SEMrush used its incredible machine learning algorithm to find out the top organic search ranking factors. You know, the age-old question that no one can really say they have the answer to.
They analyzed 600,000 keywords to come up with these 17 factors. The results are not entirely surprising. We knew about most of them.
What caught my eye, though, was the fact that almost all of them take you back to the quality of your content, directly or indirectly.
Let’s take a look at them.
The 17 factors that determine how your website ranks in search engine results pages:
Arranged in order of importance, here are the 17 factors that determine organic ranking, according to SEMrush:
1. Direct website visits
This one is puzzling. I remember discussing it in one of my previous articles on SiteProNews.
Basically, the more direct visits you get, the more organic traffic you’ll attract. What happens if you have a new website and no one knows of you so no one will ever visit you directly? Well, you can use one of the factors below.
But I digress.
Direct website visits and great content go hand-in-hand. I don’t know about you, but I go to the websites I like for their content directly. No Google search, no social media. There are a few websites that I visit at least once per week.
Because I know they have great content.
2. Time on site
This one is a no-brainer: Google likes it when visitors spend a lot of time on your website. This tells Google bots that they found something interesting there. And, of course, that you deserve to rank higher.
But how can you keep visitors engaged for more than a minute?
You guessed it, with great content. Give them something interesting to read and they’ll be hooked.
3. Pages per session
When a user lands on a high-ranking website from search, they usually visit around three pages. Why don’t they stop after the first one? Because the content was good enough to keep them wanting more.
4. Bounce rate
How often do people bounce back to search results after clicking on your links? It looks like 49 percent is the average bounce rate for domains ranking in top three.
Again, this speaks of the quality of your content. If people find what they are looking for on your website, then they will visit additional pages even if they resume their search at some point. If your content is unsatisfactory, they won’t waste too much time on it before bouncing back to the SERP.
5. Total referring domains
The more websites link back to you, the higher you will rank. A high number of referring domains tells Google that you are an authority in your field. In other words, that you create authority content that needs to rank higher so that more people can easily get to it.
At the digital marketing agency I manage, we saw incredible spikes in organic rankings for both our own website and the websites of our clients when we switched to authority content. Briefly put, we moved from the usual 500-word blog post to in-depth pieces that cover topics thoroughly. They are well researched, well written and filled with relevant LSI keywords.
Google loves it, the readers love it – it’s the definition of a win-win situation. Plus, it brings in qualified leads. Three for the price of one.
6. Total backlinks
Yes, this is different from the factor above. You can have more than one backlink from a domain. Just to get an idea of how important this is and how much every backlink counts, you should know that 2.2 times more backlinks lead to pages in the first position than to those in the second position.
This goes to show that a single, cornerstone piece of content won’t get you too far. It may bring in some backlinks and new domains linking back to you, but it won’t be a constant occurrence.
When we onboard a client for copywriting services or blog writing, we always ask about their commitment level. We tell them that four blog posts, no matter how good they are, won’t make much of a difference. A commitment to constant, regular blogging, on the other hand, is something that yields amazing results.
7. Total referring IPs
This is the third factor connected to referrals. In case you’re wondering how it is different from referring domains, the answer is simple: one domain can have more than one IP.
However, this is something that you can exert very little influence on.
8. Total follow backlinks
When someone links to your website, they can add a no-follow attribute to the link. It looks like this:
<a href=”http://www.website.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Link Text</a>
As you may have expected, no-follow links have no value. This attribute basically tells engines “do not count this”. Why do they exist?
Obviously, to prevent spam. A lot of black hat SEO “specialists” use commenting on blogs and forums to get links back to their website. A no-follow attribute prevents them from gaining any traction.
If, however, someone links to your website because they found your content useful and they want others to discover it as well, you’re in the clear!
9. Content length
This is another much discussed topic. Should you post short articles 10 times per week or long form articles two to four times per week? According to SEMrush, there is a 45 percent difference in content length between the top three and the 20th position.
At my company, we create blog posts at different intervals for different clients. But there is one constant: long form always wins. This is why we have adapted both our prices and our team of SEO copywriters to accommodate longer posts for our clients.
When we ran the idea by our existing clients, some of them were skeptical. Since long form content had worked great for us, we knew we had to convince them. So we offered that, for a limited time, we’d charge the same amount of money for long form posts as we did for their short counterparts.
None of the clients wanted to go back to short blog posts. They all agreed to scale up.
10. Website security (HTTPS)
Finally, something that has nothing to do with content. If you haven’t upgraded to HTTPS yet, it’s high time you did!
11. Total anchors
Texts that link to another location on the Internet are called anchors. In other words, anchors are the clickable text in hyperlinks. For example, this is an anchor text.
Well written content takes advantage of both inbound and outbound anchors – links that lead to another page of your website and links that lead to another website.
12. Keyword in anchor
One of the things you can expect when you hire great SEO copywriters is to have relevant keywords in your anchors. Ideally, the same keywords you want an article or page to rank higher for.
Let’s see an example. One of my SiteProNews articles is entitled How to Do SEO for a Brand New Website. If I wanted to boost its rankings, I would link to it using SEO for a brand new website as an anchor.
13. Keyword in body
This one goes without saying: no piece of content will ever perform well in SERPs if you don’t add the keyword in the copy. You can read more on choosing keywords that matter to your business goals here.
14. Keyword density
There has been a lot of talk about the right keyword density. We never go beyond two percent. The general consensus is that the right keyword density is between five percent and 2.5 percent.
One thing is certain: keyword-stuffed articles are a thing of the past. Not only are they barely legible, but they will be labeled as spam by search engines and penalized heavily.
Our formula relies heavily on through keyword research, long form content and LSI keywords. We found it to be extremely effective for our own website and for those of our clients.
15. Keyword in title
Ideally, your keyword should be part of your title. However, if it’s a complicated long-tail keyword, you should sacrifice a catchy headline for a small SEO gain.
You can compensate with LSI keywords and going long form.
16. Keyword in meta
You have no excuses here. Your keyword should be part of your meta description. It is the best way to let search engines know what your page is about.
17. Video on page
This is a brand-new one and something we expect to become even more important with time. We all know that video reigns supreme now, so it’s no wonder that pages containing videos rank higher.
If you haven’t started producing your own videos yet, you can always embed some from thought leaders in your industry. I would also add images to this one. The more types of content on a page, the better.
How to integrate these 17 factors in your SEO strategy
Naturally, you should start with upgrading the quality of your content. Move past bite-sized blog posts and dig deeper into your topics in long form articles.
And, most importantly, think about what your readers want. Use this as the starting point for everything, from tone of voice to keyword research and the layout of your web pages.