There are a whole host of SEO factors at play when it comes to how well your website ranks in Google, and depending on which industry you're in, some will have more impact on your search rankings than others. Google analyses each search query to establish which ranking factors are most appropriate, but research has shown that there are certain things which should be considered a priority, regardless of your sector.
Here are the key SEO ranking factors to think about when optimising your site for search engines in 2018.
Content and links are the two most important factors for ranking in Google. But simply throwing a load of content onto your website is not enough to make it rank well. For content to be beneficial, it must:
- Be relevant
- Be well-written
- Be comprehensive
- Contain optimised images
The quality of your content also directly influences a variety of other, smaller ranking factors, from click-through rate to bounce rate. The better the content, the more likely people are to visit your pages and stick around once they arrive.
Long-form content tends to do better in search results, because it contains more information about the subject at hand than shorter pages and articles do. That said, there's no point adding unnecessary words to a page just to try and bulk it out. Look for opportunities to explore fewer topics in greater detail, and find and fix any thin content issues that already exist on your site.
Whatever content there is on each page, it needs to be well-written and it needs to serve a purpose. Search Engine Land says quality content "is based on an understanding of your audience, as well as keyword and user research. (It) helps the reader complete one specific task,(and) features an enticing call to action or clear next step."
Find out more about how to produce quality SE-optimised content with Search Engine Land's checklist.
Much in the way that high-quality content actually ticks a number of ranking signal boxes, so do high-quality links. Having a tonne of backlinks alone was once enough to give site pages a boost, but now the impact counts on link authority and link diversity as well as the actual volume.
One good thing about great content is that it naturally attracts backlinks. To do well in search, you want to be getting as many links as possible from a range of authoritative domains. Produce content that people want and need – that is naturally worth sharing and referencing – and you're off to a good start.
Keeping on top of disavowing spammy links, as links from low-quality websites could do more harm than good and put you at risk of penalties.
For more information on Google-friendly link building techniques, take a look at Backlinko's Link Building Fundamentals.
As Google edge closer to making their index mobile-first, details like mobile UX and page load speed are factors all marketers should be paying attention to. A one-second delay in page response time can result in conversion reductions of up to 7%, and if people do make it onto your site, poor mobile UX can be caused by everything from buttons that are too close together to images that don't resize.
Help avoid slow mobile load times by minifying code, compressing images and reducing redirects. It's also worth avoiding Flash, which isn't available on iPhones. It's up to you whether you use a responsive site design or a separate mobile configuration, but not optimising for mobile is simply not an option.
Find out how mobile-friendly your site pages are using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test, and if you're in need of some pointers in where to start optimising, take a look at Moz's Mobile Optimisation Guide.
Google announced right back in 2014 that HTTPS was going to become a ranking signal, and many browsers will now serve up a 'not secure' or 'unsafe' warning when a user tries to open an unsecured page. If anything is likely to scare people away from your site, it's a big bold warning telling them their browsing data isn't secure and that they're 'unsafe', so switching to HTTPS ought to be a no-brainer.
HTTPS stops people's usernames and passwords, among other things, being sent over an unencrypted connection. It's crucial for internet user safety and an important switch to make not just to help your search rankings, but to show that your site is trustworthy. Ahrefs's HTTPS basics has more information on the topic.
Keep up to date with Google. It seems obvious, but holding a finger to the pulse can prevent any nasty surprises – whether that's a sudden drop in rankings or a full-on Google penalty. Google's algorithms are updated on a small scale pretty regularly, but when major changes (like Panda and Hummingbird) are brought in, you can expect to see an announcement.
Regularly running SEO audits of your site will help you to stay on top of any technical issues that could be affecting performance, such as 404 and 500 code errors, duplicate content and orphaned pages. The healthier your site is overall, the better it's going to do in search.
To recap, the most important ranking factors to keep in mind throughout 2018 are:
- Quality content
- Powerful links
- Mobile UX
- HTTPS set up
Team these up with regular technical checks and fixes, and you're setting up building blocks for boosting your site's SEO.
If you'd like a free SEO audit of your site or would like to discuss intelligent content strategies, don't hesitate to get in touch.