We Analyzed 11.8 Million Google Search Results. Here’s What We Learned About SEO

We Analyzed 11.8 Million Google Search ResultsHere’s What We Learned About SEO

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Brian Dean

by Brian Dean · Updated Apr. 28, 2020

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.

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.

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.

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

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:

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”.

Sure enough, this page also has a relatively low 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.

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:

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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:

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

529 Comments

  1. Thanks for making it clear where we need to spend our energy related to ranking better for our keywords.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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).

      1. Bruce Avatar Brucesays:

        I did read that article you posted about website speed, very insightful. Thanks

    1. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

        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 🤗

  2. stephen Avatar stephensays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  3. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  4. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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”.

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Hi Aurélien, it could also be because more content gives Google more info on what the page is about.

  5. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

      1. Yes it does 🙂
        Hope your next article will be more awesome!

  6. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  7. That’s really helpful. Thank you for sharing, Brian and please to see no mention of link juice 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Amine. I mean, I did mention backlinks several times but didn’t use that exact phrase.

  8. Paul Avatar Paulsays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  9. 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

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks. If your site has loading issues (outside of just being slow), I do think that can hurt your rankings.

  10. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

    1. Wow this is huge Brian. As my #1 takeaway, More focus should be put on diversifying backlink sources

  11. Hi brian
    Great Ideas and tips.
    what could be the reason if your website domain authority is good but still google does not index quickly?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  12. Your content is a value bomb. Always a fan Brain

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      👍👍👍

  13. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

    1. 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.

  14. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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..

  15. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thank you. We analyzed 11.8M sites. So it was a mix of old/new, authoritative/not authoritative, etc.

      1. Oops! How did I miss that 11.8M. Goodness me. Out of excitement left that number. 🙏🏼

    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😃

  16. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  17. 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

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Simon. In my experience, and based on statements from Google, related backlinks do have a bigger impact.

  18. Varun Avatar Varunsays:

    Superb content Brian

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      👍👍👍

  19. 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?

  20. Damn Brian you did it once again!

    All this juicy info will definitely help me with my clients 🙂

    Thanks.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      No worries, Usman.

  21. Very nice article Brian! Especially for new bloggers it explains where to focus and give priority.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      No problem, Vipul.

  22. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  23. Andy Avatar Andysays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  24. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  25. Hi Brian,

    Great research, i can see average time on site is the most important factor.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Bill 👍

  26. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  27. Good read, Brian! Thanks for sharing this. I have two sites and I’m doing all the SEO works, so this article really helps!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Daniel. Oh nice. This should definitely come in handy then.

  28. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Andre. I mostly use Clearscope these days.

  29. Alex Avatar Alexsays:

    Do you have a pages per visit metric taken into account and some numbers for bounce rate?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Alex, we didn’t look at pageviews or bounce rate in this analysis.

      1. Alex Avatar Alexsays:

        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:)

  30. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  31. Armaghan Avatar Armaghansays:

    Any idea about the relation of social sharing?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  32. Uma R Avatar Uma Rsays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  33. Brian Dean doing what he does best. Such an interesting study. One question though – what about social signals?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  34. This article is more insight, tune myself to get more information.

    Let me try this for my clients.
    Thank you Brian 😊

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Prabhu 👍

  35. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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. Thanks Brian, I have done no index on these pages…

        What should I do with the ones which are already indexed, is there a way to remove those urls and category/archive pages permanently?

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  36. Great stuff! 11.8 million! Thats some analysing! Keep up the great work Brian.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Anouer. For sure: it’s a big number that took a while to analyze.

  37. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

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

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Mateo. If you can get links without content, go for it. But it’s an uphill battle.

  39. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  40. This article cleared all of my doubts and i hope writting 1400+ words article will help me in beating some authority sites :).

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      👍

  41. David Avatar Davidsays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  42. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  43. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  44. 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.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome. Absolutely: it’s really about finding out what works for a specific keyword. That’s huge.

  45. Alex Avatar Alexsays:

    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?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thank you, Alex. We didn’t look at that. We used dwell time to figure out how users interact with a site.

  46. 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.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Oleg, thank you. Yup: backlinks are a pretty big deal. And probably always will be!

      1. Thanks Brian, you’ve really made things simpler. It sure takes a lot of resources for a study like this. Thank you again

  47. 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

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      👍👍👍

  48. Valuable insights, like always Brian. The findings corroborate most of the information in your SEO Hub. Great work.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi King, thank you.

  49. 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

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Umesh. For sure: DR/DA is in some ways more important than PA/UR.

  50. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Sounds good, Mian.

      1. Miri Avatar Mirisays:

        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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          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.

  51. Will Stockton Avatar Will Stocktonsays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  52. 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!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Dave, thank you. Happy to hear that 👍

  53. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  54. 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!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Halton. That’s true: the numbers don’t lie!

  55. 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.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Don’t forget: you need lots of backlinks to rank.

  56. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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).

  57. This is amazing Brian. Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi David, no worries. Glad you enjoyed reading it.

  58. Wow! I love read all your content you and your team do more easy my research I’m your fan #1, thanks for share your job, I’ll wait for the academy

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Lesther

  59. Emile Avatar Emilesays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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. Emile Avatar Emilesays:

        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!

  60. Thank you for your constant contribution to the digital marketing world Brian.
    Very practical and comprehensive SEO guide.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  61. Yuka Avatar Yukasays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  62. Thank you Brian for clearing the myth about the Schema Markup and Rankings.
    As always, your blog post is insightful.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      👍👍👍

  63. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  64. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  65. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  66. 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?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Raymond. Yup, we may look at H2s next time.

  67. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  68. Ganesh Avatar Ganeshsays:

    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.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Ganesh.

  69. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  70. Brian Avatar Briansays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      That would be cool, Brian. We might look into doing that.

  71. Regarding backlinks- Do you think the highest ranking pages have more backlinks *because* they rank higher, or do they rank higher because they have more backlinks?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

      1. Thanks for the detailed report Brian. Any tips on how to get more backlinks?

  72. David Avatar Davidsays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  73. Very interesting Brian
    I have shared it 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Sergio. I appreciate the share.

  74. Brian, this was a really great content. Did you find some differences between languages or did you only analyse English keywords ?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Damien, thank you. We only looked at English keywords and sites.

  75. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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”).

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

    Thanks a lot for just another comprehensive and helpful guide.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Fran, thanks. For sure: backlinks are still super important.

  77. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  78. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      No worries, Steve. Glad you found it useful 👍

  79. Fantastic analysis Brian. The point on schema in particular, although these also might help CTR (eg FAQs)

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  80. Excellent job as usual Brian. Very helpful information.
    Thank you.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Barry, you’re welcome. Glad you learned something new from the study.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      This comment states the obvious and adds nothing to the discussion.

  81. Hi Brian,Thanks for this amazing analysis.Loved all your case studies and data analysis, pretty much surprised with Page Loading Speed Data.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  82. Dilip Koshti Avatar Dilip Koshtisays:

    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.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      👍👍👍

  83. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  84. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  85. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  86. Great post Brian. You really are the industry leader with this stuff. Very detailed and easy to understand as well.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thank you, Tony. I appreciate that.

  87. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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.

  88. 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!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Hazel, HA! That’s a great example of this data playing out in the real world.

  89. Thanks Brian

    As usual, your posts ate amazing

    I’ve been learning A LOT here in backlinko

    Best wishes from Caracas, Venezuela

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Luis, no problem. Happy to hear that.

  90. 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!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      👍👍👍

  91. Nick Avatar Nicksays:

    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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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://old.backlinko.com/hub/content

  92. Very surprised to the results, thought page speed had a greater impact great to know! This article was very informative to study. Thank you, Mr.Brian and Ahrefs.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Ediz.

  93. 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.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      👍👍👍

  94. Daniyal Avatar Daniyalsays:

    Not even a single new thing

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      🤷‍♂️

  95. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thank you, Olivier. I don’t think you necessarily have to use a tool to write comprehensive content. Just be sure that your content covers your entire topic and uses LSI keywords: https://old.backlinko.com/hub/seo/lsi

    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

  96. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

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

  97. 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. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      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?

  98. 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.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Anil. What do you mean be “better”? To Google, backlinks measure better.

  99. Thank you so much for sharing this data with us. It’s great to be able to make data-based decisions.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Happy to help, Nikolai.

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