15 crucial SEO ranking factors in 2019

Every year or a couple of years, Google announces updates to its algorithm.

Along with ranking factors.

What are these SEO ranking factors?

These are nothing but standards set by search engines to check the ranking status of websites.

In this case, we take Google as the search engine.

So if you want to increase your ranking in search results,

What should you work on?

What does Google check?

How would you optimize your site to increase rankings?

Here are the first five ranking factors:

first five ranking factors

Let’s start with:

1. Keyword research

keyword research

Although it is 2019, keywords still matter.

After all, they are an important part of the content.

So,

Do. Your. Research.

You know what page you want to rank for.

Find the relevant topics on that page.

For better performance, narrow it down.

Always try to focus a page on the least number of topics.

One would be ideal.

Keyword research is certainly not outdated.

It has evolved.

Like everything else in SEO 😊.

Now, earlier this process was a simpler one.

Where one would just look for the high volume keywords.

And create content around it.

That has changed now.

You need to focus on user intent.

I’ll talk about intent in the coming points.

For keywords, this means that along with the relevant keywords,

You would also need to check for long-tail keywords.

What are long-tail keywords?

These are over three-to-five-words keyword phrases that are very specific to a topic.

You need to find the long-tail keywords to your topic.

Why use long-tail keywords?

These are essentially the terms that have a much higher conversion rate than the regular short keywords.

A combination of these two types of Keywords is what will make great content.

Let’s take an example.

Say, the topic you want is “dog food”.

Go to Ubersuggests and type this keyword.

The tool will provide various information like search volume, SEO difficulty, etc.

Scroll down.

You will get to the keyword ideas section.

keyword ideas dog food

Click on “View all keyword ideas”.

You will get a long list of related keywords.

keyword view all ideas dog food

Now, another overlooked tool for keywords is

Wikipedia

“Dog food” in Wikipedia gives the below result

dog food wikipedia

Look at the sub-sections.

You see the number of keywords you get?

Likewise, go through the entire article.

Look for subheadings and text links.

These would be your potential keyword.

Now, another keyword tool.

This one is also amazing.

Amazon!

Search “dog food”.

And…

dog food amazon

In the drop-down, you will get the current hot-selling items related to “dog food”.

That are also your keywords 😊.

Now, go into any of the top “dog food” products here.

Look for product description, reviews and additional information that the seller provides.

Like for this product,

drool dog food amazon

Look at the additional information the manufacturer has given.

drools amazon

Isn’t that awesome?

All these are part of your potential keyword list.

As these would be from the seller.

On Amazon.

Already in the top-selling list.

So your relevancy shoots up!

Other tools for keyword research:

1. Google keyword planner

2. Answer the public

3. LSIgraph

4. LSI keywords

5. Keywordtool.io – you can use this for specific platforms like Amazon, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

keywordtool.io

2. Grammar

grammar

This factor is constantly overlooked.

Not anymore.

Any grammatical error in the content will affect site ranking.

Think about it.

Say, you have regular blogs that you follow.

And they provide useful content.

That is error-free.

And suddenly one day, you find a mistake.

Doesn’t it affect your affinity towards the site?

The level of respect that you had for the site drops a little.

Hey, it happened to me too.

So proofreading is a must for all pages.

Use Grammarly.

Trust me, it helps.

You will know the errors that you thought were not.

Your content quality WILL improve.

You can use the grammar assistant to check for errors.

3. User intent

intent

This is one of the newer ranking factors that has gained prominence.

What is user intent?

It is a factor that tells us what a user is looking for.

While conducting a search query.

These are not just keywords but the context and intention behind those keywords.

How do you check for user-intent?

1. Identify terms that get traffic to your site

You will usually have a long list of words here.

Check the entire list.

There will be keywords that are generic and those that are specific.

Focus on the specific ones.

Say the queries are “Nike shoes” and “buy Nike shoes”.

In the former, it COULD be a purchase intention, but the latter DEFINITELY is.

2. Get the intention behind these keywords

There are usually two types of keyword intents.

Information-oriented or transaction-oriented.

Not all keywords would be relevant.

Check for the ones depending on what your goal is.

Design your page as per that.

With the right content and specific CTA (Call-to-action).

An informational page would focus more on the product information.

The features, history, current & future events etc (news site, blog etc).

The CTA here would be “know more”, “learn more”, “read more” etc.

A transactional page would have the pricing features displayed above the fold (eCommerce, private online store etc)

There would be info on offers, discounts, delivery options, EMI options (if any), exchange offers (if any), etc.

The CTA here would be “Add to cart”, “buy now”, “purchase now”, “add to bag” etc

So your page should be highly relevant for certain set of keywords.

4. Featured snippet

snippet

One of the current hot topics in Search.

Featured snippets are a small section of your content that answers a query.

Snippets could be in the form of

Bullet points,

Numbered list

Images

Definitions

Videos

They can also be in the form of small paragraphs that are not more than 55 characters in length.

Check out my post on how to rank zero on Google using snippets.

5. Page speed

speedometer

One of the older and most important factors.

A one-to-three second delay in page load could increase bounce probability by over 30%!

Best practices to increase page load are

1. File compression

You need to minify your CSS files, HTML and Javascript files during a page load.

Ones that are larger than 150 bytes.

For WordPress sites, you can use plugins like W3 total cache and page speed ninja.

2. Image size

I’ll check for images in the coming section, but here we’ll check for image size.

The larger the size, the longer it takes for the page to load.

Use lazy load plugin or features to help with page load.

What is a lazy load?

This is a feature that will render only the visible part of the page.

Say if a page is very long.

And you land on it at the top.

So the page will load only the top portion that is visible to you.

The rest of the page will load as and when you scroll down.

Useful for images and videos as they take longer to load than plain text.

3. Install a CDN

A Content Delivery Network is a network of computers that help deliver content faster.

They are placed at different geographical locations.

The one that is closest to the user’s location will be used to render the site.

4. Reduce redirects

Page 1-redirect- Page 2-redirect-Page 3

The more you redirect a page, the more it takes time to render.

Try to reduce all redirects.

If you have to redirect, keep it at level 1.

The next five ranking factors are:

next five ranking factors

6. Images

images

Ok, coming now fully to images,

You have to give the importance images deserve.

Remember, seeing is better than reading.

Seeing is easier and takes less effort.

You should have amazing quality images displayed.

Specially infographics.

Like the one above.

But as I mentioned in the previous point, they should not be heavy.

Alt Tags and image name

Images should have proper, relevant, short names.

So should their Alt tags.

These are tags that convey what the images are about.

And will display when the image does not.

Placement

Place your image in and around the topics that it is used for.

Say your page has info on dog food, dog breed and types of dogs.

Your dog-food image should be added in the dog food section.

If the image is about specific dog food, it should be near the same text content under “dog food”.

The closer it is to the text, the better.

Format

Choose the right format of images.

PNG is preferred usually.

Sitemaps

You have your regular HTML and XML sitemaps right?

You can also create an image sitemap and submit it along with the other one.

It is pretty easy to do so.

Just like XML sitemap has links, image sitemaps will have image links.

7. Time on site/ bounce rate

clock

Say, you are on page one on Google.

Say on rank 2 -that’s awesome.

A user enters your site through the query.

And goes back almost immediately to the Google Search page.

For some reason.

When such activity happens, Google will immediately take a note of it.

If that process repeats then your ranking will dip.

As Google will think that the top given result is not satisfying the users.

This process is called pogo-sticking.

Named after the device.

If the user almost immediately reverts to the search result page, then the time spent on your page is quite low.

Which is what you need to avoid and improve.

By working on content closely related to the user intent.

Please bear in mind,

Pogo sticking is different from Bounce rate.

A high Bounce rate need not always be bad.

A blog can have a high Bounce rate.

A user can find a post useful.

After reading it, the user can leave the site.

So even though the user was satisfied, technically this would still count as a Bounce.

8. Mobile-first index

Mobile

This is a given.

Your website SHOULD be responsive.

It is a major ranking factor.

Mobile search overtook desktop search a while ago.

And it is only rising.

Not only should you optimize your site for mobile,

But today it is mandatory to have a mobile app created.

Things to check for:

1. Don’t use Flash

2. Use larger fonts

3. Use responsive images and design

4. Use Viewport meta tag

5. Check for tools like ThemeForest, Colorlib, Simbla etc.

6. CTA, especially “Add to cart” buttons should be big enough for Mobile

7. Your pages should scroll vertically not horizontally

8. Enough spacing between all assets on a page – text, image, links, videos

9. Increase page speed (my previous point checklist)

10. Regularly keep testing

9. Social presence

social media logos

You may have an awesome site or a product.

But if people are not aware that you exist, there’s no point.

You need to showcase your presence.

It’s the basic objective of Social Media.

Now, you need to analyze carefully here.

People don’t fully understand Social Media.

Yet.

The usual process is to promote a product or a service on all platforms.

Which is incorrect.

You need to be present on all platforms but your focus should be on the one(s) that matters.

And what do I mean by that?

Take my blog, Digidomain for example.

Digidomain is PRESENT on all major social platforms.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Linkedin (except Youtube, I’m working on it 😊).

But I’ll tell you a small secret.

My highest traffic is from Linkedin.

My highest engagement is on Instagram.

My highest impression is on Twitter (so far).

You see the different results each of the platforms provides?

That doesn’t mean that you should not promote here.

Over time you will realize through Analytics that a few platforms results in higher returns.

That “returns” could be revenue or engagement.

Hence you should act accordingly.

Digidomain is a Digital Marketing blog, basically.

And I guessed it beforehand that Linkedin would be my number one social platform.

And I was right.

It could be different for you.

Depending on what your product or service is.

And where your potential customers are.

What I suggest is,

Do not be stagnant in any platform.

If you release a new product,

UPLOAD it on all platforms, but PROMOTE it on the ones that matter.

Get it right?

Apart from Google ads, I promote my blogs on Linkedin and Facebook.

But I update ALL my channels whenever I write new posts.

10. URL structure

url

This is an old one but still matters.

The first thing Google crawler checks is your page URL (Uniform Resource Locator).

Why?

It is at the top-most point on a page.

And you should make sure that it is

Readable

Relevant

Simple

Short

And does not have unwanted characters.

Example:

This is a bad URL:

www.website.com/category1/product12345#

Avoid using numbers in a random format.

They may make sense to you, but not to the crawler.

This is a good URL:

/digidomain.in/zero-click-search/

It is short, crisp, explains what the page is, and has no unwanted characters.

It is an easy way to convey your page content to a bot.

You can add UTM parameters to URLs as it won’t affect the primary URL.

But avoid tracking issues.

URLs technically should not be more than 2000 characters in length.

If you want to separate words, use a hyphen.

Try to stick to the usage of lowercase.

The last five SEO Ranking Factors are:

ranking factors

11. Security

Security

One of the newer ranking signals.

This is gaining traction.

Personally, I would try to avoid online transactions on a site that is not secure.

So an SSL (Secure Server Locket) certificate is a must for building trust.

Basically SSL ensures secure data between the server and the browser.

Data includes traffic, engagement and transactions.

Your hosting provider usually will provide this as well.

If you have noticed, recently,

Google has stopped showing “https://www” or “http://www” in the URL.

The URL now starts directly with the site name.

secure url

But it does display the security status of a site.

12. Schema

Schema

Ok, this is one of the lesser-known features that have the power of ranking.

Schema is a small code that is added in the backend of a site.

This code consists of specific site data.

And tells the search engine what your data means.

Adding Schema will result in an organic search result like below

Adobe

Schema (Schema.org) was developed by a joint collaboration of Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex (Russian search engine).

It has a list of all the schemas that you can choose from.

Depending on what your page is all about.

Schema can be implemented using any of the three types,

Microdata

RDFA

JSON-LD

JSON-LD is the most used.

Examples as below:

microdata
json-ld

To generate a schema, you can use a schema generator.

Input all the parameters you want.

And upload it on to the site backend.

Example:

schema generator

13.Internal linking

Internal link

You should not have any isolated pages on your site.

What does that mean?

An isolated page is a page that does not link to any other page within the site.

Internal linking or interconnecting your site pages is a very big ranking factor.

How to link internal pages?

For an eCommerce site, I’m sure you would have seen page sections like the below

similar products

These are all internal links to another page.

Keep in mind: relevancy

There are different kinds of internal links.

Say, for an online page on shoes.

The internal linking can be on other RELEVANT shoe stamp or images.

A sports shoe should have another sport shoe as an internal link.

It cannot have a link to a mobile page or a TV page.

Like I said: relevancy.

A shoe page can have a sock as an internal link, usually as a bundle.

Text links

These are more relevant for blogs but are also used in e-commerce.

Take a look at the below page.

Text links

There are words, usually Brands, that are internally linked to a Brand page or a listing page.

Highly relevant.

The same thing applies to blogs.

You need to link to other posts so that they occur naturally.

Example:

In the below blog post from Reliablesoft.net

The phrase “digital marketing” is linked.

Digital marketing link

To another internal page on

“What is digital marketing?”

what is digital marketing

You see?

And it should appear in the blog naturally.

It should not look like it has been stuffed there.

Another way to internal linking is through banners.

If you have an amazing offer or a service,

You can highlight that on all your posts in the right space.

Example:

In the same website, in the above “what is digital marketing?” link,

If you scroll down you will see a banner on SEO course.

SEO course

In the previous “keyword research” page,

You will see the same banner.

So you can add the banner on almost all the blog posts.

And all of those links will point to the page on SEO course.

Which will tell Google that this page is very important for you.

So internal linking can be done through

Images

Texts

Banners

14. Backlinks

Backlinks

This is probably the most difficult aspect of all the ranking factors.

And the most important one as well.

As it depends on the others.

So, a small intro,

What are backlinks?

Links from one website linking to another website.

If website A has a link, leading to Website B, then that link is a backlink to Website B.

The more backlinks you have higher will be your Authority.

But wait.

What is so difficult here?

You cannot just get backlinks from anywhere.

There are tactics that you can use to get backlinks.

But these are Black-Hat techniques, which you should stay away from.

So how to get backlinks?

The best way is the hard way.

As Neil Patel suggests.

1. First, write an awesome blog post.

2. On Ubersuggest, analyze the page of your competitor.

3. In the backlinks section of the tool, see who has provided the backlink.

4. Check the Domain Authority and relevance of that site.

5. If the DA is high enough and is relevant, shoot a mail to them.

Informing about the new post that you have written.

And how it is a better version than the rest.

Do this a million times to a million people.

Obviously, not all will link back.

But a few might.

And that’s how you build backlinks.

This is an organic way of building it.

You can use Social media influencers, paid ads, new articles etc for the same.

Which are paid.

Only relevant backlinks count.

15. Consistent NAP across platforms

NAP

What is NAP?

Name. Address. Phone number.

Why are they important?

These three are your identity or brand identity.

When you upload these online, they should be consistent.

Everywhere.

Your site, social platforms, Google submission, Email Signature, and others.

It is how customers will see you.

It is a means for them to contact you.

Share your details with others.

So this is very important.

You need to finalize these factors before uploading online.


Conclusion

SEO is not a noun.

It is a verb.

It is moving. Upgrading.

Constantly.

Currently, these above factors are checked by Google to rank a site.

Of course, these are not the only ones.

There are over 200 factors that Google checks for.

But these are the important ones.

Follow these best practices consistently and you should see a considerable improvement in your site performance.

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