Ranking factors can relate to a website’s content, technical implementation, user signals, back-link profile or any other features the search engine considers relevant.
Understanding ranking factors is a prerequisite for effective search engine optimization.
Page-level keyword and content based metrics – If your page isn’t relevant for the query – but more importantly doesn’t answer the user’s intent – you don’t rank. Most businesses from SME-size upwards use a content management system which should make this easier. It’s not all about publishing more – the biggest, quickest wins come from optimising what you’ve got.
Dwell time or long click metrics – When you put a page live, the question you should ask yourself is: “how can we absolutely guarantee that the searcher won’t click the back button?” You know more about your business and products than anyone and it’s time to demonstrate.
Existence/quality of verified real-world business info – The combined traffic driving power of voice search, the local pack, Google Maps and the Knowledge Graph is immense, and it relies on the accuracy of the information its being fed. You should absolutely clean and own your data across the web. Optimization of WikiData and location data are not only hugely important, but don’t often require development resource or approval from compliance.
Use of responsive design and/or mobile optimized – This is not only a prerequisite of ranking on a mobile device, it’s also getting easier and easier to get buy-in. Brands without mobile websites in 2018 are at the tail-end of the “laggards” phase and it’s easy to quantify how much money you’re losing out on without a mobile site.
Uniqueness of content across the whole site – De-duplication of content across the website speeds everything up, prevents cannibalisation and makes better use of crawl budget. Most modern CMS systems feature some way to deal with this issue. You can even take some shortcuts in Search Console.
Page is mobile friendly – Mobile-friendly is a rare example of Google telling businesses, in a developer-queue friendly format, what they need to do to pass – and giving the seal of approval when the standards have been met.
Uniqueness of content on the page – Have the best possible answer on the web, whatever the question being asked. Research every possible intent and constantly improve your best performing pages.
Page load speed – The fastest page usually wins. Again, Google gives us a to-do list – and compares us against the rest of our industries, which has made buy-in a little easier to get across our clients, but advancements in technical SEO are accelerating. Content delivery networks (CDNs) are the norm and site speed should be at the top of everyone’s technical agenda.
Quantity of searches for this keyword + specific brand name, URL or domain – We’ve proved this is a thing, but this one is a little bittersweet. Searchers are doing this partially because it’s easier to search Google for pages on your website than use your navigation or your own internal search. So we’d much rather you optimize those things – and so would your users.
Relative CTR from Google SERPs to the page for the keyword – Optimizing for click through rate (CTR) is so easy. Schema mark-up is relatively straightforward to implement, giving us better looking listings. We constantly test title tags and meta descriptions too, which have often been branded as “not a ranking factor” and have therefore been ignored (budget constraints usually). If we can get a better CTR in second than the result in first, then rankings don’t even matter – but the results will usually swap over time anyway.