Google’s powerful algorithm is like your grandmother’s secret recipe. It’s delicious, life-altering, and powerful, but nobody really knows what is inside of it. You have a good idea of what it might be, but you are never really sure. The algorithm has the ability to make or break your site, and will not hesitate to banish you if you don’t comply. The quest to figure out what comprises the elusive formula is like the search for El Dorado, the race for the Northwest Passage, and quest for the Holy Grail all rolled into one.

Thankfully, the friendly folks over at Moz have again conducted a survey based on interviews with 150 experts and other detailed data so that we can get a better understanding of what makes the algorithm tick. Let’s take a look at their 2015 search engine ranking factors study so we can better understand what is important.

The top 5 factors

In determining where you land on the SERP, the 5 most important factors are:

  1. Your domain-level link features – This is the most important factor because it is based on metrics such as trust, domain-level PageRank, and other things. Simply put: if your domain is considered powerful, then Google will favour you.
  2. Page-level link features – Coming in just behind the domain level is the page-level. Things such as anchor text distribution, quality of links and sources, trust metrics, and PageRank factor heavily into it.
  3. Page-Level keyword & content-based features – This is basically how good your content is: keyword usage, content quality and relevance.
  4. Page-Level keyword-agnostic features -This measures content length, readability, uniqueness, load speed, and other page-level factors.
  5. Engagement & traffic/query data – Engagement metrics, visitor traffic, and usage signals are also heavily weighted when considering your rank.

These factors are by far the most important for ranking your website. Domain trust, on-page SEO such as anchor text, link quality, PageRank, quality content, load speed, uniqueness and engagement all matter way more than anything else. It may sound complicated, but nobody said SEO was easy work.

What to take away from this

The takeaway from the rankings study should be that even though the process is complex, your destiny is ultimately in your hands. You have the power to enhance your rankings. Where you end up has to do mostly with your SEO practices, and a little bit of good luck. Also of note is that your content-based factors are now ranked more importantly than your traffic and engagement factors. This is striking considering how important social factors were the last time around. Google isn’t playing around when they say that they want quality. Optimizing your page isn’t easy, but there is a blueprint for how to do it right, and the SEO experts at BlueHat Marketing can help.