To keep or improve your website ranking, you need to track the latest trends by the search engines used to rank websites as well as your own analytics. Below are the main factors of 2016 for better website ranking positions.
Word count is still an important ranking factor, with content in the top positions exceeding 1000 words on average. The level of detail matters as much as the length of the content. Pages that show up in higher positions are detailed enough to rank comparably well for multiple similar keywords.
With that being said, the deliberate use of keywords is said to be of secondary importance, with only 53% of the top 20 queries having keywords in the title tag.
Keep your content informative for your audience with an emphasis on 'quality'. The use of images (with Alt tags) is also a good option mixed in with your content.
User signals such as Click-Through Rate, Time on Site, and Bounce Rate are considered to be among the top ranking factors. These factors are so important because they’re all signals to Google as to how satisfied a user is with the content they just landed on.
- The pages occupying positions 1–3 have an average CTR of 36%.
- The average Bounce Rate for URLs on the first page of search results is 46%.
- The Time on Site for the top 10 URLs is 3 minutes and 10 seconds
Your website MUST be mobile friendly. This is increasingly more important, especially for 2017 when Google will prioritise mobile searches.
Another technical factor is the number of pages in the top 20 positions with an H1 or H2 is up compared to last year. The use of H2 tags has seen a particularly notable rise in the top landing pages this year. Since not all URLs make use of H2s, Searchmetrics recommends using them for a competitive advantage.
- Over 45% of pages in the top 20 results were encrypted using HTTPS, up from 12% last year. From 2017 your website SSL certificate must be SHA2 and if you don't have a secure website (with an SSL certificate), your ranking will be negatively affected.
- 86% of pages in the top 10 now use the .com TLD.
- Pages ranking well on mobile are a third smaller than pages in the same positions on desktop.
- Pages in the top 10 positions have a loading time of 7–8 seconds, on average.
- Top ranking pages typically have longer URLs, around 53 characters on average.
- All 100 of the top 100 domains have are mobile-friendly.
User Experience on a website
Internal links are said to be one of the most important user experience ranking factors, though they are being largely underutilized. Searchmetrics says the use of internal links has fallen dramatically this year compared to last year. Internal links help direct both users and search engines to other relevant pages throughout a website, which is why they’re so important. External links, number of images, and video integration are all factors that add to the user experience which are also important ranking factors.
Also important for user experience is the design and layout; is it easy to find content and is it clickable on mobile devices? Are some of the many things to consider in user experience design for your website.
Social media - There is an extremely high correlation between social signals and ranking position. Facebook is still the network with the highest weighted social signals. Signals from Google+ are apparently most prevalent in when it comes to the first and second positions, but fall off significantly after that. The same can be said for signals from Twitter and Pinterest as well.
According to Google, the days of backlinks being the main driving force behind search engine rankings are on their way out. Backlinks are now just a contributing signal, taking a back seat to signals such as content relevance and user intention. In fact, for certain niche topics its possible to obtain a high ranking without even having a lot of high quality backlinks. However, if you have the opportunity to good quality backlinks, you should still do this.