Top 17 Google Search Ranking Factors [SEMrush Study]

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Top 17 Google Search Ranking Factors [SEMrush Study]A few days ago, SEMrush released Ranking Factors Study 2.0, an updated version of its research which looked into the factors that have the biggest influence on the position of the domain in search engine result pages (SERPs).

The study has been updated with new data and findings. The results have now been narrowed down to a list of the top 17 ranking factors, many of which are related to on-page engagement.

Research Methodology

SEMrush started the research by taking a set of big data consisting of 600,000 keywords from its worldwide base (US, Spain, France, Italy, Germany and others) and the first 100 SERP positions for each of them. SEMrush also had a list of alleged ranking factors that might influence the page positions.

To reveal the importance of these factors, SEMrush applied a machine learning algorithm called Random Forest. As a result, we received a list of 17 factors that in uence page position in order of signi cance, from most to least in uential.

For every resulting page, SEMrush analyzed the following factors:

  • On-page Factors
  • Backlink Profiles
  • Traffic Data

Furthermore, the results were classified according to four keyword volume classes:

  • Low Volume (1-100)
  • Mid Volume (101-1,000)
  • High Volume (1,001 -10,000)
  • Very High Volume (10,001+)

Here’s the results of the research at a glance:

SEMrush Study Results - Google Ranking Factors

Now let’s examine the 17 Google ranking factors in details.

Top 17 Google Ranking Factors

1. Direct Website Visits – There are a lot of ways you get visitors to your website: organic search, paid search, social networks, direct visits, referring domains, emails, etc. The study revealed that direct website visits have the highest influence on the page rankings.

It was also revealed that the influence of the number of direct visits on page positions was less in case of low volume keywords.

2. Time on Site – The more time users spend on site in general, the higher a page rank is. The research revealed users spend slightly less time on sites ranking at the top of the SERP than on the ones at the second position.

3. Pages per Session – According to the SEMrush research, a user tends to navigate through three to three-and-a-half pages per website, per visit. As per the research results, there are more pages per session for every domain as we move towards the top of the SERP.

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4. Bounce Rate – This is the number of website visitors who leave the site after viewing only one page. Unsurprisingly, the research revealed that the higher a page’s position, the lower is its bounce rate.

5. Total Referring Domains – The higher the domain’s position on the SERP, the more referring domains it has. This tendency is consistent for all search volume groups. The more popular the keyword for which the domain ranks, the more referring domains it has.

6. Total Backlinks – The more backlinks a domain has, the higher is its position on the SERP. As is the case with total referring domains, this tendency is consistent for all search volume groups and more popular keywords have a higher number of backlinks leading to the domain.

7. Total Referral IPs – Top pages have more referring IPs, and this statement is accurate for every search volume group.

8. Total DoFollow Backlinks – Dofollow backlinks allow search engines to follow them and reach your website. In other words, they have the capacity of pass on link juice to your site. The research found that the number of dofollow backlinks is connected to the total number of backlinks that the domain has. So it influences the domain rankings in the same way.

9. Content Length – The exact numbers for ideal content length are debatable, as the main advantages of a text are its quality and relevance. However, long-form content creates the impression of in-depth analysis and therefore looks more trustworthy.

The research found that there is generally more content on the pages that rank higher in all search volume intervals. Long-form content tends to rank higher for keywords with higher volume.

10. Website Security (HTTPS) – In January 2017, Google Chrome started marking sites without HTTPS as non-secure. As such, it’s no surprise that the higher the SERP position, the more domains with an HTTPS version reside on it.

11. Total Anchors – There is a noticeable connection between the position of the domain and the number of various anchors in its backlink portfolio. The research, however, found that it is not as direct as for all the other backlink factors.

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12. Keyword in Anchors – Across all search volume segments, target keywords rarely occur in anchors.

13. Keyword in Body – Over 75% of the pages that rank for a high-volume keyword have a keyword in the body of their text.

14. Keyword Density – Pages that rank for long-tail keywords repeat those keywords less often than pages that rank for short-heads.

15. Keyword in Title – The higher a keyword’s volume, the higher the percentage of pages that include the keyword in their title.

16. Keyword in Meta – Occurrence of the keyword in the meta description does not influence page rankings. The higher the keyword volume is, the more pages include keywords into their meta description.

17. Video on Page – A video is considered to be a valuable contribution to almost any piece of content these days. Sometimes it is essential to include a video in an article and in other cases it is not absolutely necessary, though websites often do it anyway because it will, allegedly, make the post rank higher. The research, however, found that the presence of a video didn’t show a significant influence on page rankings.

Download the full report here

About SEMrush

SEMrush is a SaaS product used by over 1,500,000 marketers worldwide. Over the past nine years, SEMrush has grown into an all-in-one marketing suite consisting of more than 30 tools and reports that help companies market better online. On top of being one of the best keyword research tools worldwide, SEMrush now helps users to fix technical website issues, improve the health of their backlink profile, and track local rankings on both mobile and desktop. 

SEMrush Resources

Below are some useful resources for SEMrush on our blog:

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Editorial Staff at 99signals is a team of Inbound Marketing experts led by Sandeep Mallya.

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