Trying to enter the world of SEO but feeling overwhelmed?
With so many things to optimize and metrics to track, it’s easy to feel choice overload about how to begin.
As SEO continues to change, it can also be difficult to keep up with all the latest updates.
Still, you need to keep up with what search engines like Google and Bing consider the most important ranking factors for content.
That’s why we spoke to experts all over the world to see what they consider the most important ranking factors to look out for in 2022.
What is an SEO ranking factor?
SEO ranking factors are the indicators Google uses to sort results whenever someone conducts a search. The more important Google believes a ranking factor to be, the more important it is to optimize for that factor.
With over 200 ranking factors that Google’s algorithm considers, it’s important to know which ones to really focus on.
8 SEO ranking factors that matter in 2022
We asked experts what the ONE most important ranking factor to pay attention to in 2022 was, and here are the 8 they told us to focus on:
- Core Web Vitals
- Data privacy
- Search intent
- Site loading speed
- Bounce rate (beware)
- Quality content
- Link building
- Internal linking
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are a set of three metrics Google uses to score a user’s experience when loading your webpage.
The three SEO metrics for Core Web Vitals include visual load time, stability, and interactivity with First Input Delay (FID).
Liam Wheeler, Senior SEO Executive at Evoluted, says “Perhaps SEO's worst-kept secret, Google finally rolled out its much-anticipated Core Web Vitals update in around mid-June, which saw the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) all become official ranking signals.
This is nothing new, as Google continues to place additional emphasis on providing an exceptional user experience through fast loading times with minimal content shift, but it will be interesting to monitor the effects of this latest update as they become more apparent in the coming months.
If you haven't yet tackled your CWV, the ‘Experience’ section of Google Search Console gives a useful top-level overview of your site's current performance, but I'd definitely recommend running a lighthouse report and/or utilizing Chrome's handy inspect tool to delve into this further.”
David Lovett, VP of Organic Marketing at Rocket55, says “Core Web Vitals are the biggest change from years past.
“If your SEO strategy was buttoned-up and good to go and you feel confident in it, that's not good enough now without consideration of how Core Web Vitals plays a part in ranking these days.”
Rony Mattar, Partner and SEO Manager at BlueEdge SEO, says “we give high importance to Core Web Vitals and website performance. Those two made a great difference for old websites and new ones.
We had a customer that has been in the market for 20 years and has a very powerful domain name which is his primary keyword, yet he was behind competition online.
We rebuilt his website with the same amount of images, using the same platform: WordPress (Woocommerce).
The performance is now perfect with 0 coverage errors; the results started showing immediately with new organic traffic and 2 big sales.
Good Core Web Vitals + Good website performance = Excellent User Experience, this is what Google is looking for in 2022.”
Data privacy is becoming more important, and having SSL or other data protection certificates for your site can help a piece of content rank in the Google search results.
Paul Hart, CTO at Spark’n, says “it's really un-sexy but understanding and deploying cookie consent (and similar) is important for Google of late for data collection & privacy.
What Google cares about, you should too, as they'll most likely start giving it further weighting as we lean into 21/22.”
A user’s search intent is their specific motive behind inputting a query.
It’s how Google knows that “what should I feed my 3-month old German Shepherd” means you’re searching for “puppy food”.
It’s what should guide choosing the angle and format to have in mind when optimizing your keyword. Without considering intent, not only will you most likely not rank, but if you do, you’ll attract the wrong readers.
Karli Jaenike, Founder of Wild Idea, says “optimizing for search intent has been a thing for years, but it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
Focusing on creating content that is uber-helpful for the user—content that quickly and clearly answers their queries, is essential.
Spend more time in the SERP than in your tools and really think about what you can do to better satisfy a certain query and you will improve your rankings.”
Phuwit Limviphuwat, Digital Marketing Manager and SEO Strategist at Morphosis Holdings, says “User intent is becoming a more impactful ranking enabler, making it more crucial than ever before to match the right intent when creating an SEO strategy.
This is why user-intent mapping at scale is something that I've been doing in the past 7 months, and the results that this has been generating for me and my clients have been impressive!”
Fabio Hallwyler, SEO Specialist, says to “respond accurately and quickly to user's search intent and retain the user in the website. Avoid pogo-sticking.”
Pogo-sticking is when users visit your site and bounce between others as well, preferring other pages from the SERP over yours) would be a more reliable concept to be considered a ranking factor than trying to achieve an arbitrary Bounce rate number.
Site loading speed
How quickly does your website load?
It’s important for search engine optimization, since the highest e-commerce conversion rates occur between 0 and 2 seconds, with an average of 8.11% under one second.
Lydia German, Marketing and Outreach Coordinator at Tao Digital Marketing, says “One factor you should definitely be paying attention to is site loading speed, especially as Google's Core Web Vitals update was brought in just last month.
Pay attention to anything that may slow the site down, such as videos or gifs. The quicker the site, the better the usability, and therefore the better you will rank.”
Basically, your website will have to be as fast as possible.
Bounce rate (beware)
Bounce rate is possibly one of the most misunderstood performance indicators when it comes to search engine’s ranking algorithm.
The bounce rate of a website shows how many people came to your site and immediately left without interacting whatsoever.
While a few people listed this, bounce rate as we see it in Google Analytics in and of itself isn’t a ranking factor.
Google by no means looks at a page’s bounce rate and determines if it should be ranked higher or lower. That’s because a higher bounce rate isn’t always a negative signal if we take all the diverse kinds of queries into account.
For example, searchers landing on a page from a query like ‘what day is Christmas on in 2022?’ won’t stay on the page as soon as their problem has been solved.
So the bounce rate would be pretty high, but you’ve satisfied the searcher’s intent.
Dylan Stamer, COO of Perrfy, agrees. He says, “With so many algorithm updates and all the recent unpredictability, we should return to the basics: more clicks, more conversions, more engagement.”
When talking about bounce rates, one element Google considers when determining content quality and can be seen as a ranking factor, is searcher behavioral patterns.
One of them is long and short clicks - evident in this Google patent as well. This patent refers to a weightage system that evaluates pages based on how long or short a click has been and the outcome plays one role in ranking the pages higher or lower in the SERPs.
So, elements like pogo-sticking or a site’s click-through rate may provide a fuller picture for this ranking factor than just the bounce rate in isolation.
If the content you’re putting onto your site isn’t useful or relevant to your visitors, search engines know.
They’ll lower your ranking for it, too, because above all else, Google needs to keep its users satisfied. That happens when searchers are shown high-quality content that matches their search query.
Kushal Desai, Content Marketing Executive at Growfusely, says “The top-ranking factor that has been consistent in the last many algorithm updates is quality content.
You need to produce long-form quality content consistently on your website to keep the visitors flowing.
A lot of marketers are still focused on backlinks but there is no point in building backlinks if you don't have quality content serving your core customers.
I believe content first and backlink second are the most important ranking factors you need to pay attention to in 2022.”
Regularly publishing high-quality new content is one of the most surefire ways to improve your search engine ranking.
Gabriel Armillas Carbonel, SEO Freelancer, says “You can't pay attention to just one factor. But in short, worry about having each URL that you want to get visits with better content than the first 10 results of your search intention (text, images, videos ...).”
Making sure that your URLs are SEO-friendly is a quick way to draw crawler’s attention to your keywords when indexing your site.
It also makes the page more memorable for visitors, who may easily remember your page for future reference.
Sergi Panes Muntal, CEO of Origi Agency and SEO and Link Building Specialist for Royal Queen Seeds, says “In my opinion, good content is one of the most important things.
Then you can focus on improving other ranking factors like mobile friendliness, page speed, Core Web Vitals, etc.”
By also adding elements like alt text to your images or a mobile version of your site you are able to improve your content’s on-page SEO and optimize it better for search engine results pages.
Link-building is one of the most difficult parts of SEO. That’s because you need to show up and put effort into the relationships you build to do it successfully.
Matt Tutt, SEO Consultant at Matt Tutt Digital Marketing, says “the type of links, largely the quality and relevancy of them, is still vital if you want your website to rank well.
With some of the recent Google algorithm updates that look to devalue links from "bad" parts of the web, or links that have been obtained unnaturally, care should be taken to ensure you're avoiding spending time attracting those types of links.
Having a bad link profile in 2022 can do more harm than good, so concentrate on getting links (and coverage) for your brand in a natural and sustainable way.”
Practicing black-hat SEO strategies such as buying backlinks is one way that websites build a bad link profile.
Violating the search engine guidelines harms your trustworthiness and can get your site penalized or even taken down entirely.
Tom Crowe, SEO Consultant, says “There are lots of important ranking factors that each play a role in your website's ability to rank, but links from authoritative sources continue to be one of the most important factors for allowing your website to compete.
This is especially true when trying to rank for the most competitive search terms.”
Gabriel Armillas Carbonel, an SEO Freelancer, says “You will need gasoline for your project to increase authority, this is achieved with backlinks - my advice is that you try to get backlinks of a related subject and if they have better traffic.
You can get these links by looking at words that have searches for your related topic but do not have direct competition with your URL, and by contacting the first 20 results in the SERPs.”
Internal linking is vital to your SEO strategy. In fact, we think it’s just as important as external linking. These links show the crawl bots a content trail to follow, allowing more pages to rank and your overall website to perform better.
Carmen Santaló, Freelance SEO Consultant, says “It is difficult to choose only one ranking factor because SEO is about many different elements on the site.
However, if I have to choose one, I will say that internal linking is still one of the most important ranking factors. Internal links help search engines index and understand your site giving information about what pages are more important for your business.
It doesn't matter how good your content is if Google cannot find it.”
Internal linking today does what everyone thinks external backlinks do—if you’re trying to figure out how to move your page from position 9 to 1, for example, simply creating more content around that topic and adding links to your money page will help.
Building a large network of content-led internal links helps you rank far more quickly than most other tactics.
Having a process for internal linking—not only adding links to old relevant pages on new blog posts, but also going back to old blog posts and adding links to new ones, will show you significant results and higher rankings.
With hundreds of ranking factors to choose from, it can be difficult to focus on the ones that matter most for your SEO strategy.
That’s why having an expert’s opinion on which ranking factors have proven most important in 2022 can help.
By focusing on these 8 ranking factors, your content will easily increase in rank in the search engine results.
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