What do the higher-ranking sites in the top positions in Google have in common and what differentiates them from those ranking behind?
To investigate this question the folks at searchmetrics have analyzed the search results for 10,000 keywords according to the existence and extent of certain properties. And the result is the infographic below.
A key takeaway is:
"Good rankings are based on many factors, (like number of social media share, backlinks, site speed etc.) but the study revealed that nothing is more important to optimal SEO as high quality, relevant content. Whether that means providing more on-page material, extending keywords into entire phrases on pertinent topics or keeping your technology up-to-date, without compelling content, you can kiss SEO goodbye."
Take a look at this infographic that will serve as your guide to survive and thrive in a constantly changed SEO world.
Excerpt from the white paper.
Summary: The Main Developments For Ranking Factors In 2014
Social Media is, to put it mildly, a small "loser" in this study, with slightly decreasing correlations and only a small growth in averages for the number of Likes, +1s, tweets etc. by position.
Backlinks, by contrast, remain important, with emphasis on their quality, much more than their quantity. Anchor text keywords on top-ranked pages are significantly less common than in 2013. In terms of the proportion of nofollow links, stop words in the anchor text, and the number of words in the link text, Google seems to have found a good blend. These numbers have not changed much compared to the previous year.
In order to interpret this year's new features and findings, a new definition of Brand was needed. Generally, bigger brands rank among the top results, but not necessarily at position one, where smaller brands regularly take the top spot. Bigger Brands have more news links in general, more links from more different domains, more links from news domains, etc. For all these factors there were positive correlations based upon average values, and these differed only at position 1 (often smaller brands) and 2 (often Wikipedia).
Lastly, healthy user signals are increasingly important for good rankings, and the analysis shows Google seeming to favor their impact on search results. Top-ranked searches have a significantly higher CTR, as well as a lower bounce rate, and a longer time-on-site. These are metrics that interact strongly with each other and seem to greatly influence SERPs. After all, it is essential to remember that search results try to reflect one thing, user intention.
Over all, the principle remains that good search ranking positions generally 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 different and differently weighted factors.