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We recently analyzed 1 million Google search results to answer the question: Which factors correlate with first page search engine rankings? We looked at content. We looked at backlinks. We even looked at site speed. With the help of Eric Van Buskirk and our data partners1, we uncovered some interesting findings.

  1. Backlinks remain an extremely important Google ranking factor. 
  2. A site’s overall link authority strongly correlates with higher rankings.
  3. Content rated as “topically relevant” significantly outperformed content that didn’t cover a topic in-depth. 
  4. Longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.
  5. HTTPS had a reasonably strong correlation with first page Google rankings. 
  6. Despite the buzz around Schema, our data shows that use of Schema markupdoesn’t correlate with higher rankings.
  7. Content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images.
  8. Very small relationship between title tag keyword optimization and ranking.
  9. Site speed matters.
  10. Despite Google’s many Penguin updates, exact match anchor text appears to have a strong influence on rankings.
  • EM

    Eren Mckay

    over 2 years ago #

    I absolutely loved this in depth analysis of over a million search results. There's so much heresay in the SEO industry and looking at statistics really helps us create a long term strategy for ourselves and our clients.

    • BD

      Brian Dean

      over 2 years ago #

      Cheers Eren. That's actually the #1 goal of this study: to help pros like you and me make informed decisions.

    • EV

      Eric Van Buskirk

      over 2 years ago #

      Feel free to ask us nuanced questions. There were so many take-aways from combing through the results, and limited space to keep this below the size of a text book!

  • HB

    Hunter Becton

    over 2 years ago #

    Great, in-depth post! I really enjoyed it.

    Just curious though, what're your thoughts on adjusted bounce rates? I remember coming across this post from moz a while back and was curious if having an "adjusted bounce rate" had any effect on SEO (or if it's even possible to know):

    https://moz.com/blog/adjusted-bounce-rate

    • BD

      Brian Dean

      over 2 years ago #

      Thanks Hunter. I agree that Google probably uses something similar to adjusted bounce rate (they likely tie in dwell time).

      But it's really difficult or impossible to know because we're not sure Google even uses bounce rate in the first place.

  • GL

    Gbemi Lolade

    over 2 years ago #

    Great findings! Thanks for sharing.

  • OK

    Ondrej Kubala

    over 2 years ago #

    Thanks for this. I think that it won't be possible to invent different more important ranking factor than backlinks from authoritative websites.
    It's like in offline - lot of people talking about you and your services in a good way the more people will think that you're an expert.

    • BD

      Brian Dean

      over 2 years ago #

      Well said, Ondrej. There's also the fact that links have worked really well as a ranking factor. If it ain't broke...

  • KN

    Kulwant Nagi

    over 2 years ago #

    Such a big case study. Hats off.

  • AJ

    Albert joseph

    over 2 years ago #

    Worth reading. Thanks.

  • LL

    Lasse Lumiaho

    over 2 years ago #

    Great article! It just me enough backup to win my fight with our CEO about writing longer blog posts. \o/

    • BD

      Brian Dean

      over 2 years ago #

      :)

    • EV

      Eric Van Buskirk

      over 2 years ago #

      This has been shown before, but to my knowledge no one ever looked at as many UNIQUE URLs/pages as we did: 1,000,000. We also looked at Javascript and the text it produced in the body (rendered). Other studies didn't.

  • VC

    Vlad Calus

    over 2 years ago #

    Nice deep analysis, was searching for it and got some nice tips for. As always amazing and good content! Thanks!

    But could you also share me a list of tools for a better SEO?

  • EV

    Eric Van Buskirk

    over 2 years ago #

    Hi Vlad,

    As luck would have it, Brian has what many consider the most authoritative posts on that subject. Have a look at the Backlinko blog's more recent posts.

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