What affects search results? It’s an interesting question, because no one knows for sure.
A site called Moz does a survey every year among the major SEO consultants in an attempt to create a snapshot of what matters right now in search. (It speaks to the squishiness of the field that the most credible source of information is a poll among participants — not any truly objective measure.)
That said, this is what they think:
Top 5 Search Engine Ranking Factors (2015)
- Site-Level Link Quality, including the trust/authority of the overall site.
- Page-Level Link Quality, including quality/quantity of incoming links
- Page-Level Keywords Features, including relevance and readability.
- Page-Level Non-Keyword Content, length, uniqueness, page-design.
- Engagement & Traffic, number of people clicking on search results, behavior post-click, etc.
There are several dozen less relevant factors and, within these top five ranking factors, there are several qualifications. The main caveat is that the incoming links have to be “good” links: from different credible sites on different servers managed by different hosts.
Other less-important factors include traffic to the site, where the keywords appear on the page, how old the page is, how often the content is refreshed, how quickly the page loads, how the URLs are structured on the site, the overall quality of the domain and the brand, and many more.
The Good News
One headline here is that the search engines will be watching what happens after they send users to your site. Is the content great? Do the pages load quickly? Do people bounce back to the search results after a couple of seconds?
This is all very bad news for search spammers and very good news for creators of top-quality content. (Or ‘writers’ as I like to think of them.)
Compelling content, then, is one of the four things you need for great SEO.
PS, If you want to see the entire SEOMoz survey results — fascinating though heavily jargon-laden — visit Search Ranking Factors for the whole story.