Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website pages through organic search engine results. SEO has become one of the most powerful resources to generate quality traffic to your website. With Google being responsible for over 60 of all worldwide searches, their algorithm is seen as the “SEO blueprint“ to follow.
Google is constantly making changes to how pages are ranked, so how do you know what ranking signals are most important? While there are literally hundreds of ranking factors Google measures, most of them don’t have a significant impact on your listing results. There are, however, some important foundational ranking factors that weigh heavily on your websites organic search results.
Let’s take a look at the 6 most important ranking factors and what they mean exactly.
1. HTTPS Secure
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. Many people believe that HTTPS is not useful unless you are accepting payments or handling sensitive information, but it was confirmed by Google as a ranking factor a few years back, and has become an even more critical factor sice.
2. Website Load Speed
With the goal being to create the best experience for your website visitor, how long do you think that relationship will last if the visitor is waiting 5,7, or 10+ seconds for your website to load? Probably not long.
47 percent of visitors expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds, and 40 percent of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds, According to Kissmetrics. Those numbers are staggering and impossible to ignore. With so many users reacting to the time it takes to load a site, it’s no surprise Google made this a relevant ranking factor in mobile, as well as desktop searches.
3. Mobile Optimization
This one shouldn’t be news to anyone. People use mobile devices now. A lot. Mobile internet users surpassed desktop users back in 2016, and its only gained ground from there. It’s absolutely necessary to optimize your site for mobile devices. This will adjust all of the text, images and structure to appear organized and formatted on a mobile device.
Google saw the growth of mobile users back in 2015 and has greatly increased the relevance of a mobile optimized site since.
4. Clean and Organized Code
Behind the front-end of any website is a bunch of code working together to create the interactive beauties we see in our browsers. When Google crawls a website, that code is all they see. Much like grammar would effect an english paper, unorganized or improper code will get negative “points“ on your overall score.
This is one reason why it isn’t always the best option to go with the cheapest developer you can find when building your site. They may be a little cheaper in the long run, but you may be paying someone to clean up their mess down the road.
5. Relevant and Useful Content
You may have heard the saying “content is king” before. While other factors have taken some of the attention of SEO campaigns, this is still a true statement. At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that the person who found your site got there because they were looking for something. If they get to your site and the information provided is minimal and unhelpful, they won’t stick around long.
Because of this, content has been a cornerstone ranking signal monitored by Google from nearly the beginning. More specifically, Google now monitors things such as each pages word-count, keyword density, link usage, and more.
6. Quality Links
Last, but not least, we have links. There are several different kinds of links. You have links on your site that point to another page within your site or another website altogether, which are the most common. Then, you have links on other websites that point to yours. These are the most powerful.
Think of links as referrals. If you are looking for recommendations from people, you most likely value everyone’s opinion differently. Google does the same with links. You are going to get much more value out of a link to your site directly in an article of a relevant, authoritative website over a link in the sidebar of a website that really has no relevance to your service or focus.
At the end of the day, it’s Google’s job to provide the best experience for users. Any changes they make in their ranking algorithm are for that purpose, and will weed out those who are manipulating it. With that being the case, the number one objective for any SEO campaign should be to provide the most informative, user friendly experience when you optimize your site. While SEO is an ongoing, hands-on job that requires a true understanding of the different components, these foundational elements should be in place before focusing on any others.