With the periodic updates to Google algorithms, the factors that determine search engine page ranking keep changing. Ranking factors refer to the signals that search engines use to rank pages. Factors such as backlinks, site speed, and social media shares and most importantly, high quality, relevant content take precedence when it comes to SEO success. In fact, Searchmetrics’ yearly Ranking Factors Study that bases numbers on rank correlation and averages of top 10 SEO rankings shows that in 2014, top-performing sites have content that is much more holistic and less keyword-focused.
- Relevant, High Quality Content – In order to rank well, sites must publish relevant, high quality text along with a combination of appropriate media objects. Photos, videos and galleries help improve the reading experience. Good internal linking between content is crucial. Search engines reward smarter, in-depth articles that provide analysis and real information with higher ranking. Since Google is focusing more on semantic search, well-written, long-form content about relevant topics which provide results based on actual keywords and topics visitors are searching for would rank higher.
- Strong Site Architecture – Good site architecture with optimal internal linking structure and short loading times are a very important performance factor. As in the case of webpage content, LSI keywords in page meta tags would probably help Google distinguish between synonyms and also work as a relevancy signal. Other important factors to consider include keyword positioning within titles, length of URL, and use of H1/H2 tags.
- Quality Backlinks – This continues to be one of the most significant off-page search engine optimization ranking factors. The quality of the backlink page structure and number of links is crucial to good ranking. The main focus to create a balanced ratio of homepage to deep links together with anchor text focused on brand name or domain name. Internal linking is also an important factor in ranking.
- Social Signals – Use of social media is correlated with higher ranking. Social media can point the way to content. So create new topics and post regularly to these sites, ensuring content relevancy and length to make people talk about and share it. Google is impressed with Likes, Tweets, G+s or +1s and considers them signs of good content.
- User Signals – Sites with higher click-through rates get better rankings. This is a signal which indicates that the site is useful and of interest to visitors.
- Mobile Counts – With the dominance of mobile devices in search, responsive sites that load easily have an edge in mobile search.
The Bottom Line
The highlights of the Searchmetrics yearly ranking study for 2014 are as follows:
- A holistic, content-focused approach is crucial for content quality
- Technical performance and page architecture are very significant
- Proportion of keyword links has generally decreased
- Though the correlations between ranking and social signals has decreased slightly, they are still high
- User signals were measured for the first time and indicated a link between rankings and higher click-through rates, lower bounce rates and a high time-on-site.
Although all the above factors need to be considered when developing your SEO strategy, the key to success lies in publishing quality content.