A huge study was done, the results are remarkable
Our good friends over at backlinko took it upon themselves to trawl data from search engine results.
They did a deep study of over 1 million search query returns from Google herself.
That’s how dedicated to SEO they really are. They did this in an attempt to “reverse engineer” Google’s search algorithms.
What does Google want to see in a website before ranking it at the top?
The results they got from the study are fascinating.
Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks
They found that the inbound link (IBL) remained a very strong ranking factor across the majority of the 1 million search results.
However, it’s not just as simple as lots of IBL’s = top Google positions. Domain diversity is far more important than basic quantity in this case.
The incoming links need to be from different, individual domains. The higher the authority of these domains, the more weight for your ranking.
If the domains are related to your niche, even better. There are some domains that will boost your rankings regardless of domain. These are the mainstream giants such as CNN, BBC, Huffington Post, etc.
For a better overview of how to determine a quality backlink, read this post I made earlier.
Other nuggets from the study
Images, video, media.
The presence of at least one image on a page turned out to be a significant factor.
This is because Google considers content to be more engaging to the user if there is media present other than just the written word.
So the fact that Google likes to see multi-dimensional content should be borne in mind for on-page SEO.
The need for speed
Slow loading pages are strictly barred from the top results on Google. If your hosting providers can’t push out data fast enough when called upon, you will need to ditch them for a better (faster) service.
You might have everything else right about your SEO, good backlinks, great content, rich media, perfect keywords, but if your site is a slow loader, forget about your front page dreams.
HTTPS counts. Google gives a certain preference to secure websites. It is certainly an extra pain in the rear end to manage and keep up to date, but the general advice is that if you are starting up online, build in HTTPS.
Is it worthwhile to switch your whole operation over to HTTPS? The experts advise that it is not necessary for SEO purposes at the moment (but do it if you can).
User retention, no bouncing
Brian Dean has made an interesting video explaining how he discovered this independently from the big study. Due to a keyword mix up, he shows how he was ranking for the “wrong” keyword for a particular post, as well as for the “right” one at the same time.
Due to the users landing on the “wrong” page and then bouncing away, he observed that due to the bounce rate being high, his rankings plummeted for the “wrong” keyword, while they steadily increased where users found what they actually wanted and stuck around.
Here is that video:
Ever wondered why you never see an individual tweet on any search result, even though Twitter is easily one of the highest authority domains on the entire planet? Even though some people may pack a lot of information into 140 characters, it is simply not long enough to show as a result.
You do, however, often see Pinterest or Tumblr posts on the front page, where there is enough content for a user to get stuck in to.
The backlinko study found that content with around 1900 words generally ranked higher than shorter blocks of information.
Make sure your keywords match your topic
The keywords of a page should match the overall topic of that page. Google has the ability to scan for this and figure it out with a high degree of accuracy.
If you’ve used keywords in the usual places, title, header, description, etc, then the body of your content had better match the topic suggested by those keywords.
This measure is to prevent the targeting of popular keywords to get a bigger audience, but then switching to a different context once they are there.
Basically, as should be obvious by now. That won’t work.
Google’s perfect web page
To sum up what Google wants to deliver to their users, we could say they like:
- very high quality content
- with pictures and interesting artifacts
- on a (secure) page which loads at lightning speed
- that has lots of backlinks from similar, or better types of sites from a wide range of domains
If you can deliver this within your niche, then your site is in with a chance of hitting the front page. After that point, you just have to hope that your competition is not as diligent as you are.