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Content Is King in SEO, But User Signals Are Also "Crucial" [Study]

SEO platform and search analytics firm Searchmetrics has released its 2014 SEO Ranking Factors and Rank Correlations report, which it says provides an “in-depth definition and evaluation of the factors that have a high rank correlation with organic search results.”

The study, which is focused solely on Google results, found high-quality, relevant content ranks better on average and also that the well-optimized technical performance of a page contributes to a good ranking.

In addition, Searchmetrics says the quantity and quality of backlinks remains crucial because new features have been revised to improve the quality of results. What’s more, the correlation values regarding coefficients out of the social sector have decreased slightly and the growth of the average total number of signals per position was small, Searchmetrics adds.

And, finally, for the first time, Searchmetrics says it measured user signals and found there is a relationship between rankings and higher click-through rates, lower bounce rates, and a high time-on-site.

Searchmetrics provides the following tips to “survive and thrive in a constantly changing SEO world”:

Tip #1: Create Robust Site Architecture

Before webmasters can look at content or optimization, they must build their sites correctly and Searchmetrics provides a list of Do’s and Don’ts for site architecture:


  • Include a well-balanced number of good internal links
  • Aim for short loading times
  • Keep sites up to date
  • Maintain presence of all relevant Meta tags


  • Lose focus
  • Focus only on the technical aspects of the site


Tip #2: Pay Attention to Keywords in Titles and Descriptions

Rankings for proper use of keywords in onpage copy have increased from 2013 to 2014. The chart below shows the correlation between keywords in titles, tags, and descriptions and rankings.


The position of keywords in titles is also considered in rankings. While this correlation has seen a slight decrease in the past year, it is still considered in rankings.


Tip #3: Relevant Content Reigns Supreme

In addition, both the length of text and word text were ranking factors that increased from 2013 to 2014.

When putting together a content strategy, Searchmetrics provides the following tips:


  • Include semantically comprehensive wording
  • Implement higher word counts using relevant topic terms
  • Use multiple media types


  • Follow spammy onpage advertising techniques

Content has not always been viewed in such high regard as it is now. As search strategies evolve, it is becoming more and more apparent how important quality optimized content really is. The most important factor to Google is the relevance of content.


Based on the results above, Searchmetrics says content factors are categorized as follows:

  • Composition and quality
  • Linking
  • Advertising material

Tip #4: Use Quality Backlinks

When it comes to backlinks, webmasters should always choose quality over quantity. In fact, backlink quality is one of the most important SEO metrics as it relates to off-page factors, Searchmetrics says. That’s not to say quantity isn’t important, but quality far outranks quantity.

A website’s Google PageRank is largely determined by the quality of its backlinks. In the following figure, Searchmetrics outlines the correlation between backlinks and brand influence.


Tip #5: Social Signals Are a Bonus

The majority of top-ranked URLs also have a large number of shares, likes, comments, etc. While it appears there was a decrease in 2014, the correlation between search and social is still very high.

Facebook signals rank number one, followed by Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest, Searchmetrics says.


Tip #6: User Signals Are Critical

Searchmetrics also collected data on user traffic signals and used the data to determine a correlation between signals and user CTRs.


The most important thing that can be gleamed from this year’s report is that the quality of links, content and signals are becoming more and more relevant with each passing year, Searchmetrics says.

Marketers that are still focusing only on technical SEO are quickly going to be left in the dust by marketers focusing on quality content and social messaging, Searchmetrics adds.

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