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What Are SEO Ranking Factors And Why Do They Matter?

Julia McCoy
Friday, 15th Mar 2024
Julia McCoy
5 min read · Jan 11 2022
seo ranking

Ever wonder why some websites always seem to pop up at the top of Google’s search results while others get lost in the digital abyss? Well, it all comes down to SEO ranking — the magical formula that determines where your website lands in those coveted search engine results pages.

For decades, Google has been mum on what factors determine which websites earn the spotlight. Revealing the exact formula behind their algorithm is like giving away a secret recipe that competitors could exploit to game the system. Keeping these ranking factors hidden also makes it more difficult for spammers to flood the Internet with low-quality content optimized solely to trick search engines.

The ultimate goal of Google is to prioritize what’s best for users. By focusing on user experience factors like high-quality content and mobile-friendliness, they can encourage website owners to create content that is genuinely valuable and informative.

Want your website to climb the ranks and bask in the glory of top search results? Let’s break down these not-so-secret ranking factors and give your site the SEO boost it deserves.

Table Of Contents:

What Is SEO Ranking?

You’ve heard the term thrown around, but what does it really mean? Simply put, SEO ranking is where your website sits on the search engine results page. Think of it as a popularity contest where Google is the judge.

The goal? Land that top spot or at least make it to Page One because 75% of users do not venture past the first page.

How does Google determine where to place your website?

When a user enters a question or phrase into Google, the search engine’s algorithms analyze various factors to determine the most relevant and authoritative web pages to display in response to that query. The order in which these pages appear is known as their ranking.

For example, if you type “what is SEO ranking” into the search field, here are the Top 5 websites that are ranking for that phrase:

These are all organic results — which means they earned their positions based on SEO ranking factors and not by paying for that space. Learn more about paid results and pay-per-click advertising in our separate guide.

Why Do SEO Rankings Matter?

Placing at the top of search engine results is not just about bragging rights. Higher rankings mean more eyes on your website.

Here are three key reasons why you should aim to meet Google’s ranking criteria:

  • Increase Visibility: Higher ranks get you noticed by more people searching for what you offer.
  • Better User Experience: Part of good SEO involves making your site user-friendly.
  • Growth Opportunity: With increased visibility comes more opportunities to expand and thrive online.

Landing in Google’s top positions gets your website more clicks than those below them. In fact, the #1 organic result gets 27.6% of all clicks — that’s 10x higher than the #10 result.

Source: Backlinko

Ranking Factors Influencing SERP Positions

Google doesn’t simply assign website rankings randomly. There are ranking factors that determine where your website will land on the search engine results page.

These ranking factors are top secret, but SEO experts have analyzed trends and made educated guesses about what Google prioritizes.

Here’s a rundown of some of the confirmed factors that influence search engine rankings:

  1. High-Quality Content: This is tops among SEO ranking factors. Google wants informative, relevant content that answers users’ queries. Focus on well-written, engaging content that provides value.
  2. Search Intent and Content Relevancy: Google prioritizes matching user intent with content. Make sure your content aligns with what users are actually searching for.
  3. Backlinks: Think of backlinks as votes of confidence from other websites. The more high-quality backlinks you have, the better your ranking.
  4. Website Loading Speed: People don’t want to wait for pages to load. Google considers website speed a ranking factor, so optimize your site for fast loading times.
  5. Mobile-Friendliness: Most searches today happen on mobile devices. Google prioritizes mobile-friendly websites that offer a good user experience on smartphones and tablets.

This is just a starting point — there are hundreds of other ranking factors that Google takes into account — but focusing on these areas will surely help your website climb the SERPs immediately.

Let’s break down each of these search engine ranking factors to help guide your SEO strategy.

1. Original, Useful Content

In the world of SEO, content isn’t just king; it’s the entire kingdom. Imagine your website as a library. Without books (aka quality content), why would anyone visit? Google thinks similarly when deciding who sits on its royal throne of Page One.

The secret sauce? Engaging, useful content that answers people’s questions better than anyone else does. It goes beyond stuffing articles with keywords — think value-packed pieces that readers can’t help but share.

2. Content That Matches Search Intent

Search intent refers to the reason why someone types a query into a search engine. It’s essentially what the user is hoping to achieve with their search. There are four main types of search intent:

  1. Informational: The user is looking for information to answer a question or learn something new. Examples: “What is the capital of France?” or “How to change a tire?”
  2. Navigational: The user knows exactly what website they’re looking for and types the name or part of the URL into the search bar. Examples: “Facebook.com” or “WebMD.com”
  3. Transactional: The user is ready to make a purchase and is searching for a specific product or service. Examples: “Buy iPhone 14” or “Best hotels in Paris”
  4. Commercial: The user is researching a product or service before making a purchase decision. Examples: “Reviews of Sony wireless headphones” or “Best laptops for college students”

Understanding search intent is crucial because it helps you tailor your content to the user’s needs.

Content relevancy, on the other hand, means that the content you create directly addresses and satisfies the search intent of the user. It’s about ensuring that what you offer on your website matches what people are looking for online.

Here’s how content relevancy aligns with the different search intents:

  • Informational: Your content should be informative and accurate, and answer the user’s question comprehensively.
  • Navigational: If your website is the intended destination of the search, make sure it’s easy to find and navigate.
  • Transactional: Provide clear product information, pricing, and a smooth purchase process.
  • Commercial: Offer helpful comparisons, reviews, and buying guides to assist users in their research phase.

By focusing on both search intent and content relevancy, you can create content that resonates with your target audience, improves your website’s ranking in search results, and ultimately drives more qualified traffic.

3. Strong Linking Profile

Backlinks can also help your website get to the top of the SERP. Every quality backlink pointing to your site tells Google, “Hey, this content’s legit.”

But what makes a backlink ‘quality’?

Links from reputable sites within your niche signal trust and authority. This isn’t just guesswork — it’s backed by years of evolving algorithms focusing more on link quality than quantity.

Meanwhile, internal links make it easy for human readers and search engine crawlers to navigate your website. A well-structured linking network helps them find their way around effortlessly.

Internal links also keep visitors clicking around longer, with strategic anchor texts guiding them from one valuable page to the next.

4. Page Loading Speed

Ever clicked on a website that took forever to load? I bet you didn’t stick around long. Guess what — Google feels the same way about slow sites.

Your page load speed is like the first impression you make online; it better be fast or folks will bounce faster than kids at a trampoline park. And when people bail quickly because they can’t stand waiting another second for your page to appear? Yep — your rank takes a hit.

But here’s some good news: improving page speed often doesn’t require wizard-level coding skills. Sometimes it’s as simple as compressing images or tidying up code clutter. Optimizing those technical bits matters more than most realize, affecting everything from user experience to how well search engines rank your page.

In short – don’t sleep on these technical elements if climbing up those SERP ranks is what you’re after.

5. Mobile Responsiveness

Smartphones have become extensions of ourselves, and if your site fails to load properly on a mobile device, that won’t fly in Google land.

To stay competitive and visible online:

  • Your website must be responsive on any screen size.
  • You need buttons big enough for thumbs.
  • Your text must be readable without squinting.

Remember folks: cracking Google’s code isn’t about trickery or cutting corners. Its foundation lies in content quality, user experience, site speed, and mobile-friendliness. Nail these essentials and watch those rankings climb.

Source: Wordstream

Other Factors That Could Impact Your Google Ranking

While Google keeps the exact algorithm a secret, here are some other potential ranking factors aside from the core ones we’ve already discussed.

Content Freshness

For topics that evolve at a fast pace such as news, technology, or fashion, search engines prioritize recent content to ensure users get the most relevant and accurate information.

In competitive industries or niches, regularly updating and refreshing content can give websites an edge over competitors. Fresh content signals to search engines that the website is active and authoritative, potentially improving its ranking compared to stagnant or outdated content.

Technical SEO

This refers to the technical aspects of your website that make it crawlable and indexable by search engines.  Some technical SEO factors include:

  • Website Structure and Navigation: A well-organized website with a clear hierarchy and logical navigation helps search engines understand your content and users find what they need.
  • Schema Markup: Adding schema markup to your website provides search engines with additional information about your content, which can help them display richer results in the SERPs.

User Experience (UX)

Google wants users to have a positive experience on your website. Here are some UX factors that can impact ranking:

  • Time on Site and Bounce Rate: If users land on your website and then immediately leave (high bounce rate), it might signal to Google that your content isn’t relevant or engaging.
  • Website Security: Google prefers secure websites with HTTPS encryption to protect user data.

Off-page SEO

This refers to optimization efforts that happen outside of your website but can still influence your ranking. Some off-page factors include:

  • Brand mentions: When other websites mention your brand or link back to your content, it can boost your website’s authority and credibility in Google’s eyes.
  • Social media engagement: While social media shares don’t directly impact ranking, they can increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your website, which can be positive ranking signals.

Local SEO

For local businesses, optimizing your website and online presence for local search terms can significantly improve your ranking in local search results.

Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T)

For YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) websites, Google places a higher weight on E-E-A-T factors. This means ensuring your content comes from credible sources and is written by actual experts in the field.

Remember, Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving so it’s important to stay updated on the latest trends and best practices in the industry.

Conclusion

So, there you have it — a treasure trove of insights and strategies for how to improve SEO rankings.

Turns out, boosting your website’s visibility isn’t about decoding a top-secret code designed by search engines. It’s about sticking to the basics: quality content, user experience, site speed, authoritative backlinks, and mobile optimization.

By staying informed about Google’s ranking factors and implementing best practices accordingly, you can position your website for success — driving more organic traffic, engagement, and conversions.

Remember, SEO is an ongoing process, so continuous monitoring, analysis, and adaptation are key to maintaining good SERP rankings over time.

Written by Julia McCoy

See more from Julia McCoy
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