What Are the Most Important SEO Ranking Factors?

SEO requirements keep changing, and it can be hard to keep up with the latest developments. Do you know the SEO ranking factors that’ll make a difference to your business this year?

Well-optimized sites get more and more traffic over time. That means more leads and sales. If you neglect SEO, no one will be able to find your site, meaning all your hard work will be for nothing.

In this guide, we’re going to share and discuss the essential SEO ranking factors you need to dominate search.

  • Secure and Accessible Website
  • Page Speed (Including Mobile Page Speed)
  • Mobile Friendliness
  • Domain Age
  • Domain Authority
  • Optimized Content and LSI
  • Technical SEO
  • Links (internal and external)

1. Secure and Accessible Website

The very first of our SEO ranking factors has to do with having the right kind of Uniform Resource Locator (URL). Users must select a URL that Google’s bots can easily reach and crawl.

In other words, Google has to be able to visit the URL and look at the page content to start to understand what that page is about. To help the bots out, user will need:

  • A robots.txt file that tells Google where it can and can’t look for your site information
  • A sitemap, which lists all your pages. If you’re running a WordPress site, you can set up a sitemap via Google XML Sitemaps or Yoast SEO.

Google now explicitly flags sites as secure or not secure. This signal affect visitors’ perception of your site, and potential search engine ranking.

A move from HTTP to HTTPS must be considered. If you haven’t yet enabled SSL security on your website, now is the time to make that happen.

2. Page Speed (Including Mobile Page Speed)

In early 2018, Google announced a new ranking algorithm designed for mobile search. The company called it the “Speed Update”. Only pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users” are impacted by this update, the company says. According to them:

The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

Back in 2010, Google said page speed was a ranking factor but it “was focused on desktop searches” only. Then, in July 2018, it started looking at how fast your mobile pages are and use that as a ranking factor in mobile search. Google has been promising to look at mobile page speed for years now, and it is finally coming through.

You may try Google’s mobile testing tool to see how your site stacks up.

3. Mobile Friendliness

Mobile-friendliness is another major SEO ranking factor. More people use mobile devices than desktops to access the web, and that’s one reason there have been changes in how Google ranks search results.

StatCounter Global Stats finds that mobile and tablet devices accounted for 51.3% of internet usage worldwide in October compared to 48.7% by desktop.

“This should be a wake up call especially for small businesses, sole traders and professionals to make sure that their websites are mobile friendly. Many older websites are not,” commented Aodhan Cullen, CEO, StatCounter.

Many of the SEO ranking factors discussed in this article will help you lay the foundation for a good search engine ranking. In addition, you will also need to look after user experience when people land on your website.

Things to look at include:

  • Whether you have a responsive site that automatically resizes and fits the device
  • Whether you are using large fonts for easy readability on a small screen
  • Accessibility and navigability, including making it easy to tap menus

4. Domain Age

Domain age is an important SEO factor for your Google ranking. Among the hundreds of weighting factors that Google considers in determining how to rank search engine results is the age of your domain — in other words, how long that domain has been around. Watch Google’s Matt Cutts deliver the answer.

5. Domain Authority

Authority matters when it comes to search engine ranking factors. This is usually a combination of great content and off-page SEO signals like inbound links and social shares.

Users can check their domain authority or page authority with Open Site Explorer. Just input your URL into the onsite search box, and you may get a report showing domain authority, page authority, established links and new links.

6. Optimized Content and LSI

Google’s search algorithm relies on keywords. These are the words and phrases searchers use when they’re looking for information. They are also the words and phrases that describe the topics your site is about. Ideally, those will match up.

Remember: One negative SEO ranking factor is duplicate content. For search engine optimization, write fresh, original content. In case you do have content that is similar, you may tell Google which one should be ranked as most authoritative by using canonical URLs.

Understanding LSI Keywords

Google returns related keywords based on the main keywords used in a search query. LSI keywords are normally the highlighted words and phrases in the search result descriptions and are considered the most relevant to the original keywords. Keywords are an expansion of the original search term and allow a greater amount of relevant search results to be discovered by a search engine. These keywords yield more relevant search results and boost search rankings as well as revive old content. However, there are many different ways that you can use these keywords to boost SEO traffic.

Simply put, LSI is a system to decipher the context of how a particular keyword is used. This is done by examining the rest of the content where the keyword is found for consistently reoccurring complimentary keywords.

7. Technical SEO

Technical SEO refers to website and server optimizations that help search engine spiders crawl and index your site more effectively (to help improve organic rankings).

Getting the website code right is one extremely important aspect of optimizing content for better search engine rankings. Here are some of the aspects you may review:

  • Using keyword phrases in page titles: This is where Google first looks to determine which content is relevant to which search. You will notice the page title as the first line of a search result entry.
  • Using header tags to show content hierarchy: If your title is formatted as h1, then you use h2 or h3 for subheads. Include important keywords in header tags.
  • Creating a meta description to entice readers and including your keyword phrase: Meta descriptions used to max out at 160 characters, though there are recent indications that they are longer.
  • Using keyword phrases in image alt tags to show how the images are relevant to the main content: Google also has an image search, which is another way for people to find your content.
  • Wherever appropriate, use schema markup to tell Google what kind of content you’re producing. This can also help your content appear in rich card entries.

8. Links

The entire web is basically built on links. It goes without saying that links are one of the most crucial SEO ranking signal. There are three kinds of links to work on:

  • Inbound links
  • Outbound links
  • Internal links

First and foremost, Google uses inbound links as one way to help determine how authoritative and relevant your content is.

Second in line is the outbound links. You may want to build links to authoritative websites wherever applicable.

Lastly, linking to your own content can help tie your website’s pages together for both Google/Bing and your visitors. Doing so makes each page more valuable.

If you have a high quality, authoritative page on your site and it links to another page on your site, that helps visitors find the other page as well, and passes on some of that authority. That will help that second page boost its search engine ranking.

You now know at least 8 essential SEO ranking factors.

Two SEO trends to watch in 2019

To be ahead in the web games, think about your SEO strategy in advance. A shortcut to success: get to know the upcoming trends.

In 2018, Google shook the world with its mobile- and speed-related efforts. As a result, most of this year’s SEO efforts are expected in this direction. However, some “non-Google” game-changers will also influence how we build our SEO campaigns. Let’s explore these trends and ways to embrace them.

Mobile-first indexing

In brief, mobile-first indexing means that Google uses the mobile version of your page for indexing and ranking. Since March 2018, Google’s started the process of migrating sites to mobile-first index. It might happen that Search Console has already notified you about it.

Bear in mind, a mobile-first index does not mean “mobile-only.” There’s still a single index with both mobile and desktop versions. However, the whole “mobile-first” buzz means that Google will be using the mobile versions for ranking once the site’s migrated.

Page speed

Google is crazy about delivering the best UX and delivering it fast. Desktop page loading time has been a ranking factor for a while. In July 2018, it got a twin sibling – mobile page speed’s become a ranking factor for mobile.

This crucial change calls for understanding which metrics matter for Google in terms of page speed evaluation.

 

HTTP to HTTPS Migration

Moving toward a more secure web is a well-known Google initiative. Every now and then, Google finds a new way to encourage website owners to go secure by:

  • Declaring HTTPS a ranking signal (a lightweight one, but that may not be the case in future).
  • Starting to index HTTPS pages first.
  • Showing how it has never been as cheap and as easy to move to HTTPS.
  • Marking all HTTP sites carrying sensitive data as ‘non-secure’ in Chrome.

What Is HTTPS?

HTTPS is being used for communication over Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) with an ‘S’ in the end that stands for ‘Secure.’ Adopting HTTPS, you provide your users with three key layers of protection:

  • Authentication prevents ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks and provides a guarantee one is communicating with the exact website that was intended.
  • Encryption provides privacy by encrypting the exchanged data. This ensures that conversations won’t be eavesdropped and the information won’t be stolen.
  • Data integrity prevents data from being unnoticeably modified or corrupted during the transfer.

Why Migrate to HTTPS?

Apart from security as the key priority, there are several more things to consider:

  • Private and secure online experience is what users expect while visiting your site, and user trust is a truly valuable asset for a business.
  • Some awesome updates like HTTP/2 (which you can really benefit from, speed-wise) are only supported over HTTPS in some browsers.
  • Ranking boost may be a good incentive, as Google hints on strengthening HTTPS signal in the future.

At this point, you might move on from having doubts to planning a migration. You need a well thought-out plan to make your HTTPs migration painless.

Getting the HTTPs Certificate

To enable HTTPS for your website you’ll need to get and configure the required SSL/TLS certificates on your server.

Start with choosing a trusted certificate provider (ideally, the one that offers tech support). Then, make sure to choose the right level of security: Google recommends getting a certificate with a 2048-bit key, or upgrading to it, in case you have one with a weaker 1024-bit key at the moment.

Chrome labels HTTP sites as “not secure”

Chrome – Google’s popular browser – started marking HTTP sites as not secure beginning July 24, 2018.

Chrome will mark all plain HTTP sites as “not secure.”

Google gave webmasters and publishers six months’ notice of this change.

Instead of the small “i” icon for HTTP URLs, Chrome now adds a “Not secure” label of text to that. Below is what it looks like today before users upgrade to Chrome 68. Note, most of those who download Chrome are set for automatic browser updates and thus will be upgraded to Chrome 68 automatically in the future.

It is strongly recommended to upgrade your website to HTTPS URLs and be secure, even if your site does not ask for payment information, logins or other private information. Depending upon the size of a site and scope of the project, a migration from HTTP to HTTPS can be challenging.

Identifying Content That Drives Results

To identify what types of content works best for you, your webmaster can review your website’s analytics and look at the pieces that have generated the most traffic, leads, sales, or other desirable metrics.

Look at the healthcare topics that have generated the most interest and engagement from your audience and try to center your new efforts on creating similar pieces.

Building additional content around these popular topics will not only have a significant impact on your overall user experience, but it will also give your SEO a noticeable boost.

Quality is more important than quantity

So if your team can only gets a few articles or blog posts completed in a month, then that’s the baseline you start with. In time your process will become more efficient and your production will increase. Depending on the size of your budget, you’ll want to hire additional help in the writing department so you can create consistent medical content for your audience.

While you may find writers who can write for less (and this may be a good strategy to start with), it will require additional work on your end to make sure the content they deliver is at par with the value your audience is seeking.

Analyze your competitor’s content marketing strategy

A great place to start when you’re getting ready to create new content is to look around and identify the types of content that are working for similar hospitals and clinics, especially your competitors. It’s important to do some self-evaluation as well.

Take a detailed look at the types of content you’ve already put out and pay attention to which ones have been most successful. By doing both of these things, you should have a good grasp on the type of content you’ll want to create, and a great start down your path to success.