • Content formatting.

To make a post easier to scan and follow by your readers, it’s important to format your content.

Here are some useful pointers you can use: add headlines and subheadings, make paragraphs short, bold words in areas where you want an idea to stand out, include bullet points where you can.

  • Add visuals.

To make a post stand out and capture your audience’s interest for an extended period of time, you also need to include beautiful visuals, such as images, videos, or infographics. If you want to include only one type of visuals, then we recommend using at least 4-5 images in a 2.000-words blog post.

  • Include sources.

This is especially important when you need to add stats in your post or you make claims that have to be backed up by previous research. By adding sources, you will also enforce credibility in your post. Squirrly’s Blogging Assistant helps with this.

High-quality content improves your Google ranking by increasing the time on page, lowering the bounce rate and making people visit other pages on the site.

If you have Google Analytics on your site, it will help Google accurately track these metrics for you.

Otherwise, the search engine is just “guessing” (for avoiding to get into technical details on how it uses big data to assess visits to a site, based on multiple entry and exit points).

2. Backlinks

Backlinks are still to this day one of the top three ranking signals for Google. It’s important to earn backlinks from sites that have a high domain authority (DA) because this will help you increase yours as well.

Also, you want to focus on having many different sites linking back to you rather than having the same site linking over and over again.

The more sites will link back to you, the higher your authority score will go. With Google, it’s all about quality over quantity.

Simply put, if you have plenty of links from a single domain, then your rankings will not be impacted that much. If, however, you have multiple domains with a high DA linking to you, then this will increase your site’s authority and rankings overall.

To find out what’s your DA score and also the DA of the sites that linked back to you, we recommend using Moz’s Free Domain SEO Analysis Tool.

3. Organic click-through-rates

Getting more organic click-through-rates is easy – you only need to optimize your snippet.

The snippet from Squirrly SEO helps you make your WordPress pages insanely attractive to:

  • people searching on search engines
  • people browsing feeds on social media
  • search engine crawlers

The snippet represents a huge opportunity for you because it’s your chance to convince people to click on your page instead of another result.

Yes! And it’s not all about SEO. People are more likely to click when they find your image in Facebook feeds, if your Snippet looks awesome.

You’ll get to make settings in the Snippet for SEO, Social Media and some pretty important ones for Search Bots. (search engine crawlers). For every single page in your site.

In case you managed to rank one of your pages on the first page of Google but you’re not getting enough traffic, then we recommend tweaking the meta description and making it more appealing to the audience you want to attract.

Then, wait a month and compare the results from analytics with the period before changing the snippet. This way, you can truly figure out which meta description is performing the best.

Besides optimizing it for humans, you also want to do it from a search perspective. This means that you should use the keyword you optimized for in the snippet as well.

Your result will stand out because the keyword you added is going to be shown in bold.

The more attractive your snippet is going to look, the more people will click on your page, which will tell Google that this result matches their search intent.

The snippet optimization and high-quality content go hand in hand because of Google’s RankBrain algorithm.

RankBrain uses a machine-learning artificial intelligence system to determine what are the most relevant pages in relation to particular queries.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

In the Google ranking battle, what this means is that without high-quality content, you’ll never get links and people won’t spend time on your page. And without building quality backlinks, you won’t be able to get to the first page of search results.

That’s why these three ranking factors are so important – because they are interconnected and you can’t have one without the other.

As I’ve already mentioned in the beginning, Google takes into account more than 200 ranking factors when deciding which pages to display in search results and in what order.

Some carry more weight than others.

This is why we want to talk about some other ranking factors that will remain important for at least a couple more years as well.

Disclaimer: not all of these have been confirmed by Google – the majority have been uncovered through experiments done by SEO experts. 

Google Ranking Factors That Matter Today

1. Mobile-friendliness

You probably already know that you need to have a mobile-friendly website, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat this information.

Mobile accounts for approximately half of web traffic worldwide.  In the fourth quarter of 2021, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 54.4 percent of global website traffic. (view source)

This statistic shows just how crucial it is to have a mobile-friendly site that serves your audience.

Google actually recommends implementing responsive web design because it’s much easier for their algorithms to properly index those pages.

We live in the age of mobile-first indexing, which means that Google will predominantly index and rank your content according to the mobile version of your website.

To check whether your site is mobile-friendly and complies with Google’s guidelines, you can perform a test by clicking on this link.

2. Page speed

Page speed has been used as a ranking factor for desktop search since 2010. At the beginning of 2018, Google announced that starting with July, page speed became a ranking signal for mobile search as well.

While this ranking factor aims to target only the pages that load extremely slow, Google is trying to push developers and website owners to think more and more about the user experience.

We recommend using this tool from Google called PageSpeed Insights to analyze the performance of your pages and receive suggestions on what you need to improve.

3. SEO-friendly URLs

The longer your URL, the harder it’s going to be for Google to understand what your page is about.

This is why you need to make your URLs short and concise before publishing new pages. Try to not include more than five words in the URL.

Making your URLs SEO-friendly is extremely easy to do. You just need to edit the permalink field from the WordPress editor. Another recommendation would be to include the keyword you used to optimize your page in the URL.

4. Keyword in title tag

According to Brian Dean, the title tag is one of the most important on-page SEO factors.

Usually, the closer your keyword is to the beginning of the title tag, the more chances you’ll have of ranking that page for the keyword you optimized for.

This not only helps search engines identify what your page is about but it also tells users that the information they’re looking for is on your site.

However, you may not always need to do this because, in some cases, it may not seem natural to add the exact same keyword at the beginning, which is why you can also add a term that’s similar to your main keyword.

This will work slightly well because Google started using more and more semantic search as opposed to the exact keyword.

Starting January 2019, we’ve seen the search engine’s algorithm prefer exact match keywords more often. It’s the reason why in most cases SERP pages will be different when you search “premium wordpress themes”, rather than “wordpress themes premium”, or “wordpress premium themes”.

It depends on the supply (competition) it has for exact matching keyword content.

But if it has it and the page’s ranking factors are in tip-top shape, it will prefer the exact match, because it’s closer to the searcher’s heart.

5. Site architecture

Site architecture is strongly related to user experience and it can definitely impact your rankings.

Here are the two main advantages of having a good site architecture:

  • It helps users find what they’re looking for more easily because of the intuitive site navigation;
  • It helps search engines crawl more pages.

For the average site, it should take a user 3-4 clicks to find what they’re looking for. While this can’t be applied for larger sites, there are definitely ways to help users find what they want faster, such as internal linking.

We’ve seen users of Squirrly SEO who asked me about Website Architecture massively improve their rankings after they turned a no-architecture, five-page website into a really good, 20 pages website with strategic architecture.

That’s the only thing they changed and went from positions 20 or 30 to about 5 to 7 in Google Search. The content had been organized poorly. Once they did a better job at this, rankings came in.

And it’s not a real surprise for me right now, because Google’s website teams work a lot on these same elements. They’ve recently ranked better due to improvements in architecture.

Oh, yes: and one-page websites.

Don’t create one-pager websites. They are bad for SEO, for so many reasons. The biggest reason: Google prefers sites with multiple high-value pages of content.

There are many others, but I don’t have enough space here to write about them all.

6. Image optimization

Image-rich pages will help you generate more shares and page views. Aside from adding at least one relevant image in your posts and pages, you also need to optimize them.

Don’t worry – it’s extremely easy to do this.

You just need to make sure the file name and the alternative text contain the main keyword you optimized for. Google can’t “read” images so it’s important to tell the search engines what your images are about.

When adding the keyword in the alt text, you will make those images accessible in Google image search as well.

Wrapping Up Today’s Course – Good Job Collecting Your 2nd Badge!

What we want you to understand after this course is the fact that SEO is a complex mechanism – it’s not hard, but it’s also not something to take lightly, especially if you want to rank on the first page.

All of these ranking factors we mentioned need to be intertwined so, in the end, you’ll have a higher chance of outranking your competition.

Your Goals for This Course

  • Decide on a topic for a long-form article (~2.000 words) that you plan on creating in the near future;
  • Use Moz’s Free Domain SEO Analysis Tool to analyze your site’s DA and current backlinks;
  • Optimize the snippets for the most important pages in your site.

Google Ranking Factors

Over and out.

See you in a few days for the next course! It’s an essential one for using your Squirrly account to the max.

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CEO at Squirrly
My goal is to turn you from a non-SEO expert to a WordPress SEO Superstar.
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Roland CrossMichelle ScottAlex claytonIrina PogorProcor Recent comment authors
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Hou Jiazhi
Hou Jiazhi

I have a question about backlinks. I managed to get a few during the winter holidays, I have no idea how, or from where or to what. Can you give me some tips on how to get backlinks and how to track them? Or is it not important to know who sends the backlinks?


I could not find a plug-in called “Remove Bounce Rate,” but I did find one called “Reduce Bounce Rate.” Is that the same plug-in?

Innocent Cyril

I so much thanks this site because it has helped me alot now I have know fully well on how to structure my blog and write a good SEO and so much more credit to you thanks.

Kavita Sirohi

Really awesome content. Very helpful for bloggers. Defines seo easily.


Hi sir,

I am use your plugy but my site speed down & page open long time. So Pls help how to increase site speed for visitors increase.

Alice Frazier
Alice Frazier

You say that some Squirrly users improved their sites after talking to you about site architecture. But you don’t really say much after this. I would like to read more about others who’ve been successful using squirly.

Jake Bailey
Jake Bailey

I am still struggling with backlinks, but I think most of us beginners are, so I try not to be too hard on myself. Do you have some tips and tricks on how to get started with backlinks?


“Reduce Bounce Rate” – Mentioned in the article no longer maintained. Is there any alternative?
the creator rights that he’s going to use Google tag manager from now on but doesn’t mention If Google tag manager is better in some way

Denise Duncan
Denise Duncan

I used to struggle so much with SEO (particularly understanding Ranking factors) before Focus Pages. Now I know exactly what I should do to rank my pages. Thank you for building this.


Another great post, thank you.

Florencio Seaman
Florencio Seaman

Getting backlinks can seem very complicated, especially when you are a newbie. This is why I add every important article that I want to rank on Google to the focus pages section of Squirrly. This way, I am able to focus on other major ranking factors. I know backlinks are important, but you can rank on Google even without them if you turn most of the dots from red to green in the focus pages section.

Irina Pogor

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this comment, Florencio! We’ve actually published an article about Authority vs. SEO Relevance – and how they influence your chances of ranking. If you want to explore this topic even further, here’s the link to the article:


Just finished lesson 2, boy do I have a lot to do on my sites. One question though, I do drop shipping and have a lot of products for sale. The data feed gets updated weekly and can overwrite the existing post.
Is there a way to “bulk” optimise after each update? Too many to do one by one.

Irina Pogor

It’s great to hear that you’ve completed the lesson! Squirrly SEO has a BULK SEO feature that may come in handy. You can learn more about it here: Also check out what Squirrly offers for SEO Automation here:

Alex clayton

This is a great topic I must confess , since April I understand about backlink even before then , my content was ranking on Google front page , but now I have the full idea on backlink , for the last two month I have build up to 60k backlink with 40 Dr strength , but my problem lays when never those those backlink be indexing by Google my dofollow percent will be reducing , I am talking to you now my do follow has reduce to 2 percent , and my content stop appearing on front page , I… Read more »

Irina Pogor

Hey, Alex! Happy to hear that you like this topic. Google doesn’t just care about quantity, it also cares about quality. If a lot of the links you are creating to your sites are low-quality links from low-quality web directories/ article directories or spam comments, then that can definitely hurt your site’s rankings. Hope this helps.

Alex clayton

Pogor , I knew about this , I was never spending my time building fake links , neither did I go for quantity , something last two months my site was ranking at the front page just at the end of June this issue started , which I actually check my domain on phlising tools which show , no harm , …..Google just too hard this time around ?

Irina Pogor

Hey Alex, you can try adding your pages to the Focus Pages section of Squirrly. The system will run a fresh analysis of your page(s) and indicate which are the areas you should work on to improve your chances of ranking. Completing the tasks it reveals should help climb back to the top positions in Google. Hope this helps and thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

Michelle Scott

Great content , coming to this backlink aspect I don’t think backlink still count on Google ranking 2021 , I spend so much in building backlink for the past few months ,still no improvement , Google just so hard this time around ” will take the whole years to effect backlink , allot of website owner that I know that Google rank as no backlink , I still don’t understand Google,

Irina Pogor

Hey, Michelle! Thank you so much for your comment. While getting backlinks from high authority websites is still important in 2021, it’s definitely not the only way to gain higher rankings on Google. Also, not all ranking factors are equal in Google’s eyes. Certain factors might influence Google’s algorithm more, and some you can use to compensate for the ones you still haven’t checked off your list. We actually did an article on Authority vs. SEO Relevance – and How They Influence Your Chances of Ranking. You can check it out if you’re curious to learn more on this topic… Read more »

Roland Cross
Roland Cross

I accepted the challenge. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I successfully wrote an article of 2000 words. I then added it to Focus Pages and WOW, it had 80% chances of ranking. After 2 days of publishing the article on social media and groups, I had 100% chances of ranking. After a few days, I had the star “top 10”. Very happy with the results I’m getting.

Irina Pogor

Nicely done, Roland! 👏Thank you for taking the time to share your exciting results with us! Keep up the amazing job and keep using the Focus Pages system to consistently rank your pages on the 1st Page of Google Search!