Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ongoing process of optimizing your website to rank as high as possible in organic search engine results for keyword searches relevant to your content & purpose of your business. When talking about search ranking factors, the term “organic” refers to search results that are show in the natural listings (unpaid). Organic search results are different from pay-per-click ads (or PPC) using Google AdWords, which is a strategy that focuses on paid traffic generation, where you bid on keywords you want to drive traffic to your website for and only pay for clicks.
When it comes to SEO, the requirements for businesses to really succeed changes quite frequently. Goole updates their search quality algorithms daily and hundreds of times each year. It’s hard for any small business owner, startup CEO, or even Directors to VPs of Marketing at startups, SMBs, and enterprise brands to consistently stay in the know about everything SEO.
However, if you want your brand to be highly visible for high value and/or high volume keyword searches that will in turn drive high intent traffic and new customers into your business, then having a well-optimized website with authoritative content, high popularity signals, and several other search ranking factors is paramount to your success.
By ensuring these crucial SEO ranking factors are accounted for and implemented in your technical SEO, content, and link building strategies – then SEO will drive game-changing business results.
Here are several important Google search engine ranking factors you’ll need to know about.
Technical SEO ranking factors you must be strong in to succeed:
Types of Search Ranking Factors
At a high-level, there are 3 main categories of organic search engine ranking factors that not just SEO marketers work on. However, brand operators and executives need to understand the importance of each. With SEO, there is no single that will make or break your SEO strategies. Your technical SEO, website’s content, and off-site SEO (content marketing & link building) need to holistically align together in order for your SEO strategies to succeed.
1/ Technical SEO
These include your overall website performance for search engine spiders and your website visitors.
2/ On-page SEO
These include the overall quality your content & web pages in relation to your target keywords.
3/ Off-site SEO
These include the quality and quantity of backlinks to your website.
Having some high-level inputs on important Google search ranking factors is a good start, but below we’ll dive in deeper to several important ranking factors for each category mentioned above that is vital for SEO to drive growth & ROI for your business.
Technical SEO Ranking Factors
For SEO to work, your content needs to be able to be successfully crawled & indexed by search engines. Without the ability to crawl & index your website’s content, you will not be able to rank your site for any keyword(s) search queries. Technical SEO can seem very overwhelming and is often pushed to the side due to SEO agencies & SEO marketers who are not very experienced in it and/or lack the talent, to developers who don’t care to do the extra work.
However, technical SEO is one of the more vital elements and primary to growth via SEO. It is a joint effort between your SEO services agency and/or your marketing team & developer(s) to fix any & all technical SEO errors that would impede your growth.
Here are several technical SEO strategies important for high search rankings:
1/ Page Speed (Desktop & Mobile)
No one likes to wait for a slow web page to load content. Whether on desktop or mobile, people want everything now. They are impatient and will not stick around long waiting for your content to load. Page speed load times are vital to SEO because you need to provide a good user experience for the end user and a fast loading website is a good start to user engagement.
There are many SEO tools used by SEO experts and internal SEO teams to get a gauge on SEO performance. Using Google’s Page Speed Insights can help uncover one or more technical SEO issues with recommendations to fix. There’s also GTmetrix that is often used too. These SEO tools provide helpful insights that when taken into account and prioritized by your SEO agency or SEO team to execute on will in turn help improve the SEO performance has on your business.
2/ Mobile Usability
Google moved to mobile-first indexing years ago. This means that when Google crawls your website’s content for search ranking purposes, they go off your mobile version, which in turn dictates your desktop rankings too. Even if you feel the desktop version of your website is incredible, if the mobile UX sucks, then your SEO efforts & performance will suffer.
These days, most of the popular content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Webflow, WIX, and Squarespace have built in website editors that can better help you optimize your website & content across your mobile & desktop versions for SEO & CRO.
Curious how mobile-friendly your website is? Check out Google’s Mobile-friendly Test
3/ Internal Linking Structure
Think piping & plumbing here. Google crawls & indexes different web pages of content found throughout your website. Links are like pipes that route from one web page to another. These internal links help Google’s search spiders discover, index, and rank your new & old content. The more organized your internal linking structure is, the easier you’ll make it for Google to crawl your website, and in turn rank your web pages for your target keywords.
Information hierarchy and organizing your content into categories & topic clusters is a big focus when it comes to technical SEO and internal linking structures for optimal SEO. For example, if you sell a large variety of beauty products, it’s best to group relevant content together and optimize around primary, secondary, and tertiary keyword clusters.
Primary = Eyeshadow(s)
Secondary = Blue eyeshadow, pink eyeshadow, green eyeshadow, gold eyeshadow, metallic eyeshadow, etc.
Tertiary = gold eyeshadow for brown eyes, metallic eyeshadow for blue eyes, etc.
In this scenario, the keyword “eyeshadow” is a head term (one word) and typically has a very high monthly search volume associated with it. In this case, “eyeshadow” gets about 500,000 searches / month just on Google in the US alone. Typically, head term searches have a lot of search volume but lower conversions. Secondary & tertiary keyword searches would be considered long-tail searches. These searches produce good volume but are very specific searches, which in turn have higher conversions due to the specific search intent.
Running an SEO audit of your website in order to dig up any and all technical SEO issues is very important. To finding out your overall website performance scores on how Google perceives your website, to knowing about slow load times, broken links, 404 pages, and other technical SEO ranking factors too is vital to SEO success.
4/ Website Security (SSL)
Google prefers to rank secure sites using SSL authentication (HTTPS). If you’re using an HTTP version, your site is vulnerable to cybersecurity threats and could be hacked. Often, malware is a culprit. Providing a safe & secure experience for your visitors should always be in focus no matter what.
5/ Robots.txt & Sitemaps
Having a robots.txt file is imperative for SEO and telling search engines what parts of your website they can crawl (or not crawl), along with telling certain spiders to not crawl or index your site as well. Your HTML & XML sitemap(s) are important too for the purpose of search engine spiders being able to crawl, index, and rank your content pages.
On-page SEO Ranking Factors
The above technical SEO ranking factors are the start to a successful SEO strategy. Then comes the on-page (web pages) ranking factors that are another crucial part to a successful SEO strategy that scales business growth online.
1/ Keywords (Targeting & Placements)
It all starts with effective keyword research & planning. This is where we start our process to see if for one, SEO is a viable growth channel (high or very niche search demand), and two, is growth via SEO success attainable for the client based on the available resources.
We start our keyword research by getting primary search data from Google via Google Keyword Planner – the best SEO tool for keyword data, because it comes directly from the source. There are other keyword tools too (we’ve used them all) but none are as accurate as Google. They often under forecast keyword search volume by 10-30% from what we see in our experience with Google Search Console dashboard data for dozens of clients.
Thorough keyword research, selection, and placements should be at the center of your web content planning & SEO strategies. If you’re not producing content with keywords that your target audience is searching for, then you’ll never succeed with SEO. Effective use of keywords throughout your content, along with the strategic placements, and usage of your target keywords is vital to publishing content that is attractive to search engines. The focus is to create high quality, keyword rich content for humans that use a search engine to find information or buy a product or service. Your keywords should match those searches for the most part.
2/ Meta Tags (Title & Description)
These are not visible on your web pages, but they are pieces of HTML that tell the search engines what your web page is about.
The Title Tag (title of the web page) should contain high-level keywords your web page is primarily based upon, and kept under 60 characters. For example, if your web page is about compression socks for nurses, then a Title Tag might be something like: The Best Compression Socks for Nurses.
The Description Tag helps describe the content a user will find on that web page. It is a longer description (should be kept under 160 characters) and should use the primary head & long-tail keywords your focused on ranking that web page for.
3/ Header Tags (H1, H2, H3)
Header tags are important search ranking factors purposes. They help break up content sections and improve the user reading experience with informational hierarchy. H1 header tags should only be used once on the web page and would be the page title (ex. the title of a blog post), then H2 headers are for sub sections of content on the web page. H3 header tags are typically used for sub sections of an H2 section of content. You really only need to go to H3 for header tags. There are H4, H5, etc. But will not be much of value to your SEO.
4/ Content Quality
Are you providing clear, credible, and concise content for your audience? Are you following Google E-A-T SEO guidelines? Are you publishing human readable content or are your keyword stuffing & spamming your web content with your target keywords on repeat? The quality of your content and how it’s presented on mobile & desktop is important for SEO ranking factors. Information hierarchy and using clear, concise, and credible information of your own and linked to authoritative sources is crucial to good E-A-T SEO signals, especially for YMYL (Your Money. Your Life) content – mainly for news, health, finance, and legal type content sites.
From publishing fresh content that target user intent with How to articles (informational search intent), Product pages to Best of listicles (product search intent), or Service pages to Listicles / Trends / Industry reports (services search intent) will be important. Not just solely for SEO, but you can use these in your content marketing efforts too by promoting your posts throughout social media. The engagement you get on these posts (likes / shares / comments) will in turn help with boosting your off-site SEO, which we’ll touch on more below.
Aside from publishing quality new content, you can always repurpose older content that has been crawled, indexed, and likely ranked too. Giving a good refresh to this content and/or linking this content to new, fresh content of yours is also helpful for SEO. However, you need to be mindful of your inter site linking strategies too in order to avoid any penalties.
5/ URL Structure
This is often overlooked by many SEOs and developers. Google prefers shorter URLs for ranking purposes too. Often, you’ll see many startups, SMBs, to big enterprise brands use awful URL structures for their web pages that are NOT SEO-friendly in any way. A good URL that tells Google what the page is about is much more helpful than a long URL with many different characters.
Ex. SEO-friendly URL
This URL would indicate the web page above is about “Enterprise SEO Services” – it is short and to the point. A search engine will get it as well as anyone who sees this.
Ex. NON SEO-friendly URL
This URL is poorly structured and does not indicate to a search engine or end user that this page is about “Enterprise SEO Services” in any way. This web page would have a tougher time ranking due to issues like this.
6/ Image Optimization
Image SEO is often overlooked as well. However, if you sell products online, optimizing your images for SEO can help drive a ton of visibility & traffic to your website. Whether you sell shoes, makeup, skincare, clothes, etc. Image SEO should always be in focus.
From labeling your image files and saving the image file (png or jpg) using relevant keywords associated with the picture is a good first step. Also, using the Alt-tag helps use text markup to tell search engines what the picture on your website is.
Properly optimized images not only help visually impaired visitors, but they can tell a visitor what the image is (when using alt-tag) when an image might not load either, and also help search engines better crawl and rank your site’s content. Optimizing images can give you another big boost in traffic to your website. In our experience, organic traffic from images alone have generated over 1M unique visitors for a large marketplace with thousands of products within several months of deploying our SEO recommendations.
Off-site SEO Ranking Factors
Unlike the technical & on-page ranking factors we addressed above, there are several off-site ranking factors that are imperative to successful business growth via SEO too.
These are hyperlinks on other websites that link to your website’s content pages. Whether it’s your homepage or a blog post, backlinks are an important search engine ranking factor. Backlinks became very important in part of Google’s PageRank algorithm back in 1996.
Not all backlinks are created equal though. Many businesses fall into the trap of thinking “we just need backlinks, and a lot of them to rank high.” Then, there are many SEO agencies that provide link building services that often don’t generate many backlinks, let alone any of high quality for the client. Just one backlink from a high DA (domain authority) website is far more valuable than dozens to hundreds of low quality backlinks from low DA websites.
Ex. If you’re a tech startup and get featured on TechCrunch (DA 93) or Bloomberg (DA 94) with a link to your site, a backlink like that is worth a lot of SEO gold. However, if you’re only getting links from non-authority websites that aren’t well known and/or have very low DA (1-20 range) then those backlinks won’t be super helpful for your SEO growth. They’re okay to have and can help a little, but you really need high DA backlinks and ideally from content relevant web pages with good PA (page authority) too.
Then there is spammy backlinks. These backlinks to your site may come from other websites with very high spam profiles. These are not good for SEO. These backlinks are of no value and can actually be damaging to your SEO strategies. The types of websites with high spam scores often partake in black hat SEO, are link farms, have very thin content, poor quality content, or all of the above. You’ll need to make sure these bad backlinks do not get counted in your backlinks profile by Google and there are ways to this to ensure better SEO for your website.
How can you generate quality backlinks to your site?
Publish quality content that people want to read about. Using a scientific approach to content creation & roadmaps, we use heavy keyword research, analysis, and planning with the use of primary search data sets from Google. Understanding what people are searching for, how much certain keywords get in volume / mo., and how attainable these keywords are for ranking purposes all go into the content strategies. The higher the intent is for the keywords you use in your content, the better the chances are it gets shared and linked to more online from other websites.
Make sure your content is sharable. Does it help people with information they are looking for? Will they want to share it on social media to help others? Do you have social media sharing buttons so they can easily share it online?
Social Media Sharing & Social Signals
Your blog posts and content should always be shared on your social media channels. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. are great channels to share on as they have huge audiences. Sharing with your followers will enable them to 1/ visit your website and 2/ like/share/comment on your posts. Social sharing builds social signals and helps increase the popularity signals around certain content of yours. This will help your content get crawled more often and in turn boost your rankings.
Reaching out to target lists of industry specific bloggers and news sites can also help your brand get more coverage and in turn more backlinks to your homepage and/or other web pages and blog posts too. Whether being a quoted reference to something trending in your industry, being included in a listicle, to full coverage about your company are great ways to build backlinks from high quality websites with strong DA (domain authority) and help boost your search rankings too.
Being a thought leader in your industry and publishing research studies, state of the industry, commentary on industry laws or trends, etc. are great ways to get linked to as a reference by other industry related websites. Whether its 1, 5, or 100 sites, these links can be very valuable for SEO, but also help drive solid referral traffic directly from your most targeted audiences.
Although press releases on press wires aren’t as powerful for SEO as they used to be, generating press around your brand’s achievements, milestones, new hires, industry commentary, etc. with being published on tier-1 news sites is another strong search ranking factor too.
The SEO Ranking Factors Takeaway
With SEO, there is no silver bullet or single pathway to success. SEO is an investment and requires expert knowledge, practice, and ongoing optimization. When personalized to your business goals and executed with precision, SEO can and will drive exceptional business results within a few weeks to a few months, yet far grander business growth in 6-18+ months. For us, we’re not interested in 10% or 30% growth. We typically generate at least 300% growth and upwards of 30,000% growth for companies within 2 years of executing our SEO strategies. Here are some key takeaways:
1/ SEO Starts with a Solid Website Foundation
In other words, technical SEO. Ensuring your website is set up on a solid foundation is imperative for SEO to succeed for your business. Think about it like this: if you want to build your company to be like a New York City, a bustling metropolis (big business) & high volume travel destination (tons of traffic), you have to create a foundation for this city to scale growth upon and thrive.
It starts underground with the subway tunnels, plumbing, piping, and more. In website terms, this would be your server(s), html, software, and backend platforms that your website infrastructure is built on so you can attract and accommodate more new business. Technical SEO plays a vital role in the type of success your business can achieve in growth via SEO.
2/ Mobile-first UX Strategy
Mobile UX/UI is important for SEO performance. Remember, years ago Google switched to mobile-first indexing. Most people are using their phones to start a search, so your mobile usability, page speed, content display, and SEO are imperative to your success with SEO, not just for mobile traffic, but your desktop traffic too. This is another major search ranking factor that requires great focus.
3/ High Quality & Data-Driven Content
Keyword research, selection, planning, content creation, information hierarchy, E-A-T, and other factors are imperative for SEO to succeed. Using primary search data from Google is a great start and how we operate and plan our SEO strategies. Using this rich keyword search data help with everything SEO. From technical to on-page content strategies, to off-site content marketing & link building campaigns. They all work together and publishing keyword rich content that people are search for answers to is only going to help you drive traffic and convert more of that organic search traffic into new business.
4/ Backlinks (Good Quantity of High-Quality)
Backlinks are essentially votes and online word-of-mouth. The stronger the backlink is, the better the SEO for your site. Links from high DA (domain authority) & DR (domain rating) sites are vital to your SEO strategies succeeding. The more the better for scaling your search rankings site wide too. However, you’ll want to avoid lots of low quality backlinks or spammy backlinks from low quality sites which can get you penalized with the search engines.
5/ Domain Authority (DA): The Higher, The Better
There is a direct correlation with web pages that haver higher search rankings and having a high(er) DA than other sites competing for the top search results for keyword searches. The #1, #2, or #3 search ranking positions aren’t always the highest DA website in SERPs over the others ranking below it. Yet, they always have a strong DA, yet PA (page authority) for the web page ranking in top of the results.
High Domain Authority can be achieved when you have a great technical SEO foundation, high quality content, and a lot of high quality, high domain authority domains + high page authority web pages linking back to your website. The culmination of all these SEO strategies working together in ongoing harmony is what sets brands far apart from their competitors when turning SEO into compound growth machine that delivers high intent organic traffic, new customers and revenue that continually scales. All while continually driving down your CAC and increasing your CLTV for months and years at a time.
Want Better SEO Results?
Intent Sciences provides world-class SEO services for startups, small businesses, and enterprise brands. From B2B SEO to DTC ecommerce SEO and highly effective sales lead generation via SEO, we can scale your business growth fast and implement, manage, and scale advanced SEO growth systems that drive long-lasting business growth.
If interested in talking about your business goals and to see if better SEO can help, please Contact Us