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Decoding Google Search and Ranking: Part 3 – Unconfirmed but Suspected Ranking Factors

When reviewing the performance of a website in the search results, marketers need to look at a wide range of possible factors that could influence rankings on Google, and which may need additional attention or changes. In part 3 of our continuing series about Decoding Google Search and Ranking, we now take a look at the unconfirmed but suspected ranking factors that could impact a business’s SEO.

You can read part 1:  Power of Key Signals and Navboost and part 2: Confirmed Ranking Signals.

Alt text
Having alt text for images is definitely an SEO best practice (but it’s not a confirmed ranking factor), so using it correctly and with keywords can help SEO strategy by giving Google more context about what is on the page. Using good descriptive content is also a best practice for accessibility.

Breadcrumbs help Google to assess the hierarchy of how web pages are arranged. As they can help categorise pages and Google treats breadcrumbs as normal internal links in PageRank they may have an impact on ranking, even if they aren’t confirmed as a direct ranking factor.

Click depth
Click depth, which is the number of clicks it takes to get from the home page to the destination page, is very likely to be a ranking factor based on remarks from Google’s John Mueller, but not a significant one.

Local citations
Location citations that mention your key business information like name, address, and phone number aren’t officially confirmed as a ranking factor, but Google has noted that businesses with complete information will be prioritised in the local results. Links from these sites can also contribute to PageRank.

Co-citation and co-occurrence help Google assess how closely two unrelated sites or pages may be related and may give them clues as to how the pages are related and in what context. A few high-quality, trusted links to your site can help Google put together some of the puzzle pieces, but still, this is unlikely to be a significant ranking factor.

It only makes sense that someone searching for shoes in Mandarin is less than likely to come across a site written in Spanish. To reach users in different locations, it’s necessary to create content in the languages they speak.

Internal links
These are links to your own content on your site that need strong use of anchor text, though they’re unlikely to be a significant ranking factor compared to others like site loading speeds or links from other external domains.

Schema markup is highly valuable when it comes to driving clicks, and it also provides microdata that Google is able to understand easily. Although it isn’t confirmed as a known ranking factor it can help to rank for queries that may not do so otherwise, so it may assist as a ranking signal that helps overall with SEO.

The User’s own search history
Google’s algorithm does take the past search history into account when delivering search results as best as possible, however this is not something that can be influenced at all and the impact is rarely significant.


We will continue this series next month with a look at the rumored but unlikely ranking factors.

In the meantime, if you want to know how extensive knowledge of the confirmed Google ranking signals can help to improve your business’s search results, please get in touch.