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New SEO Ranking Factors Revealed in New Study

New SEO Ranking Factors Revealed in New Study

A brand new study from search tool company SEMrush has conducted a study to determine what factors influence a website’s position or ranking in Google. For many years there have been debates and assumptions about Google’s ranking factors. However, business owners can’t rely on assumptions and speculation to determine the search ranking success of their websites. To help businesses better understand what factors are behind Google’s complicated and mysterious algorithm, SEMrush’s aim is to help SEO specialists have the tools and the information necessary to optimize and streamline their efforts. Here are the highlights from their study. The full study can be found here.

SEMrush Ranking Factors Study

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The methodology of the study is illustrated above and is laid out as follows:

1. The 100 top positions for 600,000+ keywords were gathered
2. Each page and domain were analyzed in terms of the 17 factors including on-page factors, backlinks, traffic data on domain and URL level
3. Keywords were grouped by search volume
4. Search volume groups were segmented by long-tail and short-head
5. Machine learning algorithm was applied to determine the importance of the ranking factors.

Today we are focusing on the second edition of the SEMrush Ranking Factors Study. The study takes a look at the different factors that are considered when ranking a website. It offers a few changes from the original study that was released in June of 2017, including a comparison of the strength of backlinks and their influence on a URL vs. the entire domain. One of the main revelations from the study is that site visits are the most important Google ranking factor. It is puzzling because one would assume that the higher the ranking, the more visits a site will have; however the research shows the opposite causal relationship. For the study, a machine learning algorithm was applied to 600,000 keywords.

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The 17 ranking factors are listed here in order of importance. The first four most important factors have the most significance, and they are:

• Direct website visits
• Time on site
• Pages per session
• Bounce rate

The next four factors are ranked as equally important:

• Total referring domains
• Total backlinks
• Total referring IPs
• Total follow-backlinks

The infographic above shows some interesting facts:

See Also

• The difference in content length between the Top 3 and the 20th position is 45%
• 65% of domains ranking for high volume keywords are secure https domains
• The difference in the number of referring domains from 2nd to 10th position is 10,000
• The bounce rate for the domains ranking within the top 3 is 49%
• 18% of domains ranking for high volume keywords don’t have the keyword in the body
• 3 to 3.5 pages are visited for each session when a user is referred from search
• 20% more referring domains link to websites on the second position than to websites on the first
• URLs in the first position have 2.2 times more backlinks than the second
• 3% of backlinks contain a keyword in the anchor text

Takeaways for Your Company

Whether you are an in-house SEO expert or an agency, like , that focuses on helping companies with the search engine rankings and other marketing strategies, this study provides insights that are very helpful in tackling future optimization of pages and websites. It is important to note that SEMrush explains that this study reserve-engineers the 17 factors to ranking higher on Google SERPs, but should not be considered a universal action plan. There are so many factors of the algorithm and each URL and domain must be looked at and a customized plan formulated. Their three step process for dealing with the research is as follows:

• Step 1. Understand which keywords you rank for — do they belong to low, medium or high search volume groups?
• Step 2. Benchmark yourself against the competition: take a closer look at the methods they use to hit top 10 and at their metrics — Do they have a large scope of backlinks? Are their domains secured with HTTPS?
• Step 3. Using this study, pick and start implementing the optimization techniques that will yield the best results based on your keywords and the competition level on SERPs.


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View Comments (4)
  • While Google and other search engines guard their “secret recipes” carefully, such studies can help us optimize our efforts – thanks for sharing!

  • Surprisingly the research is showing that Google is devaluing onpage factors. Links are still powerful and onsite metrics are ruling the ranking process.
    But one thing we must conclude from this experiment is that the fundamentals of SEO has not changed. Still we need well structured good contents and quality inbound links to rank high on search engines.

  • For some small businesses, I’d say you can knock out the top 4 (direct website visits, time on site, pages per session, bounce rate) because they are the domain of well known “go to” sites – they are never going to change much for a plumber’s website, or a hairdresser. This means that if you’re not a “go to” site, then backlinks are still king.

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