Between Google, Bing, and the up-and-coming DuckDuckGo, adhering to recommended changes in your search marketing techniques can seem like a never ending task without reward. But, the goal isn't to please a particular search engine; it's to maximize your digital exposure and position your business as an industry leader. If you want to reach the top of these search engines, you'll need to begin by knowing some of the major ranking factors present for all three search engines.

Quality Content

As you probably know, if you want to improve your search engine rankings, you need a lot of content. But content for the sake of content isn't enough. People used to believe that the secret to SEO was to stuff as many keywords into a blog post as possible. However, search engines have become "smarter" when it comes to SEO, and if you want them to trust your website enough to give you high rankings, you need quality content.

Your content needs to possess some authority with a well-established website that presents the content in a professional manner. Distracting ads and too many calls to action appear spammy. The search engine will also check to see how established the author is on the web, which is one reason that most SEM companies will write content under a pseudonym.

Content that isn't useful or detailed is no good. The searcher needs to be able to use the content to accomplish their task. Recycled content (or a single page of content that has been published on multiple webpages) is harmful to the utility of the website. Finding the same content from web page to web page is not useful for a searcher, but redundant.

Human Content

As a side note, content also needs to appeal to humans, not just the search engine. Along with being useful, well researched, and professionally presented, content needs to have strong grammar and good sentence structure. Americans like to read content that appears to be written here in the United States. Outsourcing content to non-native English speakers is a great way to save money, but doesn't help your rankings.

The content should also have a voice that matches the audience. Blog posts regarding tips and tricks should be conversational and witty. Your posts are more likely to be shared and read if they are well-written and relatable.

Site Load Speed

Remember a decade ago when waiting 10 seconds for a web page to load seemed quick? Well, that's not the case anymore, and if your website is a slow loader you'll lose visitors. The average page-load speed is 7 seconds, but even that's too slow to keep people interested in your site.

If you want to improve your rankings, you need page views, and if you want to improve your page views, you need a faster loading website. The ideal load time is 3 seconds or less, and every second more than that could cost you thousands in sales. If your website is slowing down your ranking growth, take steps to improve it, such as maximizing your database, using caching, and taking advantage of tools to analyze your data.

Social Signals

Every time a page, image, blog post, or video is liked, shared, or followed, it sends a social signal to the search engine, letting it know what content the public wants to see. It's true that a simple like on Facebook is not a true endorsement or a rave review about a product or service; but it does count for something in the social world. People are much more likely to view a page or inquire about a service if someone they know and trust has shared it via social media, and search engines take that into account.

The debate about whether or not link building or social signals generates the most traffic still rages on, but the three top search engines agree that sharing content on social media is an important factor in raising page rankings.

The Right Links

If used correctly, link building is another important feature that improves search rankings. If used incorrectly, it can actually hurt your ratings and improve the ratings of another website. The science behind link building is constantly changing, and understanding which links to add can feel impossible.

Most SEM experts agree that the best way to improve rankings through link building is to use links from high-quality sites. Think of top sites as "name brand" sites, i.e. names everyone has heard of and most people respect. They are websites such as Forbes and the CDC. Having prestigious links improves the usability of your article and helps prove your authority.

Mobile Compatibility

Computers are not obsolete, nor are they likely to be in the near future. But if you're relying on a website that is only standard-screen compatible, you're potentially hurting your rankings. People love the capability to surf the web, shop, and read articles anywhere they are with their smartphones. Users aren't going to wait around for your slow website that hasn't been converted for a smaller screen to show up on their phone. Having a website and all of its content made mobile phone compatible can make a huge difference in the amount of page views you receive, boosting your overall rankings.

Investing in quality content that is relatable, can be shared on social sites, and can be viewed on a variety of devices will prove valuable in 2015. Master the search "trifecta" and you'll likely see your rankings improve in the future.