Factors affecting Search Engine ranking

A lot of factors can affect how well a website will rank on a search engine. This means that there are a lot of search engine algorithms into play that we need to keep track of. It is important to go through these factors and ensure they are SEO optimized. In this article, we will cover the most important ones to keep in mind.

On-Page vs Off-Page factors – What’s the difference?

There are two SEO strategies that come into play: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Both are needed to have a successful SEO campaign, but they are completely different from another.

On-page SEO works on optimizing the internal parts of your website which you can control. On the other hand, off-page SEO’s aim is to increase your domain authority from content writing and using backlinks from external websites.

There are two main categories that search engines consider when evaluating your site in comparison to other sites. The On-page SEO looks at what your page is about, and Off-page SEO looks at how strongly authoritative and how frequently visited your site is.

In simple terms, what you rank for is highly dependent on your On-page factors and how high you rank in the search results is decided by your off-page factors.

The most important SEO Rankings

This is not an exhaustive list – there are more factors that you need to consider. The following factors are some of the common factors that affect your ranking in search engines. Also, this list below is not in any particular order.

#1Content Quality and freshnessThis shows the search engines that you provide quality and recent content to your website visitors.
#2User experience & EngagementGoogle prioritizes websites based on user positive experiences (as part of the new Google ranking signals)
#3Mobile friendlinessThis factor takes care of ensuring a fast-loading page and user experience for users on mobile devices.
#4Page speed (including mobile)The faster your page loads, the higher you rank. Page speed can be improved using several techniques.
#5HTTPS (Security)HTTPS pages will be favoured that contain authentication, encryption, and data integrity.
#6BacklinksQuality over quantity is essential for this factor. Having high-authoritative backlinks will give you higher rankings.

1. Content quality and freshness

Google ranks all your documents for their freshness. The score is then set for each page depending on the type of search query made. The keywords that most likely require fresh content are recent events or hot topics, regularly repeated events, or regular updates. Some examples include “new variant of Covid-19” for recent events or “Capitol siege” for hot topics or queries that need to be frequently updated such as “best gaming laptops”.

Google determines exactly which pages require freshness by analyzing their search volume, increasing mentions in news coverage and trends in social media.

Here are some ways that Google uses to determine the freshness of your site:

A. Freshness from the start date

At first, a web page is given a “freshness” score based on its start date which decays over time. If the content is not updated, the score lowers as the content becomes older. Conversely, if you update the content frequently, the freshness score will be higher. However, the score is always dependent on the type of query made.

The start or inception date is when Google first indexes the document or discovers a link to it.

B. How much is changed affects the freshness

The amount of change on your webpage affects the freshness score. The age is not the only playing factor in determining freshness. Putting it simply, one line of change will not affect as much as a paragraph from the main body.

It could also be the case, that Google might ignore small changes completely. A good tip when updating a link is to also update the content surrounding it. This way you have a higher chance of Google considering the change.

C. New page creation

Rather than editing individual pages, fresh websites attempt to add new pages over time. This is especially so for blogs and articles. It turns out that websites that add new pages more frequently may earn a higher freshness score compared to sites that add content less frequently.


Some webmasters recommend adding 20-30% new pages to your site each year.  However, to get the best results, apply both (updates and new pages) to ensure a high freshness score.

2. User experience and engagement

User experience (UX) design is an important part of any SEO strategy. This factor directly influences your SEO rankings through several user engagement metrics that Google applies in its search algorithms.

The first step is to analyse the behaviour of your users on how they interact with your website. Their experience will be highly dependent on the speed of the page, the design, the mobile responsiveness and the URL navigation structure.

By achieving a powerful UX design, you will see an increase in the user engagement metrics that will in turn affect your search rankings.

3. Mobile Friendliness

It’s estimated that over 69% of users prefer to use their mobile phones for product research and 51% use it for mobile shopping. That is why it is important to ensure your website is optimized for mobile use. Mobile optimization is the process of ensuring an optimized experience for mobile users. Here are the following factors you need to consider for mobile optimization:

Site design

Mobile devices defer in desktops such that we no longer need to consider showing content without scrolling. This is because in mobiles we scroll endlessly.

An important factor is not to use flash plugins. Flash plugins may not be available on a user’s phone meaning they will miss out on the interactivity. Instead, make use of HTML5 for special effects.

Avoid using any pop-ups as they can be frustrating to try and close them on mobile devices. You don’t want to end up with a high bounce rate!

Also, ensure that your buttons are well-sized for mobile devices to avoid accidental clicks while scrolling.

Page speed

Because of their limited hardware and connectivity issues, the page speed on mobile devices is even more essential. You will need to optimize images, minify code, caching and reduce redirects. But, more on this in the next section.

Use structured data

Due to limited screen space, a search result with rich snippets is more likely to be noticed on mobile. Try to use the structured data to increase your chances of standing out from the other search results.

Make sure that your titles and meta descriptions are optimized for mobile screens without compromising their quality.

4. Page Speed (Including Mobile)


Page speed is sometimes mixed up with site speed. Site speed is the page speed for several pages’ views on a site. On the other hand, page speed can be described in two ways: “page load time” and “time to first byte”. The former defines the time it takes to completely show the content of a particular page. On the other hand, the latter determines the duration from when your browser first retrieves the first byte of information from the webserver.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a handy tool to evaluate your page speed. It integrates that from Chrome User experience reports and using the speed metrics: First Contentful Paint (FCP) and DOMContentLoaded (DCL).

First Contentful Paint (FCP) is especially important because it uses the point in the timeline at which the user can see anything on the screen during the loading of the page. A fast FCP score reassures the user that something is happening.

Here are a few best SEO practices to improve page speed:

  1. Enable compression
  2. Minify Javascript, CSS and HTML files
  3. Decrease redirects
  4. Remove Javascript that may block rendering
  5. Make use of browser caching
  6. Look for bottlenecks that could slow down server response times
  7. Use content distribution networks to disperse the load
  8. Ensure images are not large

5. HTTPS (Security)

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transport Protocol Security. A secured site includes a 2048-bit key and is able to protect the site by authentication and encryption. When installed on a web server, the SSL Certificate activates the HTTP protocol and allows for a secure connection from the web server to the browser.

A secure website can protect the user’s connection by securing information in 3 layers:

Encryption: The user’s activity cannot be tracked, and information cannot be stolen.

Data Integrity: Prevent files from being sniffed or corrupted as they are transferred.

Authentication: Protects against web attacks and builds user trust.

Secure sites help with rankings for the following reasons:

  • Google prefers HTTPS – It is a known fact that Google will prefer HTTPS site over an unsecured one. If a website is equal to yours in terms of speed, engagement etc, but is not HTTP, your website will be preferred.
  • Conversions – Users trust secure connections more. This in turn will lead to better user experience and therefore more likely to rank better in search results. In fact, according to GlobalSign, 84% of users would drop a purchase over an insecure connection and 82% won’t even enter the website.
  • Website traffic – Your site’s click-through rate will improve because users prefer the trust and authority over unsecured connections.

6. Backlinks

What are backlinks?

Backlinks are links that point from one website to another page on another website. Pages with a high number of backlinks tend to have high organic search engine rankings. Each time a website points directly to your page, Google marks it as a “vote” for you. Each of these votes gives an indication to search engines that the content is valuable and worth sharing.

The most important factor that determines your ranking is whether your links are natural or paid. Natural links include companies that link to their other brands in footers or in the main navigation. They could also include links from blogs or other reading in the sidebar. Moreover, it could be photo content from what you produced or something newsworthy that you did and are mentioned for it.

On the other hand, unnatural links include having databases and feeds to sell products on other sites that link to your site. It may also include bloggers creating a store without sponsored or nofollow attributes. Additionally, unnatural links can be banner ads, leavings links in comments or keyword-rich content of products that you don’t produce. Basically, anything that is clearly not earned by merit.

Ranking all depends on the quality of links, your relationship with the linked website and if they are natural or not. Moreover, here are some suggestions on how to build a better backlink system:

  • Use people that are licensed and credible to write content and link you.
  • Cite the author of the content and use relevant sources with links and schema.
  • Have a strong internal linking structure that can give more detailed explanations for resources mentioned in your content.


SEO is not a one-time process. You need to continually update and keep track of your ranking and the factors affecting it. It is not enough to be placed first. You need to secure your place on top. Without a proper SEO strategy, your ranking may drop. Therefore, it is important to consider the above SEO factors we mentioned to guarantee continuous growing online presence.


–  What is SEO and how SEO works?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the process of optimizing your website to rank highly in organic search engine results. The aim of SEO is to rank as the top result in the search engine results.

– Which are the most important factors in SEO?

Some ranking factors are more important than others as part of your SEO strategy. Some of the factors that mostly influence rankings are the following:

  • High quality and fresh content
  • Page load speed (desktop/mobile)
  • User engagement
  • Site security
  • Crawlability
  • Right targeted keywords
  • Optimized content
– Can the SEO process ever stop?

Your website ranking will begin to drop if you do not keep applying the SEO process. Websites are constantly competing to rank highly for targeted keywords. A lot of factors need to be accounted for and must be updated frequently. As long as your website remains online, SEO should never be stopped. It is an ongoing process.

– Are backlinks created equally?

Not all backlinks are created equally. It is critical that you work on links that have high-authority and credibility.

– How important is mobile in SEO and what aspects should you consider?

Mobile is very important in SEO because most users browsing websites stem from mobile devices. You should consider page load speed, site design and schema structures.

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