With new changes coming constantly to Google’s algorithm, the antics of those trying to make SEO (search engine optimisation) work for them is diminishing in favour of another concept, Search Experience Optimisation, where the focus switches to the user.
This is already underway according to SEO company Searchmetrics, which every year examines the top 30 search results for 10,000 keywords in some 300,000 URLs in the US, and produces rankings to show how different factors might have made those URLs improve or decline compared to the year before.
From the graph below it’s clear that the biggest factors were site content, backlinks and social. In total, Searchmetrics identified five trends, but also make clear that all these results are correlations, so do not necessarily represent causation.
This year, the biggest factors are:
The Searchmetrics report concludes that high quality, relevant content wins better rankings, so performs better.
How they describe high quality, relevant content is rather different to how a journalist might, praising, “Properties such as comprehensive wording in regard to the co-occurrence of related terms in the context,” which translated really means articles on specific subjects, so blogs, journalism. Content.
They also found higher word counts and ‘media enrichment’, presumably video, pictures and so on within articles, to help with rankings.
Technology and tagging
Sites that are optimised well, load quickly, have article tags like meta tags and picture tage in place. Those that include links perform better too. So don’t forget to make your site look great, and link and tag your content.
Backlinks are links to your page from elsewhere. Before SEO took off, backlinks were really how web users ‘surfed’ the internet, following random or interesting links. Today, they continune to give pages an SEO ‘kick’, the report states that backlinks are ‘crucial’.
Social remains important, which may be common-sense: top-ranked URLs have many social shares. While the effect was strong, it was slightly diminished compared to last year.
The research looked at user behaviour for the first time, and again, perhaps unsurprisingly, higher click-through rates, lower bounce rates and high time on site corresponded to high performance of URLs. While these are not shown on the graph below one ‘user signal’ metric, click-through rate, was at 0.67 the strongest single factor almost double ‘relevant terms’. But of course you would expect a high performing URL to have a high click-through rate.