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The 3 Top SEO Ranking Factors in 2017 and How to Use Them

Want to rank above the competition in Google in 2017?

Start paying attention right now.

Ranking in Google is getting more and more complex every day.  The algorithm is this huge monstrosity and it is impossible to get anywhere even using  all of the top SEO ranking factors.

Right?  How about wrong.  Big wrong.​

People continually say that SEO is dead and that trying to rank in Google is futile.  Then you get a sales pitch that points you to a social media product or some other type of paid traffic gimmick.  

The focus of many website owners has definitely gone social.  I focus a lot on Social Media myself, but the reality is the social media craze has also left the SEO window wide open.  

If you know what to do and how to do it, you can easily rank in Google better and faster than ever before.

Google is an endless stream of free organic traffic​ and by optimizing your site and working on the critical components involved, you can get this traffic and continually grow it over the coming months and years.

Google has thousands of ranking factors and sub-factors that go into their algorithm and we could talk about them all for hours.  Understanding the most important SEO ranking factors will get you on the right track fast and let you understand what your primary focus should be when optimizing for your website or blog.

Here are 3 that are going to help take your site to the top...​

BONUS: Strapped for time? Downloadthe "3 Top SEO Ranking Factors in 2017 and How to Use Them" Ebook Here Now!

The 3 Top SEO Ranking Factors in 2017 and How to Use Them

Several of the best SEO Analytics services spend a lot of time and money analyzing Google and what makes it tick.  Search Engine Land creates an in-depth report and so does MOZ.  Both agree on what the Top 3 SEO Rank Factors are.

Take a look at the image below.

Periodic Table of SEO Factors

*The Periodic Table of SEO Factors

Search Engine Land's Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors appears to be quite complicated when you first look at it, but when you actually dig into the factors themselves through the codes, you can see the top 3 factors in are in plain site.

The graphic above separates the factors into two distinct areas of focus.  On-Page and Off-The Page factors.​  There are over 200 SEO Ranking Factors according to some of the latest research.  The Top 3?  

  1. Links
  2. Content
  3. RankBrain

You might be saying.......What?  Rankbrain?

That's right, but we will get to that a little later.  

You need to understand that each one of these factors also have a lot of details and correlating factors which go with them.​  Just a few years ago Social Media Signals dominated the top of this same report, but since Google Plus has been largely depreciated, Google has diminished the value of social sharing and social links.  

Don't worry, they are still factors, but they don't carry the weight they did just two years ago.

A lot has changed. 

If you want to see how to use each of the top 3 factors to boost your rank today, keep reading...

1.  Links​

The top ranking factor for 2017 is Links.  What a surprise right?  It feels like I have come full circle.  I spent years and years focusing on doing nothing but building backlinks.  The social hit and I had to change my focus.  Now links are back as number #1 again, but honestly, did they ever really stop being the top factor?

Link Value

The difference between 10 years ago and now is Google puts a value on links and where they come from more than ever before.  They measure the v​alue of links by the domains they come from and the pages on the domains they come from.

Moz calls this Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA).  These are based on a 0-100 scale.  The higher the number, the better the domain and thus, better the link.  When you have a backlinks from domains and pages with high DA and PA, this increases the link value, thus improves your overall ranking in Google.

You can check on the DA and PA of domains in the Free CheckMoz tool.

Realize this is an artificial metric created by Moz, Google has its own algorithm called Hummingbird which establishes these values in its own way.  it is only through predictors and analysis that MOZ establishes these values.  

Other analytics services have their own metrics with different names, but it all comes down to the same thing.  Each domain and each page on a domain have a different value and those values determine the value of each backlink we place on a site.

That being said, based on current data from Ahrefs, ​each link's value comes more from Page Level factors then from Domain factors.  This means that the value of the page you are linked from carries more weight than just getting on a high value domain.  Domain value helps, but Page specific value has a lot more power when it comes to helping you increase your rank in Google.

Take a look at the graphic below from Ahrefs to see what their data is correlating.​

Page Authority vs Domain Authority

What does this mean?

It means you need to be placing backlinks to your site on other sites which not only have good domain authority, but you need to make sure your links are placed on high value pages on that domain as well.​

Link exchanges, link outreach, blog commenting, forum commenting are all good ways to get high quality backlinks for your site.  Getting links from high powered domains with high DA, but not great PA​ is still going to help you increase your rank.  

Don't think it won't.  These links just won't carry as much weight as targeted links from high value pages on high value domains.

Make sure you are doing your best to have diversity in your Anchor Text when building backlinks.  As far as ranking factors go, Anchor Text which had the search keyword in it tended to rank higher in Google for exact match searches and phrase match searches.​

The takeaway here is clear – anchor text links from a variety of different domains correlate with higher rankings in Google - Ahrefs Blog
What is Anchor Text

*NOTE:  The biggest lesson learned here is that it is better to have your links spread out amongst a lot of domains with targeted, but diverse anchor text then it is to have a ton of backlinks from one domain.  The more comprehensive and targeted your backlink profile​ is, the higher you will rank.

Unfortunately, this is not the only SEO factor you need to focus on.  Let's look at what we need to do to improveyour SEO Ranking and your backlinking with your content...

​2. Content

Google has really focused its algorithm on providing relevant content in search.  They want to improve the user experience y providing the most relevant search results for the query or question being asked.  This means that while you can have great backlinks, you still need to also have great content.

The flip side of this is if you do have great content​, you can also increase your rankings and not have the best backlinks.

I know, it can be maddening, but the reality is, if you produce great content for low competition keywords and long tail keywords, you can really benefit from this factor if you are building a blog with good to great content.​

Remember, content is an On-Page Factor.  This means that you can optimize your content by optimizing your On-Site and On-Page factorsand making sure you setup your site the right way for Search Engine Optimization before you get started. ​

By making sure you do all the little things right, you can greatly improve your chances of ranking that much higher in Google, even when your content isn't necessarily perfect.

Here's an example.

As you can see from the graphic above, while the #1 search result for the keyword search of "chocolate lab" has a lot of backlinks and a decent number of referring domains, the #2 and #3 results don't even compare to the #4 and #5 results in terms of backlinks.

What does this mean?

It means that Google values relevancy to the user's search more than it values pure LINKAuthority.  When the content answers the question of the search better than the other results (according to Google), it will rank higher if it has a decent link profile for that search result.

By creating great relevant content with the right keywords​ and having a few decent backlinks built to those content pages, you can easily rank in Google depending on the competition for that particular search.  Competition with a comparable piece of content will beat you in the rankings if they have a better link profile and vice versa.

This is a simplistic way of looking at it of course.  There are a ton of other variables that Google looks at, but if you focus on just the top 2 SEO ranking factors we've talked about so far, they can definitely help you increase rank faster ​than you would otherwise.

Researching Competition

The variable that comes up time and time again is competition.  We are all competing against other websites and blogs who are working in the same niche and who are producing similar content.  

The key is to find the keywords in our niches which have low competition and create content for those specific searches to take advantage of the void in the niche we are working in.

I do this all the time.  In fact, every time I work on my content planning and come up with what my next posts will be on my blog (via my Editorial Calendar), I research my blog post title's main keywords in Google and in Long Tail Platinum before deciding on a final Title.  Then how I am going to present and write my the content in my blog post.

A great way to do a quick competition analysis for free is to use SEMRush.  If you go to their site, you can enter your target keywords into their search bar and it will give you a ton of useful data.  The section which helps analyze competition is the Organic Search Results section.  

If you have Long Tail Platinum or any other SEO Analysis tool which allows you to dig into individual search results, you can do the same thing.  This is just a great example of how to do it quick and free (on a limited basis).  *I did a search on the keywords "WordPress SEO".

Organic Search Results SEMRush

I suggest clicking on the #3 or #4 result (blue arrow) to get a good idea of what the title of the page is and what the content is like.  Then click directly on the links to see what the actual page value is.  You should see something like this. *I clicked on the #4 search result.

SEMRush Search Result Analysis

If you scroll down this result page, you can then see what this site's page backlink profile is like and actually can see the individual anchor text and links which are helping it rank for that specific position in Google.

SEMRush backlink profile

Regardless of what tool you use for competition analysis, you can see here that by doing a little keyword competition research, you can see what is making a specific piece of content rank for specific keywords and if content is making it rank or if the backlink profile and the content are pushing it to the top.

By looking through the Top 5 and even the Top 10 results you can easily spot a pattern and decide if you need to look at other related keyword variations to focus on  or if you found a low competition niche ready for your next blog post.

NOTE:  The one variable in all of this is that Google's relevancy factor for content focuses on if the content answers the "search query or question".  This means that you can have high ranking content which does't have a single exact match keyword in it.  This is why you should always create content which prov