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6 of the Most Important Search Engine Ranking Factors for 2021

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Google changes their algorithm frequently and every major change causes some changes in the most important ranking factors as well. While Google certainly likes to keep SEO professionals on their toes, we are here to help.

If you want to learn which ranking factors are the most important and relevant for 2021, this post is for you. In this post, you will find out six of the most important factors that you should focus on in 2021.

Curious to know more?

Keep reading.

1. Content Quality

The most important ranking factor was, is, and will be content quality. The first and foremost rule of SEO is to create high-quality, useful content for a specific target audience.

But, what qualifies as high-quality content for search engines?

Here are some of the things that your content should have for it to be categorized as high quality. It should:

  • Be unique and original
  • Provide value to readers
  • Be fresh and updated 
  • Cover the topic at length 
  • Be well-structured and scannable
  • Be optimized for the right keywords

The last point on optimizing content for keywords is a ranking factor in itself, which we will cover later in this post. 

2. Backlink Profile

This is probably one of the most important search engine ranking factors as without backlinks you won’t get much organic traffic. 

Backlinks help Google find and index your website. The quality of backlinks shows how authoritative and trustworthy your website is.

If other authoritative websites are linking to yours, then in Google’s books, your website is also a good one. If two websites have similar content, but one has better backlinks, then Google will rank that higher in search results.

Suffice it to say that backlinks improve your site’s chances of ranking higher and should be a key focus area of your SEO efforts.

But, how can you find out if your website has a good backlink profile or not?

Use SEO tools to analyze your website and find out how good (or bad) your current backlink profile is and how you can improve it.

3. Mobile Responsiveness

These days, a significant share of online traffic comes from mobile devices. So, if a website does not render well on mobile devices, it not only loses valuable traffic but also sends bad signals to search engines.

After all, Google does not look kindly on websites that users bounce off of without even reading the content. So, optimize your website for mobile devices and make sure that it appears well on all screen sizes. 

Mobile friendliness is also important because of Google’s mobile-first approach. If you have a regular website and a mobile website, Google will use the mobile site for crawling and indexing.

The best thing to do is not have two versions at all and create one website that can be viewed from all devices. For that, use good website building platforms that provide mobile-responsive templates and design for all types of websites.

4. Keyword Search Intent

We all know how important keywords are for SEO. However, now, you also need to check a keyword’s search intent and make sure that your content matches it.

What’s search intent?

When a user types a search query, they either want information, seek to buy something, or are they trying to find a location or store. The reason why someone types a particular search query is the search intent.

Sometimes, similar keywords can have different search intents. For example, if someone searches for “best sports shoes”, they might simply be doing some research before buying the product. In this case, the search intent is educational and your content should ideally inform the user about the best sports shoe brands in the market.

However, if a user types “buy sports shoes online” they have purchase intent and are looking for retail sites that sell sports shoes. So, if you are a retailer, you should opt for this keyword over the previous one.

5. RankBrain

RankBrain is Google’s algorithm for measuring user experience on a site and is one of the most important ranking factors. 

Google strives to direct its users to the most useful and user-friendly websites. So, if your site does not send good UX signals, it will not get first-page rankings.

Google looks at metrics like bounce rate, click-through rate, dwell time, etc. to measure user experience. Basically, the more time a user spends on your website, the better.

So, how can you improve your website’s user experience?

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Keep your website layout and navigation as simple as possible.
  • Create scannable content and avoid lengthy text-heavy content.
  • Use internal linking to direct traffic to other pages on your site.
  • Optimize your meta titles, descriptions, and URLs to get more clicks.

These are just some of the many SEO techniques that you can follow to improve your site’s user experience.

6. Keywords

Any list of search engine ranking factors is incomplete without the mention of keywords. 

Each piece of content that you post on your website should be created keeping a target keyword in mind. And, you need to add that keyword in that piece of content enough times for Google to recognize what your content is about.

So, what should be the ideal keyword density?

While there is no strict rule, a keyword density of 1%-2% is good enough for most types of content. For landing pages, however, you can keep the density a bit higher.

There are many tools to improve SEO that you can use to check and optimize your content and keyword density.


Most important search engine ranking factors change from one year to the next, but some (like content quality) remain constant forever. This post aims to provide a quick reference for anyone looking for the most relevant and important ranking factors for 2021.

Focus your SEO efforts on these and move to other aspects only after you have optimized for all six of these ranking factors. 

So, what are you waiting for?

Get started on it right now and boost your site rankings today.

About the author


Shane Barker

Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant that specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, Influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.