Content Quality, Mobile, Speed Drive Search Engine Query Ranking

Content quality and quicker page load times continue to gain significance in ranking signals on, but a slew of factors contribute to why some Web site pages rank higher than others. The factors range from the number of video images on the page to whether the page serves AdSense advertisements.

Research from the Searchmetrics annual study of ranking factors for search results on suggests marketers are getting a better handle on the nuances of producing content. The study analyzes the top 30 search results for 10,000 relevant keywords and 300,000 Web sites appearing on

The findings identify key factors that high-ranking Web pages have in common, and a trend that suggests top ranking home pages continue a decline in query results. This means fewer home pages have a No. 1 ranking position this year, compared with last, continuing a trend that began in 2013.



The higher ranking of interior Web site pages follows Google's plans to direct searchers to the best page on a site for answers. Approximately 90% of the results with rankings between 2 and 30 are interior pages, not home pages. On the other hand, 30% of the URLs listed in the No. 1 position are home pages.

Mobile Speed Ranks

Site speed -- the speed in which a page loads on a Web site -- contributes to higher rankings in queries. Rather than compare the average desktop loading times with the previous year, the study presents a comparison of this year's page loading times between desktop and mobile devices.

Mobile pages, partly because of the smaller file sizes, load more quickly. In some cases they load in one-tenth of a second. The average loading time in the desktop top 30 is 1.2 seconds. The desktop top 10 load more quickly, at 1.16 seconds.

Higher-ranking URLs are shorter. URL length has increased since 2014 according to Searchmetrics analysis. The average URL length in the top 10 is 43.6 characters; in the previous year it was 36 characters. The top 30 have a somewhat longer URL structure at 47.5 characters. In 2014 the average was around 39 characters.

User Experience

While technical factors matter, user experience continues to have a major impact on query position ranking. User experience is related to on-page optimization and fits somewhere between technical and content, per the study.

The number of images found in the analyzed landing pages that rank in the top 30 search results rose in 2014, compared with the previous year. The ranking Web sites use around one-quarter more images. Some keyword searches lead to picture galleries ranking highest, For example, hairstyle trends 2015.

Interestingly, the proportion of ranking sites with integrated videos on the page fell in comparison with the previous year. Eight of 10 videos in the top U.S. search engine results pages are from YouTube. It has also become more difficult to get high rankings for non-YouTube videos, according to the study.

User experience also considers image, video and ad integration. While the number of images used on Web sites rose this year compared with last, the number of pages with video integration in the search engine results page fell. The percentage of Web sites in the top 30 rankings that integrate Google AdSense advertisements also declined compared with 2014.




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