The 4 most important SEO ranking factors according to industry studies

By Stellan Björnesjö

The 4 most important SEO ranking factors according to industry studies

Every year there are new reports and articles published outlining the most important ranking factors to consider when working with search engine optimization. We've looked at the latest ones and summarised what we believe to be right in 2018.

The various ranking factors

Simply put, two main factors are affecting a website's or webpage's ranking position in search results for a particular search term:

  • ”On-page” factors
  • "Off-page" factors

You can control on-page factors as a website owner, whereas off-page factors aren't under your direct control. Each factor, in turn, consists of additional factors that together form a complex structure often called "the periodic table of search engine success factors".

Throughout the years it's been vigorously debated to which extent these various factors impact rankings in search engines. Since there is no official answer (naturally, search engines keep their algorithms secret), most articles are based on experiments and limited information released by search engines. What do these articles tell us?

The most important ranking factors according to recent studies

According to recent articles and analyses such as this one from 2018 and this one from 2017, the most important ranking factors are as follows:

1. High-quality content

The trend moves toward well written, high quality, and for the audience relevant content. Keyword focused texts of lesser essence don't work as well as before.

2. Backlinks

Backlinks are still a significant factor, but search engines are now very good at separating links from each other (high quality vs low quality).

3. Mobile-friendliness

Having a website adapted for mobile devices is now standard practice, and in 2018 Google is implementing its "mobile first indexing" when searching on mobile devices.

4. Other technical aspects

These technical aspects include creating a secure website (HTTPS-encryption), page performance (speed), on page optimisation (e.g. H1, H2, metadata etc.) and internal link structure.

What does this mean for me as responsible for search engine optimisation?

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Focus on the needs of your ideal customers (personas)

To create content for users and not for search engines should be obvious, but it has rarely been the case since it historically—as presented in our article outlining a brief history of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)—has been relatively easy to cheat.

However, thanks to advancing algorithms search engines are starting to become good enough at determining what is relevant content.  As a direct consequence, search engines are rewarding those websites that are focusing on their ideal customers (personas) with their content.

Your aim should therefore not be to rank at the top of search results. Instead, that should be the consequence of giving your personas the content that they need!

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Stellan Björnesjö
Online Strategist at Zooma since 2012. 15+ years of experience as a manager, business developer and specialist within online and e-commerce.
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