Finally it’s here: our Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation 2013 Study!
Like last year, the Ranking Factor – Rank Correlation study deals with the definition and evaluation of factors that differentiate better-positioned websites from pages placed further back in the organic search results – i.e.: pages that have a positive rank correlation.
Compared to 2012, we have taken significantly more ranking factors into account in our analysis to finally answer the question: What do web pages that are well-positioned by Google have in common and what distinguishes them from lower ranking pages?
What factors are playing a role?
You can find the most important factors in our overview of all rank correlation coefficients. These are all the factors we have analyzed and consider relevant. We have presented the relationship between Google search results and the various factors influencing it using the Spearman correlation – a high positive correlation coefficient occurs for a factor if higher ranking pages have that feature / or more of that feature, while lower ranking pages do not / or have less of that feature. In addition to providing an overview of the changes in correlation since last year, we have extended our analysis in 2013 to include many relevant new factors.
Deeper Insights into the study:
1. Keyword links and domains have lost relevance
The importance of keywords in the URL / domain has significantly decreased as a ranking factor compared to 2012:
In our study, these two factors are considered the losers when compared with last year, because the existence of keywords in the URL and/or the domain have lost their relevance. This also affects backlinks when it comes to plain text keyword links. So it looks as if the days of “hard keyword optimization” are over. Google now puts much more emphasis on natural link profiles. Hard keyword links have lost significant influence and can probably – when used excessively – even have a negative effect; for example, when Google updates its algorithm with features devaluing bad links. Wondering what else has been happening in the field of keywords? Check out the complete version of the Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation study in the end of article.
2. Brands are the exception to many rules
Last year, brands held a privileged position. This has also been confirmed in this year’s study: for brands – and their websites – search engines do not seem to apply the same criteria as for other domains. For example, it seems as though Google considers it natural for brands to have comparatively more backlinks with the name of the brand in the link text alone – what we refer to as “brand links” – and still not be rated negatively.
3. Social signals continue to correlate very well with better rankings
The tendency over the years has been very positive – and this year’s study confirms the trend that became evident as early as 2012: well positioned URLs have a high number of likes, shares, tweets and plus ones and specific URLs stand out in the top search results with a very high mass of social signals. On one hand this means that the activity on social networks continues to increase, on the other hand it means that frequently shared content increasingly correlates with good rankings.
4. Good content is always important: it comes to quality!
For our analysis of content features, we have increased the number of factors significantly over the previous year:
Content factors correlate almost entirely positively with good rankings and were apparently – when compared with the previous year – partially upgraded. Good ranking URLs, to a certain extent have more text and a higher number of additional media integrations compared with 2012. A good internal link structure also appears to be an important quality attribute.
5. The number of backlinks remains immensely important
Backlinks continue to be one of the most important SEO metrics. In this regard, little has changed over the years: sites with more backlinks simply rank better. And this is also the result of our ranking factor study in 2013. However, factors around this metric are subject to evolution: not only are the quantity of backlinks important, but increasingly so is their quality! The backlink profile is nowadays regarded as a kind of conglomerate of very diverse quality factors that we discuss in detail in the study.
6. On-page technology remains one of the basics
The on-page factors surrounding the technical side of building web sites have long been one of the basics of a good search engine ranking – and this will continue. Even more, it seems to be fulfilling certain on-page criteria is not about achieving a favorable ranking, rather, it is the opposite: it is simply negative for the rankings when web pages do not meet criteria. On-page factors are therefore considered more of a prerequisite for ranking higher in search results pages.