With Google constantly updating its algorithms, it’s important for your business to monitor the search factors that play a major role in the makeup of search engine results pages (or SERPs for short). After all, SERPs are the virtual storefronts for the products and services that people seek. Where you rank on them often means the difference between making a sale and getting lost in the shuffle.
At Skoda Minotti Strategic Marketing, digital marketing is the backbone of our business, so we continually monitor Google’s actions, trends and statements as they pertain to every element of your business—including SEO. We also stay on top of research and developments surrounding SEMRush, an online tool used for mining profitable keywords. Recently, a new annual SEMRush report caught our eye—and it offers valuable insights into Google’s evolving approach to ranking factors.
What’s In the Report?
The SEMRush report analyzed 600,000 keywords with a range of search volumes. The top 100 SERP results for each term determines which factors influence page ranking on Google. Here’s what the report found:
1) Direct traffic is the factor that most influences how well pages rank. When you have more pages that people visit directly (versus coming from social media, newsletters, etc.), your site will consistently rank higher on Google searches. This stresses the importance of delivering thought leadership on your website pages and providing a good cadence of content that keeps visitors coming back. Lastly, it emphasizes the importance of monitoring on-page optimization factors, such as internal linking and Alt tags.
2) The number-two SERP ranking factor is time on site. This by itself isn’t overly revealing; given that Google tracks this metric, it’s logical to think that websites that log lots of visitor time would rank highly. What’s interesting to note, however, is that the top three ranking pages for a particular keyword noted in the report have content that is 45 percent longer compared to the page in the 20th In other words, long-form content is drawing strong attention from Google and improving SERP rank for websites that use it. Our recommendation is to engage users on your site with long-form content, imagery and/or videos. (We recently wrote a blog on the benefits of long-form content; you can read it here.)
3) Pages per session was the number-three SERP ranking factor. According to the report, web users visit three to three-and-a-half pages per browsing session when finding a site via search. Based on this finding, we recommend linking together similar articles—and above all, placing a premium on building and maintaining an enjoyable and productive user experience.
4) Bounce rate ranked high as a page ranking influencer. This reinforces the importance of having fresh and relevant content on your site and facilitating good site speed. If your site takes a long time to load or doesn’t have the content visitors are looking for, you are going to realize some early exits; ultimately hurting your rankings.
5) HTTPS is important—but to what extent? While it’s not a huge ranking factor in the report, 65 percent of domains in the top three positions for “very high” volume keywords are already secure using the HTTPS format. Given recent changes to Google Chrome, which notify visitors when a site is not secure, we would not be surprised if this became a more significant ranking factor in the near future.
The SEMRush study showed us that traditional SEO factors such as keyword density and keywords in meta titles and descriptions are not nearly as important as in years past. In fact, 35 percent of domains ranking for high-volume keywords don’t even have the keyword in the title!
Rather, search factors today are focused on website quality, relevance and particularly the relevance of fresh, timely and quality content. (For more information on the prominence of content in your marketing budget, read our recent blog on the subject.)
To view the full SEMRush study, click here.