New Ranking Factors from SearchMetrics Help You Achieve Content Success

In a Google world, we don’t know with 100% certainty what makes one piece of content rank better than another piece of content. Constant algorithm updates change the game regularly. And to know exactly how you place in the top 10 can only be an educated guess. That’s why reports from top data analysts like SearchMetrics are important to all digital marketers.

What I’ll do for you today is break down the most impactful ranking factors and give you a plan to fix them on your website, add them to your marketing strategy, and monitor them for future success.

Remember, the ranking here is an educated guess (albeit highly educated!) by SearchMetrics, based on a correlation of factors in 10,000 individual keyword searches. So as with all things online, be sure to test, analyze, and make changes based on YOUR data.

Click through rate

Click through rate is the top ranking factor in search, according to SearchMetrics.

This becomes rather obvious when you think about Google’s job as a search engine: All Google is really trying to do is present the best piece of content to the search being performed. An enlightening statistic within this correlation is that 32% of the time, the number one position in a given search result is due to the amount of clicks that piece of content has received. Compare that 32% figure to only 3% for the number 10 position (the last position on a search engine results page or SERP).

A high click through rate is the ultimate goal of any piece of content. It means you’ve provided your potential customer a piece of content that answers their questions. You’ve optimized your content for search and because of that you now have received a qualified visitor to your site, ready to be put into your sales funnel.

Number of internal links

This ranking factor is related to the number of internal links the piece of content has on that given page. The average amount of internal links in the top 10 performing search engine results was 130.  That includes all links internally, including your header and footer links.

One strategy you can use to take advantage of this ranking factor is called a lumping or content hub strategy. The strategy is centered on creating themes or main hub topics that relate to your company and answer your customer’s questions. Then, at the end of the post, you create an internal linking structure that links that main theme to sub-topics which describe the topic more in-depth.

Number of backlinks

Backlinks are important to the web search because they show the importance of that piece to those who read it. In the correlation ranking factors, backlinks rank fourth. The average number of backlinks found in the top 10 averaged 1,352.

A great way to increase your backlinks is to create a strategy around social media. Social media allows you to promote your content and receive views through hashtags or from your current followers. Highly linkable content such as infographics allow you to wow your audience with a cool design and interesting data … and keep them sharing.

Keywords in body

This ranking factor has taken a hit the past couple of years. But it’s still a good thing. Here’s the situation: Google understands your content more these days, so relying on just a keyword strategy to get you by isn’t enough anymore. That’s why, according to SearchMetrics, an average of 9 keywords in the body of the text is the norm.

Number one take away: stop that keyword stuffing! It doesn’t do any good, and it probably hurts, by making your content harder to read (low quality).

An advanced strategy that I recommend for your content keywords comes from Moz’s blog. 7 concepts of advanced on-page SEO is a great read for those ready to take their optimization to the next level.

Word count

Word count as a ranking factor is in the same category as keywords in the body. It used to be you’d hit a certain number of words and boom, you’re optimized for search. Not anymore.

As Google begins to understand meaning, it’s becoming more important to have a piece of content that flows well and answers your customers’ questions. Message: Your content must be high-quality.  SearchMetrics found an average of 975 words for the top 10 result pages. This number includes all text found on the page, so headers, footers and sidebars are included in this count.

Having a blogging strategy with a set word count can help keep you focused on the goal. Yet a word count should never limit the content you’re creating by insufficiently answering the reader’s questions. If you can write a quality post under 400 words, do it. Just make it answer a question in a meaningful way.

Recurring theme: It all comes down to quality content.

NoFollow backlinks

NoFollow tags are an important piece of any SEO strategy. NoFollow tags allow you to stop transfer of page rank or anchor text.

So why do they matter? Well, if a top ranking website tags the piece of content you created, it is still an indicator that you’ve created a worthy piece of content even if there is a nofollow backlink.

Read more on no-follow backlinks from my colleague, Jeni Jonett.


While many ranking factor posts can be shots in the dark, data around those ranking factors is important to know. SearchMetrics does a great job using data to prove their rankings, and giving each factor a correlation to the result. These correlations can guide you in creating your on-site optimization plan. Well, until next year when all of the rankings will change again … Thanks, Google!

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