For today’s content writer, understanding how to get your content to rank in search engines is an essential part of your job description. Because, a marketer’s rule of thumb, content is only useful and helpful if people read it. And as organic search continues to rank as the most important channel for marketers year after year, it pays to optimize your content for SEO.
So where do you begin? We’ve already shared our advice for how to do keyword research and how to write content for SEO, so this article will focus on a few of the ranking factors that Google uses to decide where your content ranks in the SERP. While the entirety of SEO ranking factors Google’s algorithm considers numbers into the hundreds, these 11 are a good starter list to consider when you write.
To access more SEO best practices, you can download our full eBook SEO 101: A Content Marketer’s Guide to SEO.
SEO Ranking Factors That Help Your Ranking
Which factors do search engines consider when deciding where your website or website pages should rank? Here are a few of the biggies.
One of Google’s core philosophies is to provide its users with the highest quality and most relevant content for whatever they happen to be searching for. Every one of your website’s visitors wants to read fresh, practical content. And Google wants to see the same.
So as Google’s algorithm continues to evolve, expect the quality of your content to be the number one factor that influences where you rank in the search engines. As you write, choose a keyword to target wisely, and make sure to pay attention to the search intent behind the keyword. Keeping both in mind will help you produce high-quality, relevant content that has the best chance of ranking.
Since searches on mobile devices have surpassed searches on desktop computers, Google’s algorithm has started to favor sites that are mobile-friendly. For this reason, your site’s mobile-friendliness is an important SEO ranking factor. Mobile-friendly websites offer either responsive design or an entire different site for mobile browsing experiences.
Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? Check out (and check off) our mobile-friendly checklist to make sure your content can easily be seen on the go.
Backlinks, which occur when another website references your webpage via hyperlink, are an important SEO ranking factor Google’s algorithm considers. Backlinks are essentially popularity signals for the search engine, which means you should strive to get as many backlinks from as many quality sources or related bloggers in your industry as possible.
When it comes to backlinking, social sharing can help you too. While Google has said upfront that social media doesn’t affect how your content ranks in a SERP, the more people who share your content, the more visibility it gets. If another content marketer sees your article on Twitter and writes an article about a similar topic, they may link back to your article.
How can you improve your backlinks organically?
Make sure it’s easy for your users to share your webpages on social media. Including click-to-tweets, or buttons to share your website content on social media will encourage more social sharing amongst your readers.
Domain authority is a calculated score from 0-100 developed by Moz that tells you how likely a website is to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs).
Factors That Influence Your Domain Authority Include:
- The number of total links
- The age of your domain
- The popularity of your domain
- The size of your domain
Want to learn more about Domain Authority? You can read about it in Moz’s guide to Domain Authority.
On-Page SEO is the practice of optimizing your website’s pages so that they will rank higher on search engines. Key factors that improve your on-page SEO include:
- Title tags are what users see on SERPs directly above the page’s URL or on the page’s tab in a browser.
- Header tags are the way you divide up sections of your content in the HTML source code. H1 tags are the most important for your SEO, and they lessen in value as they get to H6 tags.
- URLs that are cleanly structured and incorporate high value keywords add SEO strength to your page.
- Alt image tags should include your keyword. Placing your keyword in your alt text tag for each image will help improve your on-page SEO.
These are just a few on-page SEO ranking factors. Our full guide, writing content for SEO, includes even more on-page SEO ranking factors a content marketer should be mindful of.
SEO Ranking Factors That Hurt Your Ranking
In addition to the positives, there are plenty of factors that could negatively affect your SEO ranking. Here are a few to look out for as you write.
In the past, SEOs could “game” Google’s algorithm by stuffing their content with targeted keywords. Today, that practice can result in a Google penalty, which can drop the ranking of ever page of a site, for a specific keyword or for a specific page.
Duplicate Title Tags
Many websites still have their company name as the title for every one of their pages. Because title tags are important for SEO (as well as for the user experience of your site), it is essential to use descriptive title tags that feature your targeted keywords.
Internal links (links to other pages on your website) are important for indexing, but the anchor text (the hyperlinked text that the link is attached to) is also key. Make sure that your anchor text aligns with what you’re linking to, instead of generic calls to action like “click here.”
The volume of backlinks a site received was once prioritized above all else, but Google’s algorithm now factors in the quality of these links as well. Backlinking from so-called link farms (low-quality sites that just link out to many pages) actually harms your site’s SEO.
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Slow Page Loading Speed
Google prioritizes the experience of the searcher, and slow page loading times detract from that experience. Page load speed will become a critical SEO ranking factor, so make sure that your page is loading quickly on both desktop and mobile.
Lack of Internal Linking
Internal links are hyperlinks in your content that lead back to other pages on your website. They are how Google’s spiders are able to find all of the high-quality content you are creating. The most important internal links are in your page navigation, but your content should also include relevant internal links. Making sure to integrate internal links into your content helps elevate the ranking potential for all of your pages.
How Should I Consider These SEO Ranking Factors When I Write Content?
As you write your content, review this list and ask yourself if you’ve done everything you can to boost your chance of ranking in the SERP. Have you integrated your keyword where it needs to be? Have you bolstered the strength of your piece with smart internal and external links? Is my site mobile-friendly with a fast page loading speed?
Asking these questions before you publish your content will help ensure you’ve considered the factors you need in order to write great content that gets seen.