In the marketing chess match of content and SEO, best practices can quickly be devalued. Writers and SEO experts have to keep up to date on new findings, trends and best practices to remain relevant to both users and Google.
Based on a keyword set of 10,000 relevant search terms, the SearchMetrics’ SEO Ranking Factors and Rank Correlations 2014 Study reveals correlations of various factors with good rankings, as well as an analysis of the results. The study lists these six factors that could influence rankings:
1. Technical performance
Looking at their data, SearchMetrics concludes, “Search engines do not seem to favor pages that meet certain on-page criteria; rather the absence of these criteria have a negative effect on the ranking.” Factors like short loading times, the presence of keywords in the Meta tags and good internal links are fundamental for a good ranking. It’s also worth mentioning that, according to the study, keyword domains are losing their influence.
2. On-page content
In the past year, Google has become closer to reaching its goal of semantic search. Rather than relying on single keywords to create an optimized page, content creators can use “proof terms” and “relevant terms” to write quality, interesting content. Proof terms are words and phrases related to the original keyword and therefore are expected to be included. Relevant terms are words that are not always present, but likely to be included as they are relevant to the topic and keyword being discussed.
Along with writing quality content, the study reveals that longer-form and media-enriched content can also positively influence search rankings. For instance, you should always optimize your images for SEO.
SearchMetrics say that the quality and quantity of backlinks is still correlated with good rankings. “In the top-ranked positions, URLs not only have significantly more links than any other site, but also have a link profile that is in the broadest sense “balanced” or “natural.” The quality of the link source referencing a website also influences rank.
4. Social sharing
The 2014 study still shows that social signals strongly correlate with good rankings, although the correlations have decreased slightly since previous studies. As the study points out, however, correlation does not equal causal relationships. Whether social signals directly affect rankings has yet to be determined, but the study does note that “social signals definitely play a role in direct traffic, brand awareness and the overall online performance of a domain.”
5. Brands and Wikipedia
Google gives globally known brands special treatment, according to the study. Even if top brands don’t meet the standards that Google uses to rank websites, they are often still ranked better. Inclusion in Wikipedia is also significant, as relevant Wikipedia pages are given “ranking priority” by Google.
6. User signals
The study found a high correlation with click-through rates, as websites that were ranked in the top five positions tended to have a lower bounce rate. Google aims to provide relevant content to users and a high bounce rate could be seen as a red flag.
As stated, correlations do not necessarily equal causal relationships. But they can provide some valuable insights about factors that influence search rankings. Consider your website’s technical performance and whether technical factors could be hurting your ranking. Make moves to improve your social media presence and increase awareness about your brand. And most importantly, keep your content relevant and interesting for both the reader’s sake and yours.
Why do more work when you could read these: 2 New Keyword Terms Reinforce the Need for Quality Writing, Image SEO: 5 Quick-Win Secrets to Boost Traffic