Understanding The Primary Ranking Factors for SEO

Understanding The Primary Ranking Factors for SEO blog image

Posted: November 28th, 2023

Key Topics

  • Relevance of this topic
  • Google Ranking Factors
  • Breakdown of Each Factor
  • Conclusion

Relevance of this Topic

You're probably here because you want to rank higher on google, but are unsure how to do it. Fortunately, what follows is a convenient breakdown of the currently understood google ranking factors (as of August 22, 2023) from a study by First Page Sage. The aim is that you can look at each factor and come to a better understanding of how each one works as it relates to SEO.

It should be noted that these rankings vary slightly over time based on algorithmic changes by google and that this represents the most current reporting as of writing, but may see periodic shift over time. We will do our best to remain up-to-date on these changes.

Q3 2023 Google Algorithm

Image retrieved from this study by First Page Sage

Ranking Factors of Search Engines

The current Google Algorithm Ranking Factors are as follows:

  1. Consistent Publication of Engaging Content 21%
  2. Keywords in Meta Title Tags 15%
  3. Backlinks 14%
  4. Niche Expertise 14%
  5. User Engagement 11%
  6. Freshness 6%
  7. Trustworthiness 5%
  8. Mobile-Friendly / Mobile-First Website 4%
  9. Internal Links 3%
  10. Page Speed 3%
  11. Site Security / SSL Certificate 2%
  12. Schema Markup / Structured Data 1%
  13. Other Factors 1%

In an effort to increase understanding of these, we will break down the listed factors one at a time. 

1. Consistent Publication of Engaging Content

Six years have passed since backlinks were displaced as the most important component of Google's search algorithm by engaging content. The past year has shown that Google tests recently published content to see how well it satisfies the keyword's search intent. A page is promoted if the behavior of searchers shows that the content of the page is satisfying their intent. Generally speaking, Google's AI favors excellent content that is created at least twice a week. There are a number of ways to create consistent content, the simplest of which is to create regular blog posts, but what do you write about?

Creating consistent and engaging content involves strategic planning and understanding your audience. Here are steps you can take in this regard:

  1. Understand Your Audience:
    • Discover what is it your audience needs? What will engage them with your content?
    • Conduct thorough audience research to comprehend their interests, pain points, and preferences.
    • Create buyer personas to tailor content that resonates with specific segments of your audience.
  2. Develop a Content Strategy:
    • Think about what you are trying to achieve.
    • Define clear goals for your content. Are you aiming to educate, entertain, or convert?
    • Establish a content calendar outlining topics, formats, and publication schedules. Consistency is key.
  3. Diversify Content Formats:
    • Experiment with various content types such as articles, videos, infographics, podcasts, and social media posts. 
    • Repurpose content across different formats to cater to different audience preferences.
  4. Quality over Quantity:
    • Focus on delivering valuable, high-quality content rather than overwhelming your audience with frequent but mediocre posts.
    • Ensure accuracy, relevance, and usefulness in every piece of content.
  5. Engage Your Audience:
    • Encourage interaction through comments, shares, polls, and user-generated content. Respond promptly and authentically.
    • Create content that solves problems, addresses questions, or sparks conversation.
  6. Consistency and Frequency
    • Stick to a regular publishing schedule. Whether it's weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, maintain consistency to build audience expectations.
    • Use scheduling tools to plan content in advance and stay organized.
  7. Use Analytics for Insights:
    • Monitor content performance using analytics tools like Google Analytics, website traffic logs, CloudFlare analytics if used, social media insights, or content management system (CMS) analytics.
    • Analyze metrics such as engagement rates, click-through rates, and time spent to understand what resonates with your audience.
  8. Stay Updated and Relevant:
    • Keep abreast of industry trends, changes in your audience's preferences, and content consumption habits.
    • Adapt your content strategy accordingly to stay relevant and maintain audience interest.
  9. Collaborate and Network:
    • Partner with Influencers or industry experts for guest content or collaborations to expand your reach.
    • Engage with your audience and other content creators through networking and community engagement.

The secret to creating effective content is having a thorough grasp of your audience and a dedication to constantly offering value. Make adjustments and improvements to your plan in response to audience input and evolving trends.

2. Keywords in Meta Title Tags

Since the late 1990s, optimizing your page for search engines requires including the keywords you want it to rank for in its meta title tag. Any seasoned SEO marketer knows this, but keyword strategy is a demanding intellectual process that can easily take 20 to 30 minutes per page. It's also crucial to remember that a title tag's keyword concentration and placement matter.

Although including articles and adjectives surrounding your targeted keyword is important for readability, in practice, your title tag should only contain your targeted keyword. Incorporating keywords into meta title tags offers several benefits for SEO and user experience:

  1. Improved Relevance and Visibility:
    • Keywords in meta title tags signal to search engines the primary focus of the page. When users search for those terms, having them in the title tag increases the relevance of your page to their query.
    • Search engines often display the meta title in search results. When the keywords align with the user's query, it improves the likelihood of the page appearing higher in search results, thus enhancing visibility.
  2. Enhanced Click-Through Rates (CTR):
    • Relevant keywords in meta titles attract users' attention and encourage clicks. When search results display titles that closely match what users are searching for, they are more likely to click through to your website.
    • An engaging meta title with relevant keywords can differentiate your page from others in the search results, enticing users to click on your link.
  3. Clarity and User Expectations:
    • Keywords in meta titles help users understand what the page is about at a glance. When they see familiar terms in the title, it confirms that the content is likely relevant to their query.
    • Clear and descriptive meta titles set accurate expectations for users, reducing bounce rates as visitors are more likely to stay on the page if it aligns with what they were seeking.
  4. Ranking Factors:
    • While meta title tags are not the sole factor determining rankings, they contribute to search engine algorithms' assessment of a page's relevance to a search query.
    • Including relevant keywords in the meta title tag can positively impact the page's ranking, especially when combined with other SEO best practices.

Adding pertinent keywords to your meta title tags that accurately describe the content allows you to optimize your page's understanding by search engines and improve user experience by presenting relevant and comprehensible information in search results.

3. Backlinks

Backlinks, also known as inbound links or incoming links, are hyperlinks on external websites that direct users to a specific webpage on your site. They serve as endorsements or votes of confidence from other websites, indicating to search engines that your content is valuable and worthy of citation.

According to the research paper that served as Google's foundation, backlinks were the original building block of the algorithm. But in 2018, they started to fall behind the two aforementioned factors: Regular Release of Interesting Articles and Keywords in Meta Title Tags. Although Google still considers backlinks when determining a website's position in its search results, content quality should be your main priority since it both naturally draws links and is the most significant ranking factor on its own.

There are a number of ways to earn Backlinks for your website, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Create High-Quality Content:

    • Develop informative, engaging, and unique content that naturally attracts attention and encourages others to link back to it.
    • Content could include in-depth guides, original research, infographics, case studies, or interactive tools that offer value to your target audience.
  2. Guest Blogging and Contributing Content:

    • Contribute guest posts or articles to authoritative websites, blogs, or publications within your industry. Ensure the content is relevant, well-written, and adds value to the target audience.
    • Include a byline or author bio with a link back to your website.
  3. Build Relationships and Networking:

    • Engage with influencers, bloggers, journalists, and industry experts through social media, forums, conferences, and networking events.
    • Cultivate genuine relationships and collaborations that could lead to opportunities for them to link back to your content.
  4. Broken Link Building:

    • Identify broken or outdated links on reputable websites that relate to your content.
    • Reach out to the website owners or editors, suggesting your relevant content as a replacement.
  5. Skyscraper Technique:

    • Identify high-performing content in your niche.
    • Create superior, updated, and more comprehensive content on the same topic and reach out to websites linking to the original content, proposing your improved version.
  6. Utilize Social Media and Online Communities:

    • Share your content across social media platforms and relevant online communities or forums where your audience interacts.
    • Engage in discussions, offer solutions, and share valuable insights that might prompt others to link back to your content.
  7. Offer Testimonials or Reviews:

    • Provide testimonials or reviews for products, services, or tools you appreciate, ensuring a link back to your website.
    • Many businesses display testimonials with backlinks to the reviewer's site.

The caliber of backlinks is more important than the quantity. To raise the authority and search engine ranking of your website, concentrate on obtaining backlinks from reliable, relevant, and authoritative websites in your industry.

4. Niche Expertise

Niche expertise can be understood as a deep understanding and specialized knowledge of a particular industry, market segment, or specific subject matter within the context of search engine optimization. 

Google started giving preference to websites that it considers to be experts in their respective niches in the middle of 2017. Being a niche expert in this sense is defined as having a cluster of ten or more authoritative pages that center around the same "hub" keyword. The hub keyword's constant use throughout the website's pages generates a kind of magnetism that draws visitors from any Google search that includes the hub keyword.

Niche Expertise ties in to SEO in the following ways:

  1. Targeted Content Creation:

    • Having niche expertise allows SEO professionals to create highly targeted and relevant content that caters specifically to a particular audience within a specific industry or subject area.
    • Tailoring content to address the unique needs, interests, and queries of a niche audience enhances the likelihood of ranking well for specific keywords and attracting relevant traffic.
  2. Competitive Advantage:

    • Demonstrating expertise in a niche allows for more specialized and detailed content creation compared to broader, generic content.
    • It helps websites stand out in competitive markets by providing valuable and comprehensive information that may not be readily available elsewhere.
  3. Understanding User Intent:

    • Niche expertise aids in deciphering user search intent within a specialized field. It enables the creation of content that better aligns with what users are seeking, thus improving the chances of ranking for specific long-tail keywords.
  4. Building Authority and Trust:

    • Establishing niche expertise allows for the development of authority within a particular industry or subject matter. Consistently producing high-quality, authoritative content fosters trust among users and search engines alike.
    • A reputation for expertise within a niche can attract backlinks from authoritative sources, further boosting a website's credibility and SEO performance.
  5. Refined Keyword Targeting:

    • Knowledge of a niche helps in identifying and targeting specific keywords that are relevant and likely to attract highly qualified traffic.
    • By understanding the nuances and jargon specific to a niche, SEO efforts can be directed toward optimizing for terms that are more likely to convert visitors into customers or leads.

Having a deep understanding and specialized knowledge of a particular industry or subject matter is necessary for SEO niche expertise. This allows for the creation of targeted content, a competitive advantage, better user experience, and increased authority within a particular niche, all of which contribute to better SEO performance.

5. User Engagement

User engagement refers to the level of interaction, involvement, and attention that users demonstrate while interacting with a website, application, or online platform. It encompasses various actions, behaviors, and metrics that indicate the extent of users' active participation and interest in the content or functionalities offered.

After User Engagement was included into the ranking algorithm in 2016, the largest modification to Google's algorithm over the previous five years has been the increased significance of this factor. In the past, Google was hesitant to give importance to an on-site element that website owners could easily manipulate. However, Google has made user engagement a significant component of its algorithm thanks to its increasingly sophisticated technology, which it borrowed from the click fraud detection side of its advertising business. 

Consistent publication of engaging content is the #1 overall factor, and it is related to user engagement. A reliable measure of the caliber of the content is engagement, which is calculated by adding together bounce rate, time on page, and pages per session. However, bear in mind that different searches have different purposes; for example, some searches may be conducted in an attempt to find a specific piece of information quickly; in these cases, more results may not be better. Google reaffirmed its dedication to user engagement in 2022 when it updated its Helpfulness algorithm.

User engagement can be defined with the following aspects:

  1. Quality of Interactions:

    • It's not merely the quantity but also the quality of interactions that matter. Meaningful interactions, like comments or shares, often signify higher engagement compared to passive actions like a simple page view.
    • Actions that indicate deeper engagement, such as content creation, community participation, or repeat visits, hold significant value in assessing user engagement.
  2. Diverse Interactions:

    • User engagement includes a spectrum of actions such as clicks, likes, shares, comments, downloads, form submissions, time spent on a page, or the number of pages visited.
    • Engagement metrics vary based on the nature of the platform but generally indicate user interest and involvement.
  3. User Satisfaction and Experience:

    • Positive user experiences contribute to higher engagement levels. User-friendly interfaces, intuitive navigation, relevant content, and fast-loading pages enhance engagement by encouraging users to spend more time on the platform.
    • Meeting user expectations and providing valuable, relevant, and personalized content plays a pivotal role in fostering sustained engagement.
  4. Conversion and Retention:

    • User engagement often correlates with conversion rates and customer retention. Engaged users are more likely to convert into customers, subscribers, or active participants and are inclined to return to the platform.
  5. Measuring and Improving Engagement:

    • Tracking and analyzing engagement metrics using tools like Google Analytics or platform-specific analytics helps in understanding user behavior.
    • Strategies to improve engagement may include optimizing content, enhancing user experience, personalization, interactive features, and fostering a sense of community.

The range and depth of interactions users have with a platform, indicating their level of interest, satisfaction, and involvement, is referred to as user engagement. Understanding and improving user engagement are critical for improving online platform and website performance, relevance, and success.

6. Freshness

Freshness refers to the relevance and recency of content or webpages in search engine results. It indicates the timeliness and how up-to-date your content is, emphasizing the importance search engines place on delivering current and relevant content to users.

Although content recency has always been a minor factor in Google's algorithm, it was only prioritized for news-focused articles until the second quarter of 2023. With the ever-changing state of the Google Algorithm, and the increased relevance of this metric, it remains an important factor for any SEO aspirations, especially as it relates to the first point of producing regular content. 

There are a few points that dictate the freshness of content in the eyes of major search engines. Not the least of which can be found the following:

  1. Publication Date:

    • New or recently updated content tends to be considered fresher by search engines. Pages or articles published or revised more recently might get a freshness boost in search results.
  2. Content Updates:

    • Regularly updating existing content to reflect changes, trends, or new information in a particular field can signal freshness to search engines.
    • Pages that receive ongoing updates or modifications may rank better, especially for queries requiring the most current information.
  3. Query Context:

    • Freshness relevance varies based on the search query. For certain topics (e.g., news, technology, current events), search engines prioritize displaying the latest information.
    • Other evergreen content might not require frequent updates for freshness, emphasizing quality and relevance over recentness.
  4. Type of Content:

    • Different types of content may have varying freshness expectations. For instance, breaking news, recent events, or time-sensitive information typically demand fresher content compared to historical data or timeless evergreen content.
  5. User Behavior:

    • User behavior, such as clicks, bounce rates, and time spent on page, can influence the perception of freshness. If users engage more with newer content, it may signal its relevance and freshness to search engines.
  6. Freshness Algorithm Updates:

    • Search engines periodically update algorithms to emphasize freshness for specific queries or industries. Adapting to these algorithm changes may impact a site's visibility in search results.

Prioritizing freshness entails striking a balance between providing current information and retaining evergreen content. While freshness can improve search rankings, its importance varies depending on content type, query intent, and industry relevance. Constantly updating and adding relevant content can help a website's overall SEO strategy by increasing perceived freshness and relevance.

7. Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness refers to a website's or domain's credibility, dependability, and perceived authority by search engines and users. It includes a variety of factors that contribute to a site's credibility and dependability in providing valuable, accurate, and trustworthy information.

Google has increased its content scrutiny in the last two years to ensure users are not exposed to misinformation or disinformation. To optimize for this new factor, make sure your content is free of demonstrably false claims and includes citations from credible academic, government, or other sources. 

Here are some different factors to how Trustworthiness is understood by search engines when analyzing your content:

  1. Backlink Profile:

    • A strong and diverse backlink profile from authoritative and reputable websites signals trust to search engines. Quality backlinks act as endorsements, indicating that others trust the content or information provided.
  2. Content Quality and Accuracy:

    • High-quality, accurate, and authoritative content that meets user intent contributes significantly to trustworthiness.
    • Providing well-researched, comprehensive, and factually correct information enhances credibility and trust among users and search engines.
  3. Website Security and Privacy:

    • Implementing robust security measures, such as SSL certificates for encryption and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations (e.g., GDPR, CCPA), instills trust in users regarding their data security and privacy on the website.
  4. User Experience (UX):

    • A positive and seamless user experience, including fast loading times, mobile responsiveness, intuitive navigation, and minimal technical issues, enhances trustworthiness.
    • A well-designed and user-friendly website fosters confidence in users regarding the site's reliability.
  5. Domain Authority and Reputation:

    • A history of consistent, ethical practices, and a positive reputation within the industry contributes to a site's authority and trustworthiness.
    • Sites that demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) in their respective fields tend to rank better in search results.
  6. Transparency and Accountability:

    • Providing clear information about the website's purpose, ownership, contact details, and displaying trust signals like customer reviews, testimonials, or certifications enhances trust among users.
  7. Social Signals:

    • Engagement on social media platforms and positive mentions, shares, or endorsements contribute to a website's perceived trustworthiness.
  8. Compliance with Guidelines:

    • Adhering to search engine guidelines and best practices, avoiding black-hat SEO techniques, and ensuring compliance with webmaster guidelines contribute to building long-term trustworthiness.

It is critical for SEO success to establish and maintain trustworthiness. It entails a mix of technical aspects, content quality, authority, and transparency in order to gain credibility and trust from both search engines and users.

8. Mobile Friendly / Mobile First Website

Mobile-first indexing is a shift in how Google indexes and ranks website content based on its mobile version. It means that Google prioritizes the mobile version of a site's content when ranking and displaying it in search results. We have spoken at length about Mobile Responsiveness. For a more in-depth analysis of its impact on user experience, please see our article: The Impact of Responsive Web Design on User Experience.

If you want to reach visitors in 2023, your website must be simple to use on mobile phones and tablets. The previous standard was "mobile friendliness," but Google has shifted to a mobile-first world, which means that it expects mobile visitors to be the primary target of your web design. A desktop version of your website should ideally not exist at all. The site should look the same on mobile and desktop: the layout should be simple, and the site navigation should be optimized for mobile users.

Here are some of the benefits of 'mobile-first' design and how it impacts SEO:

  1. Improved User Experience (UX)

    • Mobile-first and mobile-friendly websites prioritize a seamless user experience across devices, especially on smartphones and tablets.

    • Enhanced user experience, including responsive design, fast loading times, and optimized content layout, positively impacts user engagement metrics like bounce rate, time on site, and user interaction, indirectly influencing SEO rankings.

  2. Better Visibility: Mobile-friendly sites are more likely to receive better visibility and rankings due to Google's preference for delivering results that offer a good user experience, especially on mobile devices. 

  3. Increased Mobile Traffic: With the increasing use of mobile devices for browsing, having a mobile-friendly website attracts more mobile traffic. Higher traffic volume, especially from mobile users, can positively impact overall site visibility and potentially improve SEO rankings.

  4. Avoidance of Penalties: Non-mobile-friendly sites may incur penalties or lower rankings, particularly in mobile search results, as Google aims to prioritize sites that cater well to mobile users.

In attempting to be more mobile friendly, there are a few key practices that should be observed in order to maximize the optimization ranking:

  1. Implementing responsive design to ensure the website adapts seamlessly to various screen sizes.

  2. Optimizing page load times by compressing images, leveraging browser caching, and minimizing unnecessary code.

  3. Using structured data and mobile-friendly formats (like Accelerated Mobile Pages - AMP) to enhance visibility and performance on mobile devices.

  4. Ensuring that content, including text, images, and videos, is easily accessible and readable without horizontal scrolling or zooming.

Mobile-first and mobile-friendly websites improve user experience, adhere to ranking factors, attract increased mobile traffic, and avoid penalties associated with poor mobile optimization. Prioritizing mobile optimization aligns with search engines' goals of providing valuable and accessible content to users across devices, resulting in improved SEO performance.

9. Internal Links

Internal linking is the practice of using hyperlinks to connect different pages within the same website. These links take users from one page on the same domain to another, creating pathways that improve navigation and content connectivity.

The primary goal is to create a cohesive structure that allows search engines to better understand the site's architecture and the relationships between various pages. This practice not only improves user navigation but also distributes authority and relevance throughout the website, influencing SEO by improving crawlability, improving user experience, and signaling the importance of specific pages within the site's hierarchy. Overall, internal linking is critical in guiding both users and search engine crawlers, resulting in increased site visibility, ranking potential, and overall SEO performance.

In 2017, Google placed a lot more emphasis on this factor, which is frequently discussed alongside hubs. As long as there are internal links connecting the pages with the same keyword in their title tags, the higher the site will rank for that keyword. Publishing 25 articles on various aspects of a subject and linking them all back to one authoritative page would be a powerful expression of that page's value, conferring higher ranking ability on that page.

Here are some benefits of utilizing internal links on your website:

  1. Improved Site Structure and Crawling:

    • Internal links establish a hierarchy and structure within a website, aiding search engine crawlers in understanding the relationship between different pages. This enhances the overall crawl-ability and indexation of the site.
  2. Enhanced User Experience:

    • Internal links provide pathways for users to navigate through the website easily. Strategic linking guides users to relevant content, improving their experience and keeping them engaged on the site for longer.
  3. Distributing Page Authority and Ranking Power:

    • When one page links to another within the same domain, it passes a portion of its authority (Page Rank) to the linked page. This helps distribute ranking power across the site, potentially boosting the visibility of linked pages in search results.
  4. Establishing Topic Relevance and Authority:

    • By linking relevant pages together, internal linking signals to search engines the inter-connectedness of content on related topics. This reinforces the topical relevance and authority of the website within its niche.
  5. Reducing Bounce Rates and Increasing Dwell Time:

    • Well-placed internal links encourage users to explore more pages on the website, reducing bounce rates (the percentage of visitors who leave after viewing a single page) and increasing the overall dwell time (the time visitors spend on the site).
  6. Promotion of Important Pages:

    • Strategically using internal links to direct traffic to important pages, such as product pages, cornerstone content, or landing pages, can boost their visibility and authority.
  7. Optimization for Specific Keywords:

    • Anchor text used in internal links helps search engines understand the context and relevance of linked pages for specific keywords. This aids in optimizing pages for targeted keywords and improving their ranking potential.
  8. Facilitation of Site Updates and Recency:

    • Through internal linking, new or updated content can be quickly discovered by search engines as well as users, ensuring fresh and relevant content gets the necessary visibility.

Internal linking improves site structure, improves user experience, distributes authority and relevance across pages, and aids in optimizing content for better visibility in search engine results.

10. Page Speed

In SEO, page speed refers to how quickly a web page loads its content and becomes interactive for users. It denotes the amount of time it takes a browser to display all of the content on a specific page. This speed is an important factor in user experience and has a significant impact on SEO performance. Because search engines prioritize delivering a seamless and efficient user experience to their users, faster-loading pages tend to rank higher in search engine results.

Page speed includes a number of factors, such as server response time, browser rendering, image and file compression, and efficient coding practices. Page speed optimization entails reducing file sizes, removing unnecessary scripts, leveraging browser caching, and utilizing content delivery networks (CDNs) like Cloudflare to ensure content loads quickly across multiple devices and network conditions. Improving page speed not only improves user satisfaction but also lowers bounce rates, increases dwell time, and has an indirect influence on search engine rankings, as search engines prefer fast-loading pages to provide better user experiences.

Google has always tried to prioritize user experience above all else, which is why it has invested in thousands of datacenters around the world to serve search results in milliseconds. Your website should follow Google's lead and prioritize site speed. Pages should load as quickly as possible. Ranking ability decreases with each additional second it takes for your site to load. Google's free PageSpeed Insights tool can be used to test your page speed.

Improving page speed positively impacts SEO rankings due to its influence on user experience and search engine algorithms. Here's how enhanced page speed contributes to better SEO rankings:

  1. User Experience Enhancement: Faster-loading pages provide a better user experience by reducing wait times and enhancing overall site usability. Users are more likely to engage with and stay on a website that loads quickly, decreasing bounce rates and increasing the time users spend on the site. Improved user engagement metrics send positive signals to search engines, indirectly impacting SEO rankings.

  2. Search Engine Algorithm Preference: Search engines, such as Google, prioritize delivering the best user experience. Page speed is a confirmed ranking factor in their algorithms, especially for mobile search results. Websites with faster-loading pages are often rewarded with higher rankings, particularly in mobile search, as search engines aim to provide the most relevant and user-friendly results.

  3. Crawlability and Indexation: Faster-loading pages are more easily crawled and indexed by search engine bots. When pages load quickly, bots can efficiently crawl and index more content, leading to better visibility and indexation of the site's pages. This contributes to better overall SEO performance by ensuring that all relevant content is considered for ranking.

  4. Reduced Bounce Rates and Improved Dwell Time: Speedy page load times reduce bounce rates, indicating that users are more likely to stay on the site rather than immediately navigating away. Additionally, improved load times increase dwell time, the duration visitors spend on the site. Lower bounce rates and increased dwell time are positive signals to search engines that the content is relevant and valuable to users, potentially boosting SEO rankings.

Faster page speed directly impacts the user experience, engagement metrics, and search engine algorithms' preferences, resulting in improved SEO rankings. Optimizing page speed contributes significantly to a website's overall performance and visibility in search engine results pages.

11. Site Security / SSL Certificate

Site security and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption are critical components of SEO that impact website credibility, user trust, and search engine rankings.

Hackers have become more sophisticated as the internet has become more important in our lives. Serving up sites that are harmful to its searchers would be Google's worst nightmare. Google began flagging sites as unsafe at the end of 2017 when they lacked or had incorrectly configured SSL certificates (indicated by the "s" at the end of "https"), and decreasing their ranking ability accordingly. An SSL certificate is usually free and can be obtained quickly from your registrar.

Here's how SSL and site security relate to SEO:

  1. Trust and User Confidence: Implementing SSL certificates ensures secure data transmission between the user's browser and the website's server. This encryption protects sensitive information, such as personal details, login credentials, or payment information, from potential hackers or eavesdroppers. Websites with SSL certificates display a padlock icon and "https://" in the URL, signaling to users that their data is secure. This instills trust and confidence in visitors, leading to increased user engagement and reduced bounce rates, which are positive signals for SEO.

  2. Google's Preference for Secure Sites: Search engines, particularly Google, prioritize security and user safety. Since 2014, Google has officially stated that HTTPS is a ranking signal. Secure websites with SSL certificates receive a minor ranking boost in search results compared to non-secure sites. As part of its efforts to create a safer internet environment, Google encourages website owners to adopt HTTPS encryption, rewarding them with a slight advantage in search rankings.

  3. Warning for Non-Secure Sites: Google Chrome, as well as other browsers, display warnings for websites without SSL certificates, labeling them as "Not Secure." Such warnings can deter users from accessing the site, leading to increased bounce rates and decreased user trust. Consequently, these negative signals may adversely affect SEO rankings as search engines aim to deliver safe and relevant results to users.

Implementing SSL certificates and ensuring site security not only protects user data but also improves SEO by fostering visitor trust, aligning with search engine preferences for secure websites, and potentially increasing rankings in search results.

12. Schema Markup / Structured Data

Schema Markup, also known as Structured Data, is a standardized vocabulary of tags or micro-data that website owners can add to their HTML to assist search engines in better understanding and interpreting the content on their web pages. It gives search engines explicit context and additional information about the content, allowing them to display more informative and visually appealing search results.

If you've ever seen search results that are longer and list out a site's main pages; or highlight an important piece of data; or include a 5-star ranking system or list of events, you've seen schema markup. Google prefers pages that use schema markup because it makes the search results for those pages more useful to searchers. They also make search results stand out from the rest of the results on the page.

Here's how Schema Markup or Structured Data contributes to improving SEO:

  1. Enhanced Rich Snippets: When search engines understand the content more comprehensively through Schema Markup, they can present richer and more detailed snippets in search results. Rich snippets may include additional elements such as star ratings, reviews, event dates, product prices, FAQs, and more. These enhanced snippets attract users' attention, increase click-through rates, and improve organic traffic.

  2. Improved Visibility and Click-Through Rates: Pages with properly implemented Schema Markup may have a higher chance of appearing in rich results, knowledge panels, or featured snippets. Such prominent placements improve the visibility of your content and encourage users to click through to your website due to the added context and relevance displayed in search results.

  3. Better Understanding of Content: Structured Data provides explicit context about the content of a page, helping search engines interpret and categorize the information more accurately. This can lead to higher relevance in search results for specific queries, improving the chances of ranking for relevant keywords or phrases.

  4. Voice Search Optimization: With the rise in voice search usage, Schema Markup plays a vital role in optimizing content for voice-based queries. By providing clear and structured information, websites stand a better chance of being featured as a voice search result, potentially driving more traffic to the site.

  5. Localization and Targeting: Schema Markup can also assist in local SEO efforts by providing specific details like addresses, business hours, phone numbers, and geographical information. This helps search engines connect relevant local queries to the website, improving visibility for local searchers.

Implementing Schema Markup or Structured Data on web pages helps search engines better understand content, leading to enhanced search result displays, increased click-through rates, improved visibility, and potentially higher rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). It's a powerful SEO technique that adds context and relevance, ultimately benefiting both users and search engines.

13. Other Factors

There are 22 other factors that can affect a website's or page's ability to rank, such as keyword placement in meta title tags and header tags, offsite mentions of your brand, keywords in URL, and anchor text keyword density. Although a website battling a competitor to move from second to first place should consider every opportunity to improve, the majority of marketers don't need to.

Conclusion

In 2023, Google Search's complex algorithm has settled into a smaller list of factors that require attention but not obsession. Google is much better able to fulfill its mission of creating the best possible search experience for its users by serving those users fast, relevant, and high-quality search results as a result of its ongoing eradication of low-quality SEO—an effort that began in 2009 and is now nearly complete. This means that marketers must have a proper strategy guiding their SEO efforts, with each page focusing on a different keyword that a prospect for your business would search for. Each page should be the best possible treatment of the subject you can provide. Links, engagement, trustworthiness, and other factors follow.