What is SEO Ranking Determined By? A New Study

“How do I get ranked higher on Google?” At SEO Inc. we work tirelessly to find that answer for our clients. Thankfully, so does Backlinko, the same business behind the infographic listing Google’s 200 SEO Ranking Factors.

Backlinko recently analyzed 1 million Google search results to determine: What is SEO ranking determined by? Is it links? Content? Site speed?

Many of these findings reflect our SEO services for over 26+ years. But even for veterans like us, there’s still plenty to learn here. This study reminds us to stay on top of the latest SEO news. How else can you make sure your methods are still the best?

Note: The data show correlations and should not be considered hard-and-fast rules. Time-tested SEO strategies and best practices are still the most effective way to get ranked. But having practical knowledge of these SEO factors reinforces what we know is working.

Enough talk. Let’s get to the most impactful SEO ranking factors.

Backlinks: The “Dominant” Ranking Factor

We can’t stress enough the importance of a healthy backlink profile. The study shows that the more unique domains linking to you, the higher your Google rankings should be. Moreover, having many different sites linking to you is better than many links from a single site. It’s more than reasonable—Backlinko reports “the number of unique referring domains was the strongest correlation in [the] entire study.” Getting good, quality links isn’t easy, but incredibly important.

The study also shows a strong correlation between rankings and domain authority. So the higher your domain authority, the higher your rankings could be for other pages on your site.

These links should also be healthy. Meaning they should come from relevant sources and not link farms. Bad links can earn you a Google penalty, killing your rankings. (If you have one, here’s how to remove a Google Penalty.)

Content: Still King, But Only if “Comprehensive” and “Useful”

Content WritingWe want to go one week—just one, without hearing how “Content is King.” But this finding shows that content is still significant. So maybe we need to look at what kind of content is worthy of the crown.

The answer—is comprehensive content. Backlinko defines this as “focused content that covers a single topic.” In-depth examples include a Wikipedia page on the director of Back to the Future and how to make Indonesian satay sauce. Content that dives deep and provides an informed, authoritative answer to a search query will likely be ranked highly. And it’s pretty easy for your comprehensive content to get recognized, thanks to Google Hummingbird. Since this specific update, Google has been great at understanding a page’s topic and ranking it appropriately.

It’s up to you to deliver the right content to your customers. But now that you know what you should write, that should be the easy part. The real challenge comes next.

The amount of content matters as well. The data shows a strong correlation between high word counts and high rankings. It could be that the number of words shows your dedication to providing “excellent content.”

Although the study shows correlations, it isn’t hard to tell what you must do. After all, Google keeps telling us to write content for users, not search engines. Writing useful content that people will want to read should be your goal. And if you can do it in an average of 1,890 words (the length of the average Google first page result), then all the better.

You should also add at least one image to your content. Content with an image has been found to “significantly outperform content without any images.” You don’t need to add more than one, as additional images did not affect rankings for the study. Still, multiple images can break up long paragraphs of text, making your content easier on the eyes. Remember, eye movement tracking is essential for retaining users’ interest.

HTTPS and Site Speed: Make Your Site Safe and Fast for Users

Page Speed Insights Perfect 100Are you worried about site security? You can rest easy—first-page Google rankings correlate strongly with sites that have HTTPS versions. Google has officially confirmed HTTPS as a ranking signal, so it’s nice to see the data back this up. This makes putting in the work to go to HTTPS all worthwhile.

Have you moved your site to HTTPS yet? Get a free quote from SEO Inc. and secure your site from hackers and other ne’er-do-wells.

We’ve seen from our studies that faster websites = more revenue. Our study shows us that fast-loading sites are directly related to higher rankings, which were shown higher than slow-loading sites.

The importance of HTTPS and site speed are nothing new—Google wants you to make your site fast and secure to offer users the best, safest experience. Bringing in higher traffic and conversions is secondary (in Google’s eyes, at least) to making your site a welcoming place for visitors. So get the changes done, and you’ll reap the benefits.

What is SEO Ranking? What’s the Secret to Getting on the First Page?

So how do you go about implementing these SEO factors for your site? Just to remind you, we’ve only listed the major SEO factors. The study listed many more correlations, all of which can positively impact your Google rankings.

If that seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is. But that’s okay—SEO Inc. is here for you. The data proves we’re on the right track regarding getting first-page rankings. And we’ve got what it takes—over 18 years!—to execute your solid SEO strategy. Backlinks, quality content, site security, and so much more—we can do it all for you.

Please email us, and let’s get your business on Page One.

Ready to Collaborate? Contact Us!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Blog Sidebar



Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Newsletter Signup