Searchmetrics’ study of Ranking Factors & Rank Correlations is here to serve as a comparative benchmark for webmasters, online marketers and SEOs, but it is no longer as universally applicable as it once was. This study of general ranking factors is being published for the last time. Going forward, we will focus on more detailed industry studies beginning spring 2017.
This whitepaper is the latest in our series of annual ranking factor studies, which we’ve been publishing since 2012. For anyone new to the game or anyone looking for a refresher, you can find a handy explanation of what ranking factors are, as well as useful advice on interpreting the data, here:
What is a Ranking Factor?
People familiar with last year’s whitepaper will recognize our charts – now updated with this year’s data and providing comparative benchmarks and insight into overall trends and developments. Readers will also find new charts and analysis for brand new ranking factors like Content Relevance.
The study also includes an executive summary and bitesize conclusions for a quick overview of the main takeaways, as well as detailed analysis and insights on each ranking factor. As always, the study is also optimized for mobile viewing, so if you want to read it on your tablet or smartphone, then you can download the PDF.
Here’s a sneak peek at a few
of this year’s key findings:
Ranking Factors are becoming
Today, each industry, or even each individual search query, has its own ranking factors. And these are in constant flux. This is due to the development and application of Machine Learning algorithms, which now contribute to Google’s evaluation of websites and search queries.
At the same time, it is vital for SEOs and online marketers to understand exactly how Google’s evaluation of websites has changed, and what concrete impact this has on their day-to-day work.
The main task for SEOs and online marketers today is the creation of relevant content that is targeted towards the specific user intent. This intent can, however, vary greatly depending on the search query. At Searchmetrics, we have taken up precisely this challenge, and spent years of hard work developing solutions which help our customers to detect the user intent hidden behind a search query. For the first time, we can define Content Relevance as a ranking factor, making it possible to provide data-driven content recommendations and optimization measures.
The content meets the user intent, it is extremely difficult to achieve a position at the top of Google’s ranking if the page is not – for both humans and search engines – easily accessible, easy to consume and optimized from a technical point of view. Factors such as loading time, file size, HTTPS encryption (for shops), internal links, page architecture and mobile-friendliness are elementary pieces of this puzzle.
Regarding internet users’ behavior, Google has access to a gigantic quantity of data from its search results, its browser Chrome, Google Analytics and from Android. This data provides Google with highly efficient measurements, enabling it to gauge how happy a user is with a result. Combined with information about the clustering of user intentions and Machine Learning methods, this creates an effective system for evaluating the relevance of online documents – all in real time.
Whereas the importance of a well-established internal link structure of a domain can rarely be overestimated, backlinks no longer primarily determine search engine rankings. Depending on the topic, it is now sometimes possible for a website to achieve a high Google ranking even with far fewer links than its competitors. This is partly driven by the increase in mobile search queries, as URLs on mobile devices are often liked or shared, but rarely actively linked. The increasing prominence of apps and app rankings in organic search is also contributing to the decline of backlinks’ importance.