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Searchmetrics study examines Google quality content metrics
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Searchmetrics study examines Google quality content metrics 

Web content which covers a topic more comprehensively and which is easier for an average person to read is what the company found as high quality. These pages have higher click-through rates (CTRs) and the user spends more time spent on site, which are indicators of high quality webpage content.

These pages have shorter page load times and organized internal links. However, well-known brand websites which do not fulfill many of these criteria manage to stay in top positions.

“Google’s Hummingbird algorithm change means the search engine now has a better understanding of the intent and meaning of searches which improves its ability to deliver relevant content in search results,” said Marcus Tober, Searchmetrics founder and CTO, in a press release. “This means search engine optimization is increasingly a holistic discipline. It’s not enough to optimize and rank for one relevant keyword – content must now be relevant to the topic and include several related terms. This helps a page to rank for several terms and creates an improved user experience at the same time.”

This 2014 study identifies the key factors that are common among those web pages with good ranking in Google searches and follows similar studies in 2012 and 2013. The top 30 search results from Google.com for 10000 popular keywords and 300,000 websites are analyzed in this latest study.

The two findings
Google assesses and awards for quality content. This is done by Google’s algorithm which recognizes high quality, relevant content and rewards ranking promotion. High quality, relevant content includes higher word-count on the page, images and videos.

The analysis found that search results in positions two to ten often having more than 900 words per page or in other words website content is getting longer.

“Just creating more content does not positively influence rankings,” shared Tober. “It’s about developing relevant and comprehensive content for users dealing with more than just one aspect of a certain topic. For example more people searching for web pages about the new iPhone 6 would like content better if it contains information about Apple’s September launch event for the new phone including live streaming information, and rumors about how the phone might look, leaked pictures and changes in areas such as screen and battery life.”

Search engines don’t just focus on single keywords but on ‘content clusters’ – individual subjects or topic areas that are based on a variety of related terms. Searchmetrics tested the ‘relevant’ and ‘proof’ terms related to the searchers’ keywords and found both have a correlation with high Google rankings. “Apple” or “mobile” are words were found to be proof terms which are strongly related to a keyword such as “iPhone 6.” Terms such as “rumours” or “screen size” are part of a sub-ordinate topic cluster but still important.

Other quality factors include image count which denotes that the more images on the page the better the page gets ranked. Secondly, the page is ranked for readability using the Flesch readability scale for its easiness to read. Lastly, the fewer advertisements a page has, the better it is.

Wikipedia and brands hold the top positions in Google searches. Famous brand websites stay in top positions irrespective of them meeting the set criteria. On average they have less content, fewer internal links, and the keyword does not correlate with the title or description. These factors are on high ranking web pages that are not brand sites. However, brands do have quality backlinks from other high profile and news websites.

The study identifies three types of brands: niche brands, which are ranked highly; big brands, which are also ranked towards the top of searches, and Wikipedia.

Google seems to treat Wikipedia as a universal brand usually positioned second. This ranking seems to be because of the brand site or the URL for the specific term and probably because Wikipedia is a universally trusted site. It has detailed content that is updated frequently and constantly checked by its community of users. Wikipedia also has a high volume of backlinks from other sites.

Other findings
A page’s technical performance is based on good rankings, which means that the site architecture should be robust and with ample internal links with shorter load times.

Social media links correlate with better rankings. But for rankings, these links are a bonus, rather than a ranking factor. Google obviously promotes Google+ with the highest correlation value of 0.33. Facebook shares, Facebook Likes, Pinterest pins, and then tweets from Twitter are the next values measured.

“Our study provides a comprehensive overview of the factors that correlate with a high Google ranking as well as an analysis of what the top sites have in common on average,” concluded Tober. “Search professionals must realize that good rankings cannot be achieved by cherry-picking a few factors. Having many backlinks and a fast load-speed will not result in a high ranking if the content on the page is not relevant to the user. Good rankings are based on the interaction of many weighted factors. My advice is to focus on optimizing the overall search experience for visitors to your site. Create high quality, accessible content which is relevant and valuable to you target audience; ensure your site is technically excellent to drive a good user experience; and promote it using social media and PR to drive quality natural backlinks.”

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