Blog

2017 SEO Ranking Factors Study Reveals Interesting Findings

by Randy Duermyer  ||  

SEMrush (a company that develops search marketing software) has released its 2017 SEO Ranking Factors Study. Some of the findings on the importance of certain factors were a bit surprising and, even more importantly, if true, exceedingly difficult for site owners to control.

Featured Image for 2017 SEO Ranking Factors Post

Getting Up to Speed on SEO

We don’t expect every site owner to comprehend the importance of SEO (search engine optimization) to site traffic or leads. The articles in our Search Marketing blog category can help bring you up to speed. If you are ready to jump right in, I’d suggest the Website Traffic and SEO post.

The thing to keep in mind is that the higher up in the search results your site’s page is listed, the more likely prospects will find it. Getting into the top three is nirvana; top 10 is awesome; after the third page (30th), it’s usually snooze city – see ya!

So, all search engines maintain their own criteria for allowing one site to appear ahead of another. Signals that tell them one page seems to match a search better than the others. Known as an “algorithm,” these ranking factors are constantly changing. By some estimates, search Granddaddy Google tweaks its algorithm as many as 500 times a year.

Bummer. How are you supposed to keep up? You have a business or nonprofit to run. So, you contact marketing agencies like us for help and advice. Unfortunately, not all firms or consultants practicing SEO stay as up-to-date as they should, and you may get a response that worked well 10 years ago but won’t get you anywhere in 2017.

Or, if you have the budget, hire your own team of SEO gurus to keep track of these things. Always nice to have budget.

Ranking Factors Are Always Debatable

Image for 2017 SEO Ranking Factors PostAsk SEO professionals or search marketing firms about the most important factors and you’ll get a variety of responses, with some commonalities, but certainly disagreement over which factors carry the most oomph in getting you to the top today.

Google’s own search engineers have sheepishly admitted that they’re at the point where they’re not even sure. Automation has taken control.

If Google itself doesn’t know for certain, how can you?

Enter the need for robust surveys and testing, like the one from SEMrush and others who are well-known and well-respected among SEO professionals.

Now it’s time to get a little dirty by digging into the study and its findings.

How Comprehensive Was SEMrush’s Study?

SEMrush claims to have over 1.5 million software users, giving them access to a boatload of data. Without getting deep into their methods, they based the ranking factors study on the following:

  • They looked at on-page SEO factors, along with backlinks and traffic data that included page content length for the top-ranking sites.
  • Four keyword volume classes were used to include sites that generate anywhere from one to 10,000 visits from search keywords.
  • They looked at keywords of varying lengths, short ones like “widgets” to long ones like” widgets that look and smell like roses in the rain” for example.
  • They also looked at separate categories of how much competition there was (how many search results were returned for that keyword). This is like varying keyword length, since you’d generally expect a broad, one-word keyword like “widgets” to return a lot more results than the second option about lovely, fresh-scented roses in the rain. Their data showed that didn’t matter much in the order of which ranking factors are most important, however.

So Which SEO Ranking Factors Matter Most Today?

SEMrush identified the following top 12 key ranking factors for 2017, in approximate order of decreasing importance:

  1. Direct website visits (directly came to your site without following a link of any kind)
  2. Average duration of all site visits
  3. Pages per session
  4. Bounce rate (percent who come to one of your pages and then get the heck out of Dodge)
  5. Referring domains (sites linking to you from the same domain)
  6. Content length on the ranking page
  7. Site security (does the URL start with http or https?)
  8. Keyword found in the body
  9. How often the keyword was found in the content (density)
  10. Keyword included in thesection of the page code
  11. Keyword in other META data elements (Description, etc. in the page code)
  12. Video on page

Factors one through five were considered to carry far more weight than the last seven. For 2017, at least.

Key Takeaways

While the extent to which each of the ranking factors makes a difference for, say, a site in the top three results or one found 79th, the difference in just about all areas is more pronounced for larger sites targeting shorter keywords (e.g., mega sites like Amazon) than it is for smaller, niche sites.

That means you can still get results on smaller, targeted sites if your competition isn’t aware of what’s important or not trying.

If you want to dig deeper and are willing to provide your email address, get your own copy of this free 2017 Search Ranking Factors report (PDF) here.

What Should Be the Focus in 2017?

Based on the findings (and common sense, when you think about it):

  • Where possible, build your brand awareness. Sites that have high volumes of direct site traffic do. If I know I want to buy something where I’ll have a good experience, I’ll just go to Amazon.com, for example. But don’t just throw your hands up in the air and give up because you’ll never get that big. You can still make progress against your competition. And, once users find you and think you’re swell, they’ll add your site to their bookmarks and not need a link to get there.
  • Know your levels of user engagement and strive to improve them. Factors two, three and four are measure user engagement. 3 to 3.5 pages per session seems to be good for Pages per session; a bounce rate of 49% seems to be common for sites in the top three results.
  • Don’t go overboard. That especially applies to the keyword being found in the content and how often it’s found. 18% of top-ranking sites didn’t even include the search keyword on the page, and doing so will just backfire. What’s more important is that the content be relevant to the keyword being used. Otherwise, bounce, bounce, bounce, one page per session!
  • Longer matters, but only if the content is strong. The study said there was a 45% difference in the length of the content on the page between sites ranked first and 20th, respectively. Still, just jamming words into a poorly written page for the sake of increasing its length is pointless and won’t result in happy visitors or search engines.

No one can predict what’s around the corner, but these suggestions will serve you well, regardless of future changes to search ranking algorithms. Building brand awareness, improving user engagement and developing worthwhile, well-written content is a very good thing.
And they all sound like good future topics.

We’d love to hear your feedback. What has and hasn’t worked for you in the past? Is it still working today? Did these findings turn your world upside down? Please leave a comment.

Related Topics

SHARE THIS:

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on LinkedIn Share by Email

Comments are closed.

Latest from the blog:

2017 SEO Ranking Factors Study Reveals Interesting Findings

SEMrush (a company that develops search marketing software) has released its 2017 SEO Ranking Factors Study. Some of the findings on the importance of certain factors were a bit surprising and, even more importantly, if true, exceedingly difficult for site owners to control.

Read the Article »

What our clients have to say:

Gerald Pennington

“The Market it Write team has the ability to grasp what we want to accomplish and put those concepts into words quickly—faster than we could in-house. Whenever they communicate, they respect the demands of our schedules and politely get right to the facts.”

 

Gerald Pennington, Stryker Spine Global Marketing
Industry: Healthcare   |   Services: Employee newsletters, corporate communications

2015-04-25T18:49:09+00:00

Gerald Pennington, Stryker Spine Global Marketing
Industry: Healthcare   |   Services: Employee newsletters, corporate communications

“The Market it Write team has the ability to grasp what we want to accomplish and put those concepts into words quickly—faster than we could in-house. Whenever they communicate, they respect the demands of our schedules and politely get right to the facts.”  

Howard Levy

“I have known Mistina for a while and have since hired her firm on retainer to write our website copy, email newsletters, postcards and articles. Market it Write understands my business, helps develop ideas and writes great copy. They are highly professional, dedicated to their craft and easy to work with.”

 

Howard Levy, Red Rooster Group
Industry: Creative Agency   |   Services: Marketing consultation, bylined articles, blogs, website content

2015-04-25T18:47:41+00:00

Howard Levy, Red Rooster Group
Industry: Creative Agency   |   Services: Marketing consultation, bylined articles, blogs, website content

“I have known Mistina for a while and have since hired her firm on retainer to write our website copy, email newsletters, postcards and articles. Market it Write understands my business, helps develop ideas and writes great copy. They are highly professional, dedicated to their craft and easy to work with.”  

Adam Wolf

“Market it Write’s copywriting and editing acumen is only matched by their excellent client service and easy-to-work with demeanor. I’d recommend the firm for any marketing writing assignment.”

 

Adam Wolf, Wolf Communications
Industry: Creative agency   |   Services: Website content, copyediting

2015-04-25T18:51:53+00:00

Adam Wolf, Wolf Communications
Industry: Creative agency   |   Services: Website content, copyediting

“Market it Write’s copywriting and editing acumen is only matched by their excellent client service and easy-to-work with demeanor. I’d recommend the firm for any marketing writing assignment.”  

Terry Yoffe

“Market it Write was able to take the content from my last website and transform it to my new one, making the content clear, informative and to the point. The clarity of the content has been so powerful that I have gotten several new clients based on my website. I found Mistina and her team to be easy to work with and very willing to listen to concerns and objectives and work through them in a very professional way.”

 

Terry Yoffe, TRY Coaching
Industry: Professional services   |   Services: Website content

2015-04-25T18:49:53+00:00

Terry Yoffe, TRY Coaching
Industry: Professional services   |   Services: Website content

“Market it Write was able to take the content from my last website and transform it to my new one, making the content clear, informative and to the point. The clarity of the content has been so powerful that I have gotten several new clients based on my website. I found Mistina and her team to be easy to work with and very willing to listen to concerns and objectives and work through them in a very professional way.”  

Lucien Harriot

"I'm always inspired after a meeting with Market it Write. Mistina's insight into the needs of my company's marketing strategy brings clarity to our messaging and pushes our company closer to the high-performance business model we strive for."

 

Lucien Harriot, Mechanism Digital
Industry: Media   |   Services: Marketing strategy, marketing materials

2015-04-25T18:47:19+00:00

Lucien Harriot, Mechanism Digital
Industry: Media   |   Services: Marketing strategy, marketing materials

"I'm always inspired after a meeting with Market it Write. Mistina's insight into the needs of my company's marketing strategy brings clarity to our messaging and pushes our company closer to the high-performance business model we strive for."  

Stephen May

“Market it Write is amazingly adept at working as a team player on a variety of projects and has consistently proven to be a valuable asset. Bottom line: if you need creative and powerful writing for your marketing effort, look no further.”

 

Stephen May, Crescent Leaf Technologies
Industry: Creative agency   |   Services: Website content

2015-04-25T18:50:35+00:00

Stephen May, Crescent Leaf Technologies
Industry: Creative agency   |   Services: Website content

“Market it Write is amazingly adept at working as a team player on a variety of projects and has consistently proven to be a valuable asset. Bottom line: if you need creative and powerful writing for your marketing effort, look no further.”  

Hiroto Takagi

“Many writers want to say things their way, but Market it Write understood exactly what I wanted to say—and that’s what they wrote. Market it Write works for me and for my business. I recommend the company to anybody who needs writing help.

 

Hiroto Takagi, Bryton Harry
Industry: Sports marketing   |   Services: Website content, marketing support

2015-04-25T18:52:52+00:00

Hiroto Takagi, Bryton Harry
Industry: Sports marketing   |   Services: Website content, marketing support

“Many writers want to say things their way, but Market it Write understood exactly what I wanted to say—and that’s what they wrote. Market it Write works for me and for my business. I recommend the company to anybody who needs writing help.  

Lee Angus

“I loved having Market it Write do the interviews and walk us through the drafts to the final version, and I was impressed with your ability to condense the story to meet our needs. It was also nice to have someone ‘outside’ write the story. The results seemed more objective than they would have been if I had written it.”

 

Lee Angus, Legacy Alliance
Industry: Professional services   |   Services: Corporate communication

2015-04-25T18:51:21+00:00

Lee Angus, Legacy Alliance
Industry: Professional services   |   Services: Corporate communication

“I loved having Market it Write do the interviews and walk us through the drafts to the final version, and I was impressed with your ability to condense the story to meet our needs. It was also nice to have someone ‘outside’ write the story. The results seemed more objective than they would have been if I had written it.”  

Joe Biondo

“Market it Write adds a level of professionalism, insight and creativity rarely seen in our industry. They consistently deliver exceptional marketing ideas, unique materials and solutions that have allowed us to move forward with our business development and marketing programs. They ‘get it’ and know how to articulate your message. They are true professionals, a pleasure to work with, and I would recommend them without hesitation to any business or organization looking to increase their business, membership and/or public image.”

 

Joe Biondo, Summit Investigations
Industry: Security & Investigations   |   Services: Sales letters, advertisement copy, website content

2015-04-25T18:48:07+00:00

Joe Biondo, Summit Investigations
Industry: Security & Investigations   |   Services: Sales letters, advertisement copy, website content

“Market it Write adds a level of professionalism, insight and creativity rarely seen in our industry. They consistently deliver exceptional marketing ideas, unique materials and solutions that have allowed us to move forward with our business development and marketing programs. They ‘get it’ and know how to articulate your message. They are true professionals, a pleasure to work with, and I would recommend them without hesitation to any business or organization looking to increase their business, membership and/or public image.”  

Albert Barette

"Our executive staff reviewed the final product, and it was excellent. Thanks to you and your team for all your input and contributing to our new website. The vertical market sheets were also excellent."

 

Albert Barette, Bowles Security Group
Industry: Security & Investigations   |   Services: Brand strategy, website development, marketing materials

2015-04-25T18:46:25+00:00

Albert Barette, Bowles Security Group
Industry: Security & Investigations   |   Services: Brand strategy, website development, marketing materials

"Our executive staff reviewed the final product, and it was excellent. Thanks to you and your team for all your input and contributing to our new website. The vertical market sheets were also excellent."  

Samuel Vinicur

“Market it Write does fabulous work. Mistina's team takes the time to understand both their clients and their clients' audiences. I highly recommend engaging them for any communications efforts you have.”

 

Samuel Vinicur, TSS International
Industry: Security & Investigations   |   Services: Corporate communications, press releases

2015-04-25T18:48:35+00:00

Samuel Vinicur, TSS International
Industry: Security & Investigations   |   Services: Corporate communications, press releases

“Market it Write does fabulous work. Mistina's team takes the time to understand both their clients and their clients' audiences. I highly recommend engaging them for any communications efforts you have.”  

Barbara Centrella

“You made the experience fun, and you brought so much to the table—things that I would never have thought of on my own. You added a dimension that brings the work to life. I was very pleased with the first media kit and am blown away by the second.”

 

Barbara Centrella, children’s author
Industry: Publishing   |   Services: Media kit

2015-04-25T18:52:18+00:00

Barbara Centrella, children’s author
Industry: Publishing   |   Services: Media kit

“You made the experience fun, and you brought so much to the table—things that I would never have thought of on my own. You added a dimension that brings the work to life. I was very pleased with the first media kit and am blown away by the second.”  

Larissa Nycz Montecullo

“We have had the pleasure and opportunity to work with Market it Write on a daily basis over the past several months, and regularly for over a year prior. Their writing talent, attention to detail, and business savvy across industries make the Market it Write team an incredibly valuable asset to any company.”

 

Larissa Nycz Montecullo, Tribecca Designs
Industry: Creative agency   |   Services: Website content, marketing materials, ad copy

2015-04-25T18:50:56+00:00

Larissa Nycz Montecullo, Tribecca Designs
Industry: Creative agency   |   Services: Website content, marketing materials, ad copy

“We have had the pleasure and opportunity to work with Market it Write on a daily basis over the past several months, and regularly for over a year prior. Their writing talent, attention to detail, and business savvy across industries make the Market it Write team an incredibly valuable asset to any company.”  

George Donohue

“Market it Write makes the copywriting process painless. Their responsiveness and professionalism kept the project on track, despite a tight deadline. Mistina has a keen ability to understand the client’s needs, and she uses her intelligence and creativity to convey those needs in succinct copy.”

 

George Donohue, GMAC Real Estate IPG
Industry: Real estate   |   Services: Newsletters, corporate communications, investor relations

2015-04-25T18:49:31+00:00

George Donohue, GMAC Real Estate IPG
Industry: Real estate   |   Services: Newsletters, corporate communications, investor relations

“Market it Write makes the copywriting process painless. Their responsiveness and professionalism kept the project on track, despite a tight deadline. Mistina has a keen ability to understand the client’s needs, and she uses her intelligence and creativity to convey those needs in succinct copy.”  

Arianne Andrusco

"Have I mentioned how wonderful you are lately? This is good stuff. It is such a pleasure to work with someone who hears the feedback and just gets it immediately. You really are making my job a lot easier. Thank you!"

 

Arianne Andrusco, NewYork-Presbyterian
Industry: Healthcare   |   Services: Direct mail campaigns

2015-04-25T18:45:55+00:00

Arianne Andrusco, NewYork-Presbyterian
Industry: Healthcare   |   Services: Direct mail campaigns

"Have I mentioned how wonderful you are lately? This is good stuff. It is such a pleasure to work with someone who hears the feedback and just gets it immediately. You really are making my job a lot easier. Thank you!"  
Market It Write

Market It Write