No one knows the hundreds of factors Google uses to rank search results. That’s a problem when you’re trying to create content that outranks the competition.
You shouldn’t lose hope though. While you cannot glean the exact factors and how they’re weighed, you can still find out what Google values by looking at the results.
How do you do that?
In this article, I’ll be sharing the exact process I go through whenever I’m researching competition in any industry.
My main goal is to find out why Google chose the top 10 results for any query and create content that exceeds the value provided by those results.
I find it helpful to quantify each result on a number of different factors. These are by no means comprehensive but together, they provide an accurate enough snapshot to guide content and technical SEO efforts.
- How fast does the page load?
- What is the page size?
You can use a tool like GTMetrix to help answer these questions. It gives exact results like page load times, page size, and it even grades each URL.
You can use it on your site as well to help identify areas of improvement.
Put yourself in the shoes of the user and try to note things that stand out (or don’t because they’re done so well!). For some people, it’s helpful to vocalize their experience of opening and scrolling through a website.
Here are some of the major things I try to check when evaluating the user experience on any site.
- Design: How are the design and the layout? How much space does the main content take versus the rest of the elements? Is the site using elements like a table of content, accordion, and other UX elements?
- UX Sins: I try comparing the user experience with and without adblockers and try to find out how the ads impact the design, layout and content.
- Mobile-friendliness: How is the user experience on mobile? Is it mobile-optimized? Are they doing anything special to make their mobile experience stand out?
Tip: You can use Whatfont to find out what fonts any site is using.
Advanced tip: You can use Builtwith to get information about any site’s tech stack.
- Content quality: This is subjective but I like to grade it on a 1-5 scale. 1 is barely adequate and 5 is prose that sings.
- The W’s: What questions does the content answer about our query? When was it last updated?
- Content depth: How in-depth is the content? Is it a comprehensive resource for our query? What elements or aspects are present and which ones are missing?
- Data: Is the site using any data? If yes, where is the data being sourced from? How is it presented and what tools are they using for that purpose? What questions does the data answer about the query?
- Use of visuals: Does the site use images, videos and other visuals to accentuate its content?
Once you gain an understanding of why Google ranks the search results for a query, you’re in a great position to create content that outranks them. Good luck and rank away!