Google Confirms: Content & Links are the Top Two Ranking Factors


Written by Nick Yorchak. Posted in Google Updates

Ranking factors have always been a mystery. While we’re aware of what ranking factors comprise Google’s algorithm– Search Engine Land has a great write-up1 on this – it’s always been difficult to determine which of these Google considers as the most significant.

Late last year, however, Google announced it was using RankBrain2 in its search algorithm update, known as Hummingbird. In fact, it was quickly declared the third-most important ranking factor. A machine-learning AI system, RankBrain works around the clock to parse and understand language to deliver better more relevant search results. Surgogroup3 sums it up nicely:

“RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities — called vectors — that the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.”

Its importance can’t be understated. As Forbes4 points out, it must be pretty influential if it supersedes all other ranking factors except for two. Hummingbird comprises hundreds of ranking factors, all of which have their place in helping sites get to the top of search rankings, but until now, no one really knew what the most important ones were.

The answer was given during a recent Google Q&A with Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist in Ireland. During a conversation about RankBrain and how it works, Internet Marketing Consultant Ammon Johns5 asked the following:

Johns: “We’ve heard that this is the 3rd most important factor contributing to results now. Would it be beneficial to us to know what the first two are?”

Lipattsev: “Yes, I can tell you what they are: content, and links pointing to your site.”

You can view the relevant portion of the video below:

So now we know. Along with RankBrain, content and linking are the Holy Trinity of ranking factors among the 200+ factors that go into Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update. So what does this actually mean?

Well, it means nothing has really changed. Simply put, all it really did is clarify what we already knew: content and linking are king, and the backbone of a strong search strategy. While there are other important ranking factors to consider, creating new and unique content consistently and chasing those links are the first steps toward search success.

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