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How Google’s New Algorithm Impacts Your Site

Pull up a chair, this is a big one.

This is, perhaps, the Google algorithm change with the biggest impact on both SEO writers and business owners alike.

Courtesy of a brand-new study by SEMrush, we now know what truly matters when it comes to ranking higher.

In order to compile this amazing report, the researchers at SEMrush analyzed data from 600,000 global keywords. The results came from a machine-learning algorithm that managed to determine the factors that influence positions in SERPs. The methodology is complex, but I won’t bore you with it – you can read about it in the study. We have more important stuff to dissect right now.

Let’s dive it.

You have to be popular to gain…popularity

Yes, that’s the newest, biggest Google paradox.

Out of the 12 factors Google analyzed, direct traffic seems to be the most important one. In other words, the more visits your website gets, the higher it will rank.

Important: search traffic does not seem to count toward improving your ranking. This is why it is not the only thing you should focus on if you want to drive…organic traffic. I know, it’s paradoxical.

But bear with me.

Social traffic, referral and direct traffic are key elements in boosting your page ranking. Most importantly, when you get to the top, you can’t stop focusing on them. You need to keep your direct, referral and social traffic constant lest you lose your position.

Rumors about traffic volume have been circulating for ages in the SEO world. And most experts have dismissed them quickly, saying that newbies always get a fair chance.

The SEMrush study is here to prove the opposite.

Aside from traffic, other factors that influence a page’s rankings are: the time spent on the website, the number of pages each user visited per session, the content length and the bounce rate. Website security (HTTPS) is important, but doesn’t have a big effect on rankings. The same goes for adding videos to your website – nice to have (always!), but not imperative for SEO.

So what can you do to boost your ranking in this brave new world?

Glad you asked!

Let’s take a look at some of the things you can influence:

1. Content

I’ve said it before: content marketing and SEO go together, not separately. And Google just confirmed it.

According to SEMrush, domains that rank within the top three results have an average bounce rate of 49 percent. This means that you need to work hard to reduce your bounce rate as much as possible. This always means offering top quality content.

No shortcuts, no compromises. You need the kind of content that keeps people engaged and wanting for more. This way, people spend more time on your website (a huge factor in ranking) and click on more pages.

The SEMrush research also proved that on-page SEO has less importance than we might have thought. As much as 18 percent of websites ranking for high volume keywords don’t have said keywords in the body.

What does this mean?

Again, that it’s not content who’s king. It’s quality content.

For instance, whenever I hire new SEO copywriters for my agency, I make sure they are well-versed in marketing first and foremost. And only then I ask about their SEO knowledge.

That’s because SEO tools and tactics can be easily taught, especially to a savvy marketer. But the basics of marketing and creating content that engages different types of audiences are tougher to crack.

Another factor that weighs a lot in your page ranking is content length. According to SEMrush, top three websites have content that is 45 percent longer than websites in the 20th position. Again, the case for long-form content is made. We advise all our clients to aim for posts that are at least 1,000 words long. Ideally, you should aim for 2,000-plus words for every five pieces of content you produce.

I noticed an incredible jump in organic traffic for three of my clients who went from the classic 500-word blog post to 1,5000 posts. And the boost was almost instantaneous – it took less than one month for organic traffic to increase by 20 percent.

2. Referrals

You want as many websites to link to yours as possible. SEMrush discovered that 10,000 is the difference in the number of referring domains between the first and the 10th position. But don’t go for just any websites. Look for those with high domain authority and avoid the ones with poor authority.

No, not every link is a good link, just like not all advertising is good advertising. When a lot of spammy websites link to you, this is a red flag for Google. Whatever you do, don’t try to do link exchanges or, worse, buy links.

Instead, you can try guest posting on authority websites. Plus, whenever you mention an industry thought leader in your articles, give them a shout out on social media or via e-mail. They might want to brag about it on their own website.

Ultimately, it all goes back to content. If yours is valuable and informative, people will link to it, thus boosting your number of referrals and, consequently, your page ranking.

3. Content marketing

I’ve pleaded for quality content for years – ever since I set foot in this industry. But what good is great content if it’s not marketed properly?

Google seems to agree with me. This is why social traffic weighs heavily in page rankings. For most of our clients and for our own blog we use the Pareto principle when it comes to content marketing – we spend 20 percent of our time creating it and 80 percent promoting it.

Social media and e-mail campaigns are both crucial for gaining the type of traffic that brings you even more traffic. The organic kind, this time.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Yes, the findings in the SEMrush report are surprising. But we can’t say that we haven’t been expecting them.

It’s been years since Google announced that it will value quality content above all else. And here it is: search engines have gotten smart enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. The dawn of a new era has just been announced: it’s an era in which you either invest in great content, or you make room for someone who does.

There’s no middle ground.

About the author


Adriana Tica

Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.


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  • Hi Adriana,
    thanks for this info.
    I see a dropdown in traffic also so lots of work to do.

  • As far as I can see the most important factor on a page is how many comments you get on page. Real quality doesnt count much with google because they dont have the knowledge to find what is quality. My experience is that a good relational database running on a IBM / DEC 10/ 40 years ago or whatever mainframe produced better results than most google today but at that time access to results was very limited because no networks and only machinery such as teletype etc. but results were much better because the people were much better qualified. Google today is mostly an assembly of cheap and low qualified staff in the Indian backwoods.

  • The post is very interesting, but how can you write 1000 words is just a lot, it’s easier to incorporate a video clip that the surfer will see on the page and thus improve the delay time on the page, no?

    • Gabi, even 2,000 words is nothing. Experts in content development have stated emphatically that long form content in web blogs is essential. Do research on your topic to discover fresh news, data, and more about your subject, relay it in a strong story telling framework and you will easily achieve that word count and more. A 500 word article says next to nothing. If you have put together quality content that your readers can put into action right away, then you have value added content that will gain you traction. I have been working diligently to develop my content to this standard. It is finding fresh new information ‘hot off the press’ that can be a challenge. Study what the experts are telling us, indepth. SPN is a perfect point of reference. Master the quality content and also master the content marketing…both a real challenge today.

  • Hi Adriana

    It’s good to have someone confirm what us very small website owners have suspected for years, that popularity is what gets sites to the top of Google. We have never really understood how some of the big brand retailers can just have 1 particular product in their range but rank on page 1 for that keyword; especially when they have no articles about the product, no detailed product details, no aftercare advice for customers etc., but a small specialist site who has many products in that group, offers articles, advice,etc., gets nowhere. Now we know for sure. Google have always maintained that they give equal opportunities to large and small organisations; those of us who have business brains know that the likes of Google will always favour the powerful and those who give them the most business and revenue; but it would just be nice for them to admit it!

    Thanks for a great post.

    • I like what is wrote by John C. It seems big fishes can rank higher just because they have popular sites, without writing 1000+ words articles. Small fishes (after sleepless nights of writing very long articles) are no way to gain better position, without budget for good SEO agency. Small niche websites (run by one person) naturally do not receive a lot of traffic. Money talks. Amen.

  • Hi Adriana,
    I’m glad to read from another person the great true “The more things change, the more they stay the same”. I’m in this war since Altavista, which you didn’t know, and the history since big G apeared is really that. Like in the fashion field at a given moment there is nothing else to invent any more and things start all over. Otherwise the flew of contributers ($$$) ends.

  • Thanks for the information — this is very useful for seos and also for business owners.

  • Don’t you think the social direct traffic is easy to game?
    You can buy clicks from FB or Twitter to your website for goodness sake.
    Or I’m missing something here?

    • What has been shared here, Nathan, is that we can have a substantial inbound traffic volume but the critical element is the reduced bounce rate. We need to have high quality, informative and readily usable information for our readers in order to engage them to the point where they stay on-site longer and delve deeper into more than just the landing page. If our content is mediocre, superfluous fluff, the bounce rate will soar and, given Google current priority, our ranking will drop.

  • Thanks greatly for this updated info as obtained from research findings from SEMrush. It is becoming more interesting the trend of SEO and this is making competition to get tougher by the day. It is now very clear that content marketing is the new SEO and much more promotional effort is also needed to get the content into the cyberspace of the readers.

  • This is like the theory of the rich get richer. The great divide. What this means is that the cut off date has passed. Like, 2 months ago. If you weren’t popular then, you are pretty much history. Only 1% of new great ideas can surmount the entry barrier. The bar has been raised. No longer will average copy give you bread on the table. By the sweat of your brow neither. The 144,000 are secure, and the rest are doomed. The prophet tried to warn them, but they had no ears. He said, “Google, move ye from the coast. Take up your plex and move it one thousand miles inland”. They listened not. They were so intent on growth they forgot about their survival. And so it passed.

  • Used to get amazing results with google in the past, I’ve all but given up on them and moved on to just doing good overall SEO to target all the other search engines and hope Google eventually changes it’s algorithm to better serve the entire internet. It gets tiring chasing google, it’s a fickle thing, better to just generate traffic in as many other ways as you can and start taking the power back away from google. Search Engines come and go… We used to rely on AOL and Yahoo, then MSN which later became bing google became the big one because they synonymized their name with search by popularizing the phrase “google it” and by launching a platform for smartphones that all use google and google chrome as the main search functions for internet. Google has diversified itself so it won’t have a huge setback even if they start to lose their place as the number one search engine… Though actually I hear the real king of search is EBAY when it comes to product searches anyway. As a small business owner you can always count on good traffic from other sources and sometimes it is better to concentrate on increasing conversion rates within your website for the traffic you already receive than on chasing the dragon and trying to increase sales by increasing traffic itself.

  • This is an interesting piece to read. It has made me think a lot more in terms of approach. I and my team are content evangelists – we so much believe in content marketing. We will not only improve our clients experience but also our website.

  • Google Updates are really impressive these days. Really like those Google Fred updates they did recently which took most of the blackhat sites down.

    Nice article please do post more.

  • Thanks for posting amazing article. Referrals and content marketing are the best part for gaining the popularity of any website or business.

  • This means that SaaS websites like mine are at a big disadvantage. We don’t put a lot of new content on them because people come to our sites to use the software, not to read the news or someone’s opinions. What would be your best advice in this situation except “Start a blog” Grrrr…I’m tired of hearing this one.

  • Hi Adriana.
    I’m eager to learn the new google’s algorithm.

    If I wrote an article as a guest posting on an authority website. should the links are dofollow or nofollow? Because I’m confused with google’s recent algorithm. My ranks decrease significantly if the links are dofollow. But the ranks were quickly returned to the top as I edited to nofollow. I do not know if this state is influenced by other rank factors or merely of the backlinks.

  • I really am a fan of your stats/numbers – info like top 3 websites have content that is 45% longer than websites in the 20th position. You’re not just basically telling us but showing us that it is what it is. It’s like supporting presented ideas with facts. It helps, really.

  • Every updates brings along great anticipation, This update was great for whitehat guys anyway