A current study provides clues as to how you can achieve good rankings on Google in 2019 .
The initiators of the SEO study pulled 120,000 random keywords from the Google Keyword Planner. Half of these keywords had at least 1,000 searches per month. The top 10 SERP results were read out for these keywords and additionally enriched with data from Ahrefs, Google API and our own crawlers. This resulted in a data set from around 1.1 million SERP results.
We have summarized the results and findings:
- The top position is most likely the most relevant result. If there is a clear result, for example a brand, Google will show it, even if it violates all other ranking factors and SEO rules.
- For less obvious results (such as branded keyword searches), Featured Snippets do the work. 50 to 65 percent of all places in first place are dominated by a featured snippet.
- Logically, this is the area in which the largest SEO competition takes place. Google is heading for faster responses and fewer clicks in the SERP.
- This is why much of the actual SEO competition takes place in 2nd and 3rd place these days.
- Backlinks – measured by the number of domains referring to a URL – are still the most strongly correlated factor for SEO success.
- Some of the popular link authority metrics such as Ahrefs Rank or Domain Rating have proven to be less correlative in the study than the initiators expected.
- Keywords are important. Both the number of keywords in the content and the keyword density. Keywords in the URL turned out to be reasonably relevant. Keywords in
title-element showed significantly stronger correlations.
- While longer content correlates with higher ranks, it doesn’t make sense to assume that length is the factor. Rather, a longer article provides room for more keywords that can be inserted with density without raising suspicion of spam.
- It’s better to optimize for the parent topic (the highest volume keyword that ranks the best for) than the actual keyword that it covers. All high-ranking results dominated the overarching topic of the keyword for which they were rated.
- HTTPS is mandatory to get a (good) rank. Is nothing new, Google has already made it clear.
- Some of the SEO hearsay tips turned out to be totally invalid. For example the rumor that Google treats high-volume keywords differently or that it prefers content with embedded YouTube videos over other video platforms.
- Some established beliefs may be the result of poor data analysis in previous studies. For example, the assumption that the length of the URL is a strong ranking factor.
- All results on the first page show a high average value (over 90 percent) for Google’s Lighthouse Audits (SEO), but no correlation was found between higher values and the top positions.
- Page speed seems to help, but not as much as expected. Websites should be fast, but for a number of other reasons.
- More research is needed: some search results on page two mimick the metrics of the top results on page one. Apparently, there is a fine line between what Google sees as “completely correct” and “looks for spam”.