The Ace up Your SEO Sleeve
Search Ranking Factors & Rank Correlations 2015 provides webmasters, SEOs and content marketers with the latest insights regarding the most important ranking factors for high-ranking Google.com search results. This year’s edition of Searchmetrics’ annual series provides detailed analyses of ranking correlations, practical tips for page optimization and, for the first time, benchmarks so you can compare your web projects.
Wait. What exactly is a ranking factor?
An explanation as well as many useful tips on data interpretation can be found here.
Our whitepaper has got a fresh coat of paint this year and features easy-to-read charts, incisive insights and concise summaries. If you want to read the study on your tablet or smartphone then you can download the PDF.
To give you a taste, here are some of the key findings of this year’s study:
Relevant, holistic content is more important than ever
The importance of good quality, relevant content cannot be understated. Ranking factors including word count and Flesch readability both increased this year, indicating in general longer texts that are easier to read. As the trend away from keywords and towards relevant content continues, high-ranking sites are shifting their focus from using keywords based on search queries to trying to understand the user’s intention as a whole and reflecting this in quality, logically structure content.
While “Mobilegeddon” did not create as much turbulence as expected, the number of mobile friendly sites amongst the top 30 search results is increasing. It is clear from our data that responsive web design may be having a positive effect on rankings. As increasing numbers of users search on the move, optimizing your site for different end devices will continue to grow in importance. (P.S. Don’t miss the Searchmetrics mobile ranking factors study due later this year)
Whether internal or external links or domain names, keyword correlations across the board are decreasing. Additionally, increasing numbers of high-ranking URLs are not using the corresponding keyword in the body or description. This corresponds to the trend from keywords to content and looks set to continue. Keywords are, of course, an organic part of good content, but are meaningless without relevance and structure.
While backlinks still show quite high correlations with rankings, the times of unnatural link building and maybe of links in general are or may soon be over. Since the introduction of the disavow tool, it has not been possible to know exactly what links Google weights in its rankings. In general, year-on-year correlations in this category are decreasing and our data suggest that this downward trend is set to continue.
The question remains open as to exactly how social media signals such as likes, tweets and +1s boost rankings. Google maintains that it does not directly use these signals as a ranking factor, but our data shows that a positive correlation between amount of social signals and rankings. Social signals remain important for brand awareness and help to drive organic traffic to top ranking sites.