For a number of years, Searchmetrics has been compiling reports about Google’s ranking factors to help developers and SEOers get to grips with what the search giant is looking for.

Their latest report focuses on user experience, content, social signals, backlinks and technical aspects.

Here’s a quick round up to give you an insight into what’s going on.

User Experience

In this case, user experience focuses on design, usability and on-page optimisation.

  • The use of images on websites is increasing, but there are fewer videos as a direct result of Google’s decision to only play video thumbnails on the SERPs
  • The top 30 rankings contain fewer sites that include Google AdSense adverts – showing you shouldn’t distract your users with adverts that don’t enhance their user experience
  • Higher ranking pages are those that contain interactive elements that are easy to understand and that offer skimmable and scannable chunked text
  • The top ranking sites are responsive that don’t use Flash
  • User signals are playing a bigger role, such as click-through behaviour on SERPs, data collected through Google Analytics, personalised search, Gmail history and browser data


The old adage ‘content is king’ still holds true, plus relevant content has usurped keywords as the most vital factor for rankings.

  • Sites now contain more content, but volume should be directly related to helping your prospects buy, not just for the sake of word count
  • Content must be easy to read
  • Pages with the most relevant content ranks highest

Social Signals

There is a direct correlation between social signals and higher-ranking URLs.

  • Significant increase in the average number of social signals per URL and corresponding ranking
  • Social signals are involved in brand awareness, domain performance and direct traffic


It is believed that backlinks are losing their power to influence rankings as other factors begin to play a greater role.

  • Domain names are more frequently found in the backlink’s anchor text than a keyword
  • More backlinks refer to deep-link URLs rather than the Home Page
  • There are more no-follow links than before
  • Much of these changes could be a direct response to Google’s attempt to stop ‘unnatural’ link information


These relate to on-page factors that are not directly linked to a page’s content, but do contribute to the search engine reading your site.

  • Keywords are diminishing in importance. Google understands semantics and wants you to develop content that’s interesting to read, not crammed with repetitive keywords
  • The fundamentals such as highly optimised pages, meta descriptions and H tags are hugely important as they help make your pages skimmable and scannable
  • Loading times will have an impact
  • Domains with a high SEO visibility have higher rankings with their URLs (they have build a good reputation in the search engine)

The report is packed with excellent advice, especially the part about the diminishing role in of keywords as a ranking factor. Hopefully, that will mean we can kiss goodbye to those awful sites that cram every inch of their design with keywords.

You can get your hands on the full report here.