Every year, the world moves more in a digital direction. People spend more time online, perform more daily functions, and search for more products and services online. Needless to say, if you want to be a successful business in 2024, you need your website to rank well on Google.
In this article, we’ll look at the 15 most important SEO ranking factors to consider when building and improving your website. Search engine optimisation is an ongoing requirement for most successful businesses.
What are Google Ranking Factors?
Most businesses with a strong online presence aim to appear on the first page of Google’s search rankings for the keywords their ideal audience is likely to search for. It sounds like a simple concept, but Google uses a complex algorithm to rank websites against certain keywords and searches. The algorithm has more than 200 ranking factors, and Google doesn’t publish a complete list.
That said, we know several of these ranking factors, particularly the most important ones to get your website ranking well on Google. The higher you rank on Google’s search engine results pages, the more organic traffic you’ll generate for your website. More exposure equals more leads and sales.
4 factors that will affect your website ranking on GoogleThere are four different types of ranking factors that can affect your website’s SEO ranking. You can essentially fit all of your SEO activities into one of the following categories.
On-page SEO ranking factors
On-page ranking factors are all about the content that’s on your page, such as quality, accuracy, images and of course, they keywords you’re trying to rank for.
Off-page ranking factors
Off-page SEO is about gaining links and mentions for your website from other online sources. This can involve backlinks and social media mentions.
Technical ranking factors
The technical ranking factors are all in the back end of your website. Things such as crawlability, mobile responsiveness and page load speed are some examples of technical SEO.
Local ranking factors
Local ranking factors combine all of the above, but also involve online listings, reviews and Google My Business profiles.
The 15 Most Important SEO Ranking Factors
So, if you want to improve your website ranking, where do you start? Considering Google uses so many individual ranking factors, you’re not likely to nail every single one. Here are the 15 most important SEO ranking factors for you to consider in 2024.
Following the E–E-A-T method
We’re talking about this first because in many ways, it should inform all of your SEO activities. As mentioned, Google’s algorithms are somewhat guarded, but its main goal is to deliver relevant, useful, engaging content to users. Broadly, the E-E-A-T model addresses this need.
E-E-A-T stands for:
So, in simple terms, your website needs to show your expertise in your field, it needs to have strong domain authority (built up from backlinks and a range of other ranking factors) and users must be able to trust your site.
Content always has been, and presumably always will be, the most important ranking factor. The written content on your website needs to be relevant and useful to readers, otherwise it simply won’t rank well. Consider Google’s main reason for existing: To provide users with the best and most relevant content possible. Therefore, if your content isn’t good, you have very little chance of ranking well.
When creating content, consider the following:
- Keyword intent: If your keywords are more sales-driven, your content can be more of a sales pitch. If your keywords are more informational, your content should be detailed and informative.
- Make it relevant: All content should be relevant to the intended user. If you’re writing a how-to guide, make it detailed and easy to read. If you’re creating a blog post, make it conversational yet informative.
- Original: Duplicate content doesn’t go very far with Google, and we’ll explain why later. But always use original, fresh content and even consider updating pages that may have old or irrelevant information.
- Readability: Your content must be easy to read. The recommendation is typically to write for a Year 7/8 English level, but of course, this varies depending on the nature of the content.
Using keywords effectively
Keyword research is the first step. There are many strategies you can use, but in simple terms, you need to find the keywords your ideal audience is most likely to search for. Consider whether your chosen keywords have enough monthly volume, and also check whether there is a lot of competition for these keywords.
Then, you need to use your keywords effectively. Avoid stuffing your content with keywords because Google penalises you for this. But you should still have relevant keywords appearing in the:
- Title tag
- First 100 words
- H1, H2 and H3 headings
- Meta description
- Throughout the content naturally (aim for around 1% keyword density)
Optimising website images
Using some relevant images on your website is always a good move, although you don’t want to use stock photos just for the sake of it. Keep your images useful so that they add value for the reader. Things like infographics, graphs, charts, and screenshots are helpful to readers.
You’ll also want to assign an alt text to your images, remembering to include your keyword. Also, don’t forget to resize and compress your images. You can use website plugins to do this for you automatically, but always avoid using images that are too big or too small.
Showing your expertise
When creating content, always ensure it is relevant to the business you run. Adding content (especially through blog posts) is a great way to build your website’s overall domain authority. However, Google typically assigns your domain authority in a certain field of specialisation.
For example, if you run a plumbing business and the majority of your content is about plumbing, each piece of content you add builds on your existing domain authority. But only for plumbing-related keywords. If you heard about a major world event and published a blog about that to trick Google into sending traffic to your site, it simply won’t work. That’s because Google recognises your website is not a reliable and authoritative place to find information about current affairs.
People don’t have much patience these days, so if your website takes a long time to load, users will likely head straight back to Google to try another search result. When a user leaves your site quickly without browsing or taking action, it’s referred to as ‘bounce rate’. If your bounce rate increases, it signals to Google that your website isn’t helpful to users, and your rankings decrease.
Research shows that mobile searches account for around 60% of all online searches, followed by desktop and tablet searches. If your website doesn’t perform well on mobile devices, it has a much lower chance of ranking well. The difficulty here is that prior to 2021, desktop search dominated and therefore, Google’s rankings were based on the desktop version of a site. Now, Google uses your website’s mobile version first when applying ranking factors, which is perhaps an even greater reason to get your website mobile-ready.
Core web vitals
Google introduced some more changes back in 2021 with the introduction of Core Web Vitals. These metrics relate to the user experience, and the factors are:
- Largest contentful paint: How quickly the visuals on your page load.
- First input delay: How quickly a user clicks somewhere on your page.
- Cumulative layout shift: Whether you have excessive popups or other types of disruptive movement on the page.
The user experience is crucial, so it pays to focus on Core Web Vitals to improve your website ranking.
Naturally, users want a safe browsing environment. First and foremost, your website should have an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate. This tells Google your website is safe, so it’s really a must-have in the modern world. You can get a certificate through your domain or website hosting service.
In addition, if you collect and hold customer information in any way, you should have systems in place to protect that data. While not necessarily a website ranking factor, it’s important to give users confidence in your website, too.
This factor is part of the user experience because a website visitor should never need to click through more than three levels to access a piece of information. A strong internal linking structure is crucial for helping Google crawl and index your website. So, always include plenty of internal links in your new content, but focus on how you structure the menu. If there are too many layers, Google will penalise your website, and users will become frustrated.
When we talk about backlinks or link building, we mean getting a recommendation from another online source. For example, you find an online industry publication, submit an article that shares your expertise, and include a link to your website. This is typically how a guest post works.
The key is that you need these backlinks from reputable websites with high domain authority. It’s almost like the digital version of asking for recommendations from friends and family. If you need a plumber, you’d generally trust a recommendation from a friend. Google does the same thing by rewarding your website because an established, trusted source has linked to your site, flagging it as useful to users.
Avoiding duplicate content
If you thought you could copy an already high-ranking page and use it for your website, think again. Google detects duplicate and plagiarised content and penalises the website using it. Google has already analysed and indexed existing online content, so it knows which page came first.
You should also avoid duplicate content on your own site, too. For example, don’t try to rank two pages for the same keyword, as this makes it harder for Google to determine which one it should rank.
Social media signals
While not the biggest ranking factor, social media signals are still important. Much like backlinks, if someone is talking about your business online, it tells Google that your website has something to offer. In addition, social media provides another avenue for users to reach your website through shared links and posts. If these users engage well with your site, it sends positive signals to Google.
The user experience
We’ve already discussed the user experience in the context of Google’s Core Web Vitals. But you need to consider your whole website’s functionality and whether it’s easy for people to find the information they need. You want users to stay on your site for longer because this sends good signals to Google. A poor user experience leads to a high bounce rate, which you want to avoid.
There is no set rule about user experience (outside of the Core Web Vitals), but your website should be tailored to your audience. Every website visitor is a lead, so if they have a good experience, you have a greater experience of turning them into sales.
Finally, this last tip is important for anybody considering using AI for content generation. Your content must be readable and engaging. AI systems aren’t great at this yet, but they can be manipulated to a certain extent. The major problem, though, is AI’s level of accuracy. It often produces incorrect facts, figures and statements.
Google ranks the most accurate information first because that’s its major role. So, if you produce content with any inaccuracies, no matter how small, you are likely to be penalised when it comes to SEO rankings. Always ensure your content is fact-checked, accurate and useful to readers.