SEO Ranking Factors
The machine brain, again, does not reason like we do, and one of the ways that search engines compensate for that is by page or site rankings. The top-ranked result in your search is always the one that ticks the most boxes in keywords, relevance, popularity, and technical expertise.
In 2017, Search Engine Land published a list of eight SEO ranking factors that were determined to be of the highest importance for getting your results to the top of the list:
2. Backlinks anchor text relevance
3. Keywords in content
4. Content length
6. Page Speed
7. Responsiveness (mobile friendly)
8. Click-through rate
It is interesting to see here that the user experience, the number of times people click through, comes in last while backlinks (which are links to the page or website shared on other sites) come in first. Popularity is not about the “like”, in Zuckerberg-speak. It is about the “share”.
Each of these ranking factors contributes to the success or failure of getting into the top search results. If you have a lot of backlinks, you have started off well. But the anchor texts of those backlinks themselves have a significant influence as well. The text in which your backlink is found, the anchor, should be a healthy mix of branded text (that is, your brand name, “Nike running shoes” for example), exact matches (” running shoes”), partial matches (” running gear”), and generic words (” click here”). You can also have what is called a “naked link” which is just a URL in the text. The key here is mixing it up, you want to have some of each in order to score high.
After that, your own content has a serious role to play. Using keywords in the title text or the metadata around it continues to be a big factor. Sprinkling your content with your keywords, especially in the opening paragraph and in H1 headlines is important. The length and comprehensiveness of your content are also important. This does not mean you should transcribe 2,000 pages of War and Peace into your content, but make sure it covers all the bases and is complete and relevant.
On the technical side, the page speed is important too. If your site does not open quickly, people bounce. It is just the way we are in this attention-span deprived world. Search engines too. It seems unnecessary to say that your site’s responsiveness is a factor since most people understand the growth of Internet search use on mobile devices, but many non-responsive sites just do not get ranked as well as they might, or at all if the users are searching exclusively on mobile.
Finally, the eighth factor is, as we mentioned, the user experience and their click-through rate. Google itself says “searching users are often the best judges of relevance” (a seeming irony, coming from the world’s largest purveyor of algorithms). As SERPs show results, the top ones are invariably more popular and their CTR helps solidify their rankings.
It is worth noting that there are several dangerous negative factors that adversely affect ranking. If a search engine finds malware on the site, if there are indications of cloaking content and lings (i.e., when crawlers see one content and visitors something else, mostly textual content and hidden links), or if the page has a lot of obviously paid links built to manipulate search algorithm, these will undercut your page ranking. Also, if the site contains a direct offer for selling links or too many ads, this hurts you too.