Top 10 Website Ranking Factors

Really every business owner wants their website to rank higher. Higher rankings equals more traffic, which equals more sales and leads, right? Yes, in general, that is how it works but how do you get your website to rank higher?

There’s SEO (search engine optimization), which has both on-site and off-site components. On-site SEO is everything within your control, like how the website was built, the content, the structure, and about 1,000 other details. Then off-site SEO is things like other websites linking to your website and citations (NAP or your name, address, and phone being consistent everywhere).

And then there are things beyond SEO as well.

This list will cover the top 10 tweaks you can make to your website to help it rank higher and get conversions (sales/leads). Most of them are technical but some are not. I’m including conversions because that’s the ultimate goal, right?

1. Fix Your Copy

Using copy that converts is by far the best thing you can do for your website. This is because words matter.

When I’m searching for something online that I need, like information, I really don’t care too much how the website looks. Sure, if it looks outdated I might question if the content is up to date but if the design is good, then that’s enough. Some business owners think spending thousands of dollars on a new design will make their website rank higher and bring in sales. Well, design alone will not do that. Don’t waste your money unless your website really is in bad shape, has tons of technical issues, or loads way too slowly.

The best bang for your buck is to hire a trained copywriter to write copy that converts. Period. The same design with better copy can bring in many more times sales. Good sales copy has psychological triggers built into it to work on people’s emotions. No amount of design is as powerful.

2. Evaluate Your Calls to Action

Click Here button It’s funny but if you tell people to do something, a lot of them will actually do that thing. If your website doesn’t tell people to do many things, they’re just not going to do them.

Here are some samples of call to action statements:

  • Click Here
  • Call Us
  • Buy Now
  • Subscribe
  • Download Now
  • Learn More
  • Get More Info

You get the idea.

Don’t go too crazy but a call to action at the end of the page (after the content) tells people what to do next. Buttons at the top to call or do something are effective.

3. Make Sure Your Website Loads Very Quickly

Go run your website through Google PageSpeed Insights and check your score. If you’re not getting a 90+ score on mobile, then you need to get your website optimized to load more quickly.

The story with this test from Google is interesting. I remember when it came out years ago. We tried to optimize some websites to do what Google wanted and the sites did not work well at all. Clients complained and I agreed with them. We then ditched it because Google had it completely wrong (and they do fail from time to time). For a while, we used Pingdom and went for a 2-3 second load time max. Then Google figured out their mistake and completely re-did their tool and now it does things the right way.

So we’re back to saying that you have to do what Google says and what they’re saying is good, too. Really, this is all about providing the best user experience and that includes a website that loads quickly. A website that loads fast is a result that Google will want to give out, right?

Side note… what I think is interesting is that static HTML pages is sort of coming back. That’s how things used to be in the late 1990s and early 2000s but in order to get pages to load more quickly, there’s a trend to export all pages to static HTML. This is happening while server speeds and network speeds have increased, too. It’s kind of strange but it all comes down to competition and people’s attention spans and expectations today.

4. Check Google Search Console

Google Search Console

Make sure you have Google Search Console set up on your website. It’s a back channel between you and Google so they can tell you what they’re finding – like errors, for instance. Next, get them fixed.

I just happened to have a website design company I own (shameless plug) that can help and we have a special for new clients… so, get in on that – click. The truth is, you will need some technical assistance to get those errors fixed.

5. Check Out Your Crawl Budget

My what?

Google’s not going to give every website out there everything they want. They’re going to look at the value of your website and decide how much of their resources they want to spend crawling it (looking it over). Since you’re only getting so much of their attention, you want to make sure you’re having them focus on the right things. And this is actually in your control.

With your website, you should have ways to “no index” certain pages. This is either done manually when you’re editing each page or via your robots.txt file or sometimes both. What you want to do is set pages that are not important to “no index” and also set pages with duplicate content that way as well.

Pages that aren’t important are pages like:

  • Your privacy policy or other legal pages
  • Blog category pages (which also may contain duplicate content from each blog post)
  • Pages with low quality content
  • Pages with outdated content

Really, any page without amazing content on it should be considered. When you trim the fat, you’re making your website look better as a whole. You’re putting your best foot forward and telling Google which content to showcase. So, although telling Google (and other search engines, of course) to take a hike and ignore some pages sounds silly at first, it’s a powerful tool.

6. Check for Duplicate Content

The content on your website needs to be original. It should not have been copied from any other content that is online. If so, then it needs to be re-written so that it’s original.

Also, sometimes other people steal your content. If that’s the case, then you may want to consider re-writing that content as well.

How you check this is over at Copyscape. For like $5-10, you can run a bunch of searches. Just paste in the content from your main pages and see if it exists elsewhere.

And one other related thing worth mentioning is that you should not have multiple domain names pointing to the same website. They can forward/redirect but there should only be one domain name showing up in the address bar when content is viewed. Yes, with your hosting, you can have several domains point to the same content if you have several domains. This isn’t likely, but I just wanted to mention it.

Oh, and that goes for sub-domains as well. For example, both the “www” and non-www version of your domain shouldn’t both point to the same place. One should redirect to the other.

7. All Pages Need to Load Securely

Most websites have done this already but I still see some that have not. You need to force SSL and make sure all pages load securely where there’s a lock symbol in the website browser’s address bar – and not a broken lock.

Google says this matters, so it’s on my list.

8. Voice Optimize Your Website

Amazon Echo with Alexa Artificial intelligence devices and assistants like Alexa, Google, and Siri need to figure out what parts of web pages mean. For example, making it clear what kind of business you are or what your physical address is. You also see this with movie listings.

With all of that, there needs to be schema tags (sometimes called microdata) around those pieces of content so that it’s clear that “this is an address” or “this is a movie showtime” or “this is a book cover” to voice search engines.

If this hasn’t been done yet to your website, the chance your website will show up under voice searches goes down, so have it done.

9. Keyword Optimize Your Website

Just a few years ago, this would have been much higher on the list. It’s lower because search engines are getting smarter. We don’t need to help them so much anymore. They can figure out what pages are about without that helper text in there, but with that said, optimizing pages still works and it works well.

This starts with good keyword research where the phrases you’re choosing to optimize for are the actual phrases people are using in search engines.

We’ve had a few clients in the past insist they be found for certain searches. We look them up and we find that nobody is using those words to search and we tell our clients to use other words but sometimes they insist. It’s crazy.

Also, spending tons of effort to rank for words you think are the best might be a huge waste of time. Really. You can get much more traffic optimizing for longer tail keywords that have little to no traffic. Be smart about keyword research.

10. Add More Content

Along with keyword research, adding more good, original content makes you more of an authority. Remember that quality is better than quantity. Make it really good content that easily digestible. To do that, be sure to:

  • Use headings
  • Use images
  • Use bulleted lists
  • Write in shorter paragraphs
  • Use bold and colored text sometimes
  • Use videos
  • Use horizontal rules (lines/dividers)

Make sure the page is a joy to read – not torture.

The content you add should compliment what your website is about. It should add value. It should help the reader. It needs to be share-worthy and bookmark-worthy. Make it awesome.

11. (Bonus) Get More Backlinks

OK, I couldn’t resist and I had to add one more thing since it’s also important – more links pointing to your website.

Links need to be a combination of social media and backlinks from other websites. They need to be from high authority websites, too.

Doing this can take some work and can take time. You need to network online and do some outreach to other website in your industry. Links from directories are still good. Doing a press release is also a good idea. There are many different strategies but the main thing to keep in mind is that this needs to be done gradually – not all at once.

I think backlinks go hand in hand with trying to rank for low competition keywords. OK, this is a little secret I have that works, so listen up…

When you rank for low competition keywords and, let’s say, someone writes an article and wants to put in a link to a good resource, they’ll do a search. If your website ranks high for that search, you are pretty likely to get that link someone wants to give you. And then it just keeps on going because you’re the top result – you get all those kinds of links, for free!

This takes time but you’ll start getting more and more of those links, ranking you higher. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. It works as a long-term strategy. Write content!


Conclusion

After thinking through all of this and writing it, I’m kind of amazed. Items that would have been at the top of the list just a few years ago are now at the bottom. The game has changed.

I hope this list helps you. Feel free to leave comments and debate how I’ve ranked things or go ahead and mention anything that should have been ranked in the top 10 for ranking factors. Now go work on your website!

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