Searchmetrics, a company focused on search experience optimization–which includes SEO and Content Performance Marketing–has released its annual study “Search Ranking Factors and Rank Correlations – Google US 2015.” It says Google is more focused than ever on giving higher search rankings to good quality Web content that’s easy to understand and relevant to the search query. Positive user signals such as time on site help Google assign relevance values to content. The company’s analysis indicates the days are numbered for old-style SEO tactics such as link building or emphasizing relevant keywords and search phrases.
Additional new findings
* On average 30% of sites that appear in the top 30 Google US search results use responsive design to optimize the search experience by automatically adjusting the format to suit a mobile, tablet or computer. As increasing numbers of users search on the move, responsive web design is more important.
* Higher ranking pages tend to have more words and are better able to give searchers the information they are looking for by covering topics more comprehensively, as well as being easier to read and understand.
Since last year the average word count on pages in the top 10 search results has increased by around 25% (rising from 975 to 1285 words). There’s also evidence that high ranking pages cover topics more comprehensively touching on a variety of related topics.
*Websites which rank higher pay attention to user experience and user signals. They are better structured, more often responsive, have a better internal link structure and offer a user-friendly experience.
“Closely relate to the content and user experience are user signals such as time on site and bounce rates, because they tell Google if people find your information useful and engaging,” says Marcus Tober, CTO and Founder of Searchmetrics. “Google can measure these signals very effectively, for example by analyzing user behavior from people who use its Google Chrome web browser. So if you want your pages to rank well, you can’t get away with providing content that isn’t relevant or by providing a poor experience.”
* In addition, technical factors such as having a title tag and description in a Web page’s underlying source code, and having pages that are quick to load, are standard requirements that almost all pages in the top 30 results display.
* The number of backlinks to a page from other pages is still a factor that is highly correlated with search ranking positions but its importance is declining.
“Our research,” says Tober, “indicates that simplistic tactics that may have been effective in the past – such as increasing the number of keyword mentions on the page or using keywords in the domain name – are not enough to lift you up the search results. You need to try and understand the searcher’s intention and ensure your web content gives them the information they are looking for, ensuring you cover topics in sufficient detail.”