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Google’s Gary Illyes has clarified a misunderstanding about ranking factors.

Contrary to popular belief, Illyes says there are no top 3 ranking factors that apply to all content.

Top ranking factors for a web page will change depending on the query used to find it.

I didn’t give a top 3. I actually said that it very much depends on the query and the results which signals count more

— Gary “鯨理” Illyes (@methode) September 18, 2023

Google’s John Mueller chimes into the discussion to say the algorithms’ job is to show relevant content, everything else varies.

Optimizing for ranking factors is “short-term thinking,” Mueller says.

The algorithms try to show relevant & awesome results to users’ queries. Everything else varies. Opt’ing for factors is short-term thinking.

— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) September 18, 2023

Illyes jumps in once more to say that links are often not a ranking factor at all. Many top results don’t have links.

More specifically, Illyes is referring to search results for the many unique long-tail queries that are performed every day.

I also said at Brighton there are tons of top results that don’t have links at all. billions of queries a day, lots of long tail w/o links

— Gary “鯨理” Illyes (@methode) September 18, 2023

Some results can be so new or so obscure that they haven’t been linked to yet. However, just because they don’t have links doesn’t mean the results are not relevant to a user’s query.

That’s why it’s important for Google’s algorithms to be able to adjust and recalculate for different ranking signals.

Ranking content based on the same 3 ranking signals at all times would result in Google not always delivering the most ‘relevant’ content to users.

As John Mueller says, at the end of the day that’s what Google search is trying to accomplish.

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Google’s Top Search Ranking Factors Of 2024, According To Searchmetrics Study

Searchmetrics has released their annual study of Google’s top search ranking factors. The “comparative benchmark” for SEOs illustrates how ranking factors are becoming more personalized, content relevance is paramount, technical factors are still as important as ever, and backlinks are seeing a downward trend in importance.

I will recap some of the top sections of the report in this post, but the exceptionally detailed 63-page report deserves to be read in full if you have the time to do so.

Content Factors

Searchmetrics has introduced a new ranking factor to this year’s report called content relevance, which measures how relevant a piece of content is to a search query. It is measured on a scale from 0–100, and data suggests a higher relevance score can equate to higher rankings.

Word count is still an important ranking factor, with content in the top positions exceeding 1000 words on average. The level of detail matters as much as the length of the content. Pages that show up in higher positions are detailed enough to rank comparably well for multiple similar keywords.

With that being said, the deliberate use of keywords is said to be of secondary importance, with only 53% of the top 20 queries having keywords in the title tag.

“This clearly demonstrates that Google evaluates content according to its relevance – and not by the inclusion of individual keywords.”

User Signals

The pages occupying positions 1–3 have an average CTR of 36%.

The average Bounce Rate for URLs on the first page of search results is 46%.

The Time on Site for the top 10 URLs is 3 minutes and 10 seconds

Technical Factors

Here are some other highlights regarding technical ranking factors:

Over 45% of pages in the top 20 results were encrypted using HTTPS, up from 12% last year.

Pages ranking well on mobile are a third smaller than pages in the same positions on desktop.

Pages in the top 10 positions have a loading time of 7–8 seconds, on average.

Top ranking pages typically have longer URLs, around 53 characters on average.

All 100 of the top 100 domains have are mobile-friendly.

User Experience Factors

Internal links are said to be one of the most important user experience ranking factors, though they are being largely underutilized. Searchmetrics says the use of internal links has fallen dramatically this year compared to last year. Internal links help direct both users and search engines to other relevant pages throughout a website, which is why they’re so important. External links, number of images, and video integration are all factors that add to the user experience which are also important ranking factors.

Social Signals

According to Searchmetrics, there is an extremely high correlation between social signals and ranking position. Facebook is still the network with the highest weighted social signals. Signals from Google+ are apparently most prevalent in when it comes to the first and second positions, but fall off significantly after that. The same can be said for signals from Twitter and Pinterest as well.

”The top-ranked website in Google’s rankings displays vastly more social signals than all other pages, even more so than in 2024”

Backlink Signals

The days of backlinks being the main driving force behind search engine rankings are on their way out, Searchmetrics says. Backlinks are now just a contributing signal, taking a back seat to signals such as content relevance and user intention. In fact, for certain niche topics its possible to obtain a high ranking without even having a lot of high quality backlinks.


After having one of the industry’s most respected reports since 2012, Searchmetrics says the annual ranking reports study is no longer applicable as it once was. This marks the last the last time Searchmetrics will publish a study on general ranking factors. Expect to see more detailed industry studies from them beginning spring 2023.

Are Reconsideration Requests A Google Ranking Factor?

Reconsideration requests are indirectly related to search rankings, as they’re an essential step in the process of recovering from a Google manual penalty.

They make the difference between a site getting reinstated in search results or remaining deindexed.

Reconsideration requests play an important role in SEO when rankings are manually held down by Google, but it’s not accurate to call them a “ranking factor.”

Here’s more about the relationship between reconsideration requests and search rankings, and how they can get your site out of a critical situation.

The Claim: Reconsideration Requests Are A Ranking Factor

All site owners should be familiar with reconsideration requests.

At the same time, you hope you never have to deal with one firsthand.

If you’re dealing with a reconsideration request, it means a site you’re working with has been hit by a manual action (aka a Google penalty).

The site is now either demoted in search results or entirely removed from Google’s index.

You may have heard submitting a reconsideration request can help remove a manual penalty and get your site ranking in Google again.

Yes, that’s what they’re designed to do.

Site owners must submit a reconsideration request in order to recover from a manual action.

There’s more work involved in submitting a request than it sounds, however, and if the necessary steps aren’t completed the request will be denied.

The next section goes over what’s involved in the reconsideration request process and how to submit one that meets Google’s approval.

The Evidence: Reconsideration Requests As A Ranking Factor

According to a Google Search Console help documents:

“A reconsideration request is a request to have Google review your site after you fix problems identified in a manual action or security issues notification.”

A reconsideration request does not apply in situations where a site is demoted in Google’s search rankings for reasons unrelated to a manual action, such as a broad core algorithm update.

It’s reserved only for manual actions or security issues.

As Google’s document states, site owners will be notified if and when they’re required to submit a reconsideration request.

The notification will state what specifically led to the penalty and what needs to be done to recover from it.

When all of the issues listed in Google’s message are fixed, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Requests are submitted in the form of .txt files containing a written explanation of what was done to recover from the penalty.

According to Google, a good request does three things:

Explains the exact quality issue on your site.

Describes the steps you’ve taken to fix the issue.

Documents the outcome of your efforts.

Be as thorough as possible when writing a request, because the onus is on you to prove you’ve done what was required to recover from the penalty.

After a request is submitted, do not resubmit a new request until you’ve heard back from Google regarding the first one.

Google reviews and responds to all requests whether they’re approved or denied.

If Google approves the request then the penalty will be lifted.

If the request is denied, another one can be submitted after further effort to address the lingering issues.

It’s possible there are no persistent issues and the request was denied because it didn’t include enough detail.

That’s another reason it’s important to document your work.

If you fixed an issue but didn’t tell Google about it in the reconsideration request, it won’t count toward your penalty recovery.

Reconsideration Requests As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Reconsideration requests are loosely connected to rankings but it’s inaccurate to call them a ranking factor.

In fact, there’s no guarantee that a site will regain the same rankings it once had after recovering from a penalty.

A site can, and likely will, rank much lower after a penalty because previous rankings were achieved by violating Google’s guidelines.

“The other thing to keep in mind with manual actions in general is that, if you clean up a manual action, that essentially means in the past your website was ranking in an artificial situation.

The manual action kind of took care of that. And if you clean it up so that the manual action is no longer necessary, then your website is ranking in a different situation.

It can happen that it’s very similar to before, but it can also happen that your previous positions in search were artificially, strongly, inflated due to the things that the manual action was looking at.”

A reconsideration request has no inherent benefit to a site’s rankings, other than getting it out of the Google penalty box.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Are Contextual Links A Google Ranking Factor?

Inbound links are a ranking signal that can vary greatly in terms of how they’re weighted by Google.

One of the key attributes that experts say can separate a high value link from a low value link is the context in which it appears.

When a link is placed within relevant content, it’s thought to have a greater impact on rankings than a link randomly inserted within unrelated text.

Is there any bearing to that claim?

Let’s dive deeper into what has been said about contextual links as a ranking factor to see whether there’s any evidence to support those claims.

The Claim: Contextual Links Are A Ranking Factor

A “contextual link” refers to an inbound link pointing to a URL that’s relevant to the content in which the link appears.

When an article links to a source to provide additional context for the reader, for example, that’s a contextual link.

Contextual links add value rather than being a distraction.

They should flow naturally with the content, giving the reader some clues about the page they’re being directed to.

A link’s anchor text could be related to the webpage it’s pointing to, but if it’s surrounded by content that’s otherwise irrelevant then it doesn’t qualify as a contextual link.

Contextual links are said to be a Google ranking factor, with claims that they’re weighted higher by the search engine than other types of links.

One of the reasons why Google might care about context when it comes to links is because of the experience it creates for users.

Modern guides to link building all recommend getting links from relevant URLs, as opposed to going out and placing links anywhere that will take them.

There’s now a greater emphasis on quality over quantity when it comes to link building, and a link is considered higher quality when its placement makes sense in context.

One high quality contextual link can, in theory, be worth more than multiple lower quality links.

If Google weights the quality of links higher or lower based on context, it would mean Google’s crawlers can understand webpages and assess how closely they relate to other URLs on the web.

Is there any evidence to support this?

The Evidence For Contextual Links As A Ranking Factor

Evidence in support of contextual links as a ranking factor can be traced back to 2012 with the launch of the Penguin algorithm update.

Google’s original algorithm, PageRank, was built entirely on links. The more links pointing to a website, the more authority it was considered to have.

Websites could catapult their site up to the top of Google’s search results by building as many links as possible. It didn’t matter if the links were contextual or arbitrary.

Google’s PageRank algorithm wasn’t as selective about which links it valued (or devalued) over others until it was augmented with the Penguin update.

Penguin brought a number of changes to Google’s algorithm that made it more difficult to manipulate search rankings through spammy link building practices.

In Google’s announcement of the launch of Penguin, former search engineer Matt Cutts highlighted a specific example of the link spam it’s designed to target.

This example depicts the exact opposite of a contextual link, with Cutts saying:

“Here’s an example of a site with unusual linking patterns that is also affected by this change. Notice that if you try to read the text aloud you’ll discover that the outgoing links are completely unrelated to the actual content, and in fact, the page text has been “spun” beyond recognition.”

A contextual link, on the other hand, looks like the one a few paragraphs above linking to Google’s blog post.

Links with context share the following characteristics:

Placement fits in naturally with the content.

Linked URL is relevant to the article.

All of the documentation Google has published about Penguin over the years is the strongest evidence available in support of contextual links as a ranking factor.

See: A Complete Guide to the Google Penguin Algorithm Update

Google will never outright say “contextual link building is a ranking factor,” however, because the company discourages any deliberate link building at all.

As Cutts adds at the end of his Penguin announcement, Google would prefer to see webpages acquire links organically:

“We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.”

Contextual Links Are A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Contextual links are probably a Google ranking factor.

A link is weighted higher when it’s used in context than if it’s randomly placed within unrelated content.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean links without context will negatively impact a site’s rankings.

External links are largely outside a site owner’s control.

If a website links to you out of context it’s not a cause for concern, because Google is capable of ignoring low value links.

On the other hand, if Google detects a pattern of unnatural links, then that could count against a site’s rankings.

If you have actively engaged in non-contextual link building in the past, it may be wise to consider using the disavow tool.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Google Updating Top Stories Carousel

Google goes over all the changes coming to the Top Stories carousel in search results when the Page Experience update rolls out in mid-June.

The information is shared on the Google Search Central YouTube channel as part of its Getting Started With Page Experience video series.

It’s been known for months that Google plans to remove AMP as a requirement for getting content featured in the Top Stories carousel. That’s still scheduled to happen as part of the Page Experience algorithm update.

This latest explainer from Google discusses the more granular details and answers any lingering questions site owners may have before the update launches.

Changes Coming to AMP & Top Stories

When Google launches the Page Experience update in mid-June, AMP will no longer be necessary for inclusion in Top Stories.

In addition, Google confirms the AMP icon will be retired and the swiping interaction will be removed from the AMP viewer.

Swiping through stories in the AMP viewer was possible because pages are loaded instantly from the AMP cache.

When other types of pages get added to the Top Stories carousel, Google will no longer be able to guarantee instant loading. To provide an optimal experience for searchers, Google will have to get rid of swiping.

It’s possible for site owners to bring the instantaneous loading of AMP pages to other types of pages through signed exchanges.

Signed exchanges let sites be prefetched safely and securely. They can also be used on AMP sites which will allow the pages to keep their original URLs.

Here’s more about what the removal of AMP pages from the Top Stories carousel means for SEOs and site owners.

What Does This Mean For Site Owners?

When Google removes AMP as a requirement for Top Stories, previously ineligible content will become eligible for inclusion.

Up until now, only pages built with AMP HTML were considered for this section. Since Google is going to be opening it up to all webpages, those limited spots will become more competitive.

Google shares these three tips for staying competitive in Top Stories:

Publish relevant content.

Maintain good Core Web Vitals and Page Experience scores.

Follow Google’s guidelines.

If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to investigate how your pages are faring as far as Page Experience goes.

Check the Page Experience report in Search Console, which contains information about what actual users are experiencing when they load your site.

In the report you’ll be able to see any specific problematic URLs that need addressing.

If your content is currently featured in Top Stories, then continue to focus on publishing the same high quality content.

On top of that, pay attention to any Page Experience issues in Search Console and you’ll likely do just as well in Top Stories after the update as you are today.

That involves adding a few lines of markup which lets Google know important information about the article such as the author, the publisher, the publish date, and so on.

For more details, see the full video below:

Sinus Infection Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis

Sinuses are hollow cavities that may be found behind the nose, the eyes, the cheeks, and the forehead. Sinusitis refers to inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages.

An infected sinus is a frequent medical problem. Over 31 million Americans suffer from sinus infections each year, according to data from the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Symptoms of Sinusitis

Sinusitis presents signs and symptoms similar to those of the common cold. The following are examples of such things that may happen −

Diminished ability to smell


Nasal congestion or discharge

Discomfort in the sinuses as the source of a headache



A child’s sinusitis may be hard to see by caretakers. Among the warning signs are the following −

Illnesses caused by the common cold that don’t clear up after almost 2 weeks

Difficulty finding relief from allergy medicine

A persistent cough

A temperature over 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius), which is termed a high fever

Nasal discharge that is either green or yellow and thick

Causes of Sinus Infections

It’s common for sinusitis to develop when mucus or other debris plugs into the nasal passages.

Sinusitis and other sinus infections may affect anybody at any time. Nevertheless, the odds may be raised by having a preexisting ailment or other risk factors.

Sinusitis may have several causes, some of which are −

Problems with the nose’s framework, such as a

A deviated septum (an imperfection in the tissue partition between the left and right nostrils).

Growth on the nasal bone or spur

Nose polyps, often a benign condition

Immune deficiency

Allergens in the past

Viruses, bacteria, and fungi may all cause upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold.

The underlying cause of cystic fibrosis is the accumulation of thick mucus in the lungs and other mucous membrane linings.

Inhalation of Mold

Cigarette use

Infection of the teeth

Airplane rides, which may put you in contact with a lot of bacteria,

A cold, allergies, or germs might bring a surplus of mucus. A sinus infection may develop if the mucus in your sinuses thickens and attracts bacteria and other organisms.

Types of Sinusitis

Sinusitis comes in various forms, but the symptoms are often the same. Both the intensity and duration of the symptoms are unknown at this time.

Sinus Infection that is Severe and new

The duration of acute sinusitis is the shortest.

That might persist for as long as four weeks. The common cold is a contagious respiratory illness that lasts up to ten days.

Viruses bring most acute sinusitis occurrences, although seasonal allergens may also play a role.

Sinusitis That is not Quite Severe

Sub acute sinusitis symptoms can linger for up to a year. Seasonal allergies and bacterial infections are significant triggers for this syndrome.

The Continuation of Acute Sinusitis Attacks

At least four attacks of acute sinusitis within a year constitute recurrent acute sinusitis. Acute sinusitis must continue for at least seven days for each episode.

Identification of Sinusitis

Before diagnosing, a doctor will interview you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. They could push a finger across your head and cheeks to feel for sore spots. Your doctor may also check the inside of your nose for redness or swelling.

Your doctor will likely diagnose sinusitis based on your symptoms and the findings of a physical examination.

Chronic sinusitis often necessitates thoroughly examining the sinuses and nasal passages, which may require imaging techniques. These examinations may detect the presence of polyps or other abnormal formations in the mucus membranes.

Medical scans. It is possible to make a diagnosis using several imaging studies.

You can get a quick look at your sinuses using an X-ray.

A CT scan may provide a three-dimensional image of your sinuses.

An MRI uses strong magnets to provide pictures of the body’s underlying components.

Endoscopy of the nose − Another option is a fiberscope, a lighted tube that the doctor inserts into your nose to examine your nasal passages and sinuses. The doctor may take a sample during the process to do culture testing. Viruses, bacteria, and molds may all be identified by culture testing.

Skin testing for allergies − Allergy tests may pinpoint specific environmental triggers for an immune response.

Tests of the blood − Immune-compromising diseases like HIV may be detected with a simple blood test.

Treatment for your Sinusitis

Most occurrences of sinusitis are caused by viral infections and may resolve without therapy. You may get some relief from your problems with OTC drugs or home treatments.

Congestion in the nose

Sinusitis often manifests with a stuffy nose. If you’re experiencing nasal congestion, try the following −

Using a warm, wet towel on your face and forehead several times a day might help alleviate the discomfort of sinus congestion.

You may remove the thick, sticky mucus in your nose by rinsing it with a saline solution.

Keep yourself hydrated and help thin the mucus by drinking water and juice. Mucus-thinning over-the-counter drugs like guaifenesin may be helpful.

Add some moisture to the air in your bedroom by running a humidifier. Start the shower and shut the door to immerse yourself in steam.

Try a spray for your nose that contains corticosteroid medication. While over-the-counter decongestants exist, getting a doctor’s opinion before using one is best.

Meds for Discomfort or Pain

Sinusitis might cause you to feel pressure in your forehead and cheeks. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) may assist.


A bacterial infection is probable if your symptoms have not improved after a few weeks. Antibiotic treatment may be required if the following symptoms persist −

A stuffy nose



Persistent discomfort in the face or head

Puffy eyes


Preventing Sinusitis

Following a healthy lifestyle and minimizing exposure to germs and allergens may aid in preventing sinusitis, which can occur after a cold, the flu, or an allergic response.

You may lessen the odds by −

Do something about the flu every year and get a vaccination.

Fruits and vegetables are examples of healthful foods you should eat.

Always be sure to wash your hands.

Keep your distance from potential irritants and allergens such as cigarette smoke, chemical fumes, and pollen.

Whether you suffer from allergies or the common cold, antihistamines are the way to go.

Stay away from those who are currently sick with respiratory illness.

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