It’s official: content is king. That’s not some random blurt but a thoroughly analysed fact. Enterprise SEO and search analytics platform Searchmetrics has just unfurled its 2014 SEO Ranking Factors study – and good quality content emerges as possibly the most potent factor in search ranking. As Searchmetrics’ CTO and founder Marcus Tober puts it, content is “no longer an addition to, but is the main focus of, SEO.”
At almost 100 pages, this annual report from Searchmetrics easily wins the title of “the longest one so far”. OK, so some might see it as a good cure for insomnia; but for anyone interested in producing killer digital content, it’s riveting stuff. The extra length is largely down to the fact that a raft of new factors have been included this time, from bounce rates to fresh links to time-on-site, and others beside.
To demonstrate that a measurable correlation exists between rankings and the quality of the content, this year’s study included several new metrics including, prominently, two that were based on word co-occurrence analysis (“Proof” and “Relevant Terms”). Another key factor in achieving higher rankings was, surprisingly, a good internal linking structure – something that has until now been perhaps the most undervalued SEO measure. Content is also continuing to increase in length.
When it comes to onpage factors, the keyword retains its place as one of the most important features of SEO, especially when presented in a balanced way (i.e., in Title, Description, Body copy, H1, H2 and so on). But if you’re tempted to resort to keyword stuffing, forget it – the engines still don’t like it. There is, though, a distinct trend toward fashioning keywords to blend less jarringly with topics to produce more holistic content.
Another crucial ranking factor is site load speed; if it’s too low, those web crawlers will turn their little robotic noses up and go elsewhere. Good site architecture remains a top onpage ranking factor.
As far as backlinks are concerned, quality and quantity remain important for ranking. Keyword backlinks have fallen again in number but correlation is rising.
Social signals correlated with good rankings a little less well than last year, but better ranking sites showed substantially higher click-through rates and time-on-site scores, and lower bounce rates.
The full report is available here: http://www.searchmetrics.com/en/knowledge-base/ranking-factors/