An analysis of the Searchmetrics 2014 Ranking Factors reveals the direction that search engines and particularly Google are heading in.
The analysis looked at the top 30 ranking sites for over 10,000 keywords (approximately 300,000 URLs) – this is a condensed version of its findings;
1. Most traditional keyword factors are in significant decline
- there is a marked decrease of instances of “Keyword in URL” and “Keyword in Domain”
- relatively few sites actually have the keywords in their page heading tags
- over the last 12 months the average share of links featuring the keyword in the anchor text has declined
- however the higher the ranking then the higher the percentage of backlinks containing the keyword and this share continuously decreases with each position.
- pages with relevant and related phrases on the page ranked better meaning ‘topic’ pages rather than ‘keyword’ pages are what Google is looking for.
2. The rise of ‘The Brand’ continues
Very often what Google serves in positions 1-2 are brands, often big brands!
Google likes brands and their algorithm now naturally favours these big sites because;
- they naturally have a lot of content
- they naturally have a lot of links
- they have high domain authority
- therefore they can support a higher percentage of keyword anchor-text
3. Content factors
A few years ago the general consensus was that 300 words was enough content for Google to understand the page. Then 500 words was the figure bandied about. Now we are seeing that, on average, longer content is ranking better – that could be 1000, 2000+ words.
As well as length having rich content helps – the highest ranked pages had images, videos, slideshows, infographics, etc embedded into the pages to provide a fuller user experience.
Having good content generates better user signals – that is users stay longer, view more pages and ‘bounce’ away less frequently. Good content is useful, relevant and easy to read.
Google uses these engagement metrics to identify ‘good’ content and rank it better
The findings in the report support the idea that Google is moving away from the previous laser-focus on individual keywords towards broader topics – these are individual subjects or areas that are based around a set of keywords and a variety of related terms.
The usefulness of this content is measured through user-signals and the number of click-throughs from a Search Engine Results Page to particular web page.
Links are still vitally important as is the anchor-text of a link especially regarding the ratio of keyword anchor-texts.
Top four ranking factor correlations from the analysis;
- good content
- click through rate & user-signals
- relevant terms
Implications for business owners;
- Create, or curate, useful and relevant content for your prospect in a variety of media formats
- Categorise that content by topic rather than by keywords
- Create longer content pieces that cover multiple keywords on a single page
- Focus on building quality links rather than going for quantity
- Use brand anchor-text often and keyword anchor-text strategically .