17 Top Search Engine Ranking Factors in 2018 (Updated)

You may not realize this but Google uses 200 elements in deciding which web-pages to present in their search results when a user searches for a particular term/phrase. Now unless you are on Google’s payroll and are on the team that develop those elements into their algorithms, you are not going to know what exactly these are.

Nevertheless, some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts have conducted in depth research and offered their insights and findings on these factors. Consequently, we now have a roughly clear idea on what transpires.

Out of the 200 factors, I have highlighted 17 leading indicators which are most likely used to rank a website in the major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo in 2016 and beyond. Focusing on these will insuring that you have a leg-up on your competition.

Also see our Basic SEO Tips

Primary Keyword in Domain Name

When the primary keyword is included in your domain name, the probability of getting placement in the search engines such as Google is substantially enhanced. Having keywords in the domain name helps search engine crawlers locate the pertinent pages that a potential customer may be searching for. In the past this technique worked very well, fast forward to today and it works much less but still a factor. One being the bold keywords that will appear in the domain name when that keyword is searched for by a potential customer.

Targeted Keyword in the Title Tag

The title forms a principle element of any piece of written content, and it is equally valuable when it comes to search engine optimization. The fundamental feature that Google regards as the signal for search engine result pages is the title tag. Your primary keywords should therefore be used accurately in your title for it to appear perfect and appropriate in the eyes of Google and search engine result pages.

Age of the Domain Name

When it comes to search engine optimization, there is one thing that most believe, that the age of a Domain Name helps in your ranking. Yes and No, I believe that an website can be old and never rank because of poorly executing important factors but it the same light totally dominate when most factors are met.

Pro Tip: The longer you register your domain the better benefit that Google will see, they will see it as a serious business and not a turn and burn type of website.

Keywords in H1 & H2 Tags

Besides the fact that content and domain name identity are paramount, their importance cannot do without H1 and H2 tags. Including keywords in the H1 and H2 tags will help the authenticity to the content and the domain name and help boost the chances of better ratings.

Length of the Content

The greater the word count of a written website article you have, the greater the chances of getting high rankings for the website in the SERPs (search engine results page). An article that is 2000 words long is 5x better that an article that is 500 words long. This means that a 2000 words long article has a 20% greater probability to rank highly on Google than a 500 word article.

Keyword Density in Content

Keyword density refers to the concentration of keywords in an article. Typically, the maximum recommended density should be 3%, but in case the keywords are used accurately in an article and maintained I believe a maximum of 2% is enough. The possibilities for getting favorable rankings in the SERPs are even further enhanced. Try to ensure that you always check the density of keywords in your article to avoid keyword stuffing, which is a Black Hat SEO technique that does not conform to Google’s guidelines.

Back a few years ago webmasters would stuff their pages with keywords (over optimize) and get really good rankings but today going overboard can hurt your rankings.

Up-to-date Content

With the onset of the “dynamic era”, you need to update content on your website whenever something new in your field of happens. Try to create a habit of frequently updating the content on your site. Google crawls all websites for the freshness of content which plays an important ranking factor scoring each page according to the type of search query. While a Blog may need fresh content a product may not.

Photos & Videos (Multimedia)

Multimedia such as images, videos and Podcasts can help in the content quality signal used by Google. Back in the days, websites used to be ranked on Google exclusively on the basis of written content. However, that has now changed and you need to include other types of content like videos and photos in your website in order to gain a constant position in Google and other search engines. However, be careful not to include too many photos and videos by striking the right balance between written content and media.

Pro Tip: YouTube videos are given special treatment in the SERPs I’m thinking because Google owns it (wink,. wink,..).

Website Page Load Time

If a website is slow to respond (page loading speed), then don’t expect it to rank highly on Google. Additionally, Both Google and Bing use page-load-speed as a ranking factor. Search engine crawlers can approximate your site speed fairly accurately based on a page’s file size and code.

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Mobile Optimized

Your website must have the ability to support mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Enhancing the speed of your website and optimizing the site for mobile devices helps to improve rankings on search engines like Google and ensures that your site can be accessed from multiple devices. More than half of searches on the search engines are from mobile devices. If you are not mobile optimized then you may miss out on all the searches performed on such devices. That alone can be big loss in $$$ for your company.

You can test the speed of your site HERE.

Domain Authority

Nowadays, Domain Authority (DA) is extremely important when it comes to SEO top ranking factors. Long gone are the days when you would depend on page ranking alone. You should create one-way links with other websites that have a higher domain authority than yours. Ideally, you should try to ensure that your DA rank is above 40 to 50. Simply put an authoritative domain will outrank a domain with lower authority.

Your web pages JavaScript and CSS/HTML codes should be valid and in line with W3 consortium. Make an effort to ensure that your web site’s codes are clearly verified. The top ranking sites on Google often have clearly defined and valid codes. If the crawlers find it hard to clearly evaluate the code on your website then it may consider it a poor quality site and drop it in ranks.

Another important factor for top rankings on Google is the website’s sitemap. A search engine’s crawler often browses through the entire sitemap of a web site to find greater applicable pages for indexing in its databases. The presence of a sitemap helps indexing your pages thoroughly in turn improving visibility.

Penguin Safe and Relevant Back-links

One of the most commonly used algorithms by Google for catching spammed back-links is Penguin. You need to be cautious especially when creating backlinks from websites considered by Google as being spam. Ensure that you always create penguin safe and secure backlinks that are relevant.

Avoid Duplicate Content

You must try to completely avoid duplicating content from other websites. Every web page should be specific and contain unique and relevant content. You should also try to make the content at least 500 words of unique content, Google will reward you for it. Also thin content will also not get you results from Google or your readers.

Social Media

Nowadays, social media is a powerful tool for search engine optimization, and linking your SEO efforts with social media can result in decent results in terms of boosting your site’s rankings with social media.

With the increasing popularity of social media, you can use social media to send a strong signals to Google to help with boosting your rankings in a surprisingly short time. Try linking your site’s content with social shares and likes to social media to pull people back to your website which in turn will help improve rankings in the search engines.

LSI Keywords in Content

Google uses a system known as LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing), this is how they figure out what a page is about and also what to show a searcher on a search engine. Think of it as a learning mechanism, if you are searching for Computer repair an LSI would be like, LCD Screen Replacement, PC Repair, Laptop Repair, Hard Drive Repair, Google is smart enough to figure out that what your page is about by using these type of phrases related to your main keyword.

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