Ranking factors are the criteria used by search engines to assess web pages and decide where to place them on search results pages. Factors include relevance, links to the page, domain authority and more.
If you know the elements that search engines consider to be important, you can direct your efforts more effectively. Ranking factors are the criteria used to assess whether a page should rank for a search query, and the order in which to present results.
Google has thousands of pages to choose from (many more for some popular searches) and needs to decide which results to present, and the order and formats to show them in.
Google is said to use more than 200 ranking factors in its algorithm, though it will not necessarily reveal all of them, or how much weight it applies to each factor. This of course leads to much speculation about which factors are used, and which to place most focus on when optimising your content.
However, through Google’s various announcements, and observation of the SERPs, we know a lot about many of the most important ranking factors.
Ranking factors include:
Backlinks. Links have been crucial to Google’s algorithm since day one, and though it has taken steps to prevent questionable link building tactics, links from authority domains are still powerful factors.
Relevance. Users want relevant content and the search engines want to present results that relate to the query.
Internal links. A strong internal linking structure helps Google crawl and index the site more effectively, and can help you push key content.
Page and domain authority. Links from authority sites (the BBC for example) tend to carry more weight. UX factors. Google takes into account factors which affect the page experience, such as page loading speed and mobile usability.
The introduction of core web vitals is another example.
The good news is that ranking factors are on-page elements (internal links, site speed etc) which you can control and use to improve your search visibility.