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Google Ranking Factors for 2021

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Google Ranking Factors for 2021

Google Ranking Factors for 2020

Ranking highly in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) is the most important thing that you can do to increase the amount of traffic heading to your website. However, what you need to focus on to make that happen is constantly in flux. Google continuously changes its areas of focus are to ensure that those using its search engine will continue to receive what they’re looking for. How it does that is by listing websites on its first page of results that provide positive and informative browsing experiences.

What Google ranking factors should you focus on in 2021? This is not an easy question to answer as Google considers hundreds of them. With that said, it’s clear that a relatively small number will be the most relevant and should demand most of your focus. It’s a common saying that focusing on 20% of Google ranking factors will result in 80% of your SEO success. So, take these factors to heart while also taking into account that the relative importance of them will remain in flux.

Mobile Optimization

Five years ago, Google started placing more importance on a website’s mobile optimization than on its desktop version. Today, this feature is one of the most important things that Google looks at as it determines which websites to rank highly. This makes sense as more and more people are browsing websites today from their phones than they are from their desktops or laptops. If your website is not friendly to mobile devices, making it so needs to be one of your first priorities in 2021.

Quality Content

Keyword stuffing and similar strategies used to be utilized by many who wanted their websites to rank highly on Google’s SERP. This is no longer the case, and quality content’s importance will be a key factor for Google in 2021. What you produce should offer real value to those visiting your website. It needs to be thorough, useful, and interesting. Google determines if this is the case through a variety of methods such as how long users remain on that page and if it intrigues them enough to view more of your website.

Long Content

All other things being equal, longer content is preferred over shorter. This is because it’s generally viewed as being more detailed, offering greater value, and being more engaging. Also, Google will rank websites that are one-stop shops for information especially highly in 2021. It wants users to find all of their answers in one place, and longer content is more apt to do be able to do that and not result in further research is necessary. With that said, quality is much more important than quantity, so do not expand on what is being written just to include filler and other relatively useless information.

Also, it’s been shown that longer articles tend to be shared on social media more often than shorter pieces. Any sort of sharing that any of your web pages receive can only help increase how many hits you receive and how highly you place on Google’s SERP. Generally, the longer the better as long as the content remains high-quality throughout. Don’t hesitate to include content exceeding 3,000 words.

Of course, you will most likely need to publish shorter pieces from time to time. That’s understandable. Just make sure that you continue to increase the percentage of your content that’s longer throughout 2021 and, most likely, beyond as this is a factor that is not expected to decrease in importance.

Updated Content

Google unveiled a freshness algorithm in 2011, and its importance has increased over the years to now being one of the most important Google ranking factors. Simply put, you should regularly update existing content on your website. This does not mean just fixing a few typos or making other relatively minor changes. This should involve rewriting and adding or removing entire sections so that the information is up to date. Of course, this is not required if there simply is no new information, but, if there is, update it in 2021.


Another ranking signal that Google will pay special attention to in 2021 is backlinks. This is partially because it’s perhaps the most difficult aspect of Google rankings that can be gamed by website owners. You want as many quality websites linking to your content as possible. Think of it as having several professional references. For example, if you’re a baseball website and MLB.com links to you, that’s significant. The bottom line is that backlinks help Google view you as being high authority yourself.

However, with that said, note that quality matters more than quantity here as well as Google takes both of those factors into account and will ding a website if it has too many low-quality backlinks. Of course, you likely have no direct control over this, but producing quality content will help quite a bit. Also, take into account that Google ignores multiple backlinks from the same website, so MLB.com linking to you is great, but MLB.com linking to you from several of its web pages doesn’t provide any additional value.

Page Speed

Page speed has always played a role in a website’s Google ranking, but this is expected to be especially important in 2021. Slow page speed quickly results in users being dissatisfied, and, as a result, so is Google. Generally speaking, aim for the fastest loading times possible, but, at a minimum, ensure that mobile devices can usually load your website in two or fewer seconds and desktops in three or fewer. You want to decrease your bounce rate, which is going to be increased if users must wait for pages to load.


If you aren’t using HTTPS encryption, that needs to be one of your top priorities in 2021. This provides a level of security for users, and, as a result, is something that plays a role in Google ranking placement. Note that if your website involves any trading of financial information, HTTPS is an absolute necessity.

Interstitial Ads

In 2021, you should be especially careful of how you use any interstitial ads on your website. If they’ve been deemed as intrusive, Google will knock down that page’s ability to rank highly in its SERP. These ads should not cause users to experience considerable difficulty navigating your website’s content, so only include interstitial ads if they’re necessary. Examples can be if you require a visitor to log in to access the content on that page or if you need to verify a visitor’s age before providing them with content. For ones that you do use that are not necessary, ensure that they can be easily closed.

Customer-First Focus

What do all of these factors have in common? Ensuring that users have as positive and as rewarding an experience on your website as possible. Although all of these specific factors are important to focus on in 2021, the most important thing that you should always have in mind is ensuring that users are getting a lot out of their experiences on your website. As long as you do that, a lot of the rest of these factors will naturally fall into place.

If you need help with your content strategy, contact our digital marketing agency for a free strategy session.  We will be happy to discuss your options and even provide some helpful advice even if you don’t hire us.

Lori Newman
Lori Newman
Web Designer & SEO Marketing Director @ NWS. Lori has been developing websites for over 20 years now and is totally obsessed with WordPress. When she's not designing she loves dabbling in photography and videography and spending time with her five grandkids and fur babies.