2015 Search Engine Ranking Factors Study (Moz)

2015-search-engine-ranking-factors-info

 

Search Engine Ranking Factors Survey

Moz’s 2015 Search Engine Ranking Factors presents survey data from over 150 marketing professionals specializing in Search Engine Optimization. Their answers provide insight into the inner workings of the search marketing both now and in the future. The following data represents the opinions of our respondents of the various weighting of factors thought to be used (or not used) in Google’s search algorithm.

Google’s Broad Search Ranking Algorithm

Our respondents rated the relative levels of influence exerted by broad areas of ranking factors on a scale of 1 (not influential) to 10 (highly influential).

ValuesDomain-Level, Link Authority FeaturesPage-Level Link MetricsPage-Level Keyword & Content-Based MetricsPage-Level, Keyword-Agnostic FeaturesUser Usage & Traffic/Query DataDomain Level Brand MetricsDomain Level Keyword UsageDomain-Level, Keyword-Agnostic FeaturesPage-Level Social Metrics0123456789

Definitions:

Domain-Level, Keyword-Agnostic Features: Domain name length, TLD extension, SSL certificate, etc.

Domain-Level, Link Authority Features: Based on link/citation metrics such as quantity of links, trust, domain-level PageRank, etc.

Domain-Level Keyword Usage: Exact-match keyword domains, partial-keyword matches, etc.

Domain-Level Brand Metrics: Offline usage of brand/domain name, mentions of brand/domain in news/media/press, toolbar/browser data of usage about the site, entity association, etc.

Page-Level Social Metrics: Quantity/quality of tweeted links, Facebook shares, Google +1s, etc. to the page

Page-Level Link Metrics: PageRank, Trust metrics, quantity of linking root domains, links, anchor text distribution, quality/spamminess of linking sources, etc.

Page-Level Keyword & Content-Based Metrics: Content relevance scoring, on-page optimization of keyword usage, topic-modeling algorithm scores on content, content quantity/quality/relevance, etc.

User Usage & Traffic/Query: Data SERP engagement metrics, clickstream data, Visitor traffic/usage signals, quantity/diversity/CTR of queries, both on the domain and page level

Page-Level, Keyword-Agnostic Features: Content length, readability, Open Graph markup, uniqueness, load speed, structured data markup, HTTPS, etc.

Page-Level Keyword Usage Features

These features describe use of the keyword term/phrase in particular parts of the HTML code on the page (title element, H1s, alt attributes, etc).

Rated on a scale from 1 (no direct influence) to 10 (strong influence).

ValuesKeyword present in the title elementKeyword appears in the main content area ofthe pagePage contains close variants and/or synonymsof the keywordDegree of optimization for a topic modelingalgorithmKeyword present in the page’s URLKeyword present in the anchor text of an on-page linkKeyword present in the alt attribute of an imageon the pageKeyword present in specific HTML elements(bold/italic/li/a/etc)0123456789

Page-Level Keyword Agnostic Features

These elements describe non-keyword-usage, non-link-metrics features of individual pages (such as length of the page, load speed, etc.).

Rated on a scale from 1 (no direct influence) to 10 (strong influence).

ValuesUniqueness of the content on the pagePage is mobile friendly (for mobile rankings)Relative CTR from Google SERPs to the pagefor the keywordPage Load SpeedQuantity of searches for this keyword + specificbrand name, URL, or domain namePure bounce rate of the pageOverall design and/or user experienceDwell time or long click metricsFreshness of the content on the pageReturn visits to this page after initial query/clickLength of content on the pageThe age of the pageAverage browse rate after a click on this page inthe SERPsQuality of supplemental content on pagePage contains Schema.org or other structureddataReading level of the content on the pageUse of images on the pageUse of rich media (video, slides, etc.)Page supports HTTPS / SSLAuthor authority of pagePage is mobile-friendly (for desktop rankings)Page contains Open Graph data and/or Twittercards0123456789

Page-Level Link-Based Features

These features describe link metrics to the individual ranking page (such as number of links, PageRank, etc.)

Rated on a scale from 1 (no direct influence) to 10 (strong influence).

Page-Level Social Metrics

These features relate to third-party metrics from social media sources (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) for the ranking page.

Rated on a scale from 1 (no direct influence) to 10 (strong influence).

ValuesEngagement with content/URL on socialnetworksRaw count of Google+ shares and +1sassociated with URLRaw count of Tweets associated with URLRaw count of Facebook likes and sharesassociated with URLComments about the page on social sitesSentiment of social links and citations referringto the pageRaw count of Pinterest pins associated withURLUpvotes for the page on social sites00.511.522.533.544.5

Domain-Level Keyword Usage Features

These features cover how keywords are used in the root or subdomain name, and how much impact this might have on search engine rankings.

Rated on a scale from 1 (no direct influence) to 10 (strong influence).

ValuesKeyword is the exact match root domain nameKeyword is present in root domain nameKeyword is closely related to domain namethrough entity associationKeyword is the subdomain nameKeyword is the domain extension01234567

Domain-Level Brand Metrics

These features describe elements that indicate qualities of branding and brand metrics.

Rated on a scale from 1 (no direct influence) to 10 (strong influence).

ValuesSearch volume for the brand/domainExistence/quality of verified real-world businessinfoQuantity of citations for the domain nameacross the webQuantity of co-occurrence keyword + brandacross webQuantity of mentions of the brand/domain onsocial sitesPopularity of business’s official social mediaprofiles01234567

Domain-Level Link-Authority Features

These features describe link metrics about the domain hosting the page.

Rated on a scale from 1 (no direct influence) to 10 (strong influence).

ValuesQuantity of unique linking domains to thedomainTopical relevance of linking domainsRaw popularity of the domain as measured byMozRank, PageRank, etc.Trust of the domain from as measured byTrustRank, MozTrust, etc.Distribution of linking domains’authorities/relative importance/popularityBacklinks from sites of your own geotargetedarea or languagePercentage of links with brand terms in theanchor textVelocity of link acquisition to the domainSentiment of the external links pointing to thesite012345678Sentiment of the external links pointing to the site● Domain-Level Link-Authority Features: 3.91

Domain-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features

These features relate to the entire root domain, but don’t directly describe link or keyword-based elements. Instead, they relate to things like the length of the domain name in characters.

Rated on a scale from 1 (no direct influence) to 10 (strong influence).

ValuesUniqueness of content across the whole siteUse of responsive design and/or mobile-optimizedAggregated CTR from Google SERPs for thedomainFreshness of content on the siteAggregated page load speed for pages ofdomainAggregated dwell time or long click metrics fordomainQuantity of error pages crawled on the siteAge of domainDomain is associated with high-authorityauthorsDomain contains trust signal pagesDomain lists contact informationQuality of other sites hosted on the same blockof IP addressesCharacter length of domain namePresence of hyphens used in domain nameLength of time until domain name expires012345678

Negative Ranking Factors

These responses relate to the relative negative impact of various features in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Rated on a scale from 1 (no direct influence) to 10 (strong influence).

ValuesTotal number of unnatural links topage/subdomainPage is duplicate contentPage content is thinAmount of over-optimized anchor text to pageNon-mobile friendly (for mobile SERPs)Keyword stuffing in documentPage links to spamPage has relative poor searcher satisfactionSlow page speedPage has relative poor engagement/usagemetricsTotal amount of advertising on pagePage links to high number of 404 pagesPage assets (CSS/JS) are blocked by robots.txtTotal number of times links from page and/orsubdomain have been disavowedPage contains a duplicate title tagNon-mobile friendly (for desktop SERPs)Page contains a duplicate meta description0123456789Non-mobile friendly (for desktop SERPs)● Negative Ranking Factors: 3.85

The Future of Search

Respondents were asked to predict how the following factors might change (in terms of their direct impact on Google’s ranking algorithm) over the next 12 months.

The Future of Search

Here, we present Moz’s analysis of 17,600 keyword search results from Google.com (US). The numbers shown are mean Spearman’s correlation with higher rankings, meaning that a higher number indicates that websites/pages with the given feature tended to rank higher on average than those without.

Remember: Correlation is not causation! Just because websites/pages with a given feature tend to rank higher doesn’t necessarily mean that this particular feature is the cause of that higher ranking. That said, we can learn a lot from correlation studies!

All correlations rated on a scale from -1.00 (no direct influence) to 1.00 (strong influence).

Page-Level Keyword Usage Features

These features describe use of the keyword term/phrase in particular parts of the HTML code on the page (title element, H1s, alt attributes, etc.) as well as semantic relevance and language modeling of the given keywords.

We continue to see lower correlations between on-page keyword use and rankings. This could likely be because Google is smarter about what pages mean (through related keyword, synonyms, close variants and entities) without relying on exact keyword phrases. We believe matching user intent is of utmost importance.

ValuesQuery-Document relevance score usingLanguage Model (Dirichlet smoothing)# of keyword matches in body textQuery-Document relevance score using TF-IDFRank of wordify-extracted keyword in documentLDA similarity between H1 tag and queryQuery-Document relevance score using BM25Query-Document relevance score usingLanguage Model (Absolute discount)Query-Document relevance score using TF-IDFQuery-Document relevance score using TF-IDFQuery-Document relevance score usingLanguage Model (Jelinek-Mercer)Wordify query-document relevance for keywordLDA similarity between title and queryQuery-Document relevance score usingLanguage Model (Jelinek-Mercer)Query-Document relevance score usingLanguage Model (Absolute discount)Query-Document relevance score usingLanguage Model (Dirichlet)Query-Document relevance score using BM25Query-Document relevance score usingLanguage Model (Absolute discount)Query-Document relevance score usingLanguage Model (Dirichlet)Query-Document relevance score usingLanguage Model (Jelinek-Mercer)Query-Document relevance score using BM25# of keyword matches in title# of keyword matches in H1 tagsLDA similarity between body text and query00.1-0.075-0.05-0.0250.0250.050.0750.1250.15

Page-Level Keyword Agnostic Features

These elements describe non-keyword-usage, non-link-metrics features of individual pages (such as length of the page, load speed, etc.).

While page length, international targeting, and total number of links all show moderate association with Google rankings, we found that using HTTPS has a very low positive correlation. This could indicate it’s the “tie-breaker” Google claims. Negative associated factors include server response time and the total length of the URL.

ValuesTotal # of linksPage has hreflang declaration# of internal links# of stripped chars in doc body# of external linksDoes the page use Google Analytics?URL is httpsPage has link to Google+ accountPage has Person schema.org markupA ? in text after last slashDoes the page contain Schema.org markup?Page has link to Facebook, Twitter OR Google+Page has link to Twitter accountPage has link to Facebook accountDoes the page have Twitter Card markupDoes the page have Open Graph markupDoes the page have SearchAction schema.orgmarkup# of Google Adsense slots in the pageFolder depth of URL (# of trailing slashes)# of characters in the tokenized titlePage contains meta viewport declarationURL has a hyphenThe server response time for this URLURL length in characters-0.1-0.0500.050.10.15-0.150.2URL length in characters● Page-Level Keyword Agnostic Features: -0.11

Page-Level Link-Based Features

These features describe link metrics to the individual ranking page (such as number of links, PageRank, etc.)

Despite rumors to the contrary, the data continues to show some of the highest correlations between Google rankings and the number of links to a given page.

Domain-Level Keyword Usage Features

These features cover how keywords are used in the root or subdomain name, and how much impact this might have on search engine rankings.

While there exists a decent correlation between exact match domains (domains where the keyword matches the domain exactly, i.e. redwidgets.com) and rankings, this is likely due to the prominence of anchor text, keyword usage, and other signals, instead of an algorithmic bias in favor of these domains.

ValuesThe search query matches the domain nameexactly and extension is .comThe search query matches the domain nameexactlyThere is a partial match of keyword with domainnameThere is a partial match of keyword to fullhostname, including subdomains0/1 flag for whether the exact keyword matchesin the URL# of partial keyword matches anywhere in URL00.10.20.0250.050.0750.1250.150.1750.225

Domain-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features

These features relate to the entire root domain, but don’t directly describe link or keyword-based elements. Instead, they relate to things like the length of the domain name in characters.

Our study showed little relationship with the type of top-level domain (.com, org, etc.) and rankings in Google.

ValuesTLD is orgSite has robots.txtSite has sitemap in robots.txtTLD is comTLD is netDomain contains numbersTLD is infoTLD is eduTLD is bizTotal length of the full hostname withsubdomains, e.g. www.subdomain.pld.comTotal length of the domain name, e.g. moz.com-0.08-0.06-0.04-0.0200.020.040.060.08

Domain-Level Link-Authority Features

These features describe link metrics about the domain hosting the page.

While not quite as high as page-level link metrics, the overall links to a site’s root and subdomain showed a reasonably strong correlation to rankings. We believe links continue to play a prominent role in Google’s algorithm.

Anchor Text Features

These features describe the anchor text of the links pointing to both the page and domain.

Use of anchor text was another prominent feature of high-ranking results, with the number of unique domains linking with partial-match anchor text leading the way.

Values# of external root domains linking to page withpartial anchor text# of external root domains linking to page withexact anchor text# of external pages linking to page with partialanchor text# of external pages linking to page with exactanchor text# of external root domains linking to domainwith partial anchor text# of external pages linking to domain with partialanchor text# of external root domains linking to domainwith exact anchor text# of external pages linking to domain with exactanchor text00.050.10.150.20.250.30.35

Social and Brand Features

These features relate to third-party metrics from social media sources (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) for the ranking page, and also to brand mentions across the web.

Always controversial, the number of social shares a page accumulates tends to show a positive correlation with rankings. Although there is strong reason to believe Google doesn’t use social share counts directly in its algorithm, there are many secondary SEO benefits to be gained through successful social sharing.

ValuesFacebook total countShares on Google+Facebook share countFacebook like countFacebook comment countShares on Twitter# of mentions of the full domain name (e.g.www.google.com) in FWEShares on Pinterest# of mentions of the domain name in FWE (e.g.’google’)Facebook click countShares on LinkedInFacebook commentsbox count00.050.10.150.20.250.3# of mentions of the domain name in FWE (e.g. ‘google’)● Social and Brand Features: 0.17

Spam Flags

These features relate to features often associated with banned or penalized domains, as defined by Moz’s Spam Score.

ValuesThe ratio of content in ads, navigation, and linksto total page content is highPages on this subdomain have a high numberof links relative to the content of the pageThe amount of visible text is very large relativeto total code (html/JS/etc)Total # of spam flagsThere are a large number of external linkswithin sidebars and footersThe ratio of followed to no-followed links fromdomains to this subdomain is outside of thenormal rangeThere is a low number of internal linksThere is a large number of external linksThe number of characters in this domain nameis higher than averageThe ratio of followed to no-followed links fromsubdomains to this subdomain is outside thenormal rangeOur crawlers received a valid response for onlya small number of pagesThis subdomain is on a top-level domain that isoften found to be the source of spam linksA small proportion of links to the page are usingbranded anchor textThe site link profile is not trustworthyThe site is large without many inbound linksLinks to this subdomain come from an unusuallysmall number of pages-0.100.1-0.075-0.05-0.0250.0250.050.075The site link profile is not trustworthy● Spam Flags: -0.07

Link Metrics from Ahrefs

These features relate to link metrics from our data partner Ahrefs.

Traffic and Engagement Metrics from SimilarWeb

These features relate to traffic and engagement metrics from our data partner SimilarWeb. Traffic data is from April and May, 2015.

ValuesMay search visitsMay total visitsApril total visitsApril search visitsMay direct visitsApril direct visitsTime on sitepageviewsBounce rateRank-0.3-0.25-0.2-0.15-0.1-0.0500.050.10.150.20.250.3

Domain Registration Features from DomainTools

These features relate to traffic and engagement metrics from our data partner DomainTools.

ValuesTime since domain createdTime until domain registration expiresDomain owner is using privacy service00.1-0.075-0.05-0.0250.0250.050.0750.125Domain owner is using privacy service● Domain Registration Features from DomainTools: -0.06

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