Of the top 17 ranking factors reported in the second edition of the SEMrush Ranking Factors Study 2017, direct website traffic is the most influential factor.
With the help of a machine learning algorithm, SEMRush analyzed 600,000 keywords from clients to determine the factors that matter the most to search engines. The results are as follows:
- Direct website visits
- Time on site
- Pages per session
- Bounce rate
- Total referring domains
- Total Backlinks
- Total referring IPs
- Total follow-backlinks
- Content length
- Website security (HTTPS)
- Total anchors
- Keyword in anchor
- Keyword in body
- Keyword density
- Keyword in title
- Keyword in meta
- Video on page
Advertisers and agencies need to bear in mind that the top four factors represent user behavior signals, including the amount of time spent on a site, the bounce rate, and the number of pages browsed and visited. These inform the search engine that the site was of interest to the visitor, improving its ranking.
Domains ranking within the top three had an average bounce rate of 49 percent, while on average users visited three pages per session.
The next four factors affecting rankings refer to other domains. Backlinks from referring domains and their volume inform the search engine that established sites and digital properties place value on the domains they are linking to.
"All backlink factors impact one another," the report says. "So your positions are unlikely to change if you boost the values for one factor but ignore others."
The next nine factors relate to variables advertisers have direct control over, with the length of content, the security of a site, and keyword factors. Advertisers and agencies that bid on low-volume keywords need to implement HTTPS to gain a strong advantage, the report suggests, adding that 65 percent of domains ranking for high-volume keywords are HTTPS.
For advertisers and agencies bidding on keywords with higher volume, advertisers and agencies need to invest in lengthier content, with the report showing that pages with the high rank for popular keywords have 45 percent more content than their competition.
It's interesting to note while conversations about the importance of video populate social media, having one on a site has the least positive effect on search rankings.
Why this matters to advertisers and agencies
Based on the report, advertisers and agencies need to place greater emphasis on creating the circumstances that result in direct site visits, greater time on site, multiple pages visited per session, and a lower bounce rate.
They can do that by investing in an SEO audit to determine the relevance of their site content in relation to the keywords associated with their brand, solution, category, and offering. Adjusting the former to suit the latter will improve the site's relevance in the digital iris of the Google algorithm.
Advertisers and agencies will also need to work on brand awareness to the point that the site is the result of a direct search or bid on the relevant keywords to prompt a directly paid visit.
Marketers must also use the Google Page Insights (free) tool to determine the quality of their site for a mobile and desktop user. A poor experience results in a page exit or a bounce, so regardless of an impressive awareness campaign, should the user visit a slow site, they will leave instantaneously and possibly never return.