Google’s ranking factors have become more sophisticated in the past few years. Search Engine Optimization is also a constantly changing field.  Google ranks content based on its quality and it does by measuring the number & the quality of backlinks it has. However, in the past 2 – 3 years, social media has become an important factor in the search engine game.

We wanted to find out what really are the top ranking factors for Google in 2015 and beyond.

We used data from SearchMetrics, which includes 10,000 keywords, 5,300,000,000 backlinks and 19,044,500,000 social signals. That’s 5.3 billion backlinks and 19 billion social signals in total.

Then we used the Spearman Rank Correlation model to measure the results.

Here are the Top Ranking Factors based on that data:

Top Ranking Factors

As we can see here, social signals dominate and play a stronger combined role than backlinks overall.

This is a huge fundamental shift in how Google ranks sites in the last decade. Social media has overtaken backlinks as the number one factor in the ranking system. It makes sense as good, quality content is usually shared by more people.

Backlinks are still important though, especially quality links – but not as important as they used to be.

#1 – Google+1’s have the biggest impact on search rankings – more than backlinks. This is not surprising as Google wants to boost its own social media platform.

Side note: Google usually crawl your post immediately if you post it on Google+ first. This is a good trick to get Google to crawl your newly published content.

Top Ranking Factor Google+

As you can see from the graph above, there is a clear correlation between top 1 rank and Google+ shares.

#2 – Facebook shares, comments & likes are just as important as backlinks.

Top Ranking Factor - facebook shares

 

#3 – Number of backlinks

Backlinks are now the 3rd most influential factor and still play an important role. Quality links are much more important than number of backlinks. Too many bad backlinks can actually cause damage to the ranking of your site, worse case, cause Google to delist your site.

top ranking factors -number of backlinks

#4 – Pinterest Pins

Pinterest pins also play a role in the social signals arena. It is the third most important ranking factor in the game.

#5 –  Twitter

Number of people tweeting your url also has a big impact. Like on most of social media channels, people on twitter usually share quality and useful content. If your content is useful and high quality, people would naturally share your content. And this plays an important role in Google’s ranking today.

twitter tweets

#6 – On Page Factors:

Distribution channels and backlinks are important, but they are sometimes hard to control. One thing you can control are the on page elements. On page factors are as important to get Google to crawl your content and rank your content for the right keywords.

on page factors

1)      Shorter domains and url’s rank better than longer ones

2)      Placing the keyword early in the title is important

3)      It is actually 4x more important than having it in the domain/url

4)      Having your keyword in the domain and url is not important anymore

5)      Include a meta description, h1 tag an da h2 tag

Related:  SEO Features that Web Developers Failed to Implement

6)      Keyword density is not important anymore

backlinks details

7)      Longer content ranks better – aim for 600 -1000 words. But always keep user experience in mind. Not just create longer content, but be more relevant and create amazing content that people actually want to share.

8)      Include relevant images and videos where possible

9)      Don’t add external links with the anchor text you want to rank for

10)      Create internal links from other pages with keyword focused anchors to that page; note that too many or too few internal links on a page can hurt your site’s ability to rank, so be sure to find the balance (180 links seemed to be the “sweet spot”, but you could experiment to find your own sweet spot)

11)      Link the page to itself with your target keyword

If you have already built up internal links throughout your site, it is also important to audit your linking from time to time and keep your content updated – clear out unnecessary, irrelevant, or broken links.

less is more

#7 – Mobile

The most important ranking factor here in 2015 & beyond is actually mobile. Websites must optimize user experience for mobile in order to achieve top ranking. Make sure your site loads fast, forms are easy to fill out, and navigations are easy to follow.

user experience website

 

Important Backlink Notes:

important backlink notes

1)      The number of backlinks is an important factor, but quality is a more important factor– links from sites with traffic help more than others.

2)      Diversify anchor text widely – 40% of your links should include keyword variations (for example – blue widget, widget review, blue widget, best blue widget)

3)      Use brand, url and stop word anchors like “click here” for the other 60%

4)      Site that ranks well have a balance mixed of nofollow links, diverse keyword & generic anchors.

Putting It all Together:

Change your SEO mindset from link driven to social driven and keep in mind the user experience.

We are going to see social signals and user experience play a much stronger role

Backlinks are still important.

Create a diverse mix of social signals and backlinks.

In 2015, user experience plays a much more important role. Make sure your site is mobile friendly and easy to navigate.

Content is still king!

The #1 ranking factor isn’t social signals or backlinks, it is great content. Great content attracts social signal and backlinks. If your content isn’t worth sharing – it won’t get shared. Spend time crafting content that helps people and engages them.

one does not simply build links

Select a topic, list 5 problems and solve them! Great content is an investment and a future proof SEO tactics

Takeaways

Make sure your site is set up to drive social signals, and delivers great user experience.

Create the Best Content and Share!

There are many ways to create the best piece of content on the web for your target keywords

1)      Find out people problems/issues/worries/concerns

2)      Help them out with your content

3)      Engage your target audience directly to traffic, social signals and links

4)      Replicate your competitor backlink profile with RankCracker

5)      Leverage your link profile with tiered link building