SEO Ranking Factors In 2014? Here’s What The Study Shows

The results are in. The folks over at SearchMetrics have finished their SEO rank correlation study from 2013 and compiled their findings into a pdf report and infographic (see below).

While I never fully agree that you can define SEO factors in absolute terms (every site is different afterall), it's interesting to see the correlation they found between high rankings and a lot of other factors. While there's no way that correlation = causation, meaning that some of the things they found could be a “result of” high rankings, rather than the “cause of”, it's still good to know some of the more important correlations.

To explain more, what the folks at SearchMetrics did was study a huge amount of search results in 2013, and check what features they had. Did they use the URL in their domain name? Did they have images with keyword alt-tags? Did they have H1 tags in their post? And so on.

This is actually similar to what Google did for the Panda update, they evaluated high quality sites to find what made them high quality, so that they could spot high quality in future without needing to do the analysis.

Here's their infographic below:

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

SEO Ranking Factors in 2014 – Key Points:

  1. Keyword links and domains have gone down in their ranking power. You can't just buy a domain name and rank for that keyword overnight anymore.
  2. Quality content is always going to be important.
  3. Social signals (FB likes and so on) have increased importance.
  4. Backlinks are still very important, but their quality matters a lot more than before.

One thing they couldn't measure without having access to everyone's Analytics files is user engagement. In my opinion, this is a massive factor too. If people are spending a long time on your site, and are engaging, sharing, and “clicking around” to other pages on your site, Google is going to reward that sooner or later.

In fact, I'd argue that this is the most important thing, with the other SEO ranking factors mentioned above just being there to help Google find you and identify the topic of your content.

You can read in more detail by visiting the SearchMetrics report page here.

5 thoughts on “SEO Ranking Factors In 2014? Here’s What The Study Shows”

  1. I’m not a fan of that infographic because it was very confusing IMO. Maybe I’m just dumb. Like “length of url” being 0.16. What does that mean? Short or long, and what do the numbers represent?

    A habit that’s hard to break is always using my keyword in the anchor text. I just do it naturally now, so it’s “unnatural” for me to not use it. I wonder what Google thinks!

    1. Yeah, the infographic is more of a reminder. If you go to their site (searchmetrics) and read the full report, it puts the infographic in context. I didn’t want to just rip all their content and put it on my site though, so I provided a link to it for those who want more insight.

  2. Hi,is link building still working in these day? members in WA really emphasize that content is the king and links are not working anymore,should I learn backlinks or just focus on article?

    1. Hey Susan, thanks for stopping by.

      Back-links are still a fundamental part of how Google determines rank. They tried turning them off, but they just don’t get quality search results without them. WA teaches to not worry about back-links because it is very easy to make a mistake with them and get your site punished. They just aren’t a “beginner” level tactic without clear explanations on what and what-not to do.

      Also you are 100% right that content is king, and a safe long-term strategy for building out a big authority site would be to not worry about back-links and let them happen naturally over time.

      However when I have a site that is around 2-3 months old I will start to build some safe back-links to it and I always see an increase in rankings and traffic. Content is what makes the site successful, but back-links help it get found.

      I’m actually writing an article about building safe, base, back-links right now on another post, so stop back in an hour or so and you’ll find it!

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