I recently read with interest a very comprehensive post by Brian Dean of Backlinko where he talked about a study he undertook in cooperation with a number of SEO data providers (including SEMRush, Clickstream and Ahrefs).

The study involved an analysis of one million Google Search results with the intention of identify patterns and trends within the dataset to arrive at some insights around ranking factors on Google.

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Many of the findings will reveal nothing especially new to most SEOs, but I wanted to pull out five of the more interesting insights from the study.

 1. Backlinks are still a key factor

This is one for all of those who might be called link or link-building naysayers! Not only did the study find that links are still a key ranking factor, it found they are more correlated with rankings than any other factor.

2. “Topically Relevant” content outperforms shorter content

This one is not too surprising. We have seen countless studies and articles showing how in-depth content that covers a topic really comprehensively generally outperforms content that gives a more light-touch overview of a topic. However, since content is one of the key foundations of SEO, I feel it has to be called out.

Publishing really focused, comprehensive content around a topic (ideally with lots of high quality visuals that further breakdown the topic), can only help to drive rankings, traffic, and ultimately your business objectives.

3. HTTPS had a reasonably strong correlation with first page Google rankings 

This was an interesting one, particularly because I have seen other articles state that HTTPS has little to no impact on rankings. I am somewhat sceptical about this one, as it is an easy one to achieve and therefore falls into that category of ‘if it’s too easy to do, it can’t be that strong a factor’. I suspect it may have a slight impact, but a strong factor? Maybe this is one where the data could be somewhat misleading.

4. There is a very small relationship between title tag keyword optimisation and ranking

This was a surprising one, but perhaps it may reflect Google’s move towards semantic search, as the article mentions. However, I do believe that having highly relevant keywords in the title tag (and also in your domain name) will continue to give you a leg up when it comes to ranking.

5. Content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images

This finding makes sense, since a post (particularly a longer post), without any images would be unlikely to receive much engagement (time on site, shares, links, etc.), and so this would have a corresponding impact on rankings since it would likely be seen as a (relatively) lower value piece of content.

This is especially the case in 2016, where the bar for excellent content is already very high.

Read Brian’s post here.

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