SEO Ranking Factors for 2024

Jan 29, 2024 | SEO

You probably know the story of The Wizard of Oz, but if you don’t [spoiler alert!], the Wizard turns out to be a regular guy, behind a curtain, making things “magically” happen. Well, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is basically the same thing. SEO is like “the Wizard,” a nebulous (yet necessary) presence that includes a variety of factors working together behind the scenes to assess your website and decide where it should land in search engine results. 

What makes SEO especially hard to figure out (much like the Wizard’s identity), is that the elements that go into it are constantly changing. Nevertheless, you need to know what those are to continue driving organic traffic to your site. Read on for our version of the “Yellow Brick Road,” which will provide insights into the top SEO factors for 2024.

How Are SEO Factors Ranked?

It is probably helpful to have background information about how Google actually ranks content before taking a closer look at some of the key factors for the year ahead. Semrush conducted a study analyzing a variety of keywords, their performance in search results, and more, to try to identify how individual factors correlate to search rankings. The report, which you can read here, does not pretend to solve the mystery of exactly which factors have the highest impact on rankings, but it does do a good job of shedding light on key areas those factors may fall into. 

The Semrush report identifies six-factor categories and provides individual factors’ correlational values. The twenty factors showing the highest positive correlations all fall within three categories – Content Factors, URL & Domain Factors, and Backlinks Factors. Individual factors in the remaining three categories – User Experience (UX) Factors, User Signals, and On-SERP (Search Engine Result Pages) Factors – tended to have lower or negative correlations with search result rankings. Of course, that doesn’t mean that UX isn’t still an important factor, but it does show how the value of different factors is constantly in flux. Let’s wander a little further down this path to take a closer look at the most important ones.

Content Factors

High-quality content, which includes a variety of components, remains the driving force behind search result performance. In a nutshell, if your content is not good, your site will not get the traffic you want.

The Content Itself

Accurate, timely, engaging content that provides value to the user and is updated regularly is one of the top factors in SEO. Google’s algorithm considers page organization (headers, sections, tags, etc.), spelling and grammar, tone, and accuracy of the content. In other words, you need to make sure it is well-written, relatable, and informative, and sounds like it came from a person (i.e., not AI-generated text). Embedding videos and other multimedia components is also helpful for content ranking, but the links need to be checked regularly to ensure they are still working or they could end up working against you.

Keyword Relevancy

Along with actual site content, keywords are still an essential factor in SEO ranking in 2024. Sites that incorporate relevant keywords throughout the text will rank higher for providing more cues to the Googlebot that scans sites, and reinforcing what your site is all about. The good news is that there are a variety of tools available to help you think outside the box when generating keyword ideas. Two free ones from Google are their Keyword Planner andTrends tools which provide keyword suggestions and analyze keyword trends, respectively.

Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T)

E-E-A-T is of critical importance. It ties into the overall “high-quality” content factor while diving a bit deeper by looking for credentials and certifications listed on the site, testimonials and reviews from customers, and clear privacy policies and contact information. These items all signal that the creator of the site’s content has the level of expertise and knowledge to make the site a reliable source and that they are willing to allow customers to share their thoughts (for better or worse) to gain trust. 

URL/ Domain Factors & Other Technical Factors

Running neck and neck with content in terms of importance are factors related to the domain itself, along with other technical aspects of the site. Great content is the heart of your website, but if folks can’t access it easily, it won’t get you very far.

Domain Factors 

You may not realize it, but just as the age and management of open accounts positively affect your credit score, the age and care of your domain name can have a very significant impact on your SEO rankings. Other domain-related factors to be aware of are the length and memorability of the name (hint: shorter and easier-to-remember names score higher) and domain authority. Domain authority boils down to how well your site content positions you as an authority on your subject matter. Think about the sites you visit repeatedly for information on certain topics – chances are, they have pretty good domain authority scores. 

Page Speed & Mobile Optimization

People don’t like to wait for pages to load; they want the information at the speed of a click. Think we’re kidding? According to Google, the optimal page load time is under two seconds, and anything over three seconds is considered slow! As such, the faster your pages load, the better your ranking will be. But, you have to remember that the majority of users are searching on their phones, not desktops or laptops, so mobile optimization is also a critical factor. In addition to speed, mobile optimization includes site responsiveness to different screen sizes, orientations, and resolutions as well.

Backlinks Factors

We already mentioned the importance of domain authority as a factor, but it bears repeating since it is closely related to another critical factor – backlinks. According to the Semrush study, several of the top 20 factors they identified are related to the number and quality of backlinks for your site. What are they, exactly? Backlinks are links from one website to another external site and can act as a vote of confidence for your brand. As a factor in SEO, the quality of the links is much more important than the quantity of them; having backlinks from a few other “authoritative” sites on your subject matter can have a very positive impact on your rankings while having them from ten or more lower quality sources probably won’t help very much.

User Experience (UX) Factors

The last, but by no means least, big category of factors to be aware of are those related to UX. Honestly, most of what has already been shared  – quality content, easy-to-remember domain names, quick page load speeds, and mobile responsiveness – are all part of the user experience. However, there are additional elements that can significantly impact your rankings.

Site Structure and Navigation

Having a clear site hierarchy is very important. Making certain that your internal page links are thoughtfully organized not only ensures that your content flows in a logical way, but that the user is able to find what they are looking for more quickly and easily. Providing clear and intuitive navigation will also get you big UX points, so be sure to put yourself in the user’s ruby red slippers and test your site for ease of use.

Accessibility and Caching

Ensuring that all visitors to your site can easily access content, regardless of any physical or cognitive impairments, not only tremendously improves UX for ALL users, but it can also significantly impact your site ranking. Beyond creating a site structure that is easy to navigate (featuring clear page titles, heading tags, and site maps), incorporating appropriate caching techniques can help improve page load speed and reduce redundancy when navigating from one page to another. 

A Good Starting Point

This is not a final or comprehensive list of SEO factors (only Google can give us that), but it is a good starting point for planning your SEO strategy in 2024. In addition to the aforementioned factors, other important considerations include high-quality backlinks, engaging and shareable content, semantic keyword optimization, local SEO for brick-and-mortar businesses, and the increasing impact of voice search. SEO may seem mysterious and magical, and maybe it is, but you can really improve your site’s ranking (and reach your own “Emerald City”) by paying attention to these critical factors. By continually monitoring and adapting to the evolving landscape of search engine algorithms, you can position your website for sustained success in the digital realm.

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