How to Rank Higher on Google:
Top SEO Ranking Factors, Trends, & Strategies to Rank #1 on Google Search.
Do you want to know how your business can rank higher on Google search?
What SEO factors go Google’s search algorithm so that they decide who to rank… and how will these Google search trends evolve so that your SEO strategies can continue to be relevant?
These are questions that every website owner has asked. And there’s plenty of debate about which will rank your websites higher, organically, on Google. In this article, we focus on what matters the most for you.
Vail Networks will answer all of the above questions and more, within this article on “How to Rank Higher on Google.” But be sure to read all the way to the bottom and share with your colleagues as these are game-changing ideas to help your search engine optimization (SEO) strategies succeed.
The truth is, there are tons of important SEO ranking factors, and plenty of not-so-important ones. The Vail Networks team estimates that there are more than 250+ ranking factors (currently) that go into Google’s search algorithm.
On the list of what matters for organic search rankings and Google’s algorithm is everything from meta descriptions to alt-text [technical suggestions] to more content-related topics [word-length to proper H1 and H2 tags]. In fact, you could spend an afternoon reading all about TF-IDF and keyword density. But what if you just want the most important SEO ranking factors?
You can glean faster results by focusing on the most significant SEO ranking factors right now. That’s why we put together this list of the most important ranking factors. We wanted to help website owners understand what factors matter, why they matter, and what they can do right now to improve upon each.
And you’ll find all of those in our guide on how to rank higher on Google Search:
What Are SEO Ranking Factors?
The Most Important Content Ranking Signals
How to Optimize Your Content to Rank Higher on Google
Important On-Page SEO Factors
Key Ways to Improve Your On-Page SEO
Most Important Technical SEO Ranking Signals
How to Improve Your Technical SEO, Now
How Backlinks Help with Your Search Engine Rankings and SEO
How to Get More Backlinks to Your Website
How to Increase Your Website Traffic
What Are SEO Ranking Factors?
Why You Rank on Google and What You Can Do About It.
Before we jump into the list, it’s a good idea to answer two questions:
What are SEO ranking factors?
And why do they matter?
What Are Ranking Factors: Google and other search engines use “ranking signals” to determine what’s one a webpage and how relevant it is to a user’s search. These factors are plugged into Google’s algorithm, a complex equation that determines which pages to show in the search results.
Why Ranking Factors Matter: Websites that utilize the most relevant factors within their website content and architecture land in the top spots for relevant search terms. The reason is that each factor helps show Google that your website is relevant, trustworthy, useful, safe and engaging.
Imagine you have a huge checklist of SEO ranking factors.
Websites that check more boxes on that list tend to perform better within Google search and earn higher rankings. SEO, in other words, is all about optimizing your website for these factors and making your website “more complete” and understandable in Google’s eyes.
A Quick Overview: Websites that have more ranking signals present on their sites perform better in search and earn higher rankings.
The Most Important Content Ranking Signals:
Why You Need to Write High-Quality Content.
Content is your competitive advantage, and in recent years, it’s transformed how Google ranks pages. The content – on your product pages, blogs, and homepage – helps build authority, trust and engages new users.
And today, quality content is one of the most significant ranking factors.
To rank higher on Google, your website content should be:
What do those words mean exactly in the context of Google’s ranking algorithm?
In each of these areas, you’ll find important metrics that Google uses to rank website pages. For example, when measuring authoritativeness, a ranking signal like content length matters a lot. What about engagement and relevancy? “Dwell time” and “pages per session” are two ranking signals that can have a significant impact on your rankings.
You can improve your search engine rankings immediately by focusing on these five important content SEO ranking factors:
Increase Your Content and Word Count Length –
According to an SEMRush industry report, content length has a significant correlation to ranking. In fact, the Top 3 positions are an average of 45% longer than the 20th ranked page. Why? Word length signifies authority, relevancy and trustworthiness. Users view longer content as more helpful and more relevant.
Pro SEO Tip: We recommend that you write at least 3,000+ words for any article you plan on publishing. Don’t expect a short blog post to appear high on search engines.
2. Improve Your User’s Time Spent on the Page –
The longer users spend on your page, the higher you’ll rank. That’s a rule of thumb. And the reasoning behind this is simple: Google wants to share useful and meaningful content with users.
When they click-through search results and stay on your page, that’s a really strong indicator that your page is relevant!
Interesting statistics about “Average Time on Page” and Website Visitors:
The average consumer spends 6.2 seconds on a website before “bouncing.”
The average consumer spent 15 seconds on a website in 2001 and now, almost 20 years later, this has dropped. Time to pick it up again!
A website owner has a 8x greater chance of converting a customer if they stay on a website for 1 minute longer.
Long-tail keyword searches result in a 58% more time spent on a website versus short-tail keyword searches (example: “dermatology in Vail, Colorado” vs. “dermatology”).
Only 1 in 10 business website owners know how to increase users’ time on pages.
The average business owner spends less than 15 minutes per week updating content on their website, even when the website should be her best source for driving new customers and revenue.
Pro SEO Tip: Maximize your user’s time on page (also known as “dwell time”) by adding relevant internal links within content. Images and multimedia can also help keep readers hooked.
3. Decrease Your Bounce Rate –
In the SEMRush study, bounce rate had a significant effect on search rankings. This refers to the percentage of users that exit or “bounce” from your site after reading a single page.
So, if you receive 10 visits from Google search, and 5 people leave without clicking through to another page, that page’s bounce rate is 50 percent. According to the SEMRush study, pages in the Top 3 had bounce rates of 49%.
They key is to not only decrease your bounce rate, but to monitor your bounce rate each month. Using some of the Best Tools for Search Engine Optimization, you can do just that.
Interesting statistics about “Bounce Rate” and Websites:
Less than 3% of customers will re-visit your website if they bounce off your website in less than 1 minute.
Unless you are using smart retargeting tools that we recommend at Vail Networks, a user who visited your site and bounced after a short time, will not come back. This is why you have to optimize around what will keep your user engaged. Be sure to read some of our tips on What is SEO and How it Works if you want to decrease your bounce rate and keep users more engaged.
A high bounce rate can be fixed. We have found that clients of Vail Networks average a higher return rate, and lower bounce rate than the industry standard. How? We are continuously doing conversion optimization and A/B testing to ensure that your business’ website has a low bounce rate. We make it our priority, and so should you.
4. Google’s Organic Click-Through Rate (“CTR”) –
You need to increase your search engine “click through” rate if you want to rank higher on Google.
There are two important CTR ranking factors.
If your page receives a high click-through for a specific keyword, research shows you’ll receive a small boost for that keyword. Additionally, Google views a high CTR across all keywords as a strong indicator of relevancy. In short, boosting your CTRs will help lead to steadier rankings over the long-term.
Pro SEO Tip: Make your pages jump out on the search results page. Write bold title tags, use keywords in your titles and meta descriptions, and add schema mark-up to entice clicks.
5. Add Relevant Images to Your Webpages –
According to a recent study on search engine optimization, the presence of at least one image on the page correlates with a significant rankings boost. There are a few reasons for this. For one, it can reduce bounce-rate; most users are turned off by bare-looking pages. Secondly, images can be optimized with keywords, which adds another level of keyword optimization, which can help.
Pro SEO Tip: Use at least one image on every page. Although using more than one isn’t a ranking signal, it will help increase dwell time and bounce rate. So the more relevant and optimized images, the better.
Tips on How to Optimize Your Content to Rank Higher on Google
Having lots of low-quality pages on your site can kill your SEO. That’s why refreshing and improving content can have a significant impact on your rankings. A few tips for improving your content include:
● Fix Thin Content –
Thin content is short content that doesn’t contain much information. Identify pages on your site that have thin content and add images, increase the word counts, and add internal links.
● Combine Pages –
Do you have two pages ranking for similar words? Combine like pages into long-form resources. Choose the page with the highest traffic, and add content to it from other low-performing pages. Then 301 redirect those low-performers.
● Add Multimedia and Visuals –
Images, videos, audio and infographics will help to improve dwell times and make thinner content more helpful.
● Increase Word Count + Length –
Boost the length of your pages and focus on answering more of a user’s questions within a single page.
Important On-Page SEO Factors
On-page SEO is the process of incorporating ranking signals into each individual webpage. Using keywords strategically, for example, is an important ranking factor, as is image optimization and keyword density.
By optimizing each page for SEO ranking factors, you can instantly improve the ranking power of a specific page. Here are a few examples for the keyword phrase “french onion soup recipe.”
These are the four most important on-page ranking factors for search engines:
Keyword in Title Tag –
In years past, this one of the most significant ranking factors, but it’s not as important as it once was. Yet, in terms of on-page SEO a keyword in the title is the top on-page factor, and it can help your pages stand out and earn higher CTRs in search.
Pro SEO Tip: Choose the most important keyword for the page to target within the title tag. Look for a high-volume keyword and use that as your target keyword for the entire page.
2. Keyword Synonyms in Body Copy –
Google’s algorithm uses a very sophisticated method for identifying what’s on the page. In the past, keyword density was a top-ranking signal. You’d target one keyword per page and try to use it as much as possible. Now, thanks to latent semantic indexing (LSI), Google can extract deeper meaning for all of the words on the page.
For example, LSI makes it possible know that a page about hot dogs has nothing to do with the animal.
Pro SEO Tip: Sprinkle synonyms and related keyword terms throughout the body copy. Using a LSI keyword in the description tag can also help to show search engines what’s on the page.
3. Keyword Prominence –
Use keywords early in the body copy. Keyword prominence refers to the idea that keywords used earlier tend to be the most relevant words targeted on the page.
Pro SEO Tip: Use your target keyword within the first 100 words for the best results.
4. Keywords in Heading (“H”) Tags –
H1, H2 and H3 tags refer to the on-page formatting for headers. And using keywords within headers can help to improve overall on-page SEO. The H1 tag is the most important; it’s second to just the title tag. But using keywords and LSI keywords in your H2 and H3 headers will help Google understand the structure of your page.
Pro SEO Tip: Be sure you have a keyword in the page’s prominent H1 title.
Also, be sure to use keywords and variations in the H2 and H3 tags.
5. Image Optimization –
Images contain tons of information that they can pass on to search engines; optimizing them to contain more relevant and keyword-rich data can help to improve your rankings in Google search. The file name, title, description, caption and alt text of an image can all be optimized with relevant keywords.
Pro SEO Tip: Before you upload photos, make sure the file name is on point. For example, an image for this article might be saved as “seo-ranking-factors.png.”
Incorporating keywords into other areas naturally will also help.
Key Ways to Improve Your On-Page SEO
Want a few ideas for improving your on-page search engine optimization? That way search engines like Google know that your content is valuable and that they should rank you high on search results…
These quick SEO strategies and tips can help you to improve your rankings:
● Do Conduct a Content Audit –
Use one of the best SEO tools that we ranked, to crawl your pages. This can help you identify which pages have keywords in the title tag, H tags, images and meta descriptions.
● Do Optimize and Refine Content –
Identify low-performing pages and optimize for keyword. Choose a single target keyword and then sprinkle more LSI keywords throughout the copy.
● Don’t Overdo It –
Keyword stuffing – overusing keyword phrases – is a red flag in Google’s eyes. Be sure you’re using keywords naturally within the content, typically about 5 times per page. LSI keywords can help you avoid overdoing it.
● Don’t Use Unnatural Phrases –
If your target keyword is an unnatural phrase, say, “SEO ranking factors best,” don’t force the keyword into your content. Instead, it’s much better to use a natural-sounding variation.
Most Important Technical SEO Ranking Signals
Imagine sending a friend to a restaurant and they had to wait three hours for their meal. That friend probably won’t go to you for restaurant recommendations any more.
Google operates the same way. The search engine wants to send users to reputable and high-performing websites. And there are a number of technical ranking factors that can affect your position in search results.
The three most important technical SEO ranking factors are the following:
Make sure your website is fast and your page load speeds have zero delays –
Page load speed isn’t just a great thing for SEO; it also can have a significant impact on your traffic. Page abandonment rates grow exponentially the longer your page takes to load, and you’ll also see lower conversions and decreased shopper satisfaction, according to study by KISSmetrics.
Pro SEO Tip: Use a tool like Page Speed Insights to determine how your pages perform on desktop and mobile. This tool provides you with ideas for speeding up your pages.
2. Install both an SSL Certificate and make sure you have HTTPs working –
Google provides a rankings boost for webpages that utilize HTTPS, the secure version of HTTP. In fact, according to an SEMRush survey, 65% of pages that rank for high-volume keywords utilize the protocol.
With lower-volume keywords, the correlation isn’t as significant. But still, it’s one of the most effective strategy for earning a bump in positions.
Pro SEO Tip: Migrating to HTTPS will make your website more secure; if you’re not technically inclined, hire a web developer that can help you make the transition. You should also be sure to have a proper “SSL Certificate” installed. Contact Vail Networks to learn how we can assist you in doing so.
We have built some of America’s best cybersecurity startups, and have vast experience with ensuring websites are fully-secured.
3. Create a Mobile-Friendly Website -
Only a few years ago, Google made a push to mobile-first indexing. As a result, pages that provide a great mobile experience tend to perform better than pages without a mobile site.
Pro SEO Tip: Use Google’s mobile friendliness checker to determine how useful your site is to smartphone and tablet visitors.
How to Improve Your Technical SEO, Now.
Having some performance issues with your website? Here are a few ideas for improving technical performance:
● Install Google Search Console – Search Console is Google’s robust suite of webmaster tools. You can test for performance, add sitemaps, and much more. Plus, it does a helpful job of alerting users of problems with their sites.
● Utilize a Responsive Template – If you don’t have a mobile version of your website, you need one. And one of the fastest and easiest ways to accomplish it is using a responsive design that shrinks the site based on screen size.
How Backlinks Help with Your Search Engine Rankings and SEO
Backlinks are links anywhere on the web that point to your webpages. And they’re one of the most significant ranking signals. Websites with more backlinks perform better in search and receive organic rankings much more quickly.
The reason? Backlinks are a major quality indicator. High-quality backlinks show that a site is trustworthy, that its content is useful, and that other people like the site enough to pass along word of mouth. Yet, there are a few rules of backlinks that apply:
● Not All Backlinks Are Equal –
Quality backlinks – from reputable sites – are much more important than lackluster sites.
● The More Backlinks, the Better –
A more robust backlink profile is a strong indicator of ranking power.
● Diverse Backlink Profile Can Help –
A diverse link profile signals that content isn’t just being heavily marketed, but that it’s generating lots of organic links. If all your links come from link sites, for example, that’s not going to be nearly as helpful as having links from social media, other websites, editorial links, and forum links.
Bottom line, if you want to start improving rankings, generating more backlinks will help.
The most important backlink SEO ranking signals include:
Total Backlinks –
The total number of backlinks a webpage receives is a strong indicator of ranking potential.
According to SEMRush, the volume of backlinks was the 7th overall most important ranking factor, and Page 1 pages tend to receive 2.2 times more backlinks than Page 2 pages.
Pro SEO Tip: Create quality content that people want to share and have a plan in place for marketing it.
2. Anchor Text Exact Match –
Anchor text is the hyperlinked text that points to your website. And it does have some significance in terms of a page’s ranking potential. If a page receives lots of backlinks with exact-match anchor text, that is a powerful ranking signal, and can help you appear higher in searches for that specific term.
Pro SEO Tip: During link outreach build a network of partners within your niche that are willing to work with you on links. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific anchor text.
3. Total Referring Domains –
SEMRush found this to be a significant indicator of ranking power. In fact, the No. 2 page vs. the No. 10 page has an average of links from 10,000 more domains! The total number of referring domains was the No. 6 top SEO ranking factor in the study.
4. Diversity of Link Types –
Link diversity signifies that your website is earning links naturally, and without trying to game the algorithm. You should focus your link outreach on a wide variety of sources, including social media, other websites in your niche and editorial links through news coverage.
Pro SEO Tip: Use a tool like Link Prospector to identify backlink opportunities within your niche. And conduct a marketing push for every piece of content you produce.
How to Get More Backlinks to Your Website
Backlinks are one of those SEO ranking factors that matter a lot. But earning backlinks is a science. It takes tons and tons of effort. Here are a few tips for getting started building your backlink profile:
● Audit Your Backlink Profile –
Most SEO software suites have link auditing tools. Moz’s Link Explorer is a favorite. Use this to identify who is linking to your content, as well as competitors. These tools can help you identify quality link opportunities.
● Outreach Is Important –
After you’ve identified link opportunities, outreach is critical. Build a network of quality partners that are happy to link to your content, and reward them with outbound links from you site.
● Focus on Content Marketing –
Content marketing isn’t just about producing quality content. You have to produce great content that people want to share. Start by looking for content in your niche that has shareability (infographics, in-depth guides and whiteboard videos are favorites). Then emulate that content and make it your own.
● Eliminate Bad Links –
Spammy links from low-quality sites can harm your backlink profile. Ask for them to be removed if possible, or disavow them if you can’t get them removed.
How to Increase Your Website Traffic:
Get Direct Site Visitors.
Want to know how to increase your website traffic? You can with one simple method: get your customers to come directly to you. What? Why?
Well, the simple answer is that more direct users mean people like your website, that they trust it, and that your brand is identifiable.
According to SEMRush, direct site traffic is the most important SEO ranking signal. That’s any website traffic that arrives on your site without a referral, e.g. people who type your URL directly into the search bar, follow a link in email, or that have your website bookmarked.
This makes a lot of sense. Direct traffic is one – if not the most – significant indicator of trust.
The most important website traffic ranking factor is:
Answer: Direct Visits. Websites that receive more direct visitors perform better in search.
Pro SEO Tip: Direct visits don’t happen overnight. But one of the fastest ways to build them is through email marketing. Sending targeted emails to your users can generate significant direct traffic, and it won’t take years of brand building.
Do’s and Don’ts of Direct Traffic Building
Drive direct traffic to your website using these handy tips:
● Do Build Bookmarkable Content –
Long-form, in-depth content earns bookmarks, which can turn into a significant source of direct traffic.
● Do Grow Your Email List –
Links within email count as direct traffic, so if you have an email list with lots of subscribers, you can quickly scale up direct traffic. Build an industry email that people want to subscribe to.
● Do Make Sharing Easy –
Add big sharing buttons to your content, as this has been shown to maximize content sharing.
● Don’t Expect Overnight Success –
Earning direct traffic takes time, sometimes years to build. So, make it a long-term goal, and take steps now that can help you grow an audience and make your website a destination.
● Don’t Forget Offline Marketing –
For services businesses, offline marketing can be a powerful referrer of direct traffic. Make sure your website is on all offline marketing materials – business cards, flyers, print ads, etc.
Want to Improve Your Google Search Rankings? Rank Higher?
SEO ranking signals have a significant impact on your website’s ranking potential. And that’s why it’s so important to focus on them, as you work on optimizing your website. Of course, with 200+ factors to account for, you can’t expect to be perfect in every category.
You might miss a few here and there, and that’s OK.
But you shouldn’t miss the most important SEO ranking factors. These can have the most significant impact on your website’s ranking; neglecting these 18 factors can greatly reduce your marketing efforts.