11 SEO Ranking Factors for the Top of Search Results
Search engine optimisation (SEO) can seem mysterious and overwhelming. With countless factors to consider, how do you know which ones really impact rankings? And how much should you focus on each element?
The truth is that not all SEO ranking factors carry the same weight. You can optimise your site more effectively and efficiently by understanding which ones matter most.
This article will explore the top SEO ranking factors you must focus on in 2024. We'll also look at some secondary factors that can boost your site.
Table of Contents
The Key to Quality Content: Understanding Google's E-E-A-T System
In an age of misinformation and clickbait content, Google emphasises quality over quantity. The search engine giant now focuses on E-E-A-T – experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness – as core components of high-quality web pages.
While E-E-A-T isn't a direct ranking factor, optimising for these elements can boost your visibility in search results. Google uses human raters to evaluate pages based on E-E-A-T to refine its algorithms and weed out low-quality results. So, creating content that excels in these areas is a smart SEO strategy.
Expertise seems straightforward: the content creator should have extensive experience and knowledge about the topic. For sensitive subjects like medical advice, formal credentials help establish expertise. However, E-E-A-T also values real-world experience. A mom who has made a recipe 100 times has more expertise than a professional chef making it for the first time.
Building authoritativeness is becoming a trusted, go-to resource on a particular topic. This starts with your website and brand. Creating high-quality content focused on specific keywords can help establish your authority. But recognition from external sites also matters – quality backlinks from other authoritative sites help cement your status.
Trustworthiness comes from transparency and honest communication. Do other sources vouch for the accuracy and truthfulness of the content? User-generated content like reviews is seen as more impartial than promotional posts. Being transparent about potential conflicts of interest, like sponsorships, helps manage trust.
Optimising for E-E-A-T requires creating value for readers, not just driving clicks. The focus should be on sharing quality information and experiences. The E-E-A-T ratings and search visibility will follow when the content provides that value.
The Main Ingredients: Most Important SEO Factors
These fundamental elements are the main ingredients in your SEO “meal.” Get them right, and your site will have a solid foundation for ranking well.
1 – Page Speed
Site speed has become a critical ranking factor. With mobile usage multiplying, Google prioritises fast-loading pages that deliver a positive user experience.
Some stats on why page speed matters:
- 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. (Google)
- Pages with faster load times can increase conversion rates by up to 38%. (Blogging Wizard)
Tips for improving page speed:
- Optimise images
- Enable caching
- Minimise HTTP requests
- Compress files
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
Optimising speed should be an ongoing process. Test different tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse to find areas for improvement. Every bit counts.
2 – Mobile Friendliness
With over 60% of searches happening on mobile devices, having a mobile-friendly site is non-negotiable. If your site isn't optimised for mobile, Google will penalise you in rankings.
Elements of a mobile-friendly site include:
- Responsive design that adapts to different devices
- Tap targets spaced properly for fat fingers
- Page layouts and fonts sized for smaller screens
- Minimal horizontal scrolling
Run your site through Google's Mobile-Friendly Test to catch any issues. Stay on top of changes as Google constantly updates its mobile requirements.
3 – Domain Authority
Domain authority measures the strength and trustworthiness of a domain. It's one of the most important off-page ranking factors.
Higher authority sites rank better because Google associates them with expertise and reliability.
Ways to build domain authority include:
- Getting backlinks from authoritative sites
- Producing high-quality content
- Appearing in citation directories like Yelp
- Registering your site on Google Search Console
Check your domain authority monthly to ensure you're headed in the right direction.
4 – Click-Through Rate
Click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of searchers who click on your listing after seeing it in the results.
For example, if your listing gets 1,000 impressions and 100 clicks, your CTR is 10%.
Higher CTR signals that your title tag and description are relevant to the searcher's query. Google wants to reward pages that satisfy search intent.
Tips for improving CTR:
- Include keywords naturally in your title tag and meta description
- Write compelling descriptions that entice searchers to click
- Use headers, bullets, and formatting for scannable content
Analyse your CTR in Google Search Console. Aim for at least a 2% CTR as a benchmark.
5 – Bounce Rate
Your site's bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who enter your site and “bounce” right back out without engaging.
A high bounce rate suggests your content isn't resonating with users. This signals low-quality content to Google.
Ways to reduce bounce rate:
- Improve page speed and mobile experience
- Craft compelling headlines and intros
- Break up text with visuals
- Link to related content
- Call visitors to take action
Monitor bounce rate in Google Analytics. Below 50% is a reasonable goal for most sites.
6 – Security
Cyber threats are rising, so Google wants to point searchers to secure sites.
Factors that boost security include:
- An SSL certificate to support HTTPS
- Absence of malware, harmful scripts, etc.
- Implementing protections like reCAPTCHA
- Providing a site-wide HTTPS version
Google will warn users if your site seems unsafe. Use the Security Issues report in Search Console to resolve problems.
The Supporting Ingredients: Secondary Ranking Factors
On their own, these elements won't directly skyrocket you up the SERPs. But they can add that extra flavour and nuance to your SEO meal.
7 – Site Architecture
A clean URL structure and site architecture make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site.
Best practices include:
- Short, descriptive page URLs
- A simple hierarchy using categories and subcategories
- Functional internal linking between related pages
- A sitemap for crawlers to reference
Reorganise your site if the architecture is chaotic. Rename confusing URLs for clarity.
8 – Social Signals
Are real people engaging with your content on social media? Signals like shares, likes, and links indicate popularity.
While social signals carry less direct weight than inbound links, they can still boost your rankings.
Ways to get more social activity:
- Produce sharable content like list posts
- Run social media contests and giveaways
- Enable social sharing buttons
- Promote your content across different platforms
Tools like BuzzSumo and Talkwalker can help analyse your social performance.
9 – Local SEO
For businesses targeting local customers, optimising for local SEO is crucial.
- Accurate business info across directories like Google My Business
- City, state, and zip mentions throughout the site
- Location-based keywords
- Strong local links and citations
Go beyond just Google My Business. Build local relevance across the web.
10 – Page Experience
Google's Page Experience algorithm looks at layout, load time, and responsiveness. A positive experience keeps visitors engaged.
Core Web Vitals are critical metrics of page experience. These include:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Use tools like PageSpeed Insights to measure and improve Core Vitals. Faster, mobile-friendly sites rank better.
11 – Keyword Usage
Using keywords in headers, content, URLs, etc., helps search engines understand your page's topic. But stuffing keywords for manipulation gets penalised.
Tips for good keyword usage:
- Do keyword research to find relevant terms
- Use your primary keywords in strategic places like titles and headings
- Include semantic keyword variations like synonyms and questions
- Mention long-tail versions of keywords in content
Aim for a keyword density between 1-3% as a natural integration.
Stirring the Pot: Bringing It All Together
Getting your site to rank isn't as simple as throwing SEO “ingredients” into a bowl. You need to combine elements for a cohesive recipe carefully.
Here are some fundamental principles for integration:
- Build a mobile-friendly site architecture from the ground up
- Produce content optimised for both searchers and real users
- Earn backlinks slowly and steadily from trustworthy sites
- Monitor speed and core vitals as you scale pages
- Use keywords naturally without over-optimising
- Leverage social signals to complement quality content
SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Consistency, patience, and persistence pay off. Your organic growth will steadily climb with the proper focus on the highest-impact factors.
Now get cooking! Use this guide as your SEO recipe book for 2024. Master and combine the ingredients artfully; your site will be well to page one.
FAQs About Core SEO Ranking Factors
Still hungry for more knowledge? Here are answers to common questions about the key factors that influence search engine rankings:
What is the #1 ranking factor for SEO?
While many factors matter, page speed and mobile optimisations are arguably the most important currently. Slow, clunky sites underperform in rankings.
How much does content quality impact rankings?
High-quality, well-structured content signals expertise and satisfies user intent. Thin or copied content does the opposite, so quality matters a lot.
What are some easy, quick wins for better SEO?
Quick boosts can come from improving site speed, fixing mobile issues, updating page titles and meta descriptions, and refreshing stagnant content.
How long does it take to see SEO results?
Expect a lag time of 3-6 months for foundational technical SEO to potentially impact rankings. Good content and links take longer to accumulate results over time.
How can I track my SEO performance?
Use Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and third-party tools to monitor rankings, traffic, links, speed, user engagement, and more. Analyse results monthly.
The Final Dish: Your Path to SEO Success
Well, there you have it! We've covered the essential recipe for solid SEO rankings.
By focusing on core factors like speed and user experience while also utilising supporting elements, you can climb from recipe rookies to SEO masters.
Don't let the process intimidate you. Step by step, stick to the fundamentals, monitor your results, and keep testing and learning.
SEO is an ever-changing field. Google's algorithm will always reward sites that satisfy searchers. Craft your content intentionally, build authority naturally, and you'll be cooking with gas in no time.
Now, you've got all the ingredients for SEO success in 2024—it's time to get your chef's hat on and start whipping up search engine magic.