Which Google Ranking Factor is Most Important for SEO and Ranking Online?

Search engine optimization (SEO) would be a lot easier if there wasn't so much to think about. If you want your website to rank as highly as possible, enabling your brand to achieve more visibility and traffic, you'll need to pay attention to dozens, if not hundreds of little variables.

Wouldn't it be so much better if you could narrow your focus down to one or two variables that impact your strategy the most?

Of course it would. The real question is whether or not this approach can actually work.

So among the Google ranking factors responsible for influencing your rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs), is there one that's most important? And if so, what is it?

What Is a Google Ranking Factor?

First, what is a Google ranking factor?

Google is a search engine that uses complicated algorithms to find you the best possible results for each query. It attempts to identify webpages that are highly relevant to your search query, then rank those webpages based on their perceived level of trustworthiness or merit. A ranking factor is a small piece of information that Google uses to make these evaluations. If the factor is favorable, you'll be likely to rank higher. If the factor is unfavorable, you'll be likely to rank lower.

Hypothetically, if you can perfect your approach for every Google ranking factor, you can climb to the top of the SERPs for even the most competitive keywords and phrases.

The Case for Google Ranking Factor Diversification

So is there a “best” Google ranking factor that deserves your attention more than the others? Is there a single ranking factor that can lead you to success?

The answer is no. According to SEO.co, “diversity among the Google ranking factors has the highest correlation for successful search engine rankings.” In other words, the people at the top of the results pages are the ones who have diversified SEO portfolios, investing in many different ranking factors simultaneously. It's much better to optimize your website across a broad spectrum of different ranking factors than it is to dump a bunch of time, money, and effort into one or two ranking factors that seem more influential than the others.

There are a few reasons why this is the case:

·       There are more than 200 ranking factors. Depending on how you want to count them, there are likely more than 200 SEO ranking factors. When Google evaluates your website, it studies all of these variables independently; if you perfect your approach to only a single ranking factor, there will be 199 or more other ranking factors you've totally neglected.

·       Ranking factors can be defined in different ways. Ranking factors can also be defined in different ways. While some search optimizers try to simplify things by aggregating smaller ranking factors, others like to get more granular. For example, one expert might define content-related variables like word count, internal linking, and header tags as entirely separate ranking factors, while another might group them all together as “onsite content.” In the former case, it's almost impossible to determine which factor is most important. In the latter case, there are so many smaller details and variables that the apparently simple concept becomes complicated.

·       No single ranking factor “works” by itself. Ranking factors have complementary effects and complex relationships, making them difficult to study in a vacuum. For example, user behavior metrics like dwell time may play a role in how your webpages rank. Your website mobile friendliness is a separate ranking factor. But if your website is sufficiently mobile friendly, user dwell times may increase; so in this complex relationship, which ranking factor is “better?”

·       Your competitors will explore every ranking factor. Finally, understand that your competitors will likely explore every ranking factor to the best of their ability. If you want to contend with them, you need to follow a similarly aggressive approach.

Your Biggest Priorities in SEO

If you were looking for a straightforward guide on what you should prioritize in an average SEO campaign, our complicated answer may have been disappointing to you. That’s why we’ve assembled this brief list of high-priority items in any SEO campaign that can help you get started (as long as you don’t ignore the other ranking factors in the long term):

·       High-quality content. Content is still king in SEO. It can build your authority, allow you to optimize for specific terms, and help you build the contextual relevance of all your internal pages. It can’t be neglected.

·       Technical website performance. From optimizing for mobile devices to improving loading times, technical website performance is indispensable. You need to make sure your website works as intended for all possible users.

·       Onsite optimization. You’ll also need to think about how you optimize your webpages for target keywords and phrases. Does your website have the contextual relevance necessary to rank higher for your biggest targets?

·       Link building. Links are the best way to increase your authority – as long as you build them with white hat tactics.

So what's the bottom line here? Essentially, there's no single variable that can be considered the “best” or most important in the world of SEO. Instead, if you want to see the best results, you need to pursue optimization for a diversity of different ranking factors.