Cracking the Code: Top 10 SEO Ranking Factors [2023]


  November 14th, 2023


In the digital age, understanding Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has become crucial for small businesses and marketing managers aiming to boost their online visibility and business growth. This comprehensive guide will delve into the top SEO ranking factors, providing insights into the complex SEO world..

The Importance of SEO

It’s hard to deny – SEO is a powerful strategy, regardless of your industry, business type or size. By optimising your website for SEO, you can increase your visibility in search engine results, driving more traffic to your site and boosting your chances of attracting new customers.

But the benefits of SEO go beyond just increasing traffic. SEO can also help you build brand awareness, establish your business as an authoritative source, and build trust with your audience. It’s a long-term strategy that, when done right, can deliver significant returns on investment.

So, how can you start optimising your website for SEO and rank higher on Google? The first step is understanding the different factors that Google SEO considers when ranking websites. In the following sections, we’ll explore these factors in more detail, helping you unlock the secrets of SEO and take your website to new heights.

Top 10 SEO Ranking Factors

Although opinions and semantics may differ between SEOs and marketers, below are the commonly accepted top 10 SEO ranking factors:

  1. Relevant, High-Quality Content
  2. Keyword Placement
  3. Image Optimisation
  4. Niche Expertise
  5. Page Speed
  6. Mobile-Friendliness
  7. Core Web Vitals
  8. Website Architecture
  9. Site Security
  10. Backlinks

These factors are each unique disicliples or areas of focus, and can be divided into three broad categories: on-page, technical, and off-page factors.

These are the three pillars of SEO, each playing a unique role in how Google and other search engines perceive your website. Let’s look at each type and the top-ranking factors for each.

On-page SEO Google ranking factors

When it comes to SEO, on-page factors are the elements that you have direct control over. These components form the foundation of your SEO strategy, playing a crucial role in how search engines understand and rank your website. Let’s investigate some of the most important on-page Google search ranking factors.

1. Relevant, High-Quality Content

In the world of SEO, content is king. But not just any content – it needs to be relevant, high-quality, and valuable to your audience. Google’s algorithm is designed to reward websites that provide useful, informative content that meets users’ needs. So, focus on content relevance that answers your audience’s questions, solves their problems, and provides them with the information they want. 

Here are some key considerations when writing relevant and high-quality content:

  1. Originality: At its core, high-quality content should be unique and not duplicated from other sources. Google’s algorithms are particularly good at spotting duplicated content, which can harm your website’s SEO rankings.
  2. Depth and Detail: Instead of just skimming the surface of a topic, high-quality content dives deep. It provides comprehensive insights, statistics, examples, and actionable tips. This doesn’t necessarily mean the content must be long, but it should cover the topic thoroughly.
  3. Accuracy and Credibility: It’s crucial to ensure the facts and data presented in your content are accurate. Citing authoritative sources and keeping the content up-to-date builds trust with your audience.
  4. Engaging and Readable: The best content not only informs but also engages. It’s written in a tone that resonates with the target audience and is free from jargon (unless it’s industry-specific and appropriate). Visuals, headers, bullet points, and interactive elements can make content more engaging and digestible.
  5. Relevance to Audience: As you mentioned, content should answer the audience’s questions and cater to their needs. This requires understanding your audience, their pain points, and what information they’re searching for.
  6. Optimised for SEO: While the user should always be the primary focus, high-quality content also considers search engines. This means proper keyword usage (without stuffing), optimised images, and structured data, among other things.
  7. Provides Value: This is perhaps the most subjective but crucial aspect. The content should offer something of value to the reader, whether it’s new knowledge, a solution to a problem, or entertainment.
  8. Evergreen vs. Trending: High-quality content can be evergreen (relevant for a long time) or focused on current trends. While evergreen content can continue to drive traffic for years, trending content can attract a lot of traffic in a short time.
  9. Calls to Action: While not always necessary, many pieces of high-quality content guide the reader on what to do next, whether reading another article, signing up for a newsletter, or purchasing.
  10. Feedback and Updates: The digital realm is dynamic. High-quality content creators often revisit and update their content based on feedback, new information, or changes in the industry.

In summary, “high-quality” in terms of content means offering genuine value to readers in an engaging, accurate, and thorough manner. Always prioritise the needs and interests of the audience and stay updated with SEO best practices to ensure the content reaches its intended users.

2. Keyword Placement

Keywords are the search terms and phrases users type into Google search engines. By incorporating relevant keywords into your content, you can help Google search engines understand your content and how it relates to what users are searching for. However, exact keyword usage is a delicate art – you want to include your primary keywords naturally and avoid ‘keyword stuffing’, which can lead to penalties from Google.

Here are the most important locations to insert keywords:

  • Title Tag: This is one of the most crucial on-page SEO elements. Your primary keyword should ideally be placed at the beginning of the title, but ensure it reads naturally.
  • Meta Description: While not a direct ranking factor, the meta description can influence click-through rates. Incorporate your keyword naturally within the description to make it relevant to searchers.
  • URL: A clean and concise URL that contains your primary keyword is beneficial. For example, www.example.com/primary-keyword.
  • Header Tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.): The H1 tag, usually your page’s main headline, should contain the primary keyword. Subheaders (like H2, H3) can include primary or secondary keywords.
  • First 100 Words: Aim to use your primary keyword naturally within the first 100 words of your content. This signals the main topic of the content right away.
  • Throughout the Content: Use the keyword naturally throughout the content, along with semantically related terms. This helps search engines understand the context of your content.
  • Image File Names and ALT Text: If you’re using images, it’s good practice to include keywords in the image file names and the ALT text describing the image content.
  • Internal and External Links’ Anchor Text: When relevant, use your keyword as anchor text for internal links (links to other parts of your website) and occasionally for external links.
  • Last 100 Words: Just as with the introduction, including your primary keyword towards the conclusion of your content can be beneficial.
  • Bold or Italicized Text: Occasionally, you can bold or italicise your keyword, making it stand out, which might give a slight emphasis from an SEO perspective.

3. Image Optimisation

Images can make your content more engaging and visually appealing, but they can also play a role in SEO. By optimising your images – for example, by using descriptive file names and alt tags and compressing your images to reduce file size – you can improve your website’s loading speed and make your pieces of content more accessible, which are factors that Google considers when ranking websites.

Good vs. Bad Image File Names

Bad File Names:

  • IMG12345.jpg: This file name is generic and provides no context about the image’s content.
  • DSC_0987.png: Another example of a nondescriptive, default file name from a camera.
  • photo1.jpg: This is slightly better than the previous two but is still too generic to be meaningful.

Good File Names:

  • golden-retriever-puppy.jpg: This name is descriptive and provides an immediate understanding of the image’s content.
  • Eiffel-tower-night.jpg indicates the subject (Eiffel Tower) and a specific characteristic (photographed at night).
  • chocolate-chip-cookies-recipe.jpg: A descriptive name indicating the image is related to a chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Image Compression with TinyPNG

TinyPNG is a popular tool that allows users to compress PNG and JPEG files, drastically reducing their size without compromising visible quality.

Impact of Using TinyPNG:

  • Faster Loading Time: Compressing images reduces their file size, loading them faster. This improves user experience, as users don’t have to wait long for images to load.
  • Improved SEO: Page load speed is a ranking factor for Google. Faster-loading pages can potentially rank higher in search results.
  • Reduced Bandwidth Usage: Compressed images consume less bandwidth. For users with limited data plans or slow connections, this is beneficial.
  • Consistent Experience: Compressed images ensure users across various devices and connection speeds receive a more consistent website experience.


Original Image: chocolate-chip-cookies-recipe.jpg might originally be 500KB.

After TinyPNG Compression: The same image might be reduced to 150KB, which is a 70% reduction in file size.

Impact Over an Entire Page/Site:

Imagine a webpage with ten images, each being 500KB. That’s a total of 5MB for images alone. If each image is compressed to 150KB, the total becomes 1.5MB. This reduction can save dozens or even hundreds of megabytes throughout an entire website, making pages load faster and providing a better user experience.

Moreover, over time, as traffic scales up, the saved bandwidth can also translate into significant cost savings for the site owner.

Remember, while file size is essential, the image’s visual quality is equally crucial. Always strike a balance between compression and visual clarity.

4. Niche Expertise

Google values subject matter expertise, especially regarding topics that require a high level of knowledge or skill. 

To improve niche authority, consistently produce in-depth, well-researched content within your specialisation. Stay updated with industry developments, engage with your audience, and cite reputable sources. Collaborate with recognised experts, participate in industry discussions, and ensure your content reflects accuracy and trustworthiness. Over time, your website can gain recognition as a leading, authoritative source in your niche, elevating its standing in search engine rankings.

Technical Google ranking factors

Regarding SEO, technical factors are the behind-the-scenes elements that users may not see but that Google’s algorithm pays close attention to. These factors ensure that your website is accessible, secure, and easy to navigate, crucial for a positive user experience and higher search engine rankings. 

5. Page Speed

Page speed is the measure of how quickly a webpage loads when a user clicks on it from the search results. In the context of SEO, page speed is more than just a user convenience; it’s a critical ranking factor. Optimising your website for speed is not merely an aesthetic choice but a strategic move to enhance your site’s performance in search engine rankings. Whether it’s compressing images, leveraging browser caching, or reducing server response time, focusing on page speed can significantly impact your site’s success in the digital landscape.

6. Mobile-Friendliness

Mobile-friendliness has become a crucial ranking factor With more mobile users browsing the internet. A mobile-friendly website is designed to work well on smaller screens, with easy-to-use navigation and readable text. Google uses a mobile-first index, which means it primarily uses the mobile version of a website for indexing and ranking.

Good vs. Bad Mobile View of a Website

Good Mobile View:

  • Responsive Design: The website layout adjusts dynamically according to the screen size.
  • Readability: Text is legible without zooming.
  • Accessible UI Elements: Buttons are large enough to be tapped easily; there’s space between links, preventing accidental clicks.
  • Quick Load Time: Optimized images and scripts ensure fast page loads, even on slower mobile networks.
  • Accessible Menus: Navigation menus are simplified and easily accessible, often through hamburger menus or drop-downs.
  • No Horizontal Scrolling: Content fits within the screen width, eliminating the need for horizontal scrolling.

Bad Mobile View:

  • Fixed Width Layout: This leads to horizontal scrolling as the website doesn’t adjust to the screen size.
  • Small Text: Users have to zoom in to read.
  • Tightly Packed Links: Difficult to tap the desired link without hitting another one.
  • Non-Optimized Media: Images or videos that are too large, leading to slower load times or playback issues.
  • Flash or Unsupported Plugins: Some mobile devices don’t support these, causing parts of the site not to function.
  • Complex Menus: Long dropdowns or intricate navigation structures that are hard to navigate on mobile.

How to Test for Mobile-Friendliness:

  • Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test: This tool allows you to enter your website’s URL to get a straightforward answer on whether your site is mobile-friendly. It also provides specific issues, if any, are found.
  • Browser’s Developer Tools: Modern web browsers, like Chrome and Firefox, have developer tools that allow you to view your website in various mobile device formats. This is a quick way to see your site’s appearance on different screen sizes.
  • Google Search Console: If you have your website connected to Google Search Console, there’s a ‘Mobile Usability’ report which shows issues found on your entire site.
  • Third-party Tools: Websites like BrowserStack or Responsinator let you test how your website appears on various devices and screen sizes.

7. Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals is a set of metrics that Google uses to measure the user experience on a website. They include Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures loading performance; First Input Delay (FID), which measures interactivity; and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which measures visual stability. Websites that perform well on these metrics provide a better user experience and are likely to rank higher in the search results. You can run your website on PageSpeed Insights for a free evaluation.

8. Website Architecture

Website architecture refers to how your website is structured. A well-structured website makes it easy for users to navigate and find the information they want. It also makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your website. A good website architecture includes the following:

  • Logical Hierarchy: This refers to the organisation of content clearly and logically. The site should have a clear path from the homepage to other main categories and subsequent subcategories.
  • Clean URL Strings: URLs should be structured in a human-readable and search-engine-friendly way. They should reflect the content’s position in the site’s hierarchy and be free of unnecessary characters.
  • Comprehensive Sitemap: A sitemap is a file that provides information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to crawl your site.
  • Internal Linking Structure: Proper internal linking is vital for guiding users and search engine crawlers through your website. It can also pass authority between pages and help in ranking.
  • Navigation: The navigation menu should be intuitive, with clear labels for each page and a structure that reflects the site’s hierarchy.
  • Mobile-Friendliness: Since many users access websites via mobile devices, the architecture should also translate well to smaller screens.
  • SEO Optimisation: The website should be designed with SEO in mind, including proper use of header tags, meta descriptions, alt text for images, etc.
  • Loading Speed: The architecture should not be so complex that it slows down page loading times, which can frustrate users and harm SEO.

Here’s a step-by-step guide you could follow to create a website structure:

  1. Start with the Homepage: Draw a box at the top and label it “Homepage.”
  2. Create Categories: Below the Homepage, draw boxes for “Category 1” and “Category 2” and connect them to the Homepage with lines.
  3. Add Subcategories: Draw boxes for Subcategories under each category and connect them to the respective Categories with lines.
  4. Add Pages: Finally, under each Subcategory, draw boxes for individual pages and connect them to the Subcategories with lines.
  5. Include Other Pages: Add “About Us” and “Contact Us” boxes connected directly to the Homepage.

The result should visually represent the hierarchy of your website, making it clear how each part of the site connects to the others.

9. Site Security

Site security is another crucial ranking factor. Websites that use HTTPS, a secure version of HTTP, provide a safer browsing experience for users by protecting their information from being intercepted by hackers. Google gives a slight ranking boost to websites that use HTTPS.

How to Tell if You Have SSL

  1. Look for “HTTPS” in the URL: If your website is secured with SSL, the URL will start with “https://” instead of “http://”. The “S” at the end stands for “Secure.”
  2. Check for the Padlock Icon: Many web browsers display a padlock icon to the left of the URL in the address bar when you’re on a site with SSL. Clicking on the padlock may provide more details about the site’s security.
  3. Use an Online SSL Checker: Various online tools can verify your website has a valid SSL certificate. You just need to enter your website’s URL; the tool will provide information about the SSL certificate and its validity.

Off-page Google ranking factors

Off-page SEO factors are those elements that occur outside of your website but significantly impact your site’s ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). These factors are often seen as a measure of your website’s popularity, relevance, and authority. Among the most important off-page, Google ranking factors is the concept of backlinks.

10. Backlink Presence: The Digital Word-of-Mouth

Backlinks, also known as inbound links, are links from sites that point to your site. They are like the digital version of word-of-mouth recommendations. When a reputable website links to your site, it’s like they’re vouching for your content, telling Google your site is a valuable resource worth ranking.

But not all backlinks are created equal. Google’s algorithm considers several factors when evaluating the quality of backlinks, including the linking site’s relevance to your content, the authority of the linking site, and the number of other links on the linking page.

Diagram illustrating backlinks from 3rd party sites. Image source: Seobility

Building high-quality backlinks can be challenging, but it’s essential to off-page SEO. Strategies for earning backlinks include creating valuable content that others want to link to, guest posting on reputable sites, and building relationships with influencers in your industry.

Remember, off-page SEO is about building your website’s reputation and authority. While backlink presence is a crucial part of this, other off-page factors like social signals (shares, likes, and comments on social media) and brand mentions can also contribute to your website’s authority and improve your rankings in the SERPs.


As we’ve journeyed through the intricate world of SEO, it’s clear that understanding SEO ranking factors is not just beneficial—it’s essential. These factors build a successful online presence, influencing how search engines perceive and rank your website.

From the relevance and content quality to the technical aspects of your website and the strength of your backlink profile, each factor plays a significant role in your website’s visibility. Ignoring these elements can lead to missed opportunities and a lower ranking in search results.

But the beauty of SEO is that it’s a continuous process. As search ranking algorithms evolve, so too should your SEO strategies. By staying informed about the latest SEO trends and changes in SEO, you can adapt your strategies and continue to improve your website’s performance.

So, are you ready to start implementing these strategies? Remember, the journey to the top of the search results is not a sprint—it’s a marathon. But with patience, persistence, and a solid understanding of SEO ranking factors, you can reach the top and enjoy the benefits of increased search visibility, direct traffic, and business growth.

Elevate Your SEO Game with Ape-X

Understanding and implementing SEO strategies can be a complex task. But you don’t have to navigate the SEO landscape alone. At Ape-X, we offer professional SEO services tailored to your business’s unique needs and goals. Our team of SEO experts uses proven strategies and tools to boost your website’s visibility, increase SEO traffic, and drive business growth.

Whether you’re a small business owner looking to establish an online presence or a marketing manager aiming to take your company’s digital strategy to the next level, Ape-X is here to help. We understand the intricacies of search engines and how to make them work in your favour.

So why wait? It’s time to elevate your SEO game. Visit Ape-X today to learn more about our services and how we can help your business thrive in the digital landscape. If you have any questions or need further assistance, please contact us. We’re here to help you succeed.


Desiree Abbariao

Desiree is a dedicated SEO content writer with a knack for creativity and a relentless pursuit of success. She has found her niche in the world of SEO and digital marketing, helping her clients enhance their online presence.

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