100+ Google SEO Success Factors, Ranked

Factors that actually improve your traffic and rankings, and how to leverage them.

LAST UPDATED: December 2, 2018

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Ranking factors are awesome—and sometimes—a little bit dangerous.

That is, chasing minor ranking factors can lead to a dangerous waste resources, while at the same time neglecting holistic SEO that actually leads to higher rankings and better traffic.

Google uses 1000s of signals to rank web pages. Nobody knows what they all are (and anyone who claims otherwise is fibbing). In fact, since the rise of machine learning, not even Googlers can tell you all the elements that influence rankings and how they interact with one another in search results.

What matters is success.

SEO Success Factors are those elements you can take action on to improve your rankings, traffic, and visibility in Google search. Many Success Factors—but not all—are based on ranking factors, and a number of them deliver bigger results than others.

As an example, while meta descriptions aren’t a Google ranking factor, crafting well-composed descriptions that improve your click-through rate (CTR) can have a positive, outsized impact on your SEO efforts.

Using a combined analysis of dozens of sources, including:

  • Ranking factors studies
  • SEO Experimentation data
  • Expert opinion surveys
  • Patent filings
  • And statements from Google

… we’ve aggregated the most popular SEO Success Factors in one place. Our goal is to show you not only what works, but how to use these factors to improve your rankings and traffic.

Use this information is to prioritize the most critical factors first while working your way towards less important elements.

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SEO Success Factors

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Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus is a founder of Zyppy. His mission: to make hard SEO easier for millions of people. He writes about Google SEO, higher rankings, better traffic, improved ROI, marketing, and 10x Content. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Moz, and Linkedin.

97 thoughts on “SEO Success Factors”

  1. Cyrus, great resource which is super simple to understand and digest! Have been looking for the signals that Google uses and whilst there is loads of informative posts lingering on the net that explain it in great detail yours is super easy to digest. Bravo.

    Just to chip in, your right. Good quality content that answers user intent is definitely a must and crafting spot on descriptions with CTR then its how well your page is crafted

  2. Nice resource Cyrus.

    Agree with the commenter Josh above, the structure of your content helps a TON. Makes it so much easier to read, well done.

    This is definitely a good guideline…there’s SO much to pay attention to when you are first starting especially – and this gives some good places to narrow your focus to.

    Very well done.

  3. Hey Cyrus, first of I would like to thank you for this valuable informative google SEO factors list and details. Great guide on how to improve website traffic & rankings. Nice distribution of factors in category and let us know in insights on how to focus on these, how to ignore and, avoid these. I learn many things from this post.


  4. The Ignore part is the most troubling, to think that I’ve spent a chunk, a huge chunk of my time believing the myths and Ignore list is unbelievable.

    Thanks for this SEO success factors. I appreciate the time you used in creating this huge database of information.

  5. Hello Cyrus,

    Such a wonderful clear factor and facts of SEO success. It’s important information to know for all type of SEO and bloggers too. Hope, I have to learn a few things from your post. Thanks for that opportunity to know the SEO success factors.

  6. Great list, but how does cloaking affect your SEO? If you have a few affiliate links in place or just want to cloak naked URLs to get pretty links? Thanks!

  7. I am still trying to understand the way structured data is actually analyzed by big G. It’s clearly critical, but while some say you need a plug-in for it, others believe you simply need to get your headings in order and have well-written quality content on the page. I’ve been trying to implement it on a few of my posts but still don’t quite understand what would be the best way to do so… What are your thoughts on best Schema and structured data implementation practices?

  8. Hi Cyrus!

    What is your opinion about Direct traffic?
    If a website get a larger amount of direct traffic it is show that people like that site and it is show that it’s an E-A-T site? Dont you think?
    I mean direct traffic correlate a lot of real ranking factor, so I could see direct traffic as an important, but not direct ranking factor.

    Thank you for your reply.

    • If Google can measure traffic through their Chrome web browser, it makes sense that they might rank sites higher if they see they are getting a lot of “natural” traffic. So I don’t think anyone can say if it’s a direct ranking factor, but increasing direct traffic usually corresponds to a related increase in organic traffic, so why not?

  9. Hi Cyrus,

    Been following you on Twitter for quiet some time and am a big fan of your content, both here and at Moz.

    Although I’ve read this article before, I try to come back here often for a refresher. I think content refresher (or updating articles for freshness) is a low-hanging fruit that most of us miss.

    It’s easy to keep the traffic flow constant (or increase it) than to acquire new traffic for new content.


  10. Interesting choice of levels. I’m not sure I would put site design so high up. Assuming already that the design meets the “critical” needs, such as speed and multiple-devices, I don’t think search engines pay much attention to other aspects of design.

    That said, I love the whole concept, even going into the negative at the bottom. On 1,000 Infographics covering SEO success factors, this might be the first I see that dips below-ground.

  11. Just wondering how you know that certain factors are myths?

    Or are those your best guesses that they are myths? Cuz you present them as being truth (that they are indeed myths).

  12. Nice post. Have a quibble though with some ranking factors. Freshness & readability can probably be a notch lower. Have seen older articles still ranking high. Also CTR is a vanity metric in many cases especially B2B sites where getting higher converting visitors can mean a bigger difference.

  13. Hi Cyrus Shepard, I think You provided the great information and the nice stuff .Thanks For Sharing Such an Nice Information Which are very helpful for those who are struggling in SEO

  14. Hi Cyrus,

    This is an amazing post. You really hit a wide array of topics and items that every SEO should pay attention to. I also really like how clean everything is and the links you provided in each section.

    I’d really like to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and insight into coding for SEO. I would thrive off of a blog post that lists off the best practices for html, css, and javascript in a similar way that you do here. I’ve read and heard about Google Chrome 41 and what can be parsed by Google’s bot. For someone like me, who wants to get into coding, but wants an idea of recommendations or what to look for would be ideal.

    If you have any recommendations of where to look, I’d appreciate it. Otherwise great post man and I look forward to more of your content. Really enjoyed your Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet 3.0 from Moz.


    • Awesome Sean! To be honest, I wish I were a better coder myself. The best technical SEOs I know are often data junkies. In addition to understanding the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, they are often versed in Python and R, among others.

      I follow a lot of Technical SEOs who are amazing coders on Twitter. I’d recommend following Russ Jones, Ryan Siddle, Britney Muller, Paul Shapiro and others. Also check out the Tech SEO boost and the people involved with it, if you haven’t already.

  15. Hey, Great read!
    I research SEO methods all of the time, and I test loads of methods myself. I’ve always know this, but have seen 100% proof over time, that consistent content updates with links no and then going to relevant internal links in that updated content helps with KEEPING the rankings you’ve worked so hard to get.

  16. Thank you Cyrus great resource.

    Regarding supplemental content should there not be a ceiling to how much you add.

    To butcher Einstein that said everything should be simple and not simpler. Should a post not be just right (length etc.) rather than being the longest or with the most content like with what we see using the skyscraper technique, that everyone is going for longer/more/better rather than giving what is actually/really needed. And can Google determine that?

    What are your thoughts on that?

  17. Hi Cyrus,
    I came here through SEObytheSEA blog and It is really an amazing post to read and learn many new things about ranking on google.
    Thanks for the great share.
    have a good week ahead.

  18. Its a good article. But my question is –

    Do I need to complete all 100 factors to get rank the website top page on Google? or Only Important and Critical factors?

    • Hi Shafiq!

      Thanks for the question – it’s a good one. The answer is no, you don’t need every single factor to rank in Google. What you need will depend on 1) the keyword query 2) the competition and 3) the INTENT of the query.

      Best to focus on Critical factors first. This will get you 80% of the way there.

  19. This is an amazing piece of content Cyrus! Thanks for compiling it. Love how the first factor is about writing content that targets user queries. People tend to ignore that when blogging

    • Fair point! Several individual tactics are combined under broader strategies.

      As you note, titles and canonicals are hugely important. Titles would fall under both CTR and keyword/topic usage, whereas canonical tags would fall under both crawling/accessibility and also duplicate content.

      Tough to organize everything together, but hopefully we got the important parts in there 🙂

    • This seems to be one of those areas were Google says things that are “technically correct” but the practical application is wholly different. Yep, Google doesn’t look at domain age, but Google also says they look at when they first saw a page/domain.

      So, in theory, a site could be 3 years old, but Google only first saw the site last month. In this case, they are looking at a month’s worth of data. If the site has any links at all, for most of us, Domain Age is going to be roughly equal to the time Google first saw the site.

      Controversial and we’re cutting a fine line. Hope that makes sense.

  20. definitely a good article with valid points, sometimes email marketing and that dept over do the emails…but gotta pick and choose your battles

  21. Excellent guide, great list and solid foundation. My mind boggles over how much misinformation and hype around SEO being a “dark art” that still exists in 2018. Thanks for setting it straight.

    • Thanks, Oliver. My motto is: “All the SEO information you could ever want already exists, it’s just poorly organized.” Hopefully this post adds a little more organization.

  22. Congratulations, Cyrus!

    This SEO guide is simple and easy to understand, without oversimplification. That´s always a risk. The structure and organization is impressive too.

    This guide is beyond high-quality. Intelligent self-scaling niche marketing. So hard to copy. Well done, Sir!

    • Thanks Trond!

      Was thinking this morning how much I dislike the term “dumbing down.” If you need to simplify something complex, it doesn’t mean the person you’re explaining it to is dumber or less intelligent, they simply have less experience with the subject matter. They are likely just as hungry for intelligent and well-structured information as you are.

      Regardless, thanks for the comment!

  23. Awesome list Cyrus. These points will be valid for the future as well as everything at the end boils down to user experience.

  24. I began my SEO career in 1996 and I have seen a lot of changes in the industry. However the critical factors for solid SEO have changed very little aside from the different devices. How many years has Google been telling us to create quality content? As a Google user however I don’t think the search results are better than 10-15 years ago. I don’t know maybe it’s just me. Thoughts on the SERPS?

    • That’s a ton of experience!

      So true about the Critical Factors. It does seem to me that 10 years ago I spent much more time on page 2,3,4+ of SERPs, and now I’m more unlikely to go past page 1, but perhaps that’s simply my perception.

      Regardless, thanks for the great comment.

  25. Now, this is a masterclass on epic content creation.
    1. Fantastic UX
    2. An actual informative infographic
    3. Love the Navigator

    p.s. Lately, I’ve seen an inordinate amount of time spent on the web debating the use of multiple H1 tags. This is taking up valuable time that could be spent looking at kitten photos on Instagram.

      • Thanks for a great summary Cyrus, I couldn’t agree more with the categorisation, and this made the Moz Top 10!
        I do agree that the main factors will stay true for the next few years, after all they have been true for the past decade at least. But Oguz, how can anyone properly answer if it will apply in the future? If I had a crystal ball…

  26. This is an awesome list. I think 90% of SEO is about writing unique, original, problem-solving content which actually fulfills the intention of your audience. If you write high quality, citable content, you are destined to rank higher on Google Search.


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