Content Forecase: On-Page Factors for Better Rankings

We are often asked what type of content works well with search engines; how can a company’s on-site content improve their overall rankings? In preparation for Arnie Kuenn’s upcoming Google Hangout with Marcus Tober and John Doherty, we have compiled a recap from the “On-Page Content” section of SearchMetric’s 2013 Report.

On-Page Factors

Blueprint for Quality Content

Creating quality content that offers value, and establishes the publisher as an authority from Google’s perspective can often be a complex process. After all, it is the content’s relevance and quality that Google wants to evaluate, and this may take some time.

As referenced above, content factors can be broken down into three groups:

  • Content quality
  • Linking
  • Advertising

Aside from Adlinks, all content factors correlate positively with good rankings. The importance of content’s relevance has greatly increased according to year-to-year trends.

It is noticeable that virtually all factors appear to have been upgraded; particularly impressive is the development of the factor “word count in text.” Additionally, the integration of advertising on the website does not seem to be as negative as in the previous year.

The only factor showing a (slightly) negative correlation, next to “keyword in H1” (which is a trivial factor), is “title length.” Nevertheless, this can be again interpreted positively: the shorter the page-title of a document, the better the ranking.

Word Count

It’s often debated whether longer word count results in improved rankingsSearchMetric’s 2013 Report illustrates the clear importance of a high word count in on-site content.

While in 2012, the feature “word count in text” did still correlate negatively with good rankings, this has changed considerably in 2013.

This detailed chart shows that pages ranking in top positions have a higher word count than websites positioned at the lower end of SERPs.

Using Media to Enrich Content

It’s common sense that the inclusion of videos and images piques the interest of viewers; however, Google has also begun to take note of these content additions. As shown in the chart above, the correlation of the number of images on the website (the more, the better) and higher search rankings has only increased since 2012.

The following chart shows the entire data pool for image files, i.e. all files with an image tag on the website:

It’s clear that the higher the number of images on a website, the better the ranking. It should be noted in this context that this calculation is not limited to images that are directly embedded in the content. In other words, images in the content as well as image files on the website in general, seem to correlate well with a good website ranking. Remember, it is crucial to optimize your images with ALT tags.

Internal Links

The internal link structure of a domain name is an important driver behind the search engine performance of the domain. Factors such as the “number of links” and “link text” are crucial for the optimal distribution of so-called link juice.

  • Link Juice: Every link has a value. This value can be optimally distributed according to the principle of inheritance using a good internal link structure according to the hierarchical structure of a domain. The term link juice is meant metaphorically here.

However, not only the number of links pointing to the ranked URL is relevant, but also the link structure on the URL itself.

The number of internal links in the content of the analyzed websites is shown below:

This chart shows that the pages in the top search result positions have a greater number of internal links than pages that rank further back in the SERPs. It is also notable that brand websites ranked at the very top have a lower number of links than websites ranked in the next positions on average. The average number of links will naturally increase in the case of websites with strong menu structures and many internal links in the footer.

SearchMetrics asked an interesting question: “Does a well-ranked website contain internal links to another website for a keyword for which it is ranked?”

Answer: “If this were the case, it would imply, in principle that the website that receives the link would have to be more relevant for that keyword than the website from which the link originates. The ranked website would quasi pass on its link juice and presumably lose its ranking sooner or later.”

It should be noted that using a keyword for which one website is supposed to be ranked to establish a link to another website should be avoided. However, many websites that rank in the top positions create another internal link to themselves using the keyword ? mainly on a structurally-technical basis.

Adsense and Adlinks

Moderate integration of AdSense and other Adlinks is less negative than before; in 2012, there were clearly negative correlations with good rankings with respect to the integration of advertising ?even for AdSense, Google’s own product. This means that last year, well-ranked websites had less advertising than those ranked lower.

In 2013, these correlations are close to neutral:

This chart shows that even well-ranked websites are now integrating advertising, and the number of ads is rising. The following charts illustrate this in greater detail:

Legend: The y-axis of the charts 20 and 21 is scaled from 0 to 1, and multiplied by 100 it returns the percentage of websites that rank in a particular position for which the respective factor applies (y-axis caption).

Average by ranking ? AdSense

Average by ranking ? Adlinks total (including AdSense)

The main message of these two charts is that especially among the top 5 URLs in terms of search results, there are on average fewer pages with at least one ad integration (AdSense or another form of Adlinks) than is the case with URLs ranked in the following places. Lower ranking tend to have more advertising than the top 4.

What Did We Learn?

The quality of content was already very important in the previous year, which has become even more the case in 2013. Well-ranked URLs tend, to a certain extent, to have more text and even more multimedia content than was the case in 2012. In addition, the moderate involvement of advertising ? even outside of AdSense ? does not seem to have as negative of an effect on rankings than before.

While keywords in H1 or H2 titles do not seem to be crucial for rankings, they are almost trivial. Well-correlated feature combinations were not identified.

A good internal link structure is also an important quality factor. It seems to have a positive effect, when the most relevant URL of a domain for a particular keyword uses this keyword once again to create a link to itself. On average, the majority of top-ranking URLs contain one self-referential link.

Be sure to check out SeachMetric’s Full Report: SEO Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation 2013 for Google USA, and also come back to our blog tomorrow – for Arnie Kuenn’s Google Hangout with Marcus Tober and John Doherty where they will discuss the Content Formula for Ranking in Search.