August 6, 2015

On The Brink: Search Ranking Factors in 2015


This is the latest installment of our newest Delucchi Plus blog feature, On The Brink, in which our Digital Analyst Manager and resident Batman expert Jonathan Brinksman breaks down the latest and greatest trends in digital marketing. Whether you’re a seasoned expert or total newbie, Jonathan will be offering expert, accessible insight into the ever-changing digital world.

Every year, Search Metrics releases their report of search ranking factors and ranking correlation. You guys, I love this report (as I’m sure you already know). There’s so much awesome data here. While we’ll never know for sure what exactly all goes into Google’s algorithm, but charting these correlations in this level of detail is the next best thing.

It’s a really great report that you should read for yourself (full disclosure, Search Metrics will make you sign up for their email list before they’ll let you download the report), but I’ll walk you through my biggest takeaways, because that’s just the kind of guy I am:

Backlinks Aren’t As Important Anymore

This is big. Traditionally, backlinks have always been one of the single largest ranking factors for SEO — not anymore it seems. This is also really great news for my fellow SEOs, since “link building” is the hardest thing to do. These changes probably stem from shifts in how people on the web endorse or validate content. Nowadays, fewer people are linking to your content on their blogs — most people just share it on Facebook or Twitter and move on with their lives. This shift in ranking factors reflects this.

Your Interior Website Content Really is Important

Look at that, homepages aren’t ranking at the top anymore. Not only that, but the size of websites occupying the top spots in search results are significantly increasing. Long story short, as Google pushes webmasters to focus on quality content generation, we’re seeing deeper content (read: internal pages) dominate the SERPs, and websites that have a breadth of content being appropriately rewarded. Good news, everyone — content marketing works!

Stop Using Flash

Seriously, you guys. How many more hints do you need?

Keywords Still Matter

Kind of. All of the websites in the very top ranking positions (1 to 3) are still showing strong correlation between keywords in copy and meta tags. However, this trend is moving downward for other positions. We’ve known for a while that keywords are waning in importance over quality content. My theory, though: if you’re genuinely creating quality content relevant to your keywords, your keywords will likely fit into it naturally. Let’s not forget about the importance of keyword research for understanding the search landscape.

Social Signals are Important to SEO 

This is probably the least surprising trend (which is continuing from last year’s report) given Google’s recent partnership with Twitter. I know I’m also repeating myself from earlier in this article, but it’s worth hammering home the notion that this is really how users most often validate content online — and has been for several years. The writing is on the wall; your social strategy and SEO strategy can’t be siloed any more.

Your Site Must Be Mobile Friendly

Still feeling that sting from Mobilegeddon? I’ll be blunt: you need to have a responsive design site with content optimized for mobile devices. Check your analytics — I’d bet a lot of money that your mobile traffic is creeping up near that 50% mark. Your users (and you) are on these devices constantly. Make sure that you’re ready to meet them.

SEO in 2015

Given all of this data, what should you be doing for your website? I’m not going to lie to you; SEO is super complicated. If it weren’t, I’d be out of a job. However, and I’m sure I’ve said this a bunch in this blog series, but it all really boils down to three things:

  1. Do your research. Specific keywords might not be as important any longer as topical content, but you still need to know how users are trying to find that content. Understanding the search landscape is super important!
  2. Apply this research to your content strategy. I know it’s difficult, but even if it’s a little bit — just one new page or blog post or update a month — will go a long way towards showing Google that you’re trying.
  3. Close the loop with the social channels by having a content dissemination plan. Post your content, engage in the right conversations (this requires more research — sorry!), and use your keywords in your messaging. Building associations online starts and stops on social media. Make sure you’re doing this intelligently.

Daunting, I know. I have good news, though. These are all services that Delucchi Plus offers! Just throwing that out there.