Google has made a many changes to its search algorithm over the years. These constant updates have allowed to stay on the leading edge of desktop and mobile search, but it does create challenges for business owners and marketers.
With so many changes, many website owners may be unsure about what works best for SEO. A recent study analyzed the content and placement of over a million links on Google. Using the data from that study, here are five things that work from SEO.
Quality Backlinks Strongly Correlate with Higher Rankings
Backlinks remain an extremely important Google ranking factor. The researchers found that the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.
They used an API to determine the total number of backlinks pointing to each page in the data set. The analysis showed that pages with the highest number total backlinks tended to rank best in Google. While there are certainly many other ranking factors that marketers can be concerned with, the most important thing is to get content viewed and shared by people, as this has the highest SEO benefit.
Longer Content Performs Better on Google than Shorter Content
In our fast paced modern culture, it may be a little comforting to learn that longer content still out performs its shorter counterparts when it comes to search rankings. This has been the case for a while, and it makes sense because longer content is more likely to include the information searchers are looking for.
After removing outliers from our data (pages that contained fewer than 51 words and more than 9999 words), the researchers discovered that pages with longer content ranked significantly better than short content. How long should your content be? The average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.
Adding at Least One Image Boost Rankings
The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words gains added meaning in the realm of SEO. The researchers measured the impact of image usage on rankings by checking the results based on whether or not there was an image in the body of the page (i.e. in the content of the page).
According to the Backlinko data, using at least one image in your content is significantly better than having no image at all. However, this isn’t a situation where adding more images increases the benefit. According to the study, the researchers didn’t find that adding additional images influenced rankings.
Site Speed Affects SEO Rankings
Another area where webmasters can improve their SEO ranking is by improving their site’s speed. Site speed is important to consumers and it this is reflected by the fact that Google favors faster sites in search results.
The researchers used data from Alexa and found that pages on fast-loading sites rank significantly higher than pages on slow-loading sites.
HTTPS Sites Strongly Correlate with High Rankings
This last takeaway from the study is more of a confirmation than anything else. Throughout 2015, Google has promoted the more secure HTTPS server structure, and has told webmasters they will get an SEO boost for making the change.
The data from Backlinko confirms that there is a noticeable advantage for sites that switch to HTTPS. The issue is the cost. Switching an existing to site to an HTTPS site can be a time consuming and expensive process. While it may not be feasible for some businesses to change their sites now, this research shows the value in making sure all newly designed sites incorporate HTTPS.
The Backlinko study has a lot of good information for SEO marketers, it’s worth checking out. Of course, since Google will continue to make changes in the future, we’ll have to wait and see how long these things that work continue to work.
For more recent advice about SEO, read this article about the time frame for maximum reach.