Content, Links, User Experience Drive SEO
According to new market research, website traffic is the most influential factor when search engines determine search results. When many users visit a website, Google sees that site as one of high authority and value.
According to SEMrush, the world’s leading competitive research service for online marketing, user behavior signals such as time on site, pages per session and bounce rate also influence website rankings, since they indicate website quality and relevance for users. Backlinks also are extremely important for rankings.
One of the main indicators of a website’s popularity is its number of visits. There are a lot of ways for visitors to find your website: organic search, paid ads, social networks, direct visits, referring domains, emails, etc. After excluding organic search and other traffic data, we see a strong connection between the number of direct visits and the page position on the SERP. This could indicate that Google prioritizes domains with more authority and consequently more direct traffic when ranking. Direct visits are fueled by your brand awareness, so building a strong brand image should be an essential part of your promotion strategy. Of course, social media, events, sponsorships and other tactics can help fuel your web traffic.
The researchers analyzed several user behavior signals, including bounce rate, the time that the user spends on the website in general and how many pages per session the user opens. These statistics help identify user behavior patterns and can provide information on whether your content is engaging, whether the navigation on your website is convenient and how users generally react to your website.
It is clear that high-ranking pages have lower bounce rates. This could be the result of the level of trust that users have for top-ranking pages, or it could mean that the lower-ranking pages are less relevant. And though Google reps declare that all user behavior signals are too noisy to be considered during the page qualification, a high bounce rate could indicate that the page content is irrelevant, which is bad for both users and search engine bots. These results indicate that users tend to spend more time on websites that rank higher in SERPs. This could be explained by the same fact: users trust top-ranking pages more than lower-ranking ones. Just like the bounce rate and time on site trends, these results confirm that users tend to visit more pages on websites that are in the top of organic search results.
“Content is still king when it comes to online visibility and shareability,” said Gary Chandler, president and CEO of Crossbow Communications. “Is your information helpful, relevant and unique? That’s what people want when searching for solutions and answers.”
As confirmed by Google, a strong backlink portfolio is crucial for website rankings. All the metrics of the backlink portfolio are interconnected and a blind manipulation of only one of them will not increase your rankings, unless you also work on the other metrics. Focus on your natural backlink profile, and try various link-building strategies.
The high search volume niche is extremely competitive and the first positions are occupied by the giants with the richest backlink portfolios. The competition is lighter in the low-volume SERPs, so extra link-building efforts will make all the difference for the page/domain rankings.
In past years, Google promoted the idea of a more secure web. By applying new policies and imposing new rules, Google sent a clear message — make the Internet safer for users. By migrating to HTTPS, you are being proactive in protecting your users’ security, which strengthens the authority of your website. While it is a costly undertaking, it can significantly impact your business.
The HTTPS adoption rate is very high in the high-volume keyword group. That is, the more popular the keywords are, the more possible it is that HTTPS domains occupy the top search positions. So if you want to compete for high-volume keywords, having an HTTPS version of your site is extremely important. In the low-volume keyword segment, the HTTPS adoption rate is not so high, so having a secure version will significantly distinguish you from the competition.
An article’s length, or the article’s word count, is one of the first things that forms a user’s opinion about a page. The exact numbers for ideal content length are debatable, as the main advantages of a text are its quality and relevance. However, long-form content creates the impression of in-depth analysis and trustworthiness.
These days, content specialists know better than to stuff their texts with keywords. And though keyword stuffing is not recommended anymore, it is a commonly accepted rule to include keywords in your articles’ main on-page elements such as their title, meta description and body. So, we checked if the presence of keywords in the on-page elements influences the page rankings. A video is considered to be a valuable contribution to almost any piece of content these days. Sometimes it is essential to include a video in an article or post, and in other cases it is not absolutely necessary, though websites often do it anyway because it will, allegedly, make the post rank higher. We checked if the presence of a video on a page has any impact on its SERP position. The presence of a video didn’t show a significant influence on page rankings, so we came to the conclusion that video itself is not a silver bullet. However, in certain niches clients expect video content, so it makes sense to provide it. Consider your audience’s demands, and if they include visual support, include a video.
More than 75 percent of the top-20 pages have keywords in their body and over 60% have them in their title. While it seems to be a common practice, the data proves that it doesn’t have a strong impact on rankings. One time-proven approach in SEO is using longer keywords for promotion, as they usually bring more relevant traffic to a website. If this is your case and you plan to rank for long-tails, having an exact-match keyword in your on-page SEO elements is not necessary. In fact, it is more important to diversify the semantic core of your text and make it relevant to the target keyword rather than copying it. Meanwhile, write longer content to generate higher rankings.
SEMrush.com reports and tools are used by more than 1,000,000 site owners and online-marketers.