Wonder how you can rank highly on Google? It isn’t as difficult as it appears to be.
According to the UK Google Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation 2013 study by Searchmetrics, it’s a simple formula: good quality content and good backlinks.
Searchmetrics’ report also determines that “big” brand web pages continue to automatically rank in top positions, even if they don’t follow the same rules as other websites.
The study analyses search results from Google.co.uk for 10,000 popular keywords and 300,000 websites appearing in the top 30 search results, picking out the issues that correlate with a high Google ranking.
What are the key findings, according to Searchmetrics?
1. Quality counts
The quality of content on web pages is a vital ranking factor because Google is keen to raise the ranking of good, useful information. Searchmetrics’ research backs this up: pages with more text and more images are positively correlated with Google rankings.
“If we assume that the existence of more text and images is an indicator of quality, then quality content is linked to higher rankings according to our study,” says Marcus Tober, Searchmetrics’ founder and CTO. “But we actually found that this relationship exists up to a limit of around 10,000 characters. After this, the correlation tended to decrease. So you can’t just go on adding text in the hope it will continue to drive a more positive rankings boost.”
2. Keyword domains and links are less important
Search experts have long believed that sites that have a keyword in the domain name, such as ‘keyword.co.uk’ , tend to rank higher for relevant searches, but the study indicates that exact-match domains have now lost some of their ranking power.
The study found that having a keyword in the domain name now has a lower positive correlation (0.07) down from 0.11 in 2012. While having a keyword in the URL or web page address has declined from a correlation of 0.04 in 2012 to an even lower 0.01 in 2013.
“Until 2012, there were lots of keyword domains ranking well in the SERPs that did not provide any value for the user except having the keyword in the domain name – together with ads on the page. Most were irrelevant to the user’s query and so Google seems to have devalued these irrelevant domains now,” Tober explains.
3. Backlinks are “immensely” important
As in Searchmetrics’ 2012 study, the 2013 data shows that the number of backlinks (links to a web page from other sites) remains very closely connected to how the page ranks. In fact, the number of backlinks for pages that rank in top positions has increased. It isn’t just the quantity that matters though – Google values quality, natural links.
This means a site should not simply have a large number of perfectly optimized links that include keywords it wants to rank for in the anchor text.
4. Social signals correlate closely with rankings
Social signals such as Facebook likes and shares, Twitter tweets and Google +1s all correlate closely with Google rankings. In fact, analysis shows that Google +1s correlate more strongly (a correlation coefficient of +0.36) than any other social media signals.
Facebook shares were the second most closely linked social signal with rankings a correlation of +0.32. Tweets on Twitter and Pins on Pinterest have lower correlations of +0.26 and 0.25 respectively.
5. Brands enjoy an automatic ranking benefit
Brands seem to automatically rank higher in Google searches. And the analysis reveals that some features that correlate with high ranking pages, mostly “on-page” factors, do not apply to pages from top brands in the same way as they do for non-brand web pages. Even if they fail to fulfil some of the most basic principles of SEO, brands can still rank highly.
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