SEO Ranking Factors

What criteria influence your search rank? Find out below.

What are ranking factors?

Google and other search engines have algorithms and systems that constantly scour the internet to determine where sites should rank.

Often results are determined real-time when someone searches, but there are SEO ranking factors that search engines have already measured for your site that are used in their equations to determine where you should rank for a term.

Below is a listing of ranking factors and criteria. This list is an ongoing and ever-changing resource that we are adding to and removing factors from as we learn more.

Take a look and feel free to suggest or provide feedback on a ranking factor by reaching out via our contact form or talk to us about our SaaS SEO consulting.

Crawling and Indexing Errors on Google Search Console

Priority: High

Google Search Console is a tool that helps you see how Google sees and understands your website. Once you set GSC up, you can see the pages Google crawled and indexed, the uncrawled and unindexed pages and possibly the reasons of them.


Bounce Rate

Priority: Medium

When a visitor lands to your site and exits without any interaction with the page, that counts as bounce. If your organic visitors exits your website quickly after seeing it, this is a bad signal for Google and other search engines. To lower the bounce rate, consider:

  • Having Click-to-Actions on your pages.
  • Creating more visual content such as infographics, images, and slideshows.

Core Web Vitals

Priority: High

As of June 2021, Core Web Vitals are a part of Google’s ranking algorithm. So it’s important to make sure your website is performing well according to these metrics:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of 100 milliseconds or less.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of 0.1. or less.

Web.dev

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

Priority: High

To build your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness and stand out in the eyes of both your visitors and search engines, you will need some social proof. Especially if you are creating content around YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics such as legal, medical, and finance; it’s critically important to show your expertise.

To build your E-A-T:

  • Make sure the people who create your content possess subject matter expertise and and access to reliable sources.
  • Make the content linkable and likable to collect social proof on various platforms.
  • Look for backlink opportunities from the websites acknowledged as authoritative in your field.

Search Engine Journal

Server Uptime

Priority: High

Your website should be always up and running to keep serving the content to visitors and search engine bots. If you are not there when they come, they may never come again.


Reading Ease

Priority: High

Google’s algorithm has been getting more human-like, which means that readable texts are helping to rank higher. And with voice search on the rise there is even more demand for short and easy-to-understand but informative content.


Yoast

Keyword in H1 Tag

Priority: Medium

Having your focus keyword in the H1 tag is a strong signal showing what the page is about.


Domain Authority

Priority: High

Domain authority score is a compound metric used for measuring a domain’s overall external SEO performance. The algorithm includes many data points to measure the final score but all of the metrics are about the external links pointing to your website and their quality.

The more natural and quality links you get from different websites, higher your domain authority score is.


Semrush

Schema Usage

Priority: Medium

With Schema markups, search engines can better understand the info on your website to serve rich results. Schema markups are used to indicate:

  • Articles
  • Events
  • Products
  • People
  • Orgnaizations
  • and more…

Semrush

Breadcrumbs

Priority: Low

Breadcrumb is a text path displayed near the top of the page and helps visitors to understand where they are on the website. Breadcrumbs also appear in search results in some cases, increases crawlability, and provides better navigation for users.


Semrush

Using Lists and Bullet Points

Priority: Low

Using lists and bullet points:

  1. Makes the content easier to read
  2. Increases your chance to get to featured snippets

It’s good to use ordered or unordered lists where it makes sense.


Number of Outbound Links

Priority: Medium

While having some outbound links helps you to build trust and show expertise around a topic, don’t overdo it. Only link out when it makes sense to do so.


Semrush

Outbound Link Quality

Priority: Low

Outbound links may not be the first thing to look at for most SEOs, but there are some reasons to pay them some attention:

  • Strengthen Topical Signals: Linking out to relevant content helps Google to better understand the context.
  • Add Depth: You can’t have all the information on a topic in a blog post, but you can put some outbound links for those who want to learn more about it.
  • Build Trust: Cite sources when you include quotes and statistics.

Avoid creating citeceptions: make sure that you cite the original source, not another cite.


Semrush

Keyword in URL

Priority: Low

Keywords in a URL help users and search engines better understand your page content.

Plus, when keywords are used wisely they can be helpful for improving user-friendliness by keeping URLs short and relevant.


Search Engine Journal

Contact Info

Priority: Low

Contact pages’ purpose isn’t to rank well in search engine results, but they can establish trustworthiness and inform visitors about who’s behind the website.

So make sure to include your contact info such as phone, address and links to your social profiles because they add trustworthiness to your website.


Adweek

Broken Links

Priority: Low

To make your SEO more effective and to improve user experiences, avoid broken links.

If you add a link but it becomes nonfunctional over time or if the website has been changed so that its URL is different from what was added, update those URLs with live ones or remove them completely


Ahrefs

Robots.txt File

Priority: Highest

The robots.txt file enables site owners to dictate what pages and directories crawlers can access on the website. This way, you can control the information that is indexed by search engines such as Google or Bing when they crawl your website allowing only specific user agents (bots) into certain files and restricting others from crawling content at all.


Moz

XML Sitemap

Priority: Highest

Google recommends to have an XML sitemap but there are some points to make sure made right.

  • Include all pages you want to be indexed.
  • Don’t include pages you don’t want to be indexed.
  • Set the format as described by Google.
  • List only canonical URLs
  • Call your sitemap URL in robots.txt.

Search Engine Journal

Social Media

Priority: Medium

Your social profiles, tweets, and Facebook posts won’t affect your search engine rankings. However, you can still benefit from being on various platforms because it brings traffic to the website for more exposure; additionally they build trust among users.


Search Engine Journal

URL Length

Priority: Medium

Keep your URLs as readable as possible. That means you need short and meaningful URLs.

A good example: /keeping-urls-short

Bad examples:

  • /?post-id=126774
  • /articles/889147
  • /keep-your-urls-as-readible-as-possible-that-means-you-need-short-and-meaningful-urls

Moz

Using Media – Images, Videos, and Sound

Priority: High

Adding visual content to your content marketing efforts helps keep visitors on the page longer, which is why it can also help improve SEO. This all comes down to two things: ranking and improved performance through better SEO metrics like average session time and bounce rate.

Consider adding at least several visual content, such as images or videos to your articles whenever you can.


Inc.

Mobile Optimization

Priority: High

Optimizing your website to ensure that it looks great on any device, regardless of screen size is mobile optimization.

Mobile optimization is having good user experience whether you’re viewing it from a desktop or laptop computer, tablet , smartphone etc., when in all scenarios; people will be able to access and view the content without facing difficulties due to small sized screens


OptinMonster

Site Architecture

Priority: High

To make a website more engaging and user-friendly, we must follow the best practices of web architecture. Good structure makes it easier for users to find what they’re looking for on your site while also making sure that search engine crawlers can index all pages accurately by using clear navigational links.

The ideal webpage is structured in such a way that both humans and machines are able to easily navigate through its content; however, there’s always room for improvement when creating an effective online presence since not everyone will be searching via traditional means like desktop or laptop computers!


Backlinko

Internal Linking

Priority: Medium

You should link to internal pages that are relevant and will help the user navigate your website. If you have an article about how to do a certain task, linking from this guide on doing tasks in general directly back into the specific page of that guide would be considered good use of self-referential links for users who want more information after finishing up with their initial reading.

Linking to internal pages is great for building a site’s underlying structure and spreading link juice.


Moz

Keeping The Content Fresh

Priority: Medium

Updating your old content is a great way to increase the traffic. It’s also important to improve the accuracy of your content and keep it up-to-date with the most recent information.


Neil Patel

Image Optimization

Priority: Medium

If you want your images load faster and get listed on image searches, you should optimize your images. Here are some suggestions for you to optimize your image content:

  • Serve your images as JPEG, PNG, or better yet, WebP.
  • Compress images for less size.
  • Use unique images.
  • Customize image file names to create descriptive and keyword-rich file names.Add SEO-optimized alt texts.
  • Optimize them for different resolutions.
  • Create an image sitemap.

Search Engine Journal

Canonical Usage

Priority: High

You may use multiple URLs to the same page, or add URL parameters for searches and categories, etc. If you don’t tell Google the original page you want to rank by using canonical tags, your pages will compete with each other and this affects your SEO negatively.


Moz

Duplicate Content

Priority: Medium

Duplicate content generally refers to the same or similar blocks of text that are either completely copied from elsewhere, such as another website, and pasted into a block on your site without modification. This is bad for many reasons: it creates an inaccurate representation of information since search engines don’t think two different pages with duplicate (or even slightly altered) content are distinct webpages; moreover, by publishing copy-and-paste articles, you risk losing visitors who value originality and creativity in their online reading material.

If you have duplicate content on your website for different purposes such as having normal and printable versions of a page, you should use canonicalization to indicate your preferred page to Google.


Google Search Central

Page Loading Speed

Priority: High

Google has indicated that page speed is one of the signals it uses in its page ranking algorithm.

If your website is slow, that means your website won’t be the Google’s first choice when a user searches a phrase related to your website. Also, you’ll be wasting your crawl budget when search engine crawlers try to crawl your website.

To make your website load faster, minimize the sources it loads, use server and browser caching, and optimize the images.


Moz

Content Length

Priority: High

Content length is important to prove the reader that the content is well-researched and comprehensive.

Google won’t directly use this metric to rank your website, but you’ll be getting more backlinks if people find your content useful. You may also rank for multiple relevant search queries as the content is more comprehensive and covers lots of topics.


Neil Patel

Keyword Density

Priority: Medium

Keyword density is the number of times the main keyword (keyphrase) occurs in a given text, compared to the total text of that page.

Your keyword density should be close to 3% for every variants. You don’t have to use the exact match keyphrase to get a better keyword density, actually it’s better if you don’t do that. You can also use its variants. E.g. Using “optimizing for search engines” for “search engine optimization” focus keyphrase.


Yoast

Keyword in Domain Name

Priority: Low

Even Google doesn’t use that as a relevancy signal, people searching on the internet might see it that way and click on your link instead of others. So, a domain name with a relevant keyword in it can improve your SEO indirectly by increasing click-through rate.


Moz

Keyword in Description Tag

Priority: High

Google says it doesn’t use meta data to rank the pages, but it’s still a good sign for people who see your page amongst the search results.

Using your main keyword in the description will most likely help you improve the click-through rate.


Google Search Central

SSL Certificate

Priority: High

Google has announced in 2014 that it has started using HTTPS as a ranking signal. HTTPS is a protocol that provides a secure connection between user and server by using an SSL certificate.

It’s better to have an SSL certificate issued on your website if you don’t have it yet.


Neil Patel

Hiding Content on Mobile

Priority: Medium

You can hide some parts of your mobile website to increase usability for mobile users.

Remember that if you hide critical content, Google may see it as deceptive.


Google Search Central

Keyword in Title Tag

Priority: High

According to Moz, title tags are the second most important on-page factor for SEO, after content.

A web page’s title tells people and search engines what it’s about and it’s sometimes the first experience of your site. If search visitors see the keyword in your SERP title, it’s more likely for them to click on your link.


Moz

Country Code Extension (ccTLD)

Priority: Low

Using a country code top-level domain (.cn, .us, .ca) is the strongest factor that can help the site rank for that particular country… but it can limit the site’s ability to rank globally.


Moz

Public vs. Private WhoIs

Priority: Low

Most of the time, search engines don’t care about the WHOIS info of your domain name. That’s because they don’t have access to all WHOIS data, especially for ccTLDs, and that makes it unreliable. A Googler said “it doesn’t change anything.” on private WHOIS.

Still, keeping your WHOIS info public may help you be a more trustworthy source.


Search Engine Roundtable

Domain Age

Priority: Low

A Googler answers the question “How important domain age for website authority?“:

“Well, my answer is not to worry that much. The difference between a domain that’s six months old versus one year old is really not that big at all.”


YouTube - Google Search Central

How to Use The SEO Ranking Factors List

Some of the SEO ranking factors may be more important to you than others, and knowing your business goals is the best way to determine what those factors should be for your website. They all contribute in some form or another towards helping improve a site’s SEO profile, so it is important to address as many of them as possible.

One way to use this list is by creating an SEO checklist. This will help you track the items that have been addressed on your website and those that still need attention. You can also use it as a worksheet to help guide your content creation process and ensure that the factors are addressed in every piece of content you create.

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