It is easier said than done to pinpoint any one factor that ensures you the top rank in a Google search. This is the top query that I am faced with in my search engine optimization seminars. Ranking hinges on a lot of different things, the ones that come to mind immediately being.
- The kind of matter you want visibility in
- Nature of your brand
- Prevailing market position
Since I require data to gain insights into the elements influencing search engine rankings, and to conduct a holistic analysis, I took one million URLs which appeared on Page 1 of the Google Sampling Method.
- 1 What was the process I adopted to get those one million URLs is outlined below:
- 2 Explaining some of the important findings with the help of Graphs
- 3 Add backlinks for high rankings
- 4 Earning backlinks from different linking domains is what makes backlinks do their job in ranking
- 5 The Keyword Presence in the URL and Page Title make for better rankings
- 6 More than 33% of Websites Ranked First, second and third use HTTPS
- 7 In conclusion of this study
What was the process I adopted to get those one million URLs is outlined below:
I took a random sample of 100,000 keywords from a set of words each of which had a monthly search volume of 100 searches or more. I gathered the top ten results on the first SERP of Google.com of each of these keywords, which gave me one million links to work on. Data regarding the SERP snippet, backlink info and other HTML information was collected from each URL.
I have analyzed the data and presented the findings in such a way that these two aspects are clear:
- The method by which pages are appraised by Google for ranking them
- The tricks used by web sites to command the top ranks in the search results pages.
I have outlined the chief conclusions of my research. These conclusions are given below and are as follows:
- Backlinks are still important if you want to come up in Google search rankings. A little less than 40% of all backlinks on the first page of Google search were seen in the top two websites, across the board.
- Linking domains also affect the search ranking favorably. When I compared webpages ranking number one and those ranked at 5, the former had 168% more linking domains than the latter.
- Taking all page 1 results among different searches, the mean ratio of backlinks and linking domains was 37:1, meaning 37 links from various pages of one website directed viewers to a website appearing on the first page of search results.
- Target keyword: Web pages whose URL contained the target keyword were seen to have better rankings in Google. Page titles that had the target keyword also performed better in rankings than those who didn’t. More than fifteen percent of all web pages appearing on the first page of SERP had the target keyword in their page titles.
- Having the keyword in the anchor text is also a big marker. Observing the anchor text of Rank 1 pages, on an average 5.42% contained the keyword. The percentage increases as you move up the rankings from bottom to top of page one.
- Short page titles seem to garner higher ranking and the ideal length I have found to be between 7 and 9 words.
- Higher ranking websites carry smaller URL descriptor with rank#1 websites having 59 or less characters on an average.
- HTTPS web pages are associated with better rankings. In the set of all URLs which ranked first, second or third, 33% used HTTPS.
Explaining some of the important findings with the help of Graphs
The above outline was the gist of my research findings. I will now take you through the major ones in greater detail for a better understanding of the findings
I strongly favor, link building and I have blogged about this. I see it as a fantastic tool for greater SEO. A high number of backlinks are linked directly to a better rank on google search. This has been my actual experience when I have conducted noteworthy SEO programs and I strongly recommend it.
The graph above clearly shows that the URLs that are ranked 1, have a greater total of backlinks (100,000) as compared to the ones in the tenth position (around 3000 backlinks)
Some people think that having good content is only what is necessary to get you higher in the rankings. It is not enough. The bottom line is: If you want to be ranked: earn those backlinks – and plenty of them!
The backlinks should be from different domains. This is important. If you have earned lots of backlinks, by themselves they do not ensure a good ranking. These large numbers of backlinks should be from multiple linking domains. The graph below proves this in the actual experience of my study.
From the above graph, you can read that webpages with rank 1 have 168% more linking domains than a rank 5 website.
A fact I uncovered is that 23% of all linking domains on the first page of Google search are linked to the first (ranked) website.
A large number of backlinks are great, but they must be from a diverse set of domains also.
At the time of outlining a method for my client to acquire backlinks, I emphasize on the fact that they must be from a diverse range of domains, which are suited to the client’s. This is always a challenge for my clients.
To elucidate further, I observed the ratio between the total backlinks and the number of linking domains of the Page 1 website.
This is an important ratio and is used widely. It is just a comparison of both the numbers. It is accepted that link value reduces as their number from a single domain increases.
The blue dotted line in the graph which describes the trend suggests that the ratio of backlinks to linking domains of Page 1 websites averages at 37:1.
This ratio of 37:1 can be treated as a sort of yardstick, and not something you should strive for. It can be used anytime you think your present backlink portfolio could do better with more diverse domains.
Anchor Text which is focused on the keyword still works
Search Engine Optimization has been focusing on anchor text for some time now and not for its good. Google’s major algorithm updates aimed at reducing the effect on the ranking of backlinks with anchor text focused on keywords, but it still continues to be a big factor in the same.
I am not shocked that despite their attempt to reduce the impact of money keywords in the anchor text, keywords in anchor text are still the most influential factor in ranking, and their use can create an upward trend in SEO.
This graph shows that on an average, 5.4% of the anchor text of the number one ranked web pages included the keyword. This was the trend in the number one ranked sites. This percentage reduced with a reduction in the ranking. More than 1.2 % of the entire subset of number one ranked websites, had all their anchor texts featuring the keyword based on which they sought ranking.
Hence, we can conclude here that it is important that anchor text include the keyword. On another parameter, that of the search volume, this was seen more in the upper twenty five percent of keywords.
Short is sweet – Page titles and URLs
The URL and the Title of the page are what the viewer sees in the search engine results page (SERP). They have a considerable effect on the click-through rates on SERPs.
Another connection worth studying is the one between click through rates and search rankings. There is a positive correlation here; despite Google denying that click through rates are direct factors for ranking.
Read the snippet below the URL:
It is a good snippet because it encourages the user to click on it (improves the click through rate) for further education about the “Accept credit card”
Knowing how to make a SERP snippet enticing or worth clicking gives you an edge. Large websites and those in the e-commerce sector can vastly improve their SEO with snippet enhancement.
The Keyword Presence in the URL and Page Title make for better rankings
In addition to the length of the Page title and URL, I tried to find whether there was a correlation between the keyword’s presence in the URL and page title, and its ranking.
I conducted an exercise earlier on this year by which a competitive-high volume keyword got my ranking from somewhere in the middle of the second page to the first page and that too to the top in a quarter of an hour! If you did not just witness a ranking factor, then what was it?
I think the keyword’s presence in the Page title has something to do with the click through rate of the snippet more than it just being a strong ranking factor, the reason being that the user gets instant confirmation to go ahead and click the snippet, sure that what he or she is searching for will be shown on the webpage which comes up.
The effect of having the keyword in the URL-. In the URL, the presence of the keyword is often displayed in bold letters. This draws the user’s attention to that URL, rather than to one that does not display the keyword at all. It inspires further confidence. This can be seen in URLs that occupy higher rankings in the first SERPs.
For instance, when I do a search for ‘SEO strategy’:
You can see the‘seo-strategy’ in bold letters.
More than 33% of Websites Ranked First, second and third use HTTPS
Google has made the statement that HTTPS is a confirmed ranking factor, though they have not actually told us to what extent it affects the search rankings. In the data analyzed, there is a definite interrelation between HTTPS and higher rankings.
Consider from the above graph that at least 33% of all websites or pages ranked positions 1,2 and 3 use HTTPS. One can safely infer that the standard is being set for those websites looking to rank well on Google and HTTPS is becoming more and more important. Google is promoting secure browsing, more than ever nowadays and messages like these are likely to be displayed to users of Chrome when they try to open an HTTP link.
This movement towards HTTPS is, presumably, not just for security reasons, but for faster browsing with HTTP/2 being rolled out.
In conclusion of this study
This study and its results could guide you when preparing your SEO campaign. But there are always slight gradations from one campaign to the next. I would advise you – test inside your own ambit.
Do utilize the findings I have collected to build your basic SEO campaign and use it as as a well researched guide, but make sure that your team always experiments so that you are on top of the game as far as SEO is concerned, because then, you are abreast with changes that may occur in the way searches are done online.