SEO Ranking Signals – Important Factors To Boost Your Rankings
November 17, 2016
The job of search engines is not an easy one. For instance, over time, Google has continuously improved its algorithm to fight disinformation and show relevant results. Google lists search results after taking into consideration various factors aka SEO ranking factors.
SEO is a tricky thing. You’ll find a lot of tips on how to do SEO and what ranking factors are important. When someone asked on Twitter what’s the most important ranking factor, Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, said awesomeness. That’s pretty neat, but what accounts for awesomeness?
A simple answer would be following a search engine’s suggested guidelines for optimizing a web page, i.e., White Hat SEO techniques and creating quality content. But it’s not that easy: if it were, people would not have a hard time with it. However, we can make that job a little easier for you. This blog post will introduce you to all the important SEO ranking factors you need to focus on in 2023.
Top SEO Ranking Factors to Consider
On-Page Ranking Signals
Tags & Meta Description
Simply put, tags are headers. Now, the title tags are the most important because they appear on the search results, so they should be creative, crisp, and accurately summarize or complement the content.
The second type of tags is header tags (also known as heading tags): H2, H3, H4, etc. Header tags structure a web page and make it easier for search engines and users to understand what the content is about.
Moving on to the meta description, which is a brief summary of the web page appearing in the search results. The job of a meta description is to provide an overview of the content that a user will ideally read before clicking on the content link. It is a perfect opportunity to increase the click-through rate, so make sure meta descriptions are engaging enough to entice users to click on the link.
For this, follow the best practices suggested by search engines, like writing unique meta descriptions for each web page and adding relevant information about the topic. You can also try adding the brand’s name where it’s relevant. However, please ensure you use a delimiter symbol like a colon or hyphen to separate it.
Keyword optimization is a crucial ranking factor. In fact, it is the most important factor there is because searchers type a keyword or use a voice assistant for a query. This is where keyword research plays a significant role, as it helps you understand what type of queries users are searching for you to leverage.
Remember, these queries have to be relevant to your business and have some search volume, but it’s not that you can’t target keywords with zero search volume. The idea is to create a content strategy or improve your existing service/product pages, and have these keywords in your website content. Still, that’s not all keyword optimization is about. You need to make sure that your optimization efforts meet the search intent. Otherwise, these activities may get flagged as Black Hat SEO, and negatively impact your rankings and traffic.
It used to be just EAT, but Google decided to add another E to it. First, let’s break down this acronym:
E – Experience
E – Expertise
While looking for goods and services on search engines, people want to liaise with experts, and E-EAT helps websites showcase just that. But Google has kept these E-EAT factors a little vague, so you can’t look up and open some easy go-to guide to boost or optimize them.
Still, there are strategies you can employ that search engines like Google will love, whose aim is to provide users with the best possible experience.
Here’s what you need to know:
> Branding: plays an important role in SEO. You need to look for signals that’ll not only help you with branding but also with SEO. Adding testimonials from valued customers, recently bagged achievements, case studies, etc., will help you do that, and also gain the invaluable trust of visitors.
> Links: Add links to authoritative websites that provide relevant information to the users. What does that mean? You can add links to Wikipedia entries, blogs, news articles, research papers, etc.
> Content: Thin content on the website is a big no! But optimizing content is a lot more than just creating good content. You need to have author profiles, publishing dates, sources or citations, and things like DMCA badges to cut down on plagiarism.
As mentioned above, Google wants to fight disinformation and show relevant results to searchers. That is not the case with just Google; all search engines want to do the same. Google rolls out regular algorithm updates to ensure that, and the Google Helpful Content and Panda Update were steps in that direction.
Anyway, the bottom line is that you can have an excellent website and a proven SEO strategy, but without helpful content, your website cannot rank.
How do you create helpful content?
- 1. Understand the intent of the query to add relevant information useful to the readers
- 2. Keep optimum content length; search engines love comprehensive content pieces
- 3. Ask domain experts or SMEs to help you create thought leadership content
- 4. Write for readers, and not search engines
- 5. Create topic clusters to establish topical authority
People sharing your content on social media platforms is not a direct ranking signal. That’s the official word from Google. Still, social signals play a role, as your content is seen as trustworthy and good enough to be shared on social media platforms.
Thus, social signals, such as likes, comments, and shares, are not direct contributing ranking factors but indicate the content’s popularity and relevance. Cognitive SEO conducted a study on 23 million shares, and they found a conclusive link between rankings on search results and social shares.
Even if social signals aren’t a contributing ranking factor, you need to look at the positives it offers – inbound traffic from diverse sources and chances of earning natural backlinks.
Technical Ranking Factors
How can you demonstrate to the users that they are visiting a secure website? An SSL certificate. It’s not just for the users; this helps with search engine crawlers, too, who visit your website regularly. HTTPS encryption makes the website secure for users to visit, and this added level of security is valued by search engines.
What does fall under authoritativeness? Is it the Domain Age…Domain Name…Domain Extension…Industry Experience…Awards…Customer Excellence?
Starting with the domain name? Does it matter? The Domain Name is not a ranking signal, but it should present your brand or its USPs. However, a few websites began participating in unscrupulous activities by integrating the targeted keyword into the domain name. Such a domain is called an Exact Match Domain. Google rolled out the EMD Update to penalize websites that participated in such activities.
Let’s move on to Domain Extension. As far as ranking signals are concerned, Domain Extension plays no role, but it can help represent your brand. For instance, if you have a SaaS product, you can try using a .io extension, which is prevalent in SaaS platforms. It also works as a way for users to promptly identify you as a tech brand. You can read our blog on Domain Extensions to get a deeper understanding of this.
Moving on to the Domain Age. An Ahrefs study pointed out that most top-ranking websites are two or more years old. But there are also websites that are only 2-3 months old. If you are good at SEO and write good content, your website can still rank in spite of having a new domain.
Mobile Friendliness & Responsiveness
Most searches now take place on mobile phones (source), and keeping that in mind, search engines have started adopting the mobile-first indexing approach. Basically, it means search engines like Google will prioritize websites that are mobile-friendly.
Here’s what you have to do to make your website mobile-friendly:
- Build a responsive site that automatically fits the screen size of a device
- Choose a coherent and large font for easy readability
- Add breadcrumbs and structured menus for easy navigation
- Ensure the content structure remains consistent
When things get technical, marketing gets a little difficult. That’s why the technical ranking factors need to be a joint effort between SEO experts and developers.
You need to work on your website to improve crawlability, indexability, accessibility, rankability, and clickability factors. What does that even mean?
This refers to making sure your website is in top-notch condition when a search engine bot visits it. For that, you need to make sure that your robot.txt files, HTTP status code, and robot meta tags are correctly optimized for search engine bots to crawl your website.
After crawling the website, search engines will analyze the web pages and add them to their index (an index is a digital ledger of sorts that search engines refer to for displaying relevant web pages in the search results). To identify this, you can use search operators to see if your web page is being indexed. For example, to see if our page for SEO services in Delhi is being indexed, we can use the following search operator:
Once done, if you see that your web page isn’t being indexed, you should check whether it has a “noindex” tag or redirection issues, which happens when a user asks for a specific web page but gets directed to a different page.
Simply put, this means making your website accessible. As we mentioned above, you will have to loop in your developers when things get technical. To enforce the four principles of accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust, you need to work with developers. There are other accessibility factors that you can readily focus on, such as internal linking and orphan pages.
Internal links are hyperlinks that direct users to move from one page to another within the website, and orphan pages are the ones that aren’t linked to any other page. Moreover, you need to give equal importance to optimizing the Page Depth, which is the number of clicks one must need to perform for reaching a specific page from the home page, granted if they have taken the shortest path.
It is exactly how it sounds. Under the rankability factor, you perform activities to increase the rankability of your website, but from the perspective of Technical SEO. This means auditing your website using tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Ubersuggest to understand why certain pages aren’t ranking.
Granted, you’ll have to write very good content for increasing clickability, but from the Technical SEO perspective, you have to ensure you are using structured data for the content. This basically means organizing and tagging the particular groups of text in the content to help search bots understand the context of the information. To execute it, you need to ensure that you’re using a relevant Schema Markup.
The same is true for images you use in your content. You must perform image optimization by focusing on the image file name, title, description, and alt tags. All these factors contribute to increasing the click-through rate or CTR – the number of times users click on the page compared to the number of times they have been shown the page. A good CTR is a direct indicator of users performing the desired action.
Core Web Vitals:
Before we move to the next ranking factor, we need to learn about Core Web Vitals, which is essentially a part of Technical SEO.
Core Web Vitals is something that only Google uses to evaluate a website on how it relates to the user experience. These include the website speed, responsiveness, and visual stability, including all the other user experience signals.
What can you do to ensure that your website follows the Core Web Vitals? You can try adhering to the following three steps:
- 1. Use Google Search Console to analyze your website’s performance
- 2. Use PageSpeed Insights to run an audit on your website
- 3. Use Lighthouse to find how to improve the user experience
Off-Page Ranking Factors
The World Wide Web is full of links, and these links help users move around the internet to explore more or find the right solution or information. Naturally, all links are important, but in the context of off-page SEO, we will be focusing on Backlinks.
Backlinks are inbound links or one-way links from one website to another. For search engines, backlinks are a crucial ranking signal, and web pages with higher backlinks tend to rank higher on search results. Why? Because backlinks contribute to your website’s reputation and credibility.
What does that mean? Can you start getting backlinks in bulk to increase your rankings? No.
First, you need to create content that is so good it gets natural backlinks. That means others will use your content as a citation or source. These kinds of inbound links help search engines determine that you’re a thought leader.
Secondly, you can do activities like Digital PR or guest posting. But you must choose authoritative websites to earn a backlink. Even low-value websites will give you a backlink, but the results are just not going to be the same.
If you do not have anything to start with, you can use tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to check what type of backlinks your competitors are getting. Based on that, you can build an Off-page SEO strategy. Accordingly, you can pick relevant websites for digital PR and guest posts and keep focusing on making your content better for earning natural backlinks.
Local SEO Rankings Factors
Focusing on local SEO ranking factors will enable you to appear in local search results. These may not be relevant to all businesses, but surely for the ones that have a local presence or brick-and-mortar establishments. For instance, these can be hospitals, retail stores, and service providers.
Here are a few local SEO ranking signals:
Local Citations and NAP Consistency
Local citations refer to mentions of your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone) on other websites. This information is important for both target customers and search engines. You need to be consistent here, though. Please ensure there are no discrepancies in the NAP citations.
Having your NAP information listed accurately on platforms such as Yellow Pages and aggregator listing sites like Clutch increases your chances of appearing in relevant local searches. Anyway, these things increase credibility and establish trust with potential customers, which can lead to higher conversions.
Google My Business Listing
Google My Business is a novel offering by Google to create a listing profile of your business personalized with location, photos, offers, posts, etc. It is an impactful way to get noticed by target customers. Also, search engines will use things like proximity, business category, hours of operation, and geolocation to present your business in the search results.
Reviews and Ratings
Reviews and ratings help determine the experience customers have had with your products or services. It is a key component in dictating your online reputation as well as improving your rankings on search engines.
There are two ways to go about tackling ratings and reviews. Firstly, encourage your existing customers to leave genuine feedback for prospective ones. Secondly, if there are negative reviews, prepare replies for them to address the concerns of those customers.
Responding to both positive and negative reviews can show your commitment to providing excellent customer service and demonstrate your willingness to resolve any issues they may face. Tackling both these aspects of reviews leads to high conversion rates and long-term business success.
This exhaustive blog post covered all the SEO ranking signals you need to focus on. Remember, you cannot prioritize one ranking factor over another. All factors should work in tandem. More importantly, you are working on these signals not just for search engines but also for users. For instance, you can create quality content, but you need schema markup for search engines to better understand the context of the information you have provided.
That’s what SEO is all about; content marketers and SEO experts need to work together. If you’re facing challenges navigating the complex waters of SEO, you can always call Techmagnate for help. Book a consultation with our experts today.
What affects SEO?
Everything that we’ve mentioned in this blog affects SEO rankings. To summarize, how well you answered a query, the web page’s relevance, the authoritativeness of the sources or citations, location, and technical factors affect SEO rankings.
What is one of the top SEO ranking factors?
Sharing helpful content is one of the top SEO ranking factors. However, as we mentioned above, you need to give structure to the information through meta description, image description and alt tags, schema markup, and much more. Having natural backlinks is equally important. Thus, all activities need to be focused on simultaneously to get proven results and increase your rankings.
Why does my Google ranking keep changing?
Google launches regular algorithm updates to better answer users’ queries by showing relevant search results. The web pages or content that better address these queries will outrank other websites, affecting the rankings. To counter this, you’ll need to continue to repurpose and update your content with more relevant and updated information.
Meta tags help search engines understand the context of your web pages, which helps them index and show your web pages for relevant search queries. In addition to the rankings, having concise and creative meta tags and descriptions can increase the click-through rate, too.