If you have attempted to teach yourself SEO best practices, you may very well have given up the second you realized Google changes its ranking factors so often. To keep up with the ever-changing search engine, Searchmetrics does the research for us (yay!), publishing an in depth study of Google’s changes each year.
Searchmetrics recently released their 2014 Ranking Factors Study – an 80+ page annual study analyzing search engine algorithms, the rank correlation and the top 10 SEO ranking factors. This years study revealed several things, but above all else — content is truly king, and keywords are no longer the driving factor in SEO.
More Quality Content
You’ve heard it from me before — the more content and pages on your website, the better. This study reveals that more quality content is an even larger part of the ranking factor than ever before. To rank higher, “sites must produce not just more content, but more relevant, holistic content”. In other words, if you want to rank higher and be competitive, you must produce more content, in the form of new website pages, blog posts, etc.
Other SEO Ranking Factors in 2014
Compared to the last two years, the following factors play a more key role in ranking:
- Number of Words in Text/Page Length: The graph below shows that websites with more words in the copy occupy higher rankings, compared to 2013. Pages should have 900-1000 words to have a better chance at ranking.
- On Page Images: The data shows that pages with more images, rank better (note, the image files must have a tag on the page). What this doesn’t mean is stuffing your page with images, it simply shows a positive correlation with high ranking pages and number of images on average per page.
- Keyword-Use in Content: In the past, using your keyword multiple times within page content would suffice. Now, the copy ranks better when incorporating related, additional keywords. In fact, relevant terms (i.e. creating a holistic page), are more important, now, than the number of keywords in the content. Basically, Google wants to rank content according to its relevance to the searcher’s intent. Note: If you use your keyword too much (aka ‘keyword stuffing’), this will hurt you.
- Keyword-Use in URL/Domain Name: Including a keyword in your domain name and URL is no longer a ranking factor.
The above changes are only a fraction of the SEO ranking factors studied and covered in the Searchmetrics report. While it is important to know and take the changes into consideration when optimizing your website, remember that a good search position cannot be achieved by simply picking and choosing a few of the factors. You can see the entire study here.