8 SEO ranking factors you need to know

In this guide, we take you through what we’ve learnt from recent algorithm updates and the 8 most critical SEO ranking factors to cover in your marketing strategy.

Though Google has notoriously been tight-lipped on various points regarding its core algorithms, there are still some core practices that technical search optimisation experts know to be true.

Let’s begin…

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8 SEO ranking factors to boost performance and rankings

1. Page speed

Page speed is one of the core things you should prioritise. Ultimately, search engines award webpages that cater to a good user experience, making slow-loading pages an obvious no-no.

Common issues that can slow your page down:

  • Overuse of imagery or video
  • Non-compressed images
  • Outdated CMS that can’t keep up
  • Code density
  • Too many ads
  • Insufficient caching techniques

Worried your page speed is not up to scratch? Try Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool – it’s free!

2. Website accessibility

Another important factor, ensuring your website is findable and crawlable is a must. If your URL structure is confusing or misleading, search engines will likely penalise the page’s performance – or not rank it at all – until you implement fixes.

Three key things that you should do to ensure your site has good trust signals to Google on this front:

3. Internal & external links (plus backlinks!)

Links are a fundamental ranking factor. Not only are they useful for users, but they also signal to Google how you intend your site to be navigated, as well as what else on the internet your content should be associated with.

The different types of links

  • Internal links: Links on your webpage to other parts of your website
  • External links: Links on your website to external sources
  • Backlinks: Links from external sources that direct back to your website

Internal links help search engines understand how each of your web pages is connected to other relevant pages of your site. Meanwhile, external links give search engines context with how your content should be treated in the wider context of the internet.

For example, should you be writing content for the medical industry, linking to highly authoritative domains – such as the NHS or WebMD – can help to give your content greater credibility (should strong domains link to you as a backlink, even better!).

4. Local business optimisation

For businesses – especially brick-and-mortar types – that benefit from local search, keeping Google up to date with accurate business information is key to climbing local search rankings.

Businesses like restaurants or repair shops, for example, that gain a lot of foot traffic from close proximity searches will benefit greatly from prioritising this ranking factor.

When updating Google with your business info, you should be clear on:

  • Name, address, and phone number (also called NAP)
  • Google My Business listing
  • Connecting your website domain
  • Checking your reviews casts you in a favourable light
  • Implementing the right local search terms as part of your on-page SEO tactics

5. On-page SEO optimisation

Fundamental to content marketing, making sure your content is fully optimised will improve your chances of ranking.

Of course, this will all start with your initial keyword research as you figure out what users are actually searching for, user intent, and the types of pages that rank for those keywords.

Best practices for on-page SEO optimisation

  • Don’t waffle – prioritise helpful content that directly addresses what the readers are searching for.
  • Lace your target and tertiary keywords throughout your content, organically and not stuffed.
  • Write keyword-rich meta tags and headings.
  • Ensure anchor text is succinct and optimised for the linked-to page.
  • Add an assortment of internal and external links (as mentioned above).

6. Domain age and name

Now, for this one, there’s not much of a shortcut – but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. The age of your site is seen as a sign of credibility by search engines and is, therefore, a ranking factor.

In the Ahrefs ranking study, they showed that only 22% of pages that rank in the top 10 are less than 1 year old – everything else dominating the top spots have age on their side, with at least 3 years under their belts.

Hacks for new websites: If you’re just starting out, one way to give yourself a better chance of ranking is to ensure that your domain name relates topically to your industry. For example, should you have an online used book store, a domain called ‘bookhaven.co.uk’ will be easier for Google to connect with the right industry than something more abstract – like ‘echoesandepiphanies.co.uk’, for example.

So, when building your site, first ideate on domain names that reflect the industry you’re in; then, check popular domain-purchasing sites like GoDaddy or 123 Reg to see whether the domain is available.

7. User experience

User experience – though a hazy ranking factor to completely nail down – remains key for keeping traffic to your site high and engagement strong.

There are plenty of considerations to make regarding the user experience, and some of these can fluctuate depending on the type of crowd you’re hoping to attract and how you wish for them to navigate and interact with your website.

That said, some common truths will remain relevant no matter what. Your site should be clear to navigate, not misleading in what you’re selling, and quick to load.

When Google evaluates your site, it uses a system called RankBrain, which basically tells it how successful you are in keeping the traffic you’ve attracted.

Detrimental user experience data, such as:

  • Low click-through rate (optimise your meta tags and description, making them more click-worthy)
  • High bounce rates (improve the quality of your content, ensuring you’re accurately addressing user intent early)
  • Poor dwell time (give more substance to your content, or add additional media such as infographics or videos to increase the time spent on the page)

Tells Google that users, ultimately, do not enjoy the experience that your website offers – therefore, it’s likely to penalise your site and push it further down the SERP where it will receive less clicks.

8. Mobile-friendly websites

Back in July 2018, Google announced an update that clarified the importance of page speed, specifically in view of mobile rankings.

With internet usage for mobile users doing nothing but climb that year – and every year since, for that matter – there has been a greater need for website owners to not only consider desktop traffic but also mobile visitors, with compatibility across both fronts being paramount.

Tips for boosting the ‘mobile-friendliness’ of your site

  • Use a mobile-first, responsive design
  • Compress images and include image alt tags
  • Deactivate pop-ups and ads where possible (these clog your site speed)
  • Ensure buttons are easily clickable
  • Test your website across different devices (e.g. Apple iOS and Android)

Keen to optimise your website’s SEO? Let’s talk

And there you have it, 8 key SEO ranking factors that you should master to get your site dominating the SERPs!

Should you need any support at all, our expert organic SEO team is here to help. Simply get in touch today, and we’ll get the ball rolling!

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