October 27, 2016

Links and Content Still King in Search Rankings, Study Finds


A recurring question about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) lately seems to be, “Are backlinks still important to achieve a high Google ranking?”

The answer, in a word, is yes, according to a new study. In its latest 1 MillionResults Search Engine Ranking Factors Study, SEO company Backlinko has found that, when it comes to search rankings, links and content are still as significant as ever.

The study reveals a number of useful insights about the relevance of backlinks and comprehensive content in ranking websites on Google. Some of the key highlights are:

  • Backlinks are still an important Google ranking factor.
  • A site’s overall link authority strongly correlates with higher rankings.
  • Content rated as “topically relevant” significantly outperformed content that didn’t cover a topic in depth.
  • Longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results.
  • Content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images.
  • Pages on fast-loading sites rank significantly higher than pages on slow-loading sites.
  • HTTPS has a reasonably strong correlation with first page Google rankings.
  • Correlation between title tag keyword optimization and ranking is not very strong.
  • Shorter URLs tend to rank better than the long URLs.
  • Low bounce rate is associated with higher Google rankings.

Interestingly, the study supports the general assumption that getting backlinks from the same domain has diminishing returns. According to the analysis, it has been found that domain diversity has a significant impact on search rankings. The study asserts “Google wants to see several different sites endorsing your page.” It also adds that the more domains that link to you, the more endorsements you have in the eyes of Google.

What’s also worth noting is the importance of great content to improve website ranking on Google. Back when SEO was still a new concept, keywords played a major role in determining page ranking. But thanks to the Hummingbird Algorithm, Google now understands the topics of every page much better. Obviously, this should impact how you optimize content for SEO.

According to the study, comprehensive content significantly outperforms shallow content. Comprehensive content refers to in-depth, informative content that gives readers what they are looking for. It’s interesting to note that information-rich content performs better even if it does not explicitly use keywords repeatedly. In simpler words, you should focus on comprehensive content instead and not the keyword density.

For the study, Backlinko collaborated with Eric Van Buskirk creator of ClickStream and a variety of other digital partners.

Image: Backlinko

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Shubhomita Bose

Shubhomita Bose Shubhomita Bose is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers key studies and surveys about the small business market, along with general small business news. She draws on 8 years of experience in copywriting, marketing and communications, having worked extensively on creating content for small and medium sized enterprises.

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3 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    I think that content and the links that it has is still a good measure on how popular a content is and thus, it will always contribute to a website’s rankings.

  2. I was the project director for the study. Feel from to ask me anything!

  3. High quality back-links are the original plus one. Very informative read and a very thorough study. Thanks for sharing. Second place would be high quality content which leads to high quality back-links.

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