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SEMrush Study Finds Most Powerful Influencers of Search Rankings

By November 29, 2017SEO

In a previous blog we took a look at SEMrush’s latest study of SEO ranking factors. “Ranking Factors Study 2.0,” analyzed the top 100 search results for 600,000 keywords and found the common SEO practices among the top ranking sites.

Direct Traffic Boosts Search Rankings

To cut to the chase, the most influential ranking factor is direct visits to a website. This means that Google gives your site extra credit if people don’t search for it at all–they just go straight to your site. “Direct website traffic is the most influential ranking factor,” the study said. “That is, when many users go to a website directly it is a good sign to Google that the domain has high authority and value.”

One of the best ways to increase direct traffic is through backlinks from other high traffic sites. Backlinks are also a powerful ranking factor, but backlinks now rank lower that direct traffic and user experience as ranking criteria. However, direct traffic and backlinks go hand-in-hand, so they may form a kind of  SEO team that boosts your sites credibility in the eyes of Google.

Other recommendations to increase direct traffic is to use short, easy-to-remember URLs, use direct email with links back to your site inside, and to promote your web address on all advertising and marketing collateral.

User Experience Matters and is Measurable

The second, third and fourth most important ranking factors have to do with user experience–time on the site, number of pages viewed, and the site’s bounce rate. “User behavior signals such as time on site, pages per session and bounce rate also influence website rankings, since they indicate website quality and relevance for users,” the study said.

According to SEO guru Neil Patel, people spend an average of 15 seconds on a web page. His recommendations for extending this time period have everything to do with content–making it engaging (even funny), emotional, readable, and human.

List-building company Optinmonster recommends design elements to increase the length of site visits. “An average web users spends less than a few seconds on a site before they decide to stay or leave,”  Noumaan Yaqoob writes on Optinmonster’s blog. “This is a very short time window, in which you need to convince them to stay. The best way to do that is by cleaning up your site’s design.’

Recommended design improvements include moving the most useful information to the top of the page, improving readability (text and image size, location), and using high quality images.

TrenDemon to Reduce Bounce Rates

One tool that can dramatically impact bounce rates is TrenDemon. TrenDemon analyzes behavior on your website and identifies the most productive content, and then allows you to create offers that guide visitors to the content they are most likely to value. The platform measures how much pages are read, and how many people reach the goals you define for your website. Since implementing TrenDemon on our own site, our bounce rate has been cut in half.

SEO Keeps Changing

The SEO game keeps changing. Search engines are getting more and more sophisticated in their ability to measure user satisfaction with the results they deliver. You can’t just rely on keywords and tags any more. You need content that engages visitors so that they stay longer, visit more pages and return often through direct access. This behavior is difficult to manufacture or manipulate, though improvements in design and a good backlink strategy can certainly help.

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