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SEO 101: Top 7 Ranking Factors that Matter

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There are few industries more shrouded in mystery than SEO. We all know it’s not an exact science. 

Any SEO ‘expert’ who tells you they know exactly how high you will rank if you use their ‘unique methods’ (and pay for them dearly, of course) is a crook. You should run as fast as you can.

The truth is we need to test to see what works and what doesn’t. The Holy Grail of rankings changes from country to country and from industry to industry – to mention only two of the hundreds of factors.

But this doesn’t mean we’re flying blindly when it comes to SEO. We do have a framework. We know most of the things that help websites rank. 

How to use them and how much time to spend on each is a matter of testing. And this is exactly what we’ve been doing at Idunn in the past few years. 

We test every new theory on our own website and only then recommend it to our clients. 

While I can’t claim my team and I know everything about SEO, I can claim we have tested a few factors heavily. 

This is what we have found to work:

1. Frequent content updates

HubSpot recommends 16+ blog posts per month if you want to improve your lead generation and your traffic. That seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it?

Sure, 16 or more blog posts per month won’t hurt. Quite the opposite. But, in my experience, some companies do extremely well with two or three posts per week.

The key, however, is to update those posts when their ranking begins to drop. Similarly, web pages should be frequently updated with new content.

2. Content that answers search queries

40% of adults make a voice search per day. The rise of voice-assisted search has also changed the way we type. It has changed our reflexes.

A few years ago we would have searched for ‘house sale negotiation tactics’. Now we search for ‘how do I sell my home at a higher price’.

As content marketers, we have to adapt to this trend.

And the best way to do it is to create content that answers these type of queries.

The example above can be the very headline of a blog post. Followed by a few short bullet points, it can even get you the coveted answer box in search results or ‘position 0’.

Not sure how to find this kind of topic?

Type your target keyword in the search bar on Google. Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and take a look at the related searches. This will give you a pretty good place to start.

3. E-A-T content

It’s been more than four years since we first saw the Google guidelines for content that ranks high. One of the acronyms they use to describe the ideal content to post is EAT. It stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. 

How do you check all these boxes in your content?

Let’s see!

  • Prove that you are an expert. List your qualifications, expertise and experience in your bio.
  • Write authority content. Authority is strongly connected to quality. Your content needs to be well-researched, thorough and well-explain.
  • Build trust on every one of your website’s pages. Testimonials, social proofs or even links to your social profiles help people get to know you better. Their trust in you grows implicitly.

Google say that E-A-T is one of the top three factors that establish a page’s rank. In case you haven’t paid enough attention to the quality of your content, it’s high time you did it.

4. Y-M-Y-L pages

Another acronym that we first learned about in the same Google document, Y-M-Y-L stands for Your Money or Your Life.

In Google’s own words:

“There are some pages for which PQ is particularly important. We call these pages Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages. They are pages that can have an impact on your current or future well being (physical, financial, safety, etc.). YMYL pages should come from reputable websites and the content should be created with a high level of expertise and authority.”

Examples of such pages include:

  • Parenthood advice
  • Pages that ask for your credit card info
  • Safety advice
  • Legal advice

How do you tackle this?

Briefly put, you ensure that your Y-M-Y-L pages are written with E-A-T in mind.

I know, too many acronyms, right?

But it’s fairly simple: pages that can affect the well being of a reader have to be on reputable websites and written by trustworthy, expert writers.

5. Number of quality links pointing to your website

Don’t do link exchanges with shady websites.

Don’t add your link to countless online directories without vetting them first.

The days when these tactics were working are (thankfully!) gone.

Instead, try to obtain quality links honestly.

First off, take a look at the points above. When your content is GREAT, people will link to it without receiving anything in return. It’s a “virtuous circle”, if you will: other bloggers know that authority content means they have to use outbound links. And they will link to your content if it’s great content.

Secondly, you can always drop a line to thought leaders you mention in your own content. They may not link back to you, but they are quite likely to at least share your post on social media.

Pro tip: focus on micro-influencers in your field. The “big guns” are already receiving tons of links every day, so they might ignore your emails.

6. Unique content

Don’t plagiarize others. That one’s obvious, right? Stealing content from other websites will get you penalties from Google.

But also don’t plagiarize yourself. Make sure every new piece of content is unique. Don’t “borrow” whole paragraphs. If you’re looking to make the same point in two different pieces of content, rephrase.

7. Content that satisfies user intent

Isn’t this the same with creating content that answers search queries?

Not really.

It’s one thing to use the right keywords and another thing to create content that truly answers readers’ questions.

How do you measure the latter?

Start by improving engagement rates. Time spent on page, low bounce rate, pages per visit and the goal conversion rate are all metrics you should be monitoring.

Next, answer the question as completely as possible. This way, the user won’t have any reason to hit the back button.

In essence, Google “rewards” content that users find satisfying. If they don’t need to go to another website to get their answers, you’re good to go.


Want to rank higher? Do what Google does: worry about your users’ experience and satisfaction and little else.

Go back to your buyer persona to find out what they need to read and what tone of voice they need you to use to make it easier to understand. Then take a look at the “related searches” section in Google to find out how to be truly comprehensive.

If you need help with content that checks all the boxes above and more, get in touch with me. This is precisely what my team and I specialize in.

About the author


Adriana Tica

Adriana Tica is a trend analyst, marketer and writer with 15+ years in the field. She owns two digital marketing agencies, Idunn and Copywritech, and a recently-launched consulting business. On SiteProNews, she shares Ideas to Power Your Future on topics like digital trends, marketing, SEO, copywriting, and more.