Every year the software manufacturer Searchmetrics publishes their study about ranking factors. That is simple to understand for search engine optimizers but is a closed book for laymen. But to be able to know what good SEO is made of we summarized the case study in hopefully understandable manner.
Users come to the fore
Google is constantly working on improving the search so that users of the search engine will always receive the most relevant search results (beside ads which are sometimes of weird relevance). For this Google obtains direct and indirect reactions of website visitors as the human being is the intelligent component in Google’s indexing algorithm.
Direct and indirect reactions
Only the number of clicks made by your visitor on your website and the length of time they remained there is actually counted. These two components are among the 10 factors, which Google has given most weight within the last years and will be in the future. The bounce rate of your visitors of the website will also be involved but the increase of current relevance is still manageable.
With indirect reactions we mean the so-called social signal. These are reactions of users in social networks. With these Facebook wins significantly more influence than Google+ and Twitter. The looser in this case is Pinterest. Since the social network Google+ is not very successful, we assume that it will soon find a different purpose and is then involved otherwise within the ranking.
User reactions gain on inportance
Since the artificial intelligence probably will need a few more years to be a safe source for the Google algorithm, we assume that the user behaviour (swarm intelligence?) will be included in the future even more. Mostly because the users are both a target group and indicators and along with that the best and cheapest source for classification of relevance. Especially Google will try to focus on the direct user behaviour, as this can be faked (en masse). In indirect reactions this is much easier.
Content is and remains King
Positive user reactions are responsible for at least a quarter of the whole Google ranking but rarely come from anywhere: they are the consequence of relevant content, easy website structures and therefore good design and solid engineering.
To be pointed out this has less to do with searches, but rather the interaction of all relevant topic keywords that are used as indicators for a good content and consequently coherence of contents gains more focus.
The two site-dependent factors (in the jargon we call it simply “onpage”) technology and content both on their own represent roughly half of the reasons for a Google ranking. Since the onpage factors often are responsible for the reactions of your visitors and the website itself represents the target for all links to other websites, the quality of your content remains definitely the most important factor for SEO.
Links are golden
Internal links within your content are important, but links from other websites to your website – so-called backlinks – are “ultra powerful”. That rule will certainly continue to exist in the near future with Google but the links will blend more amongst the indirect user feedback. You can assume that links are more of a class-factor and social signal then represent the masses. While this is provocative it actually is logical: a reaction on Facebook & Co first requires only a click and a few characters for a comment. Whereas a blog post is more of a reference and is usually more time consuming and therefore can’t be applied in the same masses.
Basically, if you want to get the big picture of all the factors we recommend you to look at the ranking factors Case Study by Searchmetrics directly.