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We recently analyzed 11.8 million Google search results to answer the question:

Which factors correlate with first page search engine rankings?

We looked at content. We looked at backlinks. We even looked at page speed.

With the help of our data partner Ahrefs, we uncovered some interesting findings.

And today I’m going to share what we found with you.

Here is a Summary of Our Key Findings:

1. Our data shows that a site’s overall link authority (as measured by Ahrefs Domain Rating) strongly correlates with higher rankings.

2. Pages with lots of backlinks rank above pages that don’t have as many backlinks. In fact, the #1 result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2-#10.

3. Comprehensive content with a high “Content Grade” (via Clearscope), significantly outperformed content that didn’t cover a topic in-depth.

4. We found no correlation between page loading speed (as measured by Alexa) and first page Google rankings.

5. Getting backlinks from multiple different sites appear to be important for SEO. We found the number of domains linking to a page had a correlation with rankings.

6. The vast majority of title tags in Google exactly or partially match the keyword that they rank for. However, we found essentially zero correlation between using a keyword in your title tag and higher rankings on the first page.

7. Page authority (as measured by Ahrefs URL Rating) weakly correlates with rankings.

8. We discovered that word count was evenly distributed among the top 10 results. The average Google first page result contains 1,447 words.

9. HTML page size does not have any correlation with rankings. In other words, heavy pages have the same chance to rank as light pages.

10. We found a very slight correlation between URL length and rankings. Specifically, short URLs tend to have a slight ranking advantage over longer URLs.

11. Our data shows that use of Schema markup does not correlate with higher rankings.

12. Websites with above-average “time on site” tend to rank higher in Google. Specifically, increasing time on site by 3 seconds correlates to ranking a single position higher in the search results.

We have detailed data and information of our findings below.

Authoritative Domains Tend to Rank Higher in Google’s Search Results

We found that a website’s overall link authority (measured using Ahrefs Domain Rating) correlates to higher first page Google rankings:

Ahrefs – Domain rating correlates with higher first page Google rankings

And in general, average Domain Rating increases by SERP position.

Average domain rating increases by SERP position

In other words, the higher you go on the first page, the higher Domain Rating tends to be.

In fact, a website’s overall authority had a stronger correlation to rankings than the authority of the page itself (URL Rating).

Key Takeaway: Higher Domain Ratings correlate with higher rankings on Google’s first page. Therefore, domains have a significant advantage in the SERPs.

One of the most interesting findings from this analysis was that very few pages have any backlinks.

In fact, we found that approximately 95% of all pages have zero backlinks.

The vast majority of pages have zero backlinks

This finding is in-line with this Backlinko-BuzzSumo analysis of 912 million blog posts, which found that 94% of all content has zero backlinks.

In fact, so few pages had any backlinks that “zero backlink” pages were beginning to skew the data. So for this ranking factor we decided to run this particular analysis excluding pages with zero backlinks.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we discovered that pages with the highest number of total backlinks tended to rank best in Google.

Top ranking pages have more backlinks than lower ranking page

We also found that the #1 results has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than the results rankings #2-#10.

The number one result in Google has almost 4X more backlinks than-position 2-10

Key Takeaway: Even though Google continues to add diversity to its algorithm, it appears that backlinks remain a critical ranking signal.

Comprehensive Content Strongly Correlates With Higher Rankings

Many SEO experts claim that comprehensive content performs best in Google.

Put another way: content that covers an entire topic on a single page may have a direct or indirect relationship with rankings.

We decided to put this assumption to the test. Specifically, we ran a subset of our full 11.8M URL dataset through the content analysis tool Clearscope.io.

Our analysis found a clear correlation between “Content Grade” and Google rankings in both desktop and mobile results.

Higher Clearscope content grades correlate with higher Google rankings

In fact, when looking at the top 30 results, increasing Content Grade by 1 approximates to increasing rankings by one position. Which suggests a significant relationship.

For example, take this page from PaleoLeap.com:

PaleoLeap – Paleo breakfast ideas post

This page has many of the traditional metrics that typically correlate with high Google rankings. For example, the page uses the exact keyword in the page’s title tag and the H1 tag. Also, the domain is very authoritative (Ahrefs Domain Rating of 73).

However, this page ranks only #9 for the keyword: “Paleo diet breakfasts”.

PaleoLeap post – Google SERP

Sure enough, this page also has a relatively low Content Grade.

Paleo breakfast ideas – Content grade

Whether comprehensive content directly impacts rankings is unclear.

It could be that Google has an inherent preference for content that they deem comprehensive. Or it may be that users are more satisfied with search results that give them a full answer to their query.

As this is a correlation study, it’s impossible to determine the underlying reason behind this relationship from our data alone.

Key Takeaway: Writing comprehensive, in-depth content can help pages rank higher in Google.

Page Loading Speed Does Not Have a Correlation With Rankings

Google has used site speed as an official ranking signal since 2010.

And Google’s more recent speed-related update, the 2018 “Speed Update”, was designed to provide mobile searchers with faster-loading pages.

Google blog – Using page speed in mobile search

However, we wanted to know:

Does site speed correlate with actual Google rankings?

We used Alexa’s domain speed to analyze the median load time of 1 million domains from our data set. In other words, we didn’t directly measure the loading speed of the individual pages in our data set. We simply looked at the average loading speed across the entire domain.

Overall, we found zero correlation between site speed and Google rankings:

Page loading speed does not correlate with first page Google rankings

At first glance, this finding may come as a surprise. After all, PageSpeed is a confirmed Google ranking signal. Knowing that, you would expect that faster pages would generally outrank slower ones.

However, the data paints a different picture. And when you dig a little bit deeper, this lack of relationship makes sense.

When Google announced their Speed Update, they made sure to point out that this update largely affected extremely slow pages.

Speed update only affecting slow pages

And that the update as a whole may not be that impactful.

Speed update only affecting small percentage of queries

In short, Google’s algorithm appears to downrank extremely slow pages vs. benefit fast ones.

And our analysis found that the average page loading speed for a first page result is 1.65 seconds.

Median page loading speed for Googles top 10 results is under 2 seconds

Our previous site speed analysis found that the average page took 10 seconds to load on desktop and 27 seconds to load on mobile.

Mean fully loaded speed on desktop and mobile

Compared to that benchmark, a 1.65 second average loading speed is extremely fast.

And because the top 10 results tend to load relatively quickly, they don’t appear to be impacted by Google’s various speed updates.

Key Takeaway: The average Google first page result loads in 1.65 seconds. However, we found no correlation between site speed and Google rankings.

The Number of Referring Domains Appears to Have an Influence on Rankings

Many SEO experts agree that getting multiple backlinks from the same domain has diminishing returns.

In other words, it’s better to get 10 links from 10 different sites than 10 links from the same domain.

According to our analysis, this appears to be the case. We found that domain diversity has a substantial impact on rankings.

Top ranking pages have more referring domains than lower ranking pages

Just like with backlinks, the top results tend to have more linking domains than those towards the bottom of the first page.

The number 1 result in Google has 3X more referring domains than positions 2-10

Key Takeaway: Getting links from a diverse group of domains appears to be important for SEO.

Most Title Tags on Google’s First Page Contain Keywords That Are an Exact or Partial Match of That Search

Since the early days of search engines, the title tag has been considered the most important on-page SEO element.

Because your title tag gives people (and search engines) an overview of your page’s overall topic, the words that appear in your title tag should presumably have a significant impact on rankings.

In fact, Google’s own Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide recommends writing title tags that describe what that page is all about.

Google support – Choosing titles

Sure enough, we found that most title tags on the first page of Google contain all or part of the keyword that they rank for.

Most titles contain 65 to 85 percent of the keyword

While most pages that rank for a keyword have that keyword in their title tag, a keyword-optimized title tag doesn’t appear to correlate with higher rankings on the first page.

Keyword optimized title tags don't correlate with higher first page Google rankings

In fact, our linear model predicts a very small relationship between title tag matching and rankings (only a 1% difference between the #1 and #10 result).

It appears that a keyword-rich title tag may be a “ticket to entry” that can help you get to the first page.

However, once you’re on the first page, using the exact keyword in your title doesn’t appear to help you climb the rankings. That’s where other factors (like backlinks, user experience signals and Domain Authority) appear to play a large role.

Key Takeaway: Pages in Google’s top 10 results contain 65% to 85% of the keywords that they’re ranking for in their title tag. However, we found very little (if any) correlation between keyword-optimized title tags and higher rankings on the first page.

Keyword-Optimized H1 Tags Don’t Correlate With Higher First Page Rankings

Similar to our title tag findings, most pages in Google’s results have a matching keyword in the page’s H1 tag.

Most H1 tags contain 60 to 80 percent of the keyword

Also, keyword-matched H1s have essentially no relationship with higher Google rankings.

Keyword optimized H1 tags don't correlate with higher first page Google rankings

Key Takeaway: Like with title tag optimization, H1s may be a “ticket to entry” factor that can help you crack Google’s first page. However, keyword-rich H1s may not be strong enough of a ranking signal to help a page move up the first page results.

Webpage Authority (URL Rating) Has a Slight Correlation With Higher Rankings

In addition to Domain Rating, we wanted to answer the question:

Does a page’s overall link authority influence rankings?

In other words, is it more important to get backlinks to a specific page? Or is a site’s overall domain authority more important?

To find out, we looked at the correlation of page authority (measured by Ahrefs URL Rating) and rankings.

While we did find that URL Rating and rankings were tied, the relationship was small.

Pages ranked 1-6 have a median URL Rating of 12. The median URL Rating of 7-10 is 11

Specifically, pages that rank in the top 6 have a slightly higher URL Rating (12) compared to pages that rank 7-10 (11).

However, this correlation wasn’t as strong as the impact of a site’s Domain Rating on rankings.

As a whole, most URL Ratings are similar among the top 10.

URL rating is similar among the top 10 results in google 11 on average

And across all of the pages in our data set, we found that the average URL Rating of a first page result in Google was 11.2.

Key Takeaway: The link authority of each individual page on your site appears to have a relatively small impact on rankings compared to your site’s overall domain authority.

The Mean Word Count of a Google First Page Result Is 1,447 Words

Does long-form content outperform short, 200-word blog posts?

Other industry studies, like this one, have found that longer content tends to accumulate more backlinks compared to short blog posts.

Long form content generates more backlinks than short blog posts

Indeed, we discovered that content that’s ranking in Google tends to be on the long side.

Overall, the average word count of a Google top 10 result is 1,447 words.

However, despite the fact that long-form content tends to be best for link building, we found no direct relationship between word count and rankings.

Average content word count of the top 10 results is evenly distributed

This may be due to the fact that, like with keyword-optimized title tags, long-form content can help you crack the first page. But it won’t help you once you get there.

This being a correlation study, it’s impossible for us to pinpoint why long-form content tends to appear on Google’s first page.

Key Takeaway: Pages with higher word count appear to have the same chance of ranking highly on the first page compared to pages with a lower word count. The mean word count of a Google first page result is 1,447 words.

Page HTML Size Has No Relationship With Rankings

Does having a lean page (in terms of total bytes) affect your Google rankings?

According to this analysis, no.

We found no correlation between page size and rankings.

Page HTML size has no relationship with rankings

People in the SEO community have speculated that larger pages with bloated HTML are at a disadvantage.

SEO community on bloated HTML

However, according to the pages in our analysis, page size can’t be tied to rankings.

Key Takeaway: Page size doesn’t appear to have an impact on Google rankings.

Short URLs Tend to Rank Slightly Better than Long URLs

Google recommends using “Simple URLs” and specifically advises against “extremely long” URLs.

Google support – Simple headlines

However, these recommendations appear to be more geared towards optimizing URLs for user experience than SEO.

Which is why we set out to investigate the connection between URL length and rankings.

We did in fact find that short URLs rank above long URLs.

Short URLs tend to outrank long URLs

Specifically, URLs at position #1 are on average 9.2 characters shorter than URLs that rank in position #10.

URLs at position 1 are 9 characters shorter vs URLs that rank 10

And the average URL length for a top 10 result in Google is 66 characters.

However, as a whole, most URLs on the first page of Google are approximately the same length (40 to 100 characters).

Most URLs on Google's first page are between 40-100 characters

Short URLs may improve SEO for a few different reasons.

Firstly, short URLs may lead to a higher organic CTR. In fact, our large-scale organic CTR study found that short URLs have a higher CTR vs. long URLs.

Second, short URLs may help Google understand what your page is all about.

For example, a short URL like backlinko.com/my-post is easier for Google to understand than backlinko.com/1/12/2022/blog/category/this-is-the-title-of-my-blog-post pageid=891/.

Finally, a long URL tends to point to a page that’s several clicks from the homepage. That usually means that there’s less authority flowing to that page. Less authority means lower rankings.

For example, this URL to a vase product page represents a page that’s far removed from the site’s authoritative homepage:

David Jones – Long URL example

Key Takeaway: Shorter URLs have a correlation with higher rankings. The average URL on Google’s first page is 66 characters long.

There is No Correlation Between Schema Markup and Rankings

There’s been a lot of buzz about Schema in the SEO community over the last few years.

Google themselves have been vague about Schema’s impact on rankings.

Schema markup discussion tweet

Many believe that Schema markup gives search engines a better understanding of what your content means. This deeper understanding will encourage them to show your site to more people.

For example, you can use structured data to let Google know that when you use the word “Toy Story”, you’re referring to the original movie title…not the franchise in general:

Toy Story – Structured data

Many sites use Schema to get rich snippets in the SERPs.

However, despite these potential benefits, we found that very few sites have implemented Schema.

We discovered that only 72.6% of pages on the first page of Google use Schema.

And, according to our analysis, the presence of structured data had no relationship with Google rankings.

There is no correlation between schema markup and rankings

Key Takeaway: Using Schema markup may have its place. But it doesn’t directly correlate with higher Google rankings.

Websites With Above-Average “Time On Site” Tend to Rank Higher In Google

Many people in the SEO world have speculated that Google uses “user experience signals” (like bounce rate, time on site, organic click-through-rate, and pogosticking) as ranking factors.

To test this theory, we ran a subset of domains from our data set through Alexa to determine site-wide time on site. We then looked to see if there was any correlation between time on site and first page Google rankings.

We did in fact find a strong relationship between time on site and rankings.

Website time on site correlates with higher Google rankings

Specifically, we discovered that time on site is strongly correlated with higher rankings.

In general, the average time on site for a Google first page result is 2.5 minutes.

Average time on site for a Google first page result is 150 seconds

Please keep in mind that we aren’t suggesting that time on site has a direct relationship with higher rankings.

Of course, Google may use something like time on site or bounce rate as a ranking signal (although they have previously denied it). Or it may be the fact that high-quality content keeps people more engaged. Therefore a high time on site is a byproduct of high-quality content, which Google does measure.

As this is a correlation study, it’s impossible to determine from our data alone.

Key Takeaway: The average time on site for a Google first page result is 2.5 minutes.

We also found a strong correlation between time on site and Google rankings. However, it’s not clear if this is correlation or causation.

Conclusion

I’d like to again thank Ahrefs for providing a lot of the raw data that made this study possible.

Also, if you’d like to learn more about how we collected and analyzed our data, here is a link to our study methods. We also uploaded the raw data used in this analysis to GitHub.

Now I’d like to hear your thoughts:

What’s your #1 takeaway lesson from this analysis?

Or maybe you have a question about the findings.

Either way, leave a comment below right now.

    1. Hey Bruce, you’re welcome. Yes, that’s the idea behind these ranking factor studies. They can help you figure out what Google tends to put a lot of emphasis on. A lot of the things we found here weren’t super surprising (links). But some were (like that page speed didn’t correlate with rankings).

    2. Great article with great information! I am curious if your analysis revealed anything related to increased ranking between WordPress and other sites. It seems like an overwhelming majority of people believe that WordPress users have the upper hand in ranking and SEO. I’m a Squarespace user and like it very much as it is very user friendly (I’m EXTREMELY technologically challenged) and I can maintain my site with minimal effort. However, I’m concerned that I will have difficulty gaining organic traffic. Thank you!

      1. Thanks Mel. I don’t think a CMS is inherently that much better than any other. I personally use WP because it’s easy to use and is easy to optimize around. But I’ve seen sites using Wix, Squarespace, etc. etc. rank well

        1. I love your question, Mel. Thank you for asking that because I was thinking the same thing. And …. Finally an authoritative person, yes you Brian, thinks the CMS matters. I’ve only ever used Wix (even though I want to learn WP) and I got one of my websites to page 1 of Google in exactly 3 months. Yesterday I started creating another website using Wix and my goal is, you guessed it 🙂

          Thank you for a fantastic article, Dean. Have spent over an hour devouring the contents and taking notes … now I will blog about the key takeaways and backlink to you 🤗

          1. You’re welcome, Karley. And thanks in advance for mentioning this study on your blog!

  1. Hi Brian, Thank you so much for putting out this case study. I saw you added Schema Markup has no impact on rankings.. Did you see any correlation between getting into Featured Snippets or PAA while using Schema?

    1. You’re welcome, Stephen. We didn’t look at whether or not Schema helped with Featured Snippets for PAA. But in my experience, Schema is really useful for getting rich snippets. But in terms of ranking in the featured snippet spot, it’s all about structuring your content to rank for the specific type of featured snippet that you want to rank for.

  2. Thank you Brian. This is extremely helpful information. You’ve done a very thorough analysis of the different factors affecting search engine rankings. I would love to get my hands on the data sets that you’ve used.

    1. No worries, John. Actually, there’s a link in the conclusion that links to our data set if you want to check it out.

  3. OMG! Thank you so much, Brian. This clears up so many uncertainties for me. I’ve just started my blog a little while ago and it’s been a bit debilitating not knowing some of these factors, because of all the various information online.

    But what you’re saying makes sense to me.

    The biggest takeaway for me is the pagespeed factor. I’ve constantly seen websites that I consider to be slow being authorities in some niches and I never understood why – since a lot of the info online says that pagespeed is a ranking factor. Or so I’ve understood.

    In any case, you cleared up so much and all of your content is a tremendous time saver. Thanks so much for putting so much effort into it!

    1. Hi Oana, glad you found it useful. For sure: page speed is definitely nice. And having a fast-loading site definitely won’t hurt your rankings. But my own experience and this data suggests that it might be an overrated ranking factor.

      1. Incredible case study, thanks you Brian ! I think the long-form content outperform short it’s because user spends more time reading so correlation with above-average “time on site”.

  4. This is the best SEO Ranking factor guide. PERIOD.
    I mean have read so many guides around the web but none of them had these statistics and proofs.
    Your contents always blows my mind in content as well as in design. Some of the revelations are just brilliant.

    1. Thanks David. I think the SEO world needs more data like this. There’s a place for case studies and first-hand experience. But, as they say, the numbers don’t lie.

  5. Brian, great job!

    Thank you for this extensive analysis. There have been so many articles on what ranking factors matter or are no longer important.

    Now we know from you study that not much has really changed over the years. Content quality and backlinks. Got it.

    Thanks again for the time you and your team spent on this study.

    1. Hi John, you’re welcome. Content quality and backlinks basically sums it up. In that way, SEO hasn’t changed. However, Google’s emphasis on UX signals (like time on site/dwell time) has. And how you get those links. So yeah, the basic approach is similar to back in the day. But how you execute has changed quite a bit over the last few years.

  6. So if we pay a self styled “white hat” link builder to get a load of links to our site, will that actually work, or not ? So far we have only listed our products in the main directories, and that has only helped a little – i.e. we are still on page 10-14 where we should be page 1 but it has doubled hits per day

    1. That’s impossible for me to say. It depends on the link builder, your site, niche, keywords you target, etc. etc.

  7. This article cleared half of my doubts , I always thinks about server side issues and loading speed may be affecting the rankings my approach towards technical SEO will change after reading this article.

    Thanks Brian

  8. This one “We found no correlation between page loading speed (as measured by Alexa) and first page Google rankings.” is my finding as well, I saw many slow websites ranked no 1. Also I don’t think that there is any site ranking no 1 without any backlinks. Thanks for the article 🙂

    1. Well said, Dejan. It’s rare you see a page or site ranking for anything remotely competitive without a lot of backlinks.

    1. Google sometimes has issues indexing pages on any site. It’s happened to me a lot over the last year or so. I just keep using Search Console to get it indexed and it eventually works.

  9. Hey Brian, are you kidding me?
    All the factors that I used to take serious, right now does not make any sense. I have put lot of efforts to optimize title, meta, and almost all the factors that you have mentioned above.
    By the way thanks for sharing this valuable points

    1. Those things still matter. But they’re not as important as foundational ranking factors like links, content quality and UX signals.

    2. As brian has pointed out, keep doing those things. The only blog you should take as law is anything that Google says. Some of the things mentioned on this article like page speed STILL matter. maybe not for ranking, but you still need to have a fast website otherwise visitors will bounce. Also, if no one is visiting your site due to bounce, you get less backlinks (which is key to ranking). So you see, they are all related.

  10. Great insights Brian, in regards to #4. (4. We found no correlation between page loading speed (as measured by Alexa) and first page Google rankings.) is there a reason you didn’t use Google Page Speed tool here..? And/or have you before ? Seems like since June 2018ish.. that has been a factor especially with local SEO

    1. Thanks TJ. We used Alexa because it’s tricky from a technical standpoint to analyze 11.8M pages using Google PageSpeed Insights. They have pretty strict rate limits.

      1. ok thanks for the reply, I will say we noticed with GPS tool.. it’s not just the “speed” TTFB but each element they show.. when you improve each thing they show and raise that score we have seen improvements in rankings as well on a local SEO leavel at least. Sometimes its the WP theme, minimize threadwork, funny enough Google fonts, or third party codes ect..

  11. There are few places from where I can get such juicy information. Brian, I do have a doubt though, do these practice apply to a relatively smaller site? What’s your take on that?

    Infact, you might put up another helpful content about the same!

    1. Super Insights Brian! Talking about what I learnt from this analysis?

      1. Backlinks mattered, matters and will matters for a long time in SEO
      2. Focus on rankings, and DA will increase automatically.
      3. Long form engaging content is something Google really loves.
      4. Schema can help you to show better on SERP which results in high CTR but doesn’t directly correlates with rankings.
      5. Optimized Meta tags may be helpful for 1st page but on top? Please cnsider other factors too.
      6. Just have a nice page speed for your site and forgot about it.
      7. Short URLs do better so why go for complete URL slug of your title?

      Thanks Brian, this study just made my concepts more clear😃

  12. Thank you Brian! Awesome.
    I don’t agree with Title keyword…but in rest looks fantastic.

    PS: if in the title you have iPhone and the user is looking for Best iPhone (stupid example), I think there is a high chance that user will skip the title “iPhone”

    1. Hi Claudiu, you’re welcome. I definitely recommend using your target keyword in your title tag. It may not be a massive ranking factor but it can still make a dent.

  13. Brian,

    this is such an amazing piece of work that contains a lot of interesting facts. Thanks for your effort and sharing these results!

    I wonder if it makes a difference if the source of the backlink is content related to your own site.

    For example:
    If I do have a travel blog. Does it make a difference to get a backlink from another travel blog or a blog about food? What’s your opinion on that?

    Simon

  14. Thank you very much for this great test and investigation! I also think that having a lot of backlinks makes the difference. My principal competitor is number 1 with my keywords in Google and i think this is the reason. So, how can I gain more backlinks to my page? Is it necessary to pay the press to have articles on internet?

  15. As always, great industry insights that you provide, Brian!
    Coming here and getting updated is always a pleasure 🙂

    Thanks a lot for just another comprehensive guide.

    1. Hi Janik, you’re welcome. Glad you learned something new from the study. It wasn’t easy to pull off but I think it we came away with some interesting findings.

  16. First of all thank you for your great analysis with a lot of interesting key findings.
    I think it would also make sense to analyse specific topics and branches such as merchandise, finance, food etc. and look at them independently, as google may apply ranking factors within these topics differently.

    1. Hi Andy, you’re welcome. I would like to do that someday. But it makes this sort of analysis 5-10x more complicated (and it’s already complicated to begin with!). But yeah, maybe that’s something we could do with a smaller sample size.

  17. Great to see that not much has changed in terms of ranking factors. Quality relevant content, quality relevant back links, time on site. Interesting to see that Page Speed has no impact, due to Google’s heavy push to make it a priority. I suppose page speed indirectly affects SEO as it can directly affect time on site.

    1. Hey Eric, that’s true: like anything in marketing the fundamentals rarely change. How you create that quality content and get those relevant backlinks have changed a lot. But yeah, people that focus on content + links + UX usually come out on top when it comes to SEO.

  18. L.O.V.E.D It, Brian… Thank you.

    This is exactly what I needed most in the present. Because I was reworking on my website overall ranking and promotion strategy, and this article will help me with making a more accurate ranking strategy.

    However, I’m a little shocked to see that Schema markup does not correlate with higher rankings because Neil Patel said that schema markup does help with first-page ranking in one of his youtube videos.

    Anyway, I’ll take your word on it. And again, thank you very much for this article, brian. I appreciate it a lot.

    Bookmarking (and Sharing) It <3

    1. You’re welcome, Rahul. I’m sure there are cases where Schema can help with rankings and CTR (like FAQ Schema). But we didn’t find any correlation between schema and rankings in our data set.

  19. Pretty amazing study! I’m curious… is Clearscope your “go to” tool for analyzing the quality of page content or are there other tools you like for that? We haven’t really found one we like for this task.

      1. Thanks, Brian!
        This was super-useful study indeed. Demystifying and making things simplier.

        SEO is a simple thing after all – quality content (topic coverage, uniquity), strong history (backlinks, authoritativeness) and voila:)

  20. The page load speed finding is surprising to me but I’ve seen it first hand myself.

    I manage an SEO campaign for a massive CPG client in the coffee space and there page load speed has been consistently in the 20-30s for 2 years.

    It’s a content-heavy site and we’ve done our best working with development teams to improve.

    However, the rankings are exploding and traffic is up 100% YoY!

    1. Hey Arash, interesting! A lot of people shared stories like that over the years. Backlinko is another similar example. Our pages all have huge images and illustrations. Which lead to super slow load times. But rankings don’t seem to be affected at all.

    1. I didn’t look at social shares here. Google has said on the record several times that they don’t use it as a ranking signal.

  21. Great findings. Proves to be a myth buster for most of the point, like Html sizes have nothing to with ranking. Infact first page with approx 1.5k words rank well.

    Thanks Brian for these!

    1. Thanks Uma. For sure: I’ve seen short pages and long pages rank well. But at the end of the day, it’s about giving searchers what they want. And it can easily take 1-2k words to do that.

    1. Thanks Kelvin. I decided not to look at social signals. Google has said they don’t use them. So it was hard for me to justify adding them to the study.

  22. Hey Brian,

    That’ excellent piece of information. I am already implementing techniques from Seo that works 3.0 and its working exceptionally well.

    I am a bit stuck with duplicate content issue..
    My category, archive and tag pages already got indexed and causing duplicate content..showing up in serp
    Can you please help me out?
    Thanks a lot!

    1. You’re welcome. I recommend using the noindex tag on your tag, category and archive pages. If they don’t rank for anything, you’ve got nothing to lose.

        1. I would check to see if those pages are getting organic traffic before noindexing them. Just in case they rank for something.

  23. Great study Brian! Any thoughts as to what the sharp step between positions 6 & 7 is on the Webpage Authority (URL Rating)? Although it gives no strong linear effect it appears that there is something here. Could this be an artefact of positioning of some rich or featured snippets? It might be interesting to look at distance to, positioning of or even presence of SERP features and see if this changes any of these results.

    1. Thanks Trevor. Good find there. I noticed that too. It may be just one of those things that you get when you analyze anything. Or it could be a significant threshold where all of a sudden Google says “you shall not pass!” to pages with a low URL rating. Tough to say from this analysis alone. But worth looking into for sure.

  24. Trully amazing study, but what happens with normal professional sites that do not have “room” for all that content? Should we focus in linkbuilding?

  25. Great info Brian. You mentioned the leght of the content around 1400 words…you recomend or not the use of the table of content on articles?

    1. Thanks Luci. It depends on the post. But in most cases, yes, I think a table of contents is a good idea. I’m using them in almost every post now.

  26. Hi Brian! Have you checked into single variable SEO tests? It narrows down if something is or is not a ranking factor much better than correlation studies. The group at the SEO Intelligence Agency does these types of tests

    1. Hey David, IMHO, there’s no “better” form of research. Each study type has pros and cons. The pros of a correlation study like this is that you can use a large sample size to minimize confounding variables. The downside is that… it’s a correlation. The opposite is true of small-scale single variable tests. They can measure more precisely. But the sample sizes are tiny.

  27. Thank you, Brian. Whenever, got your email, Very excited to click on first sight. I gave so many efforts for on-page SEO, and get nothing. Thanks to this post, I changed my mind on that.

    Best wishes to you and your team for such hard work. Keep posting awesome stuff. I am highly motivated to read your post.

    1. You’re welcome. On-page SEO is worth the effort. But it’s the ticket to entry. To rank for anything you need backlinks. And lots of them.

  28. you say short urls are a little bit better, but did you see the same result for domains with a lot of pages? Could the url be helpful to cover topic-in-depth as well?

    For example difference between:
    1. domain.com/product-name
    2. domain.com/category-name/product-name

    Is option 1 still better to rank on the product name?

    1. Hi Maarten, I’d still go with option 2 in this case. We didn’t find that you need to go as short as possible with your URLs. More that shorter URLs have a slight edge. Sometimes it makes sense for them to be a little bit longer, like in your example with a category page.

  29. These are interesting findings! Thanks for the analysis!
    If time-on-site influences the ranking, it means that lighter pages with not much content will rank lower even if they are informative enough, compared to longer articles. And at the same time, longer articles may bore the reader who will leave the page early-on. So, it’s about a good balance I reckon.

  30. You really rock, Brian! This is a well-based bulletproof and super-useful study.
    Did you measure correlation of ranking with pages per visit and bounce rate?

  31. Hey Brian. It is another insightful post. I love your content! I totally agree with your research. In our recent finding conducted by our analytics team at RealEstateBees.com we also found that website’s backlink profile authority is one of the main aspects that strongly correlates with higher rankings.

  32. Such a wonderful insight about ranking. we cant figure it out easily which factor is working more effectively. The relation between content and links are always great! sometimes I was worried about scheme markup too! Thank you

  33. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for another wonderful research post. I was always curious is DR had relation to ranking pages. Luckily, your study comes to the right time.

    Thanks,
    Umesh Singh

  34. I’m very thankful to you. From this article, I have destroyed many of my mis-concept of SEO like more page speed more ranking, etc. Now I got an idea of what and where I have to focus on my site…
    Thanks again.

      1. An article about Google algorithms (which is also mentioned In a Seth Godin article) with back up documentation suggest they oftan skew results in their favor meaning whatever will bring the highest results for Google subsidiaries. Particularly sites like Examine.com who dominated first page rankings were now being moved to the graveyard zone of page 6 search results correlating with Google moving into the health supplement market.
        Same results for other markets Google wanted to dominate like travel and hotel.
        These results are great but does not take into account how Google can change the alogrithm however they want, because they control the search results and will always favor their own interests and bottom line over anything else.

        1. Hi Miri, I haven’t seen any evidence of Google doing that. Not to say that they’re all saints over there (they’re not). But I don’t think they manipulate the algorithm like that.

  35. It makes sense that optimizing a title tag or h1 tag alone wouldn’t move the needle much. But I’m curious to know what the data looks like for pages that included the target keyword in all 5 of the Big 5 on-page attributes: title tag, meta description, h1 tag, h2 tag, and alt tags? Provided that these are meaningfully placed and not unnaturally stuffed.

    1. Hey Will, thanks. We didn’t look at that, but I’m with you: in my experience keyword placement in those spots are key.

  36. What a super post. Stats, examples, raw data available and study methods. It’s how information on the web should be!
    I am also very pleased (and somewhat surprised) about your findings on page load speed. Great news!

  37. Another great piece of content, Brian.

    I would say, point 6 re title tags, should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    If you’re comparing sites that all feature the keyword where’s the insight?

    When I’ve improved meta titles to be more keyword focused I’ve always seen a direct correlation to better rankings.

    1. Hey Craig, that’s a fair point: if they’re all using a keyword in their title tag, then there won’t be a difference there. The thing is, a single page can rank for thousands of terms. So if having the exact kw in your title tag was make or break, you’d only be able to rank for a handful of closely related keywords.

  38. Brian, you are God, I love reading your SEO post! You can’t beat a good analysis. The data does not lie, keep up the good work and thanks for the email notification!

  39. After reading this article, I can conclude:

    The more time a user spends on a page, the higher are the chances of that paging ranking high in the SERPS.

    Also, using keyword in the title doesn’t guarantee that page will rank high. But it helps.

    And talking about the page loading time, we must make sure that we provide the best possible experience to the user.

    Thanks Brian for this amazing study on Search Results.

    Maintain the great job as always.

  40. Great research Brian. One thing I still can’t wrap my head around is the speed factor. You mentioned that the top 10 had an average load speed of 1.65s. Those websites clearly have above-average speed.

    As you mentioned in your previous speed stats, the average speed for a page to load is 10s on desktop and 21 for mobile. Then, doesn’t that mean those slow websites aren’t ranking on the first page? Meaning, they are affected negatively by their load speed.

    1. Thanks Jon. Good question there. This study looked only at the first page of Google. In other words: factors that can take you from #10 to #1. So it might be that speed helps you crack the top 10 (which is why they load faster than the pages we looked at in our page speed study). But it may not help you climb the first page.

      1. I kind of see it that way—to rank on the first page, you need a “good enough” speed. You don’t need to be the fastest, but really just get to that threshold level.

        Studies from Think with Google say 3s is the best practice. PageSpeed Insights says <2.5s.

        When you reach that, that's when you can focus on other aspects (law of diminishing returns in effect).

  41. In order words, a low quality page with high authority ranks better than the opposite… In my niche, i see it all the times. No matter how good the content, i’ll stay behind the big ones, a lot of them actually coming from others niches. And industrialised content is working very well.
    Supermarkets have killed the small ones, again. Quality is so overated in my opinion…

    1. Hi Emile, in the eyes of Google a quality page is one with lots of backlinks. For better or for worse, it’s their proxy measurement of quality.

      1. Thanks for your answer Brian.

        Indeed, that’s the conclusion I also came to.

        The issue I have with that is that since links have a financial value, natural links are a rarity. I don’t know, I would say maybe 10% of the grand total !

        Therefore, Google reward the capacity of investing into link building (buying links, PBN, guest posting, etc…) more than the original idea that was to say : if someone with no business to a website is linking to it, then the content must be good.

        You could also do a study to find out how much “quality” content is buried!

    1. Hi Pouria, you’re welcome. I’m trying to do more studies like these to bring legit data science to the digital marketing and SEO world.

  42. Great article, thank you so much for sharing this!!

    So considering #1, #2, and #7…DR is more important than UR but it’s still important to get links to a specific page because pages with backlinks rank above those with no backlinks?

    1. You’re welcome, Yuka. Exactly. Plus, getting links to any page boosts your DR. Which can help all of your other pages rank.

  43. Brian,
    Great post. I have had different findings with Schema. In my experience has been that if you just implement basic schema say from a wordpress plugin it helps. Not to a degree implementing more advanced schema markup. Schema has not directly affected ranks, But by increased click through rate in the serps due to having unique snippet stand out from the competition it can indirectly assist in rank due to increased activity to that page.

    1. Thanks Robert. Absolutely: Schema has a place in SEO. But it’s more of an indirect benefit vs having a direct impact on rankings.

  44. Hi Brian,

    As usual, very thorough and backed up with tons of data article.
    I am very surprised about your findings related to Site Speed. There’s a lot of speculation and misinformation out there and people tend do get obsessed with milliseconds. For me personally, the fact that site speed is not such a big ranking factor has a “calming effect”. Another interesting take out for me is that backlinks are still considered as strong ranking factor And man, they are so easy to manipulate. You can pay for links and even use PBN and still see an increase in domain authority. I think backlinks are Google’s weakest point, when it comes to their ranking algorithm.

    1. Hey Asen, thank you. I agree that people are a little too obsessed with speed. I mean, going from “insanely slow” to “super fast” may help rankings a little bit. But it’s not as big of a deal as many people make it out to be.

  45. Another great, insightful article. There will be several posts to follow on your findings from across the web. It appears you have turned everything I thought it knew about SEO (page speed, word count, keywords in title, etc) on its head! Bottom line – Great content rules. Doesn’t matter if your site isn’t the fastest or use keyword or tag use is not perfect. Make content people want to read and share and Google will reward you. Got it.

    1. Hey Rick, that’s very true. Great content is the foundation. SEO is obviously more nuanced than that. But that’s basically step #0.

  46. Nice Article Brian! It’s no doubt that backlink is the top 10 ranking factors, but it surprised me that there are no direct correlation with title and h1 tag. How about take h2 tag as an measurement next time?

  47. Great insights, thank you! One of our clients who had tons of top 10 positions and years of quality SEO work started getting overtaken by competitors with no recent content, no SSL, and generally a poor site. The only correlation I could see to their ranking growth was tons of spam backlinks around the same time. I had assumed Google would haven’t penalized them by now, but no such luck. Any thoughts on that?

    1. Hey Dan, you’re welcome. Sorry to hear that. Google has gotten good at spotting spammy links. But they’re far from perfect. My only suggestion is to build more legit links and wait it out. It’s very rare that a spammy site stays up for long.

  48. Hi Brian,

    every time I get an email from you it’s just 100 – 150 words but the article goes more than 2500 words. now you will be higher ranking based on avg time on the website

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  49. Great content Brian.

    I feel the length of the content depends on the niche that is run, I once made a website with 100 words in the article but rank higher than 1000 words

    1. Thank you, Rasie. For sure: it’s all about search intent. There are plenty of cases where short pages outrank long pages. But as a whole, long-form content seems to have an edge.

  50. Brian, Would love to see a similar study on GMB local rankings. I wonder if many of the same variables would still apply. Of course, there would be additional data points factoring in like GPS proximity

    1. Hi Tiffany, this was a correlation study. So it’s hard for me to say based on this data. But from my experience, it’s probably a bit of both. I’ve seen backlinks directly impact rankings. Then, when the page does rank, it starts to get more links.

  51. Can you elaborate more about schema markup and why you don’t think it helps from the research? I guess as you state “we found that very few sites have implemented Schema.”

    1. Hi David, I’m not 100% sure. I mean, Google has said that they don’t use Schema as a direct ranking factor. Which does make sense. It doesn’t make content better for users. But it could just be one of those correlation doesn’t equal causation things.

  52. Nice job. Very interesting. I have heard mixed things about duplicate content – for example, city specific products where there might be 70%+ dup content. Anything looked at for that?

    1. Thanks Ron. We didn’t look at that but I’ve seen that happen too. Most of those city pages have literally 5 sites competing for those keywords. So it’s possible to rank with some duplicate content (“In the land of the blind, the one eyed man in king”).

  53. Awesome work Brian. Guess this confirms how good backlinks still work for rankings.

    Thanks a lot for just another comprehensive and helpful guide.

  54. Great post Brian.

    It is very weird finding out that most of the things that you empirically know are proven by a study. In my opinion the most important finding was that the vast majority of pages have zero backlinks. To me it is clear that behavioral signals are the most crucial aspect of Google optimization.

    1. Thanks Christos. That’s one way to look at it. The other is that there are a lot of pages ranking #6-#10 that have zero links.

  55. Brian…cant tell you enough how much I appreciate these in depth data driven information dives on the state of SEO.

    A few surprises for me, and clears up some of the myths floating around, at least for the near future. Keep up the great work you do 🙂

    1. Thanks Jordan. For sure: Schema isn’t totally worthless. But yeah, it probably won’t move you up in the rankings either. As you said, it’s more for rich snippets.

    1. You’re welcome, Rohit. That surprised me too. I haven’t seen page speed make a big difference in rankings. But I was expecting to find some correlation. Even a small one.

  56. Hi, thanks for the great article. Being a newbie, I was flooded with so many misconceptions regarding ranking. And like most of aspirants, I spent much money for useless things. Now I have a better idea to move ahead with confidence. Thanks a billion. Keep doing good for us.
    With Love,
    Dilip K.

  57. Thanks, Brian Dean and the Backlinko team for putting this together. One of the things that I found missing, or perhaps I missed it, is the effect of keywords in the body of the text.

    Knowing that Google can ferret out meaning through synonyms and other semantic indicators, is having the actual keyword in the text not necessary at all anymore?

    At one time, I know Yoast, for example, suggested putting keywords in the headings and in the first paragraph and the last paragraph (not keyword stuffing, just keyword sprinkling).

    Also do you have any data on adding keywords to image alt text? Does that help with ranking for those images at all? I think it does, but l’d love to hear if you have any data to back that up, both in regards to image searches and all content searches.

    Thanks again.

    1. Hi Jeremy, we only looked at keywords appearing in title tags here. In my experience, using the exact keyword in the body of the page does help even though Google is much smarter now.

  58. Hey Brian,

    Excellent research as usual. I really appreciate your (Your Team as well) efforts.

    I have one important question. What about SSL? Did you check this ranking factor? You didn’t mention anywhere in this post.

    Please let us know.
    Thanks

    1. Hi Jogesh, thank you. We didn’t look at SSL because so many sites have it and it’s quickly becoming the norm.

  59. Good stuff, as always. I run a golf directory website without a lot of paragraph type content; however, loads of information like prices, course information, & more. Does this type of page content count towards factors like “Content Grade” or is this only for written content? From the way I read it, I should probably spend most of my time getting additional backlinks.

    1. Hi Clarke, I wouldn’t sweat word count for product pages or directories. I mean, it can’t hurt to add more content. But I’d focus more on conversions. And use content in other places on your site to build backlinks.

  60. Love your work Brian but surely an average study doesn’t equate to the different SERP results across the board. I mean a blog post for “how to make lasagne” surely is ranked on different factors than “emergency plumber London” for example. The same would be true of eCommerce vs other user intent signals?

    1. Hi Graham, I’m not 100% sure Google has separate algos for different keywords. Maybe for YMYL. Also, that’s one of the reasons that we had a large data set: so that all types of different queries were included.

  61. This is a really interesting and timely study. I’ve just spent the last few hours deciding on a longtail keyword for my latest post and no matter what version I look at, one particular site seems to be topping the SERPs, even when the keyword isn’t in their title tag. However, this site has 62K DoFollow backlinks!

  62. Hi Brian,

    I must say that I always prefer your blog over many others to find in-depth and well researched content.

    I know it take a lot of efforts and appreciate your work.

    You have real nicely showed how backlinks, authority and content quality influence the ranking.

    Thanks, Keep sharing more!

  63. Hey Brian!

    Great post as always. I know you’ve said you respond to all comments after you send an email sending traffic to your posts, so here I am!

    My question is about URL Length. I’ve always been of the notion that following a directory structure makes sense. For my small business clients, they would have a Services/Service-A and Services/Service-B. I understand your point that it looks like a less important page if it’s structured “more clicks from the home page” but to me this is a better way to guide Google’s spiders through the navigation you’d expect a user to follow.

    For my personal site, I follow your recommendation of short URLs and they do well. However, this is because it’s a blog that doesn’t have the structure I believe a small business should.

    Am I wrong in my approach for small businesses? Does Google crawl the website any differently in my structure?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    1. Thanks Nick. I think your approach is 100% spot on. It’s not about trying to get your URLs super short. It’s about making them as short as you can given the context of the page. The pages here are a great example of where sometimes I go with longer URLs: https://backlinko.com/hub/content

  64. I thought Page Speed, Title Optimization, Schema Markup are very important as Search Engine Ranking factor.

    Thanks for your research and Now I will focus on Content and Domain Authority and other related factors, you mentioned here.

    Thanks again for your mail. I have visited here through your mail.

  65. As always, a great article!
    But for a small beginning site like mine, the only real thing we can do is to write comprehensive, well graded pages. Comprehensive is not such a big problem, but how do I make sure my copy has the correct grade since, unfortunately, clearscope’s price is a bit prohibitive for me now.

    1. Hey Olivier,

      If Clearscope’s price is prohibitive, check out Topic (usetopic.com). We help writers create engaging, well-written content.

      * Full disclosure: I am one of the cofounders

  66. Hi Brian,

    This is a master piece information, However, I am really surprised with page speed and ranking correlation, Mobile-first and good page speed index should have performed better? Does it mean I should stop looking Gmetrix to further optimise my website speed?

    1. Hi Satish, I’d still optimize for speed because its good for UX. It’s more that it may not help with rankings.

  67. Hi, Brian. One note on the site load speed portion of this research.

    Our experimentation indicates that slow-loading pages are often disqualified from SERPs for searches made on slower mobile devices and/or searches made via slow internet connections, for searches that they otherwise would rank at the top of the SERP.

    So, it’s possible that a page my rank #1 for a SERP on desktop but not appear at all on my many mobile searches (which is actually what we have noticed and validated with experimentation).

    One tell-tale sign for website owners is if the device ratio is heavily-skewed toward desktop (which is counter to overall web traffic). This is a good indicator that the page, while ranking #1 in many situations, is losing out on potential traffic because it’s getting caught in Google’s speed filter.

    I’m interested to know if this study took into account various devices and connections speeds.

    1. Hey Jake, thanks. Interesting insight there. I haven’t personally seen that but it makes sense. We used Alexa to analyze speed. And as far as I know, that takes into account a few different devices, internet speeds etc.

      1. Thanks for the response.

        I think that the way Google is handling site load speed is on a case-by-case basis and it’s pretty close to being a binary decision. The speed filter either passes the page through to appear on the SERP or not at all, based on site load speed and user device/connection.

        We found that this *doesn’t* happen with brand searches. An exact brand query will still surface to the top despite abysmal page load speed. Which makes sense.

        In our experimentation, the pages/queries that we were examining were showing 1.5-ish average ranking in GSC (while on a slow-loading page). After we sped the page up, the average ranking remain consistent but impressions and clicks increased dramatically.

        I only bring this up because site load speed quite clearly is a factor in generating overall organic traffic but maybe isn’t a “ranking factor,” per se.

        Anyway, just my 2 cents.

        Keep up the great work!

        1. I also think it would be interesting to look at the results of this survey by device type. For example, is page speed a larger factor for first page rankings on mobile devices than it is for rankings on desktop. @Jake Fisher have you published any articles with this information from your experimentation?

  68. Very nice article.! Just a simple question. Let’s assume A and B are two sites.

    1) A – Page( site ) with very few backlinks – ( But 2X better content than B for a particular article )

    2) B – page (Site ) with more overall backlinks , but not as in depth article as A. In this case, which will rank higher ? Talking about a particular post.

  69. Hi Brain, Hope you are well, you article actual ranking factor correlation with google. But Local Ranking Factor Maybe Different. I think DR is strong correlation with ranking Factor, more than UR.

  70. Hi Brian – This is the most enlightening piece of research about ranking factors that I’ve come across for a long time. Excellent as always. I appreciate your research and in-depth articles!

    One additional aspect that I’m curious about is – how do outbound / external links impact on rankings? Can they help Google understand the relevancy of the page? I mean not the target page but the one you publish. Can they improve your page’s “reputation” from Google’s point of view?

    I have the feeling (but no data to back it up) that a wise use of outbound links to relevant and related, perhaps high-authority, pages can boost rankings. Perhaps a subject for a future study. 🙂

  71. Hello Brian,
    Amazing content, as usual.

    But it would be great if you talked about the method of calculation and how you collected data exactly. The figure of 11.2 million sounds very impressive, but it is not clear how you handled such a volume. Is there any evidence of your calculations?

  72. Another masterpiece from the master himself! What a brilliant article this has been! Thank you, @BrianDean for such a wonderful and hugely informative article. It changed some age-old perception we have had till now. Especially surprised to see page loading speed and title tag points. BTW thank you again.

  73. Brian, I’m a long time follower of your work and your site. I think what you do very much applies to the world in general (and what we see from our SEO clients)… That is, you do a lot of the stuff that no one else wants to do. You spend an average of 30 hours with your team producing these blog posts and not many of us out here are willing to do all of that for a single post. So, in effect, you’ve created your own niche within the blogging niche itself – and you do it very well! Example: One of our most happy-go-lucky and very well paid (makes hundreds of thousands) clients is our “septic guy.” He spends most of his days knee deep in stuff that most people don’t want to be around – and he makes a killing off of it. – Thanks again for all of your hard work – and for sharing with the rest of us so freely! – Peace!

      1. So sorry – not comparing you to the septic guy at all (but I think you know that). No, you’re in a different league and a true professional (expert) at what you do. Even Gary Vee talks about making loads of cash doing what other people won’t do. The same with Brian Scudamore as seen here: https://www.1800gotjunk.com/us_en/about/our_company / or here: https://www.google.com/search?q=brian+scudamore+net+worth ( Maybe I should have mentioned those two guys instead of our septic client 🙂 )

  74. Thanks for the info. I just want to mention that Google do ranking fluctuations to make ranking and SEO analysis like these inaccurate. But still we get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

  75. This was such a great article. Thanks a lot Brian and the rest of the crew who analysed all this data.
    I was surprised to see, that the pagespeed didn’t really have an impact on SEO.
    I have a question though. In your earlier site speed analysis you found, that the average page took 10 seconds to load on desktop and 27 seconds to load on mobile. But the average loadspeed for first page results now, are 1.65 seconds. Couldn’t that indicate, some relevance in beeing below 2-3 seconds in loadtime, to rank on page one in the SERP?

    1. Hi Anders, thank you and great point. It could be that speed is helpful to a point. It can get you to the first page. But we only looked at the first page “winner’s circle”. So it may not play as much of a role when things get competitive.

  76. Hi Brian and thanks for this amazing read.
    Are we certain that Alexa takes into account the same things as Google with regards to page speed ? Those 1.65 seconds make me assume Alexa doesn’t count the execution time of JS, and the actual time-to-interactive.

    1. You’re welcome, Robb. I’m not 100% sure about that. Google hasn’t really even been clear about what they take into account with pagespeed (TTFB, FCP etc.).

  77. This is very interesting analysis Brain. I was just focusing on creating quality content, speed of that page, schema and tags. But things got clear now to focus on. Thanks 🙂

  78. I think a content of 2200 words or more usually does the trick for smaller websites when competing for first page results. You have merely outlined the word count for authoritative websites that may or may not have paid for the links in the past to maintain their position. It was during the time when Google algorithms were lenient and as a platform, it was evolving. So was SEO.

      1. I mean 1400 words might be suited to those websites that paid for the links to make into the top rankings on Google. Don’t tell me that these websites simply relied on white hat SEO tactics/valuable content to rank and build authority.

        For smaller websites, the word count has to be higher, sometimes even past 2200 words to provide value in the eyes of Google. The struggle for organic visibility is real in the case of the latter.

        1. I think it’s a lot more nuanced than that. I don’t think a page with 2200 words is automatically going to have an edge over one with 1400.

  79. Thanks for taking the time to research all this info. I’m a real newbie at the on line marketing business, and still finding my feet, so some of this was a bit over my head, but I’ve made lots of notes which will hopefully make sense in time to come. Thanks again. Anne

    1. You’re welcome, Kelan. To be clear: you don’t need a tool to write comprehensive content. It just makes the process a little bit easier.

  80. Hi, was wondering if using one of Google most common keywords in a guest post such as “takeaway near me”, would that works and help boosting my page?

    1. I think Google interprets “near me” keywords as where the person currently is. So I don’t think it helps to optimize around that specific term.

  81. Thanks so much for this in-depth guide on which factors correlate with first page search engine rankings. Bravo!

    On another note, this article helped me to see the need to stop being a cheapskate and pay for Ahrefs already. Clearly it is worth it.

  82. Hi Brian,

    You mentioned: “Finally, a long URL tends to point to a page that’s several clicks from the homepage. That usually means that there’s less authority flowing to that page. Less authority means lower rankings.”

    Let’s say that you’re starting a blog and eventually you’d like to write about different animals: dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, etc.

    In order to keep focus, you’re starting with a specific niche. For example, you’re starting to write about cats and more specifically only about American Bobtail cat breed first. And you’re planning to write about ~10-15 articles per every cat breed. Eventually, you’re planning to cover different animals and different breeds.

    How would you recommend approaching the URL structure in this case?

    Here are a couple of examples that I’ve thought of.

    Example approach #1:

    1) domain.com/cats/american-bobtail/most-common-health-issues/
    2) domain.com/dogs/german-shepherd/best-dog-food-for-german-shepherd/
    3) domain.com/horses/abtenauer/interesting-facts/

    Example approach #2 (remove one layer):

    1) domain.com/american-bobtail/most-common-health-issues/
    2) domain.com/german-shepherd/best-dog-food-for-german-shepherd/
    3) domain.com/abtenauer/interesting-facts/

    Example approach #3 (remove both layers):

    1) domain.com/most-common-american-bobtail-health-issues/
    2) domain.com/best-dog-food-for-german-shepherd/
    3) domain.com/interesting-facts-about-abtenauer/

    Hope you can shed some light on this.

  83. Brian, great information and very clearly presented. I love how you present your Key Findings right at the outset and include a Key Takeaway in each section. I wish everyone who publishes original research reports would use a format like this!
    One thing confuses me: On the one hand, you found that “Pages with lots of backlinks rank above pages that don’t have as many backlinks”, but on the other, “Page authority (as measured by Ahrefs URL Rating) weakly correlates with rankings.” Page authority roughly corresponds to number of backlinks, doesn’t it? Link quality plays a role, but still — seems like number of page-level links and page authority should have similar relationships to rankings. One thing that might explain this is that pages with lots of backlinks tend to live on sites with strong domains, so it could be that domain strength is actually the bigger driver of the ranking success of pages with a lot of links. What do you think?

    1. Hey John, thank you. Good question there. My take is exactly that: that the link of authority of a domain is more important than the sheer number of links that point to a specific page.

  84. This study was done nicely. Confusing to me is ‘4. We found no correlation between page loading speed (as measured by Alexa) and first page Google rankings’. We also have seen no changes for slower sites. A few sites we did not optimize speed on purpose, and they have seen an increase in rankings.

    Yet Google says, “Speed is now used as a ranking factor for mobile searches”. That’s from 2 years ago on their developer’s site. I’m starting to believe they don’t know their own factors! Speed does provide better user experience, so it should be a factor.

    1. Thanks Ryan. I do think speed is a ranking factor. It just may not be one that can take you from #10 to the top 3.

  85. Thank you for such an in depth analysis Brian! Your information is always great.

    As a relatively new site (less than a year old), our focus is primarily on creating the best content possible.

    We also chose the less competitive long tail keywords and interact with other sites in our niche, which has provided a few back links.

    That in itself has been almost a full-time job – do you have any further advise on what a new site should focus on?

    1. Hey Shannon, that sounds like a great approach for a new site. I’d double down on that and maybe shift your focus on getting more white hat links.

  86. Very surprised that speed has no correlation with higher SEO rank. I always work on it to be in the green part in the PageSpeed test. It’s good for users anyways, but if Google can use it too it will be great !

    1. Hi Guillaume, I wouldn’t let this study change that. Speed is good for UX. Which is indirectly good for SEO.

  87. I don’t get it while you remove pages with 0 links.

    Now we don’t know if pages with 0 links can make it to the #1 spot.

    1. Lucio, there are cases where pages with zero links can rank #1. But it’s rare is usually only for super authoritative sites.

      1. Alright, thanks for the info.

        Could still be interesting to see how those 0 pages stack up as most people do have 0 links on most pages.

        Cheers!

        1. Oh, P.S.: I don’t have a very authoritative website and got a few pages with 0 or little links who are sitting at #1.

          If you Google “frame control” you’ll get an example of such a 0 backlinks page ranking #1.

          Cheers.

  88. Thanks a lot for providing such an amazing study. The key takeaway for me is that pagespeed has zero relationship with ranking except pages with low speed then average.

  89. Hi Brian
    An amazing article once again! The best thing about this is that it talks about what works and what probably doesn’t work backed with data as opposed to just a list of all the suspected factors like most other resources available online!
    Do you have any resources on the online courses / online education industry by any chance?

    1. Hi Damien, thanks. That was definitely the idea. I mean, I’m in that space myself and know it well. But there isn’t really a separate algorithm for every niche.

  90. My personal experience shows User Experience counts more than link building. In fact, I rarely build links positively on it, but the ranking improves sharply when the web content reached people who are interested.

    Maybe it is partly because my web is a B2B type instead of informative blogs.

  91. Thanks a lot for awesome post!
    Is there any correlation between social signals with ranking? I remember that I’ve ever read an article saying that if we do the social signal well, we can rank a keyword on the first page of SERP without backlink

    1. You’re welcome, Ruth. We didn’t look at social signals here. But Google has stated several times that they don’t use them.

  92. Hey Brian, How long did it took for your team and you to come with this amazing data?

    Such a great article. We really need this type of data to stay on the right path. But I am little bit surprised about the correlation between word count and ranking as some tools show the graph where we can see a good correlation.

    1. Hi Aditya, we didn’t track the hours put into this. But it was a massive project. Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 hours.

  93. Thanks Brian. Fantastic research.

    1. Two questions I had, the time on site you were referring to was the average for the entire domain or the specific page which was ranked?

    2. Point #2 and #7 seem to have a mixed message. One says that PageRank(which directly depends on backlinks to the page) has weak correlation with results. The other says that the top page has 3.8x more backlinks than the other positions. Do you think, a page with higher backlinks will influence top results because of the direct influence of Page Rank or the indirect influence of DA?

    1. You’re welcome, Maxim. 1. It was the entire domain. 2. It could be that DA is more important but it’s hard to say from this data alone.

  94. Hi Brian, a critical takeaway from this study for me is that backlinks numbers from different referring domains tends to help boost ranks better and more effectively than various links from the same referral domain. I think this post really helps bring that realization into practical and tangible test. You’re an amazing person within the SEO world. Keep up the vitalities up! ^_^ Thanks man. I really appreciate this. Shared!

  95. Hi Brian, It’s really an awesome research and data which would be helpful in many ways.
    I have one doubt regarding Short URLs vs. Long URLs. If I use URL i.e., “/home-health-aides” or “/home-health-aides-palm-beach-county”, which one would be impactful according to you. In second URL, I have tried to add location in the URL with service.

    1. Thanks. I think the first URL might have a slight edge. But it probably won’t make a practical difference. So if it makes sense to add the location, I’d still do that.

  96. Thank you for confirming the latest trends, there are some surprising results in there, it’s not often I find potential quick wins in SEO advice but this in my view bucks the trend. Awesome job!

  97. Content and links baby. That’s interesting your research have opposite conclusion to ahrefs research. They say UR matter. Great content like always Brian.

    1. Thanks Marcin. I’m actually looking into that right now. Interesting that we found something different there.

  98. John Muller has cleared it already that TTFB does not count as a Ranking Factor. Even he also cleared that SILO has nothing to do with ranking or google consider it as a ranking factor.

    What do you think about it, Brian?

  99. Hi Brian, a big thanks for this research, I would like to ask you that when we can expect your SEO course?

  100. Hi, Brian!

    Great post.

    And what about dynamic of backlinks building? If the #1 site get 400 backlinks and stopped with getting new one, and the site that have #3 position have only 100 backlinks, but increasing it 5 per month then it can get #1 even with 150 links?

    I have info website with alot of pages with 179 backlinks (157 domains) and it gets higher positions for some keywords then the site with 40819 backlinks (10298 domains). It’s all because of better internal links management.

    So is it so important the quantity of backlinks or maybe more important the dinamyc of getting new backlinks? And maybe the quality of this links? And of caurse the good internal linking affects alot.

    1. Hi Sergey, there’s definitely a lot going on with links outside of just how many you have. As you pointed out, link velocity might be something that Google cars about.

  101. Hi Brian, for the time on the site if the site uses analytics it is fine but otherwise how do you think google checks the time?
    Thanks for your precious work!

  102. Hi Brian,

    You have shared great detailed data and information about your findings. The analysis of 11.8 million Google search result which you have shared is so interesting for all marketers. Keep sharing such in-depth knowledge.

  103. This is a massive field test not isolating a single factor you summarise above. There is no way you can conclude the above as all other 200+ ranking factors could have been massively influencing the ones you individually point out. Therefore the entire research is irrelevant. Google is getting very sophisticated with hundreds of triple PhD holding engineers working on the algo. You can’t shine light into Google’s black box with these field tests anymore. You need to isolate factors, like science does. Looking forward to seeing some science based testing form you in the future.

    1. Hi Rene, thanks for your feedback. You are aware that the vast majority of science (including the entire field of epidemiology) is observational research, right?

      1. In epidemiology, social sciences and psychology yes it is. These are all based on stuff that’s created by mother nature. The Google algo on the other hand is a man made system we can reverse engineer, if you know how to isolate ranking factors. Please know that I follow your work since the early days and still love it. Its just that Google has become a 1000 times more sophisticated in the last 2 years so that all factors are intertwined at any given moment in time. I very much liked the test you did on your site a few months back. Although it was a field test on just one site, it was a great next step towards unravelling the algo. From making that single change on 10 to 100 sites you could draw some unique conclusions I think. Anyway, just my 2 cents 🙂 Keep up the work!

        1. Points well made, Rene. I still think there’s value in large-scale observations of the algorithm. Even if its flawed. But yeah, I think there’s also room for a controlled experiment on a batch of sites.

  104. Thanks for the valuable information!
    We thought site load time would be a major factor in the ranking and was working hard to reduce it. It seems we’ll have to reorganize our priorities.

    1. Hi Zoe, you’re welcome. There’s no downside to speeding things up. But it probably has diminishing returns.

  105. Hi Brian,
    Excellent and comprehensive analysis of few ranking factors.

    What hits me most is part about keyword in title and H1 tag. I think that what you wrote is true, especially part, that keyword in those tags is elevator to get to top10 in SERP.
    It’s clear that optimising those two tags isin’t everything you can do, but in this state of SEO game, where most of big brands has goog optimazation (in thsi matter) you can’t allow yourself to not optimize those tags with keywords.

    As allwyas great read and lots of knowlage.

    Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome, Karol. Exactly: it’s one of those things that helps to a certain extent. But it’s not really enough with everyone else using optimized title tags too.

  106. Great stuff as always. #7 was a bit surprising — I remember a colleague of mine used to be adamant about page authority. Pretty consistent on the average word count of a first page ranking over the years. Very useful, Brian, thank you.

    1. You’re welcome, Ryan. It definitely helps to have links pointing directly to a page. But a site’s overall authority is probably more important.

  107. Hi Brian, As a layman I struggle to get objective advice about SEO that doesn’t just add to the general noise of blogs, emails, advertising, special offers, 10 things you must know about, gimme gimme……. This is the factual information I have wanted! It puts the priorities in perspective. Whilst the work needed to get an ecommerce site to rank remains a mountain to climb I found this very useful. Thank-you and keep it coming. Andrew

  108. An excellent article which perfectly showcases the importance of backlinks and great content!

    Would be really interesting to know how much does the average word count of a Google first page result differ between different languages. For example Finnish has so many compound words and suffixes that I’m pretty sure this article translated into Finnish would have a drastically smaller word count.

  109. Hello Brian. Great content, as usual. You got me interested with that 1447 words of length because I’m getting a warning in my SEO tool for a while that I should cut down my 6900 words long pillar page to 1447 words for better ranking. So I guess pillar pages and better rankings of all linked pages is just a fairy tale.

    1. Thanks Anthony. I honestly wouldn’t sweat word count that much. If it takes 6900 words to cover everything, that’s OK.

    1. You’re welcome, Simon. Well, speeding things up won’t hurt. And its good for UX. So there isn’t a downside to making your site faster.

  110. Outstanding post Brian. Thanks for sharing. And I have to admit, I have been neglecting link building. But I am linking back to many of your posts from several of mine. That said, I will just have to work harder in getting quality sites linking back to my blog. Because I think my content and keyword placement are quite up to standard. After lots of research though…

    1. Hey Deon, thank you. For sure: I see lots of sites that “should” rank highly. But they don’t due to a lack of backlinks. So focusing on links should really help.

  111. Hi Brian.

    A fact about backlinks is really surprising for many people, but not including me. I agree with the data you provided. Backlinks remain an important part of SEO.

    Thanks!

  112. Regarding the pages that skewed your data with zero backlinks.
    What do you think the issue is here with sites not having any backlinks?

    I work for Car Dealerships in the UK carrying out SEO. I stopped about 1.5-2 years ago trying to build backlinks to my client’s website. As no one wanted to share an article about an everyday un of the mill car. You can’t provide car reviews as everyone thinks its bias. So I don’t see a way of certain niches been able to build backlinks to pages. I feel this is the issue with a lot of websites.

    I get how websites like yours build links as you provide value. I can see how websites that show the luxury supercars could build links as they are what everyone wants to look at. I don’t see how a car dealership can add something of value to gain backlinks.

    I may be wrong but it’s my previous experiance.

  113. Hi Brian,
    With the content you provide, this is why you are my number one source for seo info. One point I am trying to figure out and I am not sure as my question may touch upon some of the above research but if a key term is being targeted for high ranking, is it better to target with the home page or a specific category page? Which page would rank higher, is there any advantage for either page or it would it make no difference?
    Thanks

    1. Thanks Sunny. In general, category pages will rank better than homepages because they’re more targeted. But it depends.

  114. Thanks Brian! This analysis came at a pretty useful time as I’ve been trying to prioritize different aspects of SEO that I’m working on. I was thinking webpage authority was a larger indicating factor than domain authority, so this will definitely help me re-arrange my priorities a little.

  115. This was a really good read, we work on a lot of sites that use big images and are what could be called image heavy and it does slow down their site speed but it doesn’t seem to have help them back much if at all from ranking well. We have noticed the difference with shorter URL to longer ones though. Thanks for this!

    1. Thanks Allan. It’s a balance for sure. Image heavy sites (like Backlinko) is pretty slow. But I’ll take that over a fast page that isn’t as helpful to people.

  116. Love this, thank you Brian!

    I’m curious about how search type and search intent might affect how these ranking factors play out.

    Would it be possible for the 11.8 million search queries be broken down into categories like long-tail, short tail, informational, transactional, etc?

    I am wondering especially about how the data would look broken down between transactional vs. informational since I would think Google’s algorithm would apply these factors with different weights based on search type, especially for items like the H1 and Meta-Title.

    1. Hey Trey, you’re welcome. That would be interesting for sure. Niche-specific of query-specific stuff would be cool to look at.

  117. URL rating of pages measured with ahrefs, is weakly correlated with rankings, and pages that have a lot of backlinks are ranked well !!!
    can you explain this contradiction to me?

  118. Hello Brian,
    A very interesting study. Some things don’t always seem logical, but numbers speak for themselves. Again a number of things learned, thanks for the explanation of the research results.

  119. What a great research 🙂

    Brian, there is a trend in 2020 to show the featured image of posts above the content (meaning, above the fold) – What’s the effect? good? bad?. This is something to check in your next research – or maybe you already have the answer 😉

    Keep it up!

    1. Hi Eliav, I usually only do this for big studies. But in general, I try to have the content above the fold as much as possible.

  120. Brian, as always, another unbelievable post! The sheer amount of data you guys have gone through just to bring us all some top quality content is astounding! I’m forever changing my strategies based on your research. I’m so glad I’ve got you as a mentor #thumbsupemoji

    1. Thanks Danny. Yup, the content we put out takes a lot of effort. But that’s what it takes to stand out and add value in the space.

  121. Woah! That’s some myth busting you did there. GREAT JOB and thanks.

    I just want to ask, should we be using Clearscope now for content grading? Is it that relevant? What factors does it use and can we mimic these factors manually?

    1. Thank you. I don’t think you need a tool for content grading, but one can help. I recommend reading this to learn about ways to optimize your content for SEO.

  122. Trillion Thanks Brian!!

    I am trying to use 360 degree images and walk through in website and was worried about page speed.

    I wait your your email as it came with mystery and magic material.

    Smiles, Peace and Joy 🙂

  123. I feel like David …from David and Goliath. I found the article to be misleading in areas, or perhaps a better description maybe, not holistic in its views. Perhaps just 1 example …page speed. Page speed has a direct effect on bounce rate…hence time on site which both will have a negative effect on the sites overall performance and conversion. I fully understand that although this is quite a long article you would need MUCH more space to address the overall relationship all the different facets have upon each other. I may be just looking too deep on this but I would love to hear your thoughts in regards to a larger article inclusive of the relative benefits of these processes rather than just its singular and direct affect. Great article by the way.

  124. Good job Brian and the team. I like, that is proof of data like this: https://github.com/backlinko/search-engine-ranking and explanation how you guys did it: https://backlinko.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/search-engine-ranking-study-methods.pdf

    But what do you think about user behaviour signals, like:

    – last click
    – and bounce rate

    ?

    In some niches, on the web sites with little traffic this impacts a lot, especially when competitors doing it on purpose.

    Maybe in future case studies somehow you can cover this as well.

    Anyway thanks, great work!)

  125. Great article Brian. But I have seen some low DR websites getting very high traffic and ranking than their competitors with high DR. why does it happen? I think getting links from the relevant websites is the main factor for ranking better in google.

    1. That’s true. It could be that the low DR sites have more relevant links. Or that they have better on-page SEO. etc. etc.

  126. Google uses different factors in different niches and for different intents. This is a dangerous, overly generalizing piece.

    But gosh “11710 shares” I guess it does the job.

    1. Hi Alex, can you show me evidence of that? Not saying I even disagree. But saying “Google uses” without a source doesn’t really add a lot of to the discussion.

  127. Thank you so much, Brian. Excellent and on-point analysis, as usual. Your articles are really helpful for both beginners and professionals.

    This article draws attention to many important and yet neglected points that can help to improve the ranking of the website. I have followed the mentioned steps and it helped in improvising our website performance and ranking. Although it actually amazed me that page loading speed doesn’t affect the ranking.!!

    Than you once again for your contribution and efforts.!!

  128. What an interesting read, Brian!

    This might not be related, but, have you by any chance written about the January update? We’ve noticed some site losing a bunch of long-tail keywords (almost half according to ahrefs) in our niche. Wondering what that might be except for the BERT update?

  129. Hey Brian,

    Great post!

    I was just wondering, regarding your findings on the average time on page and bounce rate. How do you think Google has access to this information (excluding people who visit a site and click the back button to go back to the search results).

    Wouldn’t this require Google to use people’s Analytics data and in that case wouldn’t that be a violation of privacy? And if that’s the case, wouldn’t that also be very unfair to people who don’t use Analytics?

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks John. Good question. They actually don’t need GA to calculate any of that stuff. As long as someone goes back to the search results (or doesn’t), they can figure most of those things out.

  130. My takeaway lesson from your finding is that creating in-depth content is golden. Just as it could be hard to get a lot of backlinks especially for a new blog, I understand and believe quality content will attract more backlinks in due time.

    However I have been able to create a number posts that ranks number 1 on Google SERP of about a billion results but still it drives little to no traffic to my blog and some of which are made featured snippet.

    What could be cause?

    1. Hey Joan, that’s a solid takeaway. To your question, it may be simple that those keywords don’t get that many searches. Different tools estimate kw volume differently (source).

      1. Okay, thank you Brian for the resource you mentioned in your reply, I have gone through it and it is very helpful. I will follow your guide and hoping to see positive results as always, in due time.
        Best regards!

  131. Wow just the summary is worth gold already. There is so much more value in this then many people will realise. Ive been chasing UR rating for a while now. But it seems having backlinks from mulitple high DR domains is more important.. Even if they are from a lower UR page?

    Im curious about subdomains. Here in The Netherlands there are many directory sites with high DR but also many subdomains. Im curious if its worth the effort to persue multiple subomaind backlinks or focus on different domains..

    Thank you for sharing this amazing research.

    Kind greetings,

    Koen

    1. Hi Koen, thanks. I don’t think links from higher DR sites are better than high UR pages. It’s more than domain rating correlates with ranking higher on page 1 more than a UR.

  132. Ah okay, thanks for clearing that up. Very interesting, im now doing more research into what causes a high DR.. But how I read it, it also doesnt have much to do with UR.. Mostly the amount of DOFOLLOW backlinks accross multiple domains and the DR and amount of outgoing links on that domain.

  133. We tested the impact of WordPress optimization in terms of loading speed. And I totally agree that there is no connection between rankings and loading speed, unless we are talking about extreme cases.

    1. That’s been my experience too, Pawel. And it might be why we didn’t see pagespeed correlate much with rankings.

  134. Hello Brain,

    As always this is an insanely content rich article. Got lots of new action from this post and already started applying.

    Brain, in one of your recent posts, you said google page speed didn’t matter a lot. You also made tons of changes in your current blog post to check the results. So, what are you takes on google page speed?

    Like many SEO gurus, still consider it a big ranking factor.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Ana, I think that page speed is something that can hurt you if your site is super slow. But it’s not a huge ranking factor.

  135. Hi Brian,

    As always, the best explanation! I already knew some of the points which you share above and in some, in which I was in dilemma, you made them clear. Thank you for sharing your valuable insights.

    I want to ask you one more thing (its bit off the track), but while doing these analysis did you notice, that google is being lazy with indexing new content?

    1. Hi Arvin, thanks. Not related to this study, but I have noticed Google having indexing issues over the last week or so.

  136. “10. We found a very slight correlation between URL length and rankings. Specifically, short URLs tend to have a slight ranking advantage over longer URLs.”
    –> I think this is mainly because of internal linking, as the homepage e.g. is the shortest and gets the most link power.

    1. Hi Raphael, that could be. But for a good chunk of sites, they’re most authoritative page isn’t their homepage.

  137. I agree that page speed isn’t a major ranking factor, unless it’s an absolute dog of a site. I still like to have the main page as fast as possible though just to stop people pogoing out again.

  138. Great insights, Brian.

    The one that particularly strikes me is the lack of correlation with PageSpeed. I have been tracking these metrics for all top linking websites (including BackLinko) and there seems to be a very poor correlation with PageSpeed. Definitely one should have a fast website with minimal bloat but one should not compromise the webpage quality for that.

    Thanks again for all your awesome content!

    1. I agree: Amar. It’s worth making your site as fast as possible for UX. But it’s not an SEO magic bullet.

  139. Really appreciate knowing the best way to prioritize this kind of work Brian, it saves so much time (and anxiety) wondering which of the (hundreds of different) areas need attending to, next ; ) Cheers.

  140. Wow, That is well-researched content brian. Google always says they do not have domain authority in their algorithm though. I don’t know why they misguide bloggers.
    Anyways, Keep up researching like this.
    Cheers,
    Shekhar Chatterjee

  141. This article sums all my questions about SEO. I am surprise that page speed has no correlation with ranking, I have been working on it in a week. I still need to work in page authority. Thanks Brian

  142. Point 1 might be true for traffic website. For low traffic local sites and niche sites domain age would be something more important.

  143. As Google constantly making changes in its algorithms, it made me think that backlinks will not work onwards and thus I never tried to make backlinks for my websites, instead I focus on creating content only.

    But, thanks to this research which helped me to understand that backlinks are very important.

    Thanks Brian

  144. Hi Brian,

    Good article and nice share, however you say that page weight have nothing to do with ranking, so how do you explain all what is said by Google about page speed, speed optimization and all that technical crap that cause headaches?

    1. Hi Zak, Google says its a ranking factor. I believe them. It just may not be an important ranking factor.

    1. It’s an indirect factor for sure. A great design and UX leads to fewer bounces, more backlinks, etc. etc.

  145. Was surprised to read that website speed does bot have an impact on rating. Too much time spent on it 🙁

  146. Hi there! Noticed that you’re not using captions with your images, but rather include a description in the paragraph below the image. Interested in why you have taken this route! Thanks for providing this great resource. Cheers

    1. Thanks Anders. The description is more about the finding than specific to the chart. I think captions have their place. But ideally the image is so easy to understand that you don’t need one.

  147. Awesome post. Learned a lot of valuable things from this post.

    I would like to know if the Page Speed metric like First Contextual Paint (FCP) and First Input Delay (FID) affects rankings because in Webmaster tools it shows error in performance index if they are more than 1 seconds.

    Kindly let me know thanks.

    1. Thank you. We didn’t get that granular with sitespeed in this study so it’s tough to say. In my experience, you want your site to be as fast as possible. But I wouldn’t expect it to make a huge difference in your Google rankings.

  148. Hey Brian,

    A great study and really informative, just one question. You shared a line “no correlation between page loading speed”, is this means that page loading speed doesn’t matter for #1 ranking? again content is king?

    Waiting for your reply, Love and CARE!

    1. Hi Umer, I wouldn’t necessarily go that far. Speed matters a little bit. But it’s probably an overrated ranking factor.

  149. “However, we found no correlation between site speed and Google rankings.”

    This is a little heartbreaking given the time that i spend on speeding up my website and my clients websites.

    It sure adds a plus to the UX though. A big one!

    Thanks for another great article.

    1. You’re welcome. Like you said: it’s good for UX so there’s no reason to regret the effort you put into speeding things up.

    1. For sure. I think there’s value in improving your site speed. But it’s not a magic bullet (or even close to one).

  150. Hi Brian am actually surprised that Website Page Speed does not impact the ranking. I was under the impression that Page Speed plays an Important Role.
    The Rest of your Article is simply awesome. Thank you for your valuable inputs. Cheers.

  151. Fantastic work Brian. Real, real value! I’ve been noticing you’ve been doing this research for a few years now. Ever thought of doing an article on “trends” ie in what direction is Google seemingly taking?

  152. Hello, thank you very much for this wonderful article. I read your blog all the time. You put a lot of effort to please us with excellent content. Your articles are very useful and help us all develop. In fact, very few people give so much quality information. Having viewed almost the entire Internet, I consider you one of the best authors. And there is a guy who also shares high-quality information with people for free. I’ll leave a link to it here https://goo-gl.ru/6jmQ/ can someone will help. No one else is worthy, I have never met, thank you again for your work. I also have a question about this article, can you answer me?

  153. Thanks for sharing your experience here, lots of great points you considered here. I especially like the way of you presented is great

  154. Whaat??!! So loading time doesn’t impact ranking? I was under the impression that it was one of the major ranking factors by Google.
    And amazing content as always.

  155. Great post! Super valuable as always. For your site, what plugin (if you are using plugins) are you using for the social share that is floating on the left?

  156. Another excellent and comprehensive study with lots of food for thought.
    Surprised though that page load speed isn’t a ranking factor.

  157. Hi Brian, awesome content as usual. What would be a very interesting study or analysis is not only how backlinks from sites with a high DR or high DA impacts your own ranking but to look at actual traffic these sites have and how that impacts link value. There are tons of websites with a high DR, DA but very little actual traffic. Is it worth getting links from such sites? And how does a link from a website with high DR/DA but low traffic compare to a link from a website with high traffic and lower DA/DR?

  158. Hello Brian
    Thank you very much for this amazing study!
    I have an interesting fact for you. The backlinks are an important ranking factor but on many occasions when I upload new great structured and on-page optimized content the pages rank directly in first SERP or very very close without any single link to the url. The domain is also slightly new and all pages around have many more links and more authority. For sure this is a specific case but is real and maybe any case is different regarding content, UX, the type of the industry, and the competition. Cheers!

  159. Hi Brian. Very interesting and usefull article. Would you mind if I translate it into french on my blog (with a link to this page, of course) in order to make it know in France ?

  160. Page-speed has literally NO impact on search results. I analyzed few of my first page competitors and they had pagespeed score worse than mine.

  161. Hi Brian, thank you for constantly sharing amazing information on SEO. I was particularly blown out by the page speed finding. I was browsing a few days ago, looking for some website design inspiration, and found a new Gucci collection spring/summer subpage with an incredible design, however, the load time was terrible, but in the end, the wait was worth it, they have amazing CSS design, it is really cool (even though I´m not a customer of the brand). But that made me think about Google PageSpeed Insights, I got curious about it, and found out that they score 85, which is incredibly high considering that the page fully loads in 9.7s and it is 19.6MB (plus, they have the same design for mobile). Then, I looked it up in Google using these keywords: spring summer gucci, and boom, they are in the top position. On the other hand, they rank poorly in GTmetrix: PageSpeed Score (52%), YSlow Score (75%). I´m thrilled about this finding, and yes, you are right, page speed seems not to be an important ranking factor, this confirms that domain authority and backlinks are the most important factors, besides quality content. But this makes me think, what happened to Google´s Mobile-First initiative? Maybe the 15 points that they need to score 100 are related to their page speed? I mean, only 15 points? Considering the size of this brand, they have enough budget to score 100, maybe their developers did know this for a fact, and that´s why they focussed on design instead of page speed, I´m not sure, but just wondering about it.

  162. I literally love it when you do these studies because I can always change what I focus on accordingly.

    Thank you for this great study and great article brian.

  163. Such an extensive study.

    Just a small little doubt.

    You mentioned that, getting high number of links from “different domains” results in higher ranking.

    But the quality matters a lot, right ?

    Like 1 link from BBC could work like a charm in the place of 100 low quality links.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.

  164. Thanks Brian, Amazing.
    1 question:
    Page authority weakly correlates with rankings. But first you say:
    Pages with lots of backlinks rank above pages that don’t have as many backlinks.
    Isn’ the page authority influenced and determined by the number of backlinks?
    thanks 🙂

    1. You’re welcome, Michele. That’s true: it’s influenced by the number of backlinks. But more by the quality of backlinks.

  165. Brian, Great report. Do you have info to share on “how the keywords that were used in the report were chosen? And a followup: A breakdown of what types of keywords. I assume it wasn’t totally random, because where would one start in a totally random selection? Thanks much. Charley

  166. I’m curious how does Clearscope work?

    Does scrape Google and look at top 5 for subheadings? What’s the source for topics.

  167. Some people will state Page-speed has NO impact on search results. I analyzed few of my clients pages and have seen impact, but yeah,

  168. “Not many sites use Schema markup…only 72.6% of sites in our dataset…”

    I would think that 72% is quite a substantial majority of sites.

  169. Absolutely fascinating research.
    So interesting to see that page title and h1 tags are not that important to move up page 1.

    The schema insight made me think. When I looked at the methodology it says that you were looking for ‘…. AND appearance of itemtype=”http://schema.org/ ‘

    Why did it require ” to be considered having schema?
    This page has plenty of schema markup but no so in terms of this study would be considered as not having schema markup?

  170. Did your title tag used to say
    “Search Engine Ranking factor – Backlinko”.

    I assumed that “search engine ranking” or “first page ranking factors” were your target keywords for this based off of your first 100 words and URL. I was surprised to see your title tag lack those keywords.

    When I search for “search engine ranking” I see this on page one with the “Title” listed above.

    What’s interesting is nowhere on your code or content (except one commenter) does “search engine ranking factors” appear.

    Google is either endowing this page with that intent, or that is a legacy title tag, or something else i dont understand.

    Are you testing your theory around Title Tags and keywords on this post? Or a different strategy of changing title tag after the fact?

    sorry if i spoiled the surprise

  171. Great study Brian! I agree on many points. In the end, everyone has to look at what works best for their project. Sometimes good content works without backlinks. Sometimes backlinks make a very big difference, especially if the competitors have great content too. You should never rely on just one point. But that’s what makes the job so exciting. 🙂

  172. Great findings, Brian! It’s surprising to see that the average articles that rank of first page have below 1,500 words. And if the Site Speed really counts in rankings then all these big sites like Business Insider, Daily Mail have no chance to rank.

    1. Thanks Ben. For sure: speed is helpful to a certain extent. But as you pointed out, plenty of slow sites rank just fine.

  173. Hi Brian,

    On one of my more popular pages, I added more content which, in turn, increased time on site. However, I noticed that my bounce rate increased. I feel I can move my internal links on my particular post up to decrease bounce rate but I think my time on-site will go down.

    In terms of ranking do you feel time on site is more important than the bounce rate?

    Great post as always

  174. As always thanks Brian for some incredibly insightful analysis.
    I think the mobile load time considerations need more research.
    It clearly goes against Google’s own guidance on the ‘3-second rule’ ranking penalty. Such a massive consideration goes some way to go what is also intuitive, or maybe I’ve been brainwashed. Further research seems very much in order, given the huge implications that it could mean for SEO.

  175. hello thanks for this excellent article. About website speed , i think that is not perhaps a direct factor important for ranking but it is very important for user satisfaction. If a website is very slow, people prefer to go to a website faster to have the information and a better website with speed can have more visitors and more visitors are important for ranking. That’s why i think that it is an important factor too even if we don’t see that it is an evident factor. fast ==> more visitors==> better ranking . very slow==less visitors==> less rank

    1. Hi Frank, for sure. There’s no benefit of having a slow site. Even if it doesn’t directly impact rankings, it makes sense to make things as fast as they can be.

  176. Hey Brian,

    Thank you for research results, especially your summary at the top.

    Since you emphasized the importance of domain authority, why would Ahrefs Domain Rating and Moz Domain Authority differ significantly (e.g., the latter being 4x greater than the former) on the same site?

    Which one of these domain checker tools is more representative?

    Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome. It’s because they have different indexes. And they calculate authority differently as well. Most of the time DA/DR line up. But not always. I think they’re both about the same in terms of being representative.

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