Top 10 Search Engine Ranking Factors: Tips for SEO Success

Understanding and mastering search engine ranking factors is not just beneficial — it’s essential for any business aiming to enhance its online visibility and performance.

Search engines like Google constantly evolve, refining their algorithms to provide users with the most relevant, high-quality content possible. For businesses, this means staying informed, agile and ready to adapt their SEO strategies to these changing landscapes.

By the end of this guide, you will be equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to ensure that your website not only reaches its target audience, but also delivers a compelling user experience.

Kim Cooper
Director of Marketing, Amazon Alexa

Single Grain enables us to increase our impact without increasing our headcount

Elevate Search Rankings

1) High-Quality Content

Creating content that is informative, engaging and provides value to your target audience is key to SEO success. This involves not just including relevant keywords, but also covering topics in depth and updating content regularly to keep it fresh.

Tips for Creating High-Quality Content:

  • Focus on User Intent: Understand what your audience is searching for and tailor your content to meet those needs. It should address the needs and answer the questions of your audience (i.e. match the search intent), offering insights, solutions or information that they cannot easily find elsewhere.
  • Enhance Readability: Create content that is not only informative but also easy to read. Use of images (see above ☝️), infographics, videos and interactive elements, as well as headings, subheadings and bullets (👈see to the side), can enhance engagement, making your content more appealing to both users and search engines.
  • Use Keywords Wisely: Keywords signal to search engines what your content is about and help them match your pages to the appropriate search queries. Conduct keyword research to understand the language your audience uses and incorporate those terms naturally into your content without overstuffing.
  • Depth of Topic Coverage: Search engines use sophisticated algorithms to understand the comprehensiveness of a piece of content, so articles that provide detailed information are more likely to rank higher than short, superficial posts. This doesn’t mean every piece of content has to be long-form, but it should be thorough and insightful.
10X Content infographic
  • Update Regularly: Search engines favor content that is updated regularly and reflects the latest information and developments in its field. Regularly updating your existing content, as well as publishing new articles on topical subjects, can signal to search engines that your site is a current and relevant source of information.

Dive Deeper: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know About 10x Content

2) Backlinks

Backlinks, or inbound links from other websites to your website, are among the most significant factors in SEO. They act as endorsements of your content’s quality and relevance, signaling to search engines that your site is a valuable resource.

The more reputable websites link to your content, the more authoritative your site appears. This perceived authority can dramatically enhance your site’s search engine rankings.

Tips for Acquiring Quality Backlinks:

  • Create Shareable Content: Content that is informative, engaging and unique is more likely to earn backlinks naturally. Focus on creating resources such as in-depth guides, research studies or infographics that offer substantial value to your audience. Promote these resources through your social media channels and email newsletters to increase visibility and encourage shares and backlinks.

  • Guest Blogging: Writing articles for other reputable websites in your niche can provide backlinks and expose your content to a wider audience.  Identify authoritative blogs or websites that accept guest posts and pitch them topics that align with their content and audience interest. Be sure that your articles include valuable insights and a link back to your website in your author bio or within the content, where permitted.
  • Broken Link Building: Use tools like Ahrefs or Screaming Frog to find broken external links on relevant websites. Reach out to the website owners with a polite email, pointing out the broken link and suggesting your content as a high-quality alternative. This method not only helps acquire backlinks, but also assists webmasters in improving their site’s user experience.
  • Engage with Your Community: Participating in forums, social media discussions and industry events can lead to natural backlink opportunities. Providing helpful answers, sharing insights and engaging in meaningful conversations can establish your expertise and encourage others to reference your content in their own work, leading to quality backlinks.

Dive Deeper: The Marketer’s Guide to Link Building

3) Mobile-Friendliness

With over half of global web traffic now coming from mobile devices, search engines like Google have adapted, prioritizing mobile-friendliness as a key ranking factor. A mobile-friendly website not only improves the user experience, it also enhances your site’s SEO performance, as search engines reward sites that cater to mobile users with higher rankings.

Tips for Mobile Optimization:

  • Responsive Design: Responsive websites automatically adjust their layout and content based on the device’s screen size. This adaptability eliminates the need for separate mobile sites and ensures a consistent user experience across all platforms. For WordPress users, it’s as easy as choosing a theme that is inherently responsive (most modern WordPress themes are designed to be responsive out of the box). Themes like Astra, OceanWP, and Twenty Twenty-One are built to adjust seamlessly to different screen sizes.
  • Simplify Navigation: It’s important to design your site in a way that mobile users find intuitive and easy to use. This includes large, easy-to-click buttons, readable fonts and minimizing the need for horizontal scrolling. Enhanced mobile usability not only secures better engagement rates, but also signals to search engines that your site is a valuable resource for mobile users.
  • Implement Lazy Loading: This technique means that images, videos and other non-critical resources are loaded only as they are needed — when the user scrolls down the page, for instance — rather than all at once when the page initially loads. This strategy can significantly reduce initial load times and save bandwidth for users, which is especially beneficial on mobile devices with limited data plans or slower network connections. Two lazy loading methods:
    • JavaScript-based Lazy Loading: Use a JavaScript library or write custom JavaScript code to implement lazy loading. Libraries like Lozad.js, LazySizes, and others make this process easier by providing ready-to-use solutions.
    • Native HTML Lazy Loading: For images and iframes, modern browsers support native lazy loading via the loading attribute. You can set loading=”lazy” directly in your HTML to enable lazy loading without additional JavaScript.

Ready to increase your online visibility, search rankings and website traffic? Single Grain’s SEO experts can help!👇

Elevate Search Rankings

4) Page Speed

Page speed is particularly crucial for mobile users, who often rely on less stable internet connections. The time it takes for a website to load significantly impacts user experience, engagement and, ultimately, SEO rankings. Search engines like Google have explicitly stated that page speed is a ranking factor for both desktop and mobile searches.

Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights offer detailed reports on your website’s loading times on both mobile and desktop, along with actionable recommendations for improvement.

PageSpeed Insights - Amazon

Tips for Speeding Up Page Load Time:

  • Optimize Images: Reduce file sizes (i.e. compress images) without compromising quality. Use image editing software like Adobe Photoshop, GIMP or online tools like TinyPNG or CompressJPEG. You should also select the best file format for your images: JPEG for photographs or images with lots of colors, PNG for images that require transparency, and WebP for a good balance of quality and compression across both types.
  • Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML: Minify, or compress, code to remove unnecessary characters (like whitespace, comments, etc.) from code files to reduce their size and speed up loading times. Use online tools for:
  • Leverage Browser Caching: This means instructing browsers how long to store the downloaded resources (like images, CSS, JavaScript) before fetching them again from the server.
    • For websites hosted on an Apache server, leverage browser caching by modifying the .htaccess file.
  • For websites hosted on IIS (Internet Information Services), configure caching by editing the web.config file, adding a similar directive to control cache settings.
  • Minimize Redirects: To minimize redirects (i.e. reduce the number of times a browser must follow a new URL), make sure users and search engines are directed to the correct version of your site (e.g., from www to non-www or HTTP to HTTPS) in a single step, and eliminate or consolidate any unnecessary intermediate redirects.
  • Use AMP: Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open-source framework designed to make web pages load faster on mobile devices. While not a direct ranking factor, AMP can improve user experience and engagement, indirectly benefiting SEO.
  • Web Hosting and Server Configuration: Using high-quality web hosts (like SiteGround, WP Engine and Bluehost) can provide faster server response times, while configuring your server to use efficient protocols like HTTP/2 can further speed up loading times. Additionally, using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can significantly reduce latency by distributing your content across multiple servers worldwide, ensuring users access your site from a server that is geographically closest to them.

5) Secure and Accessible Website

The security and accessibility of a website are essential today. Search engines prioritize sites that provide a safe environment (HTTPS) for users and ensure that content is accessible to everyone, including search engine bots. This commitment to security and accessibility not only protects users, but also enhances a website’s SEO performance.

Tips for Enhancing Security and Accessibility:

  • Implement HTTPS: HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) encrypts data between the user’s browser and the website, protecting it from interception or tampering. Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS is a clear signal to users and search engines alike that you value data protection. Use SSL certificates to secure your site.
  • Create a robots.txt File: You need to make sure that your website’s content is easily discoverable and indexable. A robots.txt file plays a crucial role in this process, guiding search engine bots on which pages to crawl and which to ignore. Use any plain text editor such as Notepad on Windows, TextEdit on Mac (in plain text mode), or any code editor like Visual Studio Code or Sublime Text, create your rules to allow or disallow search engines from accessing parts of your site (shown below), then upload the file to your website’s root directory.
  • Provide User Accessibility: Accessibility means designing your website in a way that people with disabilities can easily navigate and interact with your content. Implement accessible design principles, such as alternative text for images, proper use of headings and easily navigable menus. Search engines favor accessible websites, as they provide a better user experience.

Dive Deeper: How Poor Website Security Negatively Impacts SEO Rankings

6) Internal Linking

Internal linking, the practice of linking from one page on your website to another page on your website, is a cornerstone of SEO. It not only aids in website navigation, but also establishes information hierarchy and spreads link equity (ranking power) throughout the site.


Internal links help search engines understand the structure of your website, making it easier for them to find and index pages. They indicate the relative importance of pages and help distribute page authority throughout your site. Plus, for users, internal links improve the navigability of your site, encouraging deeper engagement and a better overall experience.

Tips for Improving Internal Linking:

  • Use Descriptive Anchor Text: Anchor text, 👈the clickable text in a hyperlink, should be descriptive and relevant to the linked page. In the example above, linking to “text” or “should be descriptive” would not be relevant anchor text. This helps both users and search engines understand what the linked page is about.
  • Link Deep: Avoid just linking to your homepage or contact page. Instead, focus on deep linking to content that is hard to find or that offers significant value but might not be prominently featured.
  • Limit the Number of Links: While internal linking is beneficial, too many links on a page can be overwhelming. Keep it reasonable to not dilute the link value and to maintain a good user experience.
  • Use Links That Are Natural to the Reader: Internal links should fit naturally into the content where they are most helpful for the user, providing a smooth and logical progression for the reader. If you can’t fit your internal link in naturally, you can always do this 👇

Dive Deeper: How to Implement Internal Linking for SEO (Step-by-Step)

7) Domain Authority

The age of your domain, the structure of your URL, and the established authority of your site can all impact SEO. Older domains with a history of publishing quality content may be seen as more authoritative.

The Moz Domain Authority Checker is a free software to check the domain authority of any website:


Tips for Optimizing URL Structure and Building Authority

  • Keep URLs Short and Descriptive: Use URLs that are easy to read and include relevant keywords in the path or slug:
    • Good URL:
    • Poor URL:
  • Build a Solid Content Foundation: Consistently publish high-quality content to establish and grow your site’s authority.
  • Earn Backlinks: Focus on earning backlinks from reputable sites to increase your site’s authority.

Just want someone to do all the work for you? Single Grain’s SEO experts can help!👇

Elevate Search Rankings

8) Technical SEO

As opposed to on-page SEO which involves the visible elements of a page, like the content itself, its headlines and headers, meta descriptions, etc., technical SEO involves optimizing the technical aspects of your website to improve its visibility in search engine results. This includes structured data markup, proper use of tags, and creating an XML sitemap.

Tips for Optimizing Technical SEO

  • Use Structured Data: Help search engines understand your content and enhance search result listings with schema markup, or structured data ( Embedding this markup in your web pages provides explicit clues about the meaning of a page, enabling search engines to categorize your content more accurately. For instance, using structured data, you can specify whether your content relates to products, articles, events (seen in the screenshot below) or organizations, thereby improving the precision of search results and facilitating richer snippets that attract more clicks.
  • Optimize Tags: Ensure that title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags are effectively used throughout your site:
    • Title tags should be unique for each page and accurately reflect the page content within 50-60 characters to ensure they display properly in search results.
    • Meta descriptions, while not directly impacting rankings, should succinctly summarize the page’s content in 150-160 characters to improve click-through rates.
    • Header tags should be used to structure content logically, making it easier for both users and search engines to understand the hierarchy and relevance of the information presented.

SEO title tag examples for SaaS Pages

  • Create an XML Sitemap: Creating an XML sitemap can help search engines understand your website’s structure and index and rank all your important pages. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) automatically create and update your XML sitemap. If you use WordPress, plugins like Yoast SEO can help you manage your sitemap easily. If you don’t use a CMS, you can use online tools like to generate a sitemap for small websites with up to 500 pages.

Dive Deeper: Maximizing SEO with Schema Markup: Strategies and Benefits

9) User Engagement

User engagement has emerged as a pivotal factor in the complex algorithm of search engine rankings. While Google hasn’t explicitly listed specific engagement metrics as direct ranking factors, the influence of user behavior on search results is undeniable.

Engagement metrics such as bounce rate, dwell time and click-through rate (CTR) serve as indicators of content relevance, quality, and user satisfaction, which in turn can significantly impact a website’s SEO performance.

User Engagement Metrics:

  • Bounce Rate: This metric measures the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate may indicate that your site’s landing pages are not relevant to what visitors are searching for or that your site is not engaging enough to encourage further exploration.
  • Dwell Time: Dwell time refers to the duration visitors spend on your site before returning to the search results. Longer dwell times can signal to search engines that users find your content valuable and engaging, potentially boosting your rankings.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): CTR measures how often people who see your site listed in the search results decide to click through and visit. A higher CTR can indicate that your page titles and meta descriptions are compelling and relevant to search queries.

Tips for Enhancing User Engagement:

  • Improve Content Quality: Ensure that your content is thoroughly researched, well-written and directly answers the queries of your target audience. Use engaging formats, such as videos, infographics and interactive elements, to enrich your text-based content.
  • Improve Site Usability and Navigation: A user-friendly website encourages visitors to stay longer and explore more pages. Optimize your site’s layout, speed and mobile responsiveness to enhance the overall user experience.
  • Optimize Page Load Speed: As we’ve seen earlier in this post, slow page load times can lead to increased bounce rates as users are likely to lose patience and leave. A faster website offers a better user experience, encouraging visitors to engage more deeply with your content.
  • Encourage Interaction: Engage your audience by encouraging comments, shares and other forms of interaction. This not only improves engagement but also fosters a sense of community around your content.

10) User Experience (UX)

User experience has become a key component of effective SEO strategies. As search engines evolve, they increasingly prioritize sites that offer not just relevant content but also a seamless, engaging user experience.

Google’s Page Experience update, for example, has made UX metrics, including loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability, ranking factors for search results:

pasted image 0 2

This focus on UX underscores the belief that the most valuable websites are those that fulfill user needs in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible.

UX encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with your company, its services and its website. A positive UX is crucial for keeping visitors on your site longer, reducing bounce rates and encouraging interactions, all of which are positive signals to search engines.

Note: Most of these tips can be found elsewhere in more detail in this article.

Tips for Improving UX Improvement:

  • Simplify Navigation: Make sure users can easily find what they’re looking for.
  • Improve Site Layout: Use a clean, intuitive layout that prioritizes user experience.
  • Optimize for Conversions: Place calls-to-action (CTAs) strategically to guide users towards taking desired actions, like this one:

example of a CTA

  • Navigation and Structure: A well-organized site with intuitive navigation helps users find what they’re looking for with minimal effort. Clear menus, logical page hierarchies, and a search function can significantly enhance the usability of your site.
  • Page Speed: Fast-loading pages are essential for a positive UX.
  • Mobile Responsiveness: Sites that adapt to various screen sizes and orientations provide a better experience for mobile users.
  • Content Quality: High-quality, relevant content that matches user intent is crucial for a good UX. Content should be easy to read, engaging, and informative, providing real value to the user.
  • Visual Design: An aesthetically pleasing design can significantly impact a user’s experience and perception of your site. Consistent branding, appropriate use of colors, and high-quality images all contribute to a positive UX.

Dive Deeper: 7 Mistakes in UI and UX That Are Costing You Engagement

Bonus: Social Signals

While not a direct ranking factor, social signals (likes, shares, comments, and social media visibility) can indirectly influence SEO. They reflect the popularity and value of your content, which can lead to increased visibility and backlinks.

Tips for Boosting Social Signals:

  • Encourage Sharing: Regularly post engaging, valuable content on your social media channels to encourage shares and likes. Include social sharing buttons on your content to make it even easier.

social sharing buttons on a website footer

  • Engage on Social Media: Actively participate in social media conversations related to your content, like responding to comments and answering questions.
  • Promote Content Regularly: Promote your blog posts, articles, and other valuable content across all your social media channels to drive traffic and generate social signals.

Dive Deeper: What Are Healthy SEO Growth Rates?

Last Word on Search Engine Ranking Factors

The landscape of SEO is both complex and dynamic, requiring a nuanced understanding of various ranking factors and a willingness to adapt to the ever-changing algorithms of search engines.

From ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly and secure, to focusing on high-quality content and an internal linking structure, to optimizing for user experience and relevant search intent, the key to SEO success lies in a multifaceted approach.

Remember, the ultimate goal of search engines is to serve the best possible results to their users, and by aligning your strategies with this objective, you position your website to climb the ranks and stand out in the vast digital ecosystem.

I hope this guide has provided you with valuable knowledge and actionable tips to enhance your SEO efforts. Here’s to your success in the ever-evolving world of search engine optimization!

If you’re ready to level up your rankings and drive organic traffic growth, Single Grain’s SEO experts can help!👇

Elevate Search Rankings

Search Engine Ranking Factors FAQs

  • What factors do search engines use to rank results?

    Search engines use a myriad of factors to rank results, aiming to provide users with the most relevant, useful, and high-quality content. These factors can broadly be categorized into on-page factors, off-page factors, and technical factors:

    • On-page factors include content quality, keyword use, and user engagement metrics.
    • Off-page factors encompass backlinks, social signals, and online reputation.
    • Technical factors involve website architecture, mobile-friendliness, page speed, security, and structured data markup.

    Algorithms analyze these factors to understand the content’s relevance, authority, user experience, and overall value to search queries.

  • How are rankings determined by the search engine?

    Rankings are determined by complex algorithms that evaluate websites and pages against various ranking factors to decide their relevance and authority on a particular subject or query.

    These algorithms consider factors like the quality and originality of content, the number and quality of backlinks, keyword relevance and placement, mobile usability, page speed, and secure browsing (HTTPS). The specific weight or importance of each factor can vary, and search engines continually update their algorithms to improve the accuracy and usefulness of the search results they provide.

  • Which of these factors influences your search ranking?

    All the mentioned factors can influence your search ranking, but their impact can vary based on current algorithm priorities and the competitive landscape of your niche.

    Generally, these are critical for good search rankings:

    • High-quality content that satisfies user intent
    • Strong backlink profile from reputable sites
    • Optimized on-page SEO elements (title tags, meta descriptions, and proper use of keywords)
    • Technical SEO (fast loading times, mobile-friendliness, and secure connections)
    • User engagement metrics (click-through rate, time on site, and bounce rate)
  • What are the 3 key ranking factors that Google uses in their algorithm?

    While Google has not explicitly detailed all the factors in its algorithm, industry analysis and Google’s own communications have highlighted the importance of the following three key ranking factors:

    • Content Quality and Relevance: Google aims to provide users with the most relevant content for their query. This means that content should not only be high quality and informative but also directly address the user’s search intent.
    • Backlinks: The number and quality of backlinks remain a strong indicator of a page’s authority and reliability. Links from reputable, high-authority sites can significantly boost a page’s ranking.
    • RankBrain: As part of Google’s algorithm, RankBrain uses machine learning to understand the context of search queries and improve the relevance of search results. It helps Google process and interpret search queries, particularly new or uncommon ones, and match them with the most relevant content, considering factors like content quality, relevance, and user interaction signals.

    These factors work in conjunction with many others, including technical SEO and user experience metrics, to determine the ranking of pages in search results.

If you were unable to find the answer you’ve been looking for, do not hesitate to get in touch and ask us directly.
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