“Understanding user intention and creating unique, relevant content is more vital than ever before. It is also visible that backlinks are continuing to decrease in relevance. Looking ahead, as the proportion of search queries from mobile devices continues to grow, it will be interesting to see what effect this has on the rankings,” explains Marcus Tober, founder and chief technology officer at Searchmetrics.
- Relevant, holistic content is more important than ever. Ranking factors including word count and Flesch readability both increased this year, indicating in general longer texts that are easier to read. The trend away from keywords and towards relevant content continues among high-ranking sites.
- User experience – beyond the desktop. Responsive web design may be having a positive effect on rankings. Optimizing your site for different end devices will continue to grow in importance. (P.S. Don’t miss the Searchmetrics mobile ranking factors study due later this year).
- Keywords are becoming increasingly obsolete. Whether internal or external links or domain names, keyword correlations across the board are decreasing. Additionally, increasing numbers of high-ranking URLs are not using the corresponding keyword in the body or description.
- Backlinks – correlations are decreasing. While backlinks still show quite high correlations with rankings, the times of unnatural link building and maybe of links in general are or may soon be over. In general, year-on-year correlations in this category are decreasing and our data suggest that this downward trend is set to continue.
- Social signals – a bonus for organic rankings. The question remains open as to exactly how social media signals such as likes, tweets and +1s boost rankings. Nevertheless, social signals remain important for brand awareness and help to drive organic traffic to top ranking sites.
To read the full report, click here.