Key Takeaways from the 2014 SEO Ranking Factors Report

Each year, Searchmetrics conducts a study where they evaluate the latest and greatest SEO ranking factors and correlations. This month, Searchmetrics released their largest study to date, with over 100 pages and a variety of new ranking factors, such as average time on site and bounce rate. Searchmetrics summed up their recent study by confirming what many SEOs have known for predicted for quite some time, stating that “content is no longer an addition to, but is the main focus of, SEO.” You can check out the overview below.

The full report, which can be downloaded for free here, is pretty thorough, but I did my best to summarize the key takeaways below. If you have anything to add or if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out in the comments section below.

General Factors:
– Shorter URLs and domain names appear more commonly at the top of the rankings.
– Page load time is becoming a more influential ranking factor -average load time for top 30 domains is 1.27 seconds.
– The Searchmetrics Brand Analysis divided brands into three main categories: niche brands, big brands and Wikipedia.
– Search volume, Pagerank and Alexarank still have a strong correlation with higher search rankings.

Keyword Factors:
– Both the correlation for the keyword on the page itself, and the relevance of the keyword position in the title, have increased significantly.
– The influence of the keyword within the the domain continues to diminish and the average proportion of keyword-rich domains has declined as well.
– As semantic search evolves, you should focus less on keyword density and more on the relevancy of the keywords themselves.

Content Factors:
– The average length of content continues to increase – not only word count, but also total number of sentences.
– Using rich media, such as images and videos, seems to increase the intrinsic value of content marketing.
– The internal link structure of a domain is a vital component of domain performance.
– Advertising integrations have decreased for URLs in the top 30 – less so for Brands, more for URLs from position 5 and after.

Linking Factors:
– Backlinks remain one of the most important off-page SEO ranking factors.
– Total number of backlinks is still the most important link metric.
– Backlinks from sites with high SEO visibility seem to be much more valuable than links from sites with low SEO Visibility.
– Larger brands have significantly more links from news domains than any other URLs.
– Better ranked URLs have, on average, older links.

Social Factors:
– The correlation of social metrics with better rankings remains high, with recommendations and related signals from the social media graph strongly related to good Google rankings.
– The fact that the correlation has decreased, suggests that URLs in lower positions have more +1s on average this year.
– While the average number of tweets for sites in the top position has decreased in comparison with last year‘s figures, the correlation with rankings is still clearly visible.
– Signals from Pinterest are relatively sparse as a social signal for page and ranking.

All data and findings courtesy of Searchmetrics.

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