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Top SEO Ranking Factors

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Have you ever wondered how the search engine decides what websites best fit your search query in just a fraction of a second? In this post, we walk you through various Google ranking factors and what they mean for website owners and SEO (search engine optimization) professionals everywhere.


Content Is Still King

If you want to rank well on Google’s SERPs for a keyword(s), your pages must carry original, well-researched content that is a value addition to the user. If they do not understand what you are telling them, then there will not be repeat visits. Besides, the bounce rate will be high (conversely, the dwell time will be low). Keep the search intent of the user in mind and think of the different queries/questions they may have about a topic.  

Do a thorough keyword analysis using Google’s Keyword Planner to chalk out effective SEO strategies for various search topics. Keeping an eye on what the competition is doing also helps immensely in this regard. Make sure to analyze mobile, local and voice search keywords too and include them in your plans. 


A Mobile-Friendly Website Is A Must

The number of searches conducted through mobile devices is skyrocketing. This means that if you want to stay in the game, you will have to ensure your site is mobile-responsive. If you have a mobile-friendly site, Google can quickly and accurately index it, rather than having to refer back to its desktop version.

Mobile usability has been a top Google ranking factor since 2015 and in order to satisfy this mobile-first index rule fully, your mobile and desktop sites must have identical content.


HTTPS

HTTPS became a Google ranking signal in 2014 while 2017 saw Google strongly encourage sites to go secure. In fact, now sites without the secure HTTPS connection are shown as ‘not secure’ in the address bar of the Chrome browser, a definite eyesore to site visitors. Thus, not making the transition to HTTPS can lead to increased bounce rates. But be warned, you can face canonicalization challenges if you do make the change. 


Domain Name

If you have an exact-match domain name that includes the keyword you are targeting, then you definitely have a strong organic search advantage. However, it is not always practical to target every major keyword this way. Moreover, studies have revealed that consistently top-performing, older domains do better in organic search than new brands – this is because Google has monitored their activity for extended periods and views them as trustworthy.


Page Speed (Loading Time)

Recent studies have concluded that the bounce rate doubles for every two-second delay in page loading. In fact, there have been instances of large online businesses losing millions of dollars in revenue with just a second’s delay in page loading. You can increase page speed by compressing your HTML, JavaScript and CSS files, reducing page redirects, optimizing images, troubleshooting any server performance issues, etc. Additionally, for mobile pages, you can use AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to reduce any bottlenecks. You can measure your page speed by using the Google PageSpeed Insights tool


Backlinks, Backlinks, Backlinks and Backlinks 

Off-page SEO is an important SEO ranking factor. If you have many reputable sites linking to you, it signals to Google that you are a popular and genuine source of information. Target quality over quantity here and engage in link building exercises like posting guest posts by industry experts, client case studies, infographics and industry surveys, and pairing up with popular bloggers or influencers within your niche. This way, you will attract the attention of other high-authority sites who will link to you if they find your content valuable. 


On-Page SEO

On-page SEO are the measures that you employ on your site to gain better organic search rankings. Making simple changes like updating old content, cleaning up your metadata, including header tags in your content, using the appropriate schema so that Google better understands what your site is all about and populates rich snippets for your pages, etc. can help you get better organic search rankings. Even technical SEO techniques like getting rid of duplicate content, fixing broken links, optimizing URL structure and your robots.txt file are a must. 


Last But Not Least - User Experience

Google constantly monitors user behavior when they visit a site. The time spent on your site, the number of visitors who leave the site after viewing only one page, the number of other pages visited, etc. are all important SEO ranking factors. Work on your site structure to ensure that users can navigate smoothly from one page to another and find what they are looking for in as few clicks as possible. 


In Conclusion

Besides the steps you take to ensure your site is discoverable online, SEO is often influenced by the Google algorithm updates that are released almost every single day of the year. While you can always start off with a few simple steps to maintain basic SEO best practices, it may be a good idea to work with an SEO agency like us to do all the heavy lifting for you.


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