What are the top SEO ranking factors for websites seeking to increase their web traffic and visibility? You hear online marketers talk about SEO and how much you should care about it. And there is no doubt that SEO is a great way to get more web traffic. But how do you improve your website’s SEO rankings? In this post, we’ll take a look at twelve top SEO ranking factors that determine a webpage’s spot in search engine results.

Where It All Starts

The folks at Blue Corona point out that ranking on the first page of Google is really important, especially if you are selling a product or service through your content. They report that 55% of clicks go to the top three results on the first page of Google and that 97% of people don’t even bother visiting the second page of search results. Optimizing your content and on-page SEO is a foundational step in this direction. Here are some specific ranking factors related to content quality and relevance:

#1 – Content Relevance

According to the Hierarchy of SEO Needs, from Moz, compelling content is the most fundamental element in any SEO strategy (besides crawl accessibility). Obviously, your SEO ranking depends a lot on whether your content will satisfy the people searching on Google. This is a pretty elementary concept. If you hope to rank high for the keyword “tree removal service” but your article is about lumber, you probably won’t get ranked very high. Google wants to show their users results that are relevant and they’ll obviously show the most relevant results first. So the more relevant and valuable your content is, the better chance it has, all other things equal, to get more visibility on a search engine.

#2 – Keyword Density

If you regularly post content on your website (which you should) you’ll want to make sure that each piece of content (a blogpost for example) has a target keyword or phrase. The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress helps you manage this well. Once you’ve set your target keyword, it’s time to make sure your content and the keyword match up. If you’re hoping to rank for the keyword “tree removal service”, your goal should be to use that keyword consistently in your blogpost. Of course, there is also the potential to “over-do” it. Keyword density is definitely an important ranking factor and it’s arguably one of the most simple to optimize through some expert word-smithing!

#3 – Content Length

Longer content usually enjoys an SEO ranking advantage over shorter content pieces. There’s certainly a balance to strike here, as you don’t want to make your content unreadably long. If you create longer form content, make sure to break it up with plenty of headings and subheadings.

#4 – Keywords in Headings & Subheadings

Speaking of headings and subheadings: they are fertile ground for keyword optimization! Including one or two of your target keywords in a heading or subheading is an excellent way to optimize your content for better ranking potential.

#5 – Images

Enhancing your webpage with some visually engaging images is an SEO best practice. Images contribute to the powerfully compelling nature of SEO-strong content. If people would rather view a webpage with an engaging photo, Google would rather show it to them, over a static, text-only page. 

Make sure to use some alt text to really make the most of your images!

Website Nuts & Bolts

That’s just the beginning of content quality ranking factors. There are so many other elements that contribute to SEO-strong content. (Stay tuned to the end of this article to find them!) In addition, the actual nuts and bolts of your website’s functionality and performance powerfully contributes to your SEO rank. Here are some of the biggest website performance ranking factors:

#6 – HTTPS

This one has to do with website security and SSL encryption. Google demonstrates that a website has been properly secured through SSL by using special icons in the address bar on browsers like Chrome. Having a secure website is a ranking factor that signals to Google that your website is trustworthy and secure. Let’s Encrypt is a great place to get started if you’re new to website security.

#7 – Mobile Responsiveness

According to recent statistics, almost half of internet users access the web through their mobile devices. This clearly means that having a mobile-responsive webpage isn’t just a nice add-on, it’s essential! Google wants its users to be satisfied with the search results they get and if the user is browsing on a mobile device, Google will prefer to send them to a site that doesn’t frustrate them. Making your website mobile-friendly won’t revolutionize your SEO overnight but without mobile-responsiveness you will certainly be falling behind.

#8 – Page Speed

Similarly, modern internet users don’t have the patience to sit and wait for slow webpages to load. Your website’s page loading speed has been another foundational ranking factor for SEO since 2010. Optimizing your page speed is just a fundamental best practice. Page speed is one of the core website performance ranking factors.

#9 – Site Mapping

This refers to how Google maps your site. A complex, messy labyrinth of pages turns Google off. A sitemap shows Google around your site and helps it index it effectively. This can help you improve your webpages’ visibility in Google.

Beyond Your Domain

As we’ve seen, there’s a lot you can do to create compelling content and maintain a high-performing website. But, at the end of the day, how other people and websites react and respond to your website determines where it will show in the search rankings. We’ll cover just a couple of fundamental factors:

#10 – Domain Authority

Your domain’s authority is a comparative metric that will impact your SEO rankings relative to your competition. Consider this analogy: a group of engineers are approached by two people who want to present at their upcoming conference. One has 30 years of engineering experience and the other has read a couple books about the subject. Who will the engineers choose to listen to? Obviously the presenter with more authority and trusted experience! In the same way, Google wants to send their users to trusted web domains with plenty of “authority”. The best way to increase your domain’s authority is to implement good SEO practices to get momentum through backlinks (see below).

#11 – Social Signals

Social media actually impacts SEO! Moz includes “share-worthy content” as one of the premium levels in their SEO needs pyramid. Making sure that your readers and website users can easily share your content to social media is a great way to capitalize on the social signals and ranking factors of SEO.

#12 – Backlinks

When another site links to your content, this is called a “backlink”. Backlinks are incredibly valuable in the SEO toolbox. In fact, link signals are regarded as one of the most significant ranking factors. The more sites that link back to your content, the better. Also, the domain authority and longevity of those sites will factor into the weight those links carry. Backlinks not only increase direct traffic to your site, they serve to build trust around your content which will positively impact your search engine rankings.

The key to getting quality backlinks is just great content creation! The more compelling and relevant your content, the more willing other sites will be to link back to it.

Ascend the Ranks!

These top SEO ranking factors are really just the beginning. If you are serious about developing an intricate SEO strategy, take a look at this comprehensive list of ranking factors. If the details of SEO ranking factors intimidate you, don’t sweat it! Start by picking one of the twelve factors from this article and get good at that first! SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s okay to start small and build momentum. Start your SEO adventure by mastering the fundamentals: create compelling content and optimizing your website’s performance.

Need an ally? IX Publishing can help you develop a winning SEO strategy through inbound marketing and robust web design. Whether you want to build strong content to move your business forward or develop a vigorous website to serve as your home base, we can add muscle to your vision!