SemRush, a world renowned resource for SEO and Online Marketing Tools and Resources, has released a 55 page study of ranking factors for SEO. The data was compiled by comparing the status of sites in SERP rankings, and while no study of Google algorithms would crack 100% of the code, and there are specific conditions that exist for all websites in search, the data provided some small surprises, and reaffirmed a number of facts-like inbound links still do matter.
The findings are summarized in the table below:
The number one ranking factor is listed as direct traffic. Direct traffic was always a factor, but Google is giving weight to how many customers use the site as a resource. For most businesses, this means providing solid content will promote the use of the site in direct traffic, as well as encouraging time on site and pages viewed per session, which are factors 2 and 3. User experience continues to be overall, the number one factor in positive rankings.
As a group, the quality and number of backlinks appears to be the second most important factor. The number of total backlinks and follow backlinks is an important ranking factor for SEO. The debate has raged on for some time about whether backlinks are a significant ranking factor. The results of this study back up the most popular point of view that quality backlinks are second only to quality content and a positive user experience in Google Ranking Factors.
On page “formula” factors like HTTPS, total anchors, keyword in body of text, keywords in title, keyword density are shown by this study to be ranking factors, but not as important as content/UX and quality backlinks. A word of caution for this is that with over 200 known ranking factors, successful SEO still requires checking as many boxes as possible after a website that offers a quality user experience and has a positive link structure has been created. The art of search engine optimization is to create a positive UX while still preserving keyword density, etc. Good habits and adherence to the keyword content, meta and title information are still vitally important to successful SEO.
I use SEMRush daily in helping my clients to gain organic search traffic and rankings. The study referenced here is only one of the many assets that SEMRush provides to its subscribers. But even a great resource like SEMRush is just one part of the equation. Google Webmaster tools, review of analytics, competitive analysis and keyword research are also part of a successful SEO campaign.
Eric Van Cleave is the Managing Parter of Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California SEO and Online Marketing Firm.