In the geeky world of SEO, the bi-annual Moz Search Engine Ranking Correlation Study and Expert Survey* is as hotly anticipated as a new Star Wars film (well, almost!).
This industry-leading study consists of a number-crunching correlation study and a survey of 150 top SEO professionals. So, it provides rock-solid data and some fascinating insights at the same time.
Here's our summary of the top findings - and how they can help you get your website higher in search engine rankings…
SEARCH ENGINE RANKINGS - A QUICK CAVEAT
The Moz study is a correlation study, so it's looking at, quote, "Which attributes of pages and websites are associated with higher rankings in Google's search results."
It won't be able to prove that any attribute is what Google definitely looks for, or that one feature is necessarily more important than another. What it does show is the common features and attributes of the highest-ranking websites, and that's plenty good enough for us!
Top 10 search engine ranking tips
Here are the top ten search engine ranking findings identified by Moz:
1. Smarter use of more keywords
Gone are the days of using just one or two keywords per page. Google is getting smarter and will rank well-written copy containing related keywords and synonyms, whilst relying less on exact keyword matches.
Akira says: This is actually the way we've written web copy for years, so we're glad to see official confirmation that this is the right approach.
2. HTTPS usage
There was a debate as to whether having the extra security of https gave websites an advantage ranking-wise. Google has said this is a 'tie-breaker', so if two sites have identical rank, but only one is HTTPS, that will be placed above the other.
Akira says: All our e-commerce sites have https as standard, so they've got that tie-breaker edge already!
3. Long live links
We've always known links from other websites to your websites are important but this survey confirms they are still important, with high corrolations between rankings and numbers of links.
Akira says: One of the easiest ways to get links is to get your business listed in business directories
4. Is an exact match domain better?
The survey says - probably not. What actually makes websites with exact domain matches, e.g. "dogdinnerjackets.com", so effective in search engines results is that they often feature the keywords on their web pages a lot, and they are appealing to a niche market. The actual domain name itself is no advantage.
Akira says: Don't worry about buying new domain names; instead, build better content and links for the website you have
5. Is .com always best?
The survey say - no. It seems to make precious little difference to rankings.
Akira says: if you're in Canada, a .ca is just as effective as a .com, and has actual advantages in local search results
6. Links to a root domain v. links to an individual page
It's another of those debates - for maximum rankings benefit, do you try to get a link to your domain name (www.akirastudio.com) or to a page (www.akirastudio.com/services/search-engine-optimization)? The answer is: both. There is a relatively strong correlation between root domain links and rankings.
Akira says: Link to the page that's most appropriate in the context, such as a root domain link in a business directory but a specificpage link in an article
7. Anchor link text
The best type of links are descriptive. So, if someone is linking to your website, it's always better if the links is something like "social media services from Akira Studio" rather than plain "Akira Studio".
Akira says: We always write descriptive internal link text, using keyword variants wherever possible
8. Does social media influence rankings?
Now this is a biggie - do the number of social media shares affect ranking? The survey suggests - yes, they do, but not necessarily because Google counts them in its calculations, but through the associated SEO benefits of posting.
Akira says: Social media is a great marketing tool that has major website ranking benefits, especially in promoting your onsite blog
9. Domain registration expiry
Domains with a few months to expiry might be ranked lower than those with longer timeframes.
Akira says: Pay upfront for longer on your domain name if you can, but to be honest we're not worried about this one much as other factors are much more important
10. Low bounce rates = higher rankings
This one makes perfect sense; websites that keep people engaged for longer rank better. The more interesting your website content, the more people will stay to enjoy it.
Akira says: Keep your website engaging with videos, new articles, blogs, anything to keep eyeballs on the screen and fingers off the mouse!
And there's more
The survey covers a range of issues, from the importance of Google+ linkage to "under the hood" techie stuff, and there's a lot to digest. We'll be breaking this down into easy to read blogs over the next few weeks, so you can apply the findings yourselves, or ask us to help if you need us.