What Are The Key Google Search Ranking Factors In 2021?

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Here’s a question that I have been getting from a number of people recently: What are the key Google search ranking factors in 2021?” In other words, people want to know what they should focus on in order to improve their website ranking in Search Engine Search Result Pages (SERPs). In this article, I am sharing five (5) factors that I believe will help you, whether you are just launching your website or blog or you are seeking to improve your existing website or blog performance. This post is not meant to be a technical description of ranking factors. My goal in this article is to give you a number of tips that can help you focus on critical things you need to get right if your want to improve your rankings. I will be publishing a longer list of the most critical factors you need with some technical descriptions soon.
OnMax Host Digital - What Are The Key Google Search Ranking Factors In 2021?

What Are The Key Google Search Ranking Factors In 2021?

One of the questions that our clients and contacts are asking as more often now is: "What are The Key Google Search Ranking Factors In 2021?" We do get get a lot of questions as we interact with our customers, but this is the question that keeps coming up over and over. This is the more pertinent because Google makes algorithm changes every day (about 9 changes a day that do not make the news) in addition to major algorithm changes that make the news.

It is therefore understandable that business owners and website owners are already seeking to prepare their websites to position themselves strategically to do well in the coming year that's really just around the corner. There are over 200 Ranking Factors that Google and other major search engines use to rank content on the web. These are all very important. But today, I would like to focus on five(5) things that every business owner and website owner must focus on in order to do well in search ranking.

Outline of This Article

We will be focusing on the following five (5) key google search ranking factors in 2021. We know that Google Search Engines text over 200 factors in ranking content online. The truth is that most website owners may not be able to track all those factors. It would time consuming and costly. Based on our research and from what John Mueller (Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) has said over time, we have come up with these factors.

If you are a new business or have a new website, we recommend that you work hard on these search engine ranking factors while factors never neglecting all the basics and other factors.

OnMax Host Digital - What Are The Key Google Search Ranking Factors In 2021? - Choose A Niche

Choose Your Niche & Define Your Target Audience

If you are just starting off, I recommend that you pick your niche. This is the first key Google search ranking factor in 2021. A niche is a specialized market. A unique group of people who meet certain criteria that are relevant to common interests. For instance, dog lovers can be a niche. And within this group, you can also target dog lovers who log German shepherds. Still you can break it down further to target German Shepherds dog food or training, etc. So, these constitute your topic and the audience that you will target with your knowledge and experience.

As you define your target audience, you must also determine and define the problem you want to solve for this audience. You must have a unique solution or message you want to communicate to this specific group of people. Once you have determined who your audience is, you must determine the language they speak and communicate with them in that language.

If you don’t have something unique to build your campaign on, then you are going nowhere. If you do not get this first step right, you are wasting your time. Make sure that you are good at and know everything about this topic. And then define how you will present it to your audience in a way that they can relate to and understand your message and that they will be able to to search for your content.

You can then define your topic in a keyword and /or key phrase that you will include in your content on your web page. So, if your primary focus is German Shepherd Food, then this may be your primary keyword that you will include in your content, together with all other variations. This must match what your target audience is searching for.

OnMax Host Digital - What Are The Key Google Search Ranking Factors In 2021? - Great Relevant Content

Great Relevant Content Is King

You've heard it: "Write Great Content And You Will Rank Higher! Content will always be one of the key Google search ranking factors, not only in 2021. It is the primary reason why you build a website. But great content remains a challenge for both beginners as well as experienced content creators. You may be new and wondering how to create content that is both great and also relevant to your target audience. Many content creators have been doing just that, yet without seeing that effort rewarded with the level of traffic they were expecting."

So, the question that is frequently asked is: "How Do I create content that will drive traffic to my website or blog? How do I know that my content is great and relevant?" I deal with this issue often and many SEO's including experienced ones struggle with this issue as well. So, if you are new, don't feel too bad about yourself.

There are many articles out there that attempt to provide you with 'how to' or 'tips for creating great content.' That's not the main purpose of this article. My goal here is to provide you with 5 factors that I believe you must pay attention to, in addition to many others, to be able to improve your rankings in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

There are a lot of tools out there that are promoted online, with the promise of helping you create good content. Such tools come with the promise to help you measure the quality of your content by providing certain metrics. Many of the SEO plugins - you probably already have one installed in your website - will provide you with a color-coded signal and percentage score metric. They will encourage you to tweak your content until you get a green light and score 100%.

Some of the metrics measure the total number of words in your article, your primary keyword density, the presence of your primary keyword in your headers, sub-headers, SEO description, URL, etc. I have participated in a number of experiments where we intentionally scored in red, and very low - say 15% or 20%, yet our content ended up ranking respectably. We also published content that had full green light and 100% score and did very poorly. This is because that's not the way things really work with search engine algorithms.

A lot of advice out there will insist that you must create content that will do well in search engine algorithms. So, the emphasis is quite often more on how to beat or play the search engine algorithms game successfully and win. but no one really knows how the algorithms work. They change constantly. What will work for you is to focus your audience: what does your target audience want and what is the best way to reach them. How does your audience search for answers to their queries? Where does your audience hang out at?

You must therefore go out there and find out from the people what they want and how they want it delivered to them. What is the best format and medium for delivering your message? What is the best time and the right cadence for delivering your content? What is the language that your target audience speaks?

If you can answer these questions and incorporate the answers into your content strategy, then you will give yourself a chance to succeed. You can now take into consideration how search engine operate in order to strategically achieve your goals. Your content strategy must clearly define your end goal: What action do you want your users to take upon consuming your content?

OnMax Host Digital - What Are The Key Google Search Ranking Factors In 2021?

Improved User Experience Through User Studies

I have written before about the importance of User Experience. Google has already announced that starting in 2021, user experience will be a key Google search ranking factor. It is reflected in Google's Quality Raters' Guidelines. User experience is now emphasized by Google as a major ranking factor. There is explication for this: search engines want to remain relevant and useful to users. They play the role of match makers. Internet users will continue to trust search engines to the extent that the algorithms are able to return correct and relevant answers to their queries.

Therefore, search engines have developed and continue to tweak their algorithms with Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to measure the ability of a website to deliver the best user experience. The best content strategy for you is therefore to understand your audience. Here are a few questions that you may want to ask your audience:

If you are wondering how much content is good for your article, please find out more in my article: SEO Myths: Is More Content Better For SEO? In short, I can say here that your content must provide relevant and sufficient knowledge to adequately answer the queries of the searchers. This should be your primary focus rather than to attempt to fill the page with additional lines that are totally useless. This can turn your readers off.

Google has announced that User Experience will become a ranking factor. Core Web Vitals metrics will start to impact rankings in 2021

User Studies - Feedback

These questions and many other that you can develop will help you connect and engage with your target audience. In order to gather your audience intelligence, you need to perform user studies on a regular basis. To do this, find people who are independent of your business and are not associated with your website, and who have an interest in your topic or message and ask them to evaluate your website. Ask them to find other websites within your niche that are similar to yours. And let them evaluate all these websites. Then ask them to give you their honest feedback.

You must be committed to listen to them. And this must be an ongoing process, rather than a once in a while event. This may not be very easy because their feedback may not make you feel bad. After all, you have worked hard to build your website and you are sort of proud of your creativity and effort. But unless you are committed to objectivity, they may not be open to tell you the whole truth. And then take their answers and go to work to improve your website and message.

Based on their feedback, you should be able to know whether you are really talking to your target audience. You may have the right message but if you are delivering it to the wrong audience, you are wasting your time. Equally, you may have the wrong message and addressing it to the right audience.

User studies will enable you know how people feel about your content or message. Do they trust your website? Market research is a powerful tool for you to uncover these secrets that will enable you craft the right content and overall digital marketing strategy. User studies are a part of your market research. You can use interviews, surveys, and other methods to find out what your target audience wants and what they think about your message and website.

The OnMax Host Digital User Testing Video is a service that enables you learn what people think of your website with user testing videos. Average users from the United States will record their screens and provide their first impressions as they use your website. You’ll be able to “see what they see”, by receiving first person, unbiased reviews of your website directly from your audience.

The insights you can collect from the tools available such as SEO plugins and others must be interpreted, which can also be quite hard for many website and business owners. Direct feedback from users such as what you can obtain from the User Testing Video will provide you with a very clear input that you can use right now.

How Do Search Engines See Your Content?

While your primary focus must be on user studies, it is also important to consider how search engines see your content. The question is: “How does search engines know that your content is great and relevant?” You need to find your content and present it to searchers.

Like I said earlier, Google algorithms have over 200 factors for evaluating your website and content. The goal of the algorithms is to determine relevancy for the users. Google changes its algorithms about 9 times a day (that Google does not announce to the business community), in addition to major algorithm updates that Google announces several times a year.

Search engine algorithms also seek to understand the context of the content, such as how your content relates to the rest of the web within your niche and in general. This is seen in how other people are linking to your content. The algorithms also look at how your content is structured on your website. Your content must be great as well as relevant and also organized on your website in a way that makes it easy for your visitors to navigate. You must also remember that content relevancy can change over time because users’ needs and desires change constantly.

So, when you first start a blog or website and publish content, how do search engines find it? How long does it take for search engines to find and bring your content to searchers? The truth is that search engines will not magically find your content and start showing it to users on the web. How can you help search engines to find your content quickly? How can you make it easier for search engines to access and read your content on your website?

There are a number of tools out there that can help you with this. But the first step you must take is to ensure that your content are indexable. But simply having your content indexed does not mean that it will show up immediately and you may not get traffic to your website. You may work on improving your content and restructure your content on your website by doing internal linking.

You know you’ve written great content. Don’t just wait for people to stumble on it. Take it and promote it to your audience where your target audience hangs out at. Gradually, search engine will realize that lots of people are interested in your content and they will start recommending it to more and more people. Search engines watch what is taking place on the web and if they notice that more people are gravitating towards your content, they will conclude that it is interesting. They will also begin showing it to more and more people.

It is therefore your responsibility to take the first step of taking your content to your audience on social media, via emails, or podcasts, training videos, etc. The bigger your audience becomes loyal to you because they recognize your Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness, the more they will be expecting your content and the more they will be likely to share it with others, thus expanding your reach. This in turn will catch the attention of search engines algorithms.

You may have the best content that is relevant to your target audience and still not have one single visit to it. Lack of traffic therefore is not a direct result of content that is not great and relevant. It may be because your outreach is poor.

OnMax Host Digital - What Are Key Google Ranking Factors In 2021 - Am I Good Enough?

Link Building

Link building - both internal and external - is still very important for search engines. However, you must avoid black SEO tactics that will create links that search engines consider manipulative. External links are very important for new websites because they give search engines a signal. They represent references to your content. You can achieve this by submitting your new website to various local business directories within your industry where you can add your business mentions.

It is important that you avoid links from junk websites. In other words, obtain links from quality websites that can pass quality juice to your website. Search engine algorithms are able to recognize manipulative links to your website. There was a time when they you to penalize such a website, but now, they will simply ignore that link, thus nullifying whatever you were expecting to get from that link. Such links could also emanate from your competitors who would seek to sink your website so that they can rank above you. By simply ignoring those links, search engines neutralizes those evil intents.

Search engines may not react to every case of suspected manipulative links. They look for large scale patterns before responding with ignoring those links. This is the approach they also use for hidden text. Google, for instance, is aware that the web is not perfect and there are many people out there who are learning to build websites. Therefore, there will be many use wrong approaches with no malice intended. So, what they do not is to simply ignore such links. Then it is probably your responsibility to make an appeal if you feel that their decision is not correct.

So, the best strategy when it comes to link building is to get natural links. This means that you need to build relationships within your industry and 'earn' the reference. What qualifies your content for such credible references is the quality and relevance of your content. This requires you to publish high quality content that others within your industry will want to point to and refer their readers to. There are many things you can do to build relationships within the industry and introduce your content to others. So, you need to develop your link building campaign and make it an integral part of your overall marketing campaign. That is a topic for another article.

Interesting Take On Bounce Rates & Time On Page

Bounce rates and time on page are probably two of what I have always considered as controversial factors, contrary to what many SEO’s have been saying. John Mueller of Google has also clarified that bounce rates and time on page cannot be looked at in isolation. The primary focus must be on your goal: what is the purpose for which you published your content? What action do you want visitors to take when they arrive on your website?

There is no value to your business to just have people sit there staring at your web page. What is your goal? Do you want them to buy something or subscribe to something? What is your definition of conversion? The key then should be for you to clearly define the steps that will lead your visitors on this customer journey to that desired action. Each one of those steps is a micro-conversion event. Once you define the various small steps or activities you want the visitors to engage in on your web page, then you will begin to track performance at each one of those steps.

For instance, if your Subscribe or Buy Now button is located at the bottom of your page, then you may be interested in visitors’ scrolling down the page. How far are they scrolling? You can subscribe to Heatmap to help you monitor this metric. And if you realize that visitors are bouncing much earlier in this scrolling process, you will need to figure out what you need to do to improve your page to encourage your visitors to continue the journey towards the ultimate conversion action.

So, bounce rate and time on page on themselves may not provide real actionable insights for the business or website owner. If your visitor is able to get to your desired conversion action within 3 seconds, then the journey to the ultimate action does not need to be un-necessarily prolonged simply to register a longer time on page. And if the visitor is able to find what he or she is looking for and takes the necessary action on your website, there is no additional business value accrued for the website or business owner to get the visitor to dig further into your website and spend more time on your website.

You could however encourage your visitor to explore your website further deep into your content with internal links that open on additional pages. This will result in longer time on your website. However, make sure that you are now taking your visitor away from your Call To Action (CTA) where he or she can get distracted by other information and then leave your website without taking your desired action for which you drew that user to your website.

So, rather than simply blindly focusing on these analytics metrics, it is more productive for you to focus on your final goal and from there, break it down into micro-conversion actions along the customer journey at each touch point along the way. Again, well executed user studies will provide you with insights that you can incorporate in your planning and strategy process.

Bonus: A Home Movie - How Google Search Works

This is a Home Movie. This short movie describes how Google works. I found it very interesting and I hope you will too.


If you are just starting a blog or a new website, it is important to take the time to choose a niche, define your audience, study your audience, and create a content strategy that matches your business goals. Even if your website or blog has been running for some time, you can still pause to strategize and chart a path that will lead you to your business goals. Use user studies to gather feedback on your website. This may not be easy for you to handle. You have worked hard to create this baby. It is not always easy to hear harsh criticism on your baby.

Both user needs and search engine algorithms change frequently. The relevance of your content may be affected by a change in users’ needs and perception. You will have to go back and make changes or purge or upgrade your content. So, your website may be doing well and suddenly, it will drop in rankings because search engines changed something in their algorithms. Because your Brand is not yet strong, your performance is solely dependent on what you do on a daily basis. So, if you are performing well in rankings, this is not necessarily an indication that your content is not good or relevant.

You will need to always tell the difference between the impact of external factors such changes in users’ interests or search engine algorithms and internal factors, and then take appropriate actions. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are getting better at understanding your content as well as users’ interests and needs. So, gaining actionable intelligence out of your analytics may require you to develop some new skills. Remember that just because your content is great does not mean that it is relevant to your target audience.

You may look at your competitors and notice that their content may not even be as good as yours, yet they may rank much higher than you. That’s because there are hundreds of other ranking factors that search engines use to look at the website. You can check our July 2020 Newsletter for updates on Bing search engine ranking factors.

User studies is something that website owners need to do more. Work with neutral people and observe them using your website. You will learn a lot about your website’s SEO, website usability, marketing. OnMax Host Digital User Testing Video will enable you understand if your site is making a good first impression and why users aren’t converting. You will know whether you need longer tests asking users to accomplish a particular task to expose your site’s usability problems. Eliminating what frustrates users will help optimize your conversion rate.

I hope that you have found this article interesting and useful. Please join the conversation below in the Comments section. I welcome your suggestions, ideas, questions, and feedback. This is a place I want to see the community gather so we can help each other.

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Hal On'Untu Ngoy

Hal On'Untu Ngoy

Hal On'Untu Ngoy is a Digital Transformation Expert. Apostle, Revolutionist, Entrepreneur, Innovator, Motivator, Strategist, Mentor, Business Owner, Author, and Teacher. My passion is to see people mature to their fullest potential, as Sons of God, displaying the full wisdom of God.

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