SearchMetrics is a SEO software company and, each year, they produce a report on SEO ranking factors that analyzes the content that appears high up in the search results and looks at why this content does well.
Analysis is based on the top 10,000 keywords searched for on Google in 2014 and the rankings are based on companies in the top three Google search results.
In this article, we will cover eleven important areas to consider, as identified by the Searchmetrics SEO ranking factors report.
1. Detailed Content Wins!
Focusing on one set of keywords within your article is recommended. By placing these keywords in your title and in H1 and H2 tags in the body of your content, you will have a better chance of ranking.
This is still relevant.
However, don’t worry too much about using exact matches in keywords all the time. Instead, think about all the related keywords because Google is doing a semantic analysis on your content to figure out what it’s really about.
This is one of the reasons long, detailed content performs better than short content. If you write a detailed article about a subject, you are more likely to include related keywords, even if you don’t focus on them.
Example: I recently wrote a post targeting the term ‘animated videos’. Here are some of the phrases that I rank for:
Google analyzes the content and realizes that it’s about animated videos, so it sends traffic for related terms. The terms you rank for on Google are available in Google Webmaster Tools under Search Queries.
An advanced tip is to look at which related terms you are ranking for and, if you are getting good traffic for these terms, go back into your article and add more content around these related terms to get more traffic!
Actions to take: Write more detailed posts full of actionable content. Use Google Suggest to find similar, related keywords. The tool keywordtool.io will show you all the Google Suggest keywords.
2. Keywords in Your Domain Name are Losing Ground
www.videoplayer.com used to be a great domain if you wanted to rank for ‘video player’. However, each year, the significance of having the keyword in your domain name reduces, and it will continue to decrease in importance.
The problem is that there are too many spammy domain names with keywords in them!
- Don’t go out and splash any cash on buying keyword-rich domain names.
- Don’t be too concerned about having an exact match in your URL for articles where you want to rank for specific keywords (e.g. razorsocial.com/video-player).
3. Site Speed is Increasingly Important
The importance of site speed has gone up again.
The average load time for the URLs of domains that show up in the top 10 search results is 1.27 seconds.
The issue is that slow domains will suffer from poor user signals. This means that, if you have a slow domain, users are more likely to disappear from the site and not wait around for it to load, so Google views this as a negative factor.
My friend Syed Balkhi from WPBeginner knows the importance of site speed and his homepage downloads in just over 1 second. Test out the WPBeginner site and you’ll see how quick it is.
Read this article on speeding up your blog and take action.
4. Keywords Are Not to be Ignored (Yet!)
When you write content, you shouldn’t just focus exclusively on a single keyword combination but you do still need to consider this within your posts. Related keywords are increasing in importance, but there is still room for exact match (or at least close to exact match) keywords within your content.
- You can see that the positioning of the keyword within your ‘title’ is important (i.e. the earlier you use them, the better).
- The length of the URL is becoming an increasingly important factor, with shorter URLs performing better.
- Keywords within Heading 2 tags are increasing in importance, compared to keywords appearing within a Heading 1 tags on your page.
- Video integration is a factor, so consider using more video within your pages.
- Keywords in your domain name name or URL are decreasing in importance and may even have a negative impact. Similarly, the use of Flash could be a problem.
Consider the keywords you want to rank for within your content, but don’t overdo it. Keyword stuffing – where you put a lot of the same keywords within your content – is something to avoid. Focusing too much on keyword density – where you have a certain percentage of exact match keywords in your content – should also be avoided.
5. Bounce Rates Need to be Monitored
A bounce is when someone arrives on your website and leaves without visiting any further pages.
Google doesn’t access your Analytics to find out your bounce rate and react based on this. But, if someone is searching for something on Google, visits your site and then returns to Google after only visiting one page on your website, Google can detect that this is a bounce.
What Google can also do is detect how much time someone spends on your site. If visitors spend only a few seconds looking at your content and then click on another link in the search results, this indicates that they didn’t find what they were looking for.
Action: Don’t worry too much about how smart Google is. Focus on reducing your bounce rate within Google. Here are three ideas for reducing your bounce rate:
a) Include related posts within your articles.
b) Link to relevant articles on your site within the article.
c) Improve the readability of your article. You need to try to entice your user to read it.
6. Click-Through Rate is a Priority
Click-through rate is even more important than a bounce. Are people seeing a search result they are interested in and clicking on it?
If they are, that’s a good indication that they have found something relevant. If they leave the site immediately, that’s a sign that it was the wrong information.
The following report shows that generally people spend more time on a site that appears in the top three search results, which means Google is getting their rankings right!
Visit Google Webmaster Tools and look at the search queries section. This will show you the average position in Google search results for the keywords you rank for, as well as their click-through rates. Make sure your titles and descriptions are relevant and that there’s a clear call to action to click!
7. Internal Linking Needs to be Considered
Another area that stood out in the report is the importance of internal linking on your site.
Internal linking is where you mention one blog post on your site in another blog post.
The number of internal links to content that ranked highly in Google increased from 2013 to 2014. On average, there are over 130 internal links (links on the same site) to content that ranks highly.
This is a lot of links! But remember, the top three search results are often dominated by very large brands.
Link to relevant content on your site. If you want to find out which content is relevant, go to Google and type in the keyword you are focusing on, followed by your site name.
For example, if you are writing an article about ‘SEO ranking factors’, you would type in ‘SEO ranking factors’ site:<name of website> and Google will show you related articles you could link from.
8. Advertisements Spoil the User Experience
Advertisements are not bad if they are only a relatively small part of your content. Even Google has an advertising network, called Google Adsense, so it’s hard for it to ban advertisements!
But, if you have too many advertisements on your page, this is going to have a negative impact on your ranking.
So, how does Google detect ads?
a) Google Adsense – This is Google’s own advertisement network so it’s easy to figure this one out.
b) Clickable images – It’s great having images on your site but, if you can click them to bring you to other websites, will Google consider this an ad?
c) Recognized URLs – There are certain URLs that Google will recognize as ad networks. For example, if your link goes to ‘shareasale.com’, Google knows you are trying to sell a product.
Continue with advertisements but limit the number of ads on your page and make sure there’s a lot more content than there is advertising. If Google sees that 95% of your content is not related to ads, then that’s going to be easier to justify as quality content.
9. Backlinks Are Not Going Away
The number and quality of backlinks you get from other websites is still extremely important.
Backlinks are other sites linking to your content.
But, as Brian Deane from Backlinko recently mentioned, the relevance of these backlinks is crucial.
The best backlinks are links from sites that are high authority and that write about topics related to you. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and relevance.
1. Read this article on Domain Authority.
2. Network with other bloggers in your niche who have high authority sites.
3. Write high-quality blog content. You want links to lots of pieces of content on your site, and having great blog content is the way to achieve this.
10. Social Signals are Not Increasing in Importance
The reality is that Google doesn’t pay much attention to the number of Facebook shares, Twitter shares, etc. a post has. It’s not a factor that’s considered as part of ranking.
However, if your content gets shared, more people know about it and, if more people know about it, then you are more likely to get backlinks.
This is why content shared on social media is still very important for your search rankings.
Action: Keep sharing your content on social media and network with relevant people in your niche.
11. Brand Factor
Google trusts brand names and rewards them in search results.
If you build up a strong brand, your name (and similar variations) will be mentioned throughout the web and this will help Google recognize you as a brand.
Action: Network like crazy with people relevant to your niche!
The world of SEO is changing dramatically and old practices that used to work for ranking are no longer effective.
This report is based on what is actually happening, rather than on theory, so it’s worth paying attention to.
What changes are you planning to make based on this report?
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