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A review of the latest SEO ranking factors from the 2015 Searchmetrics report

By Simon Swan 24 Sep, 2015

Comparing the 2014 and 2015 ranking factors research

Searchmetrics, technology provider for enterprise SEO and content marketing analysis, has carved out a global business which answers the key questions asked by SEO professionals and digital marketers.

Following on from their 2014 Search Ranking Factors report, Searchmetrics have released their 2015 ranking factors, highlighting the key considerations to impact a brands search and content marketing strategies. Click here for your copy.

Last year I completed an analysis of the 2014 Searchmetrics findings – assessing some of the key insights and opportunities for brands use as part of their search strategy as well as overall digital vision. Here I will compare changes with 2015. Of course, Moz, also have their own definitive ranking factor review - Dave Chaffey has analysis of their 2015 ranking factors report.


Searchmetrics 2014 summary

From the 2014 Searchmetrics report, there were a number of metrics that supported the opportunity for brands to indeed consider creating a knowledge centre and more details on this can be read here. A number of the Searchmetrics findings compliment very well with the 3 pillars brands should consider when creating a knowledge centre, namely:

  • Authority – Is your search strategy delivering your brands voice of authority? Are you informing and delighting your audience by telling a great brand narrative through the content you’re delivering and that is found through search?
  • Are you building a narrative – Fine tune your digital narrative that can be communicated through your online content. Engage in conversations through social media channels with your audience and reach out and build direct relationships with your customers and audience giving your brand a personality and a human element to your proposition and online reputation.

Searchmetrics Report 2015

Following on from the 2014 analysis, here are some of the key findings of the 2015 Searchmetrics report and what brands should consider to help support implementing a vision of becoming a Digital Knowledge Centre. I have broken the findings down into key sections and which pages to refer to for further reading within the searchmetrics report.

The Searchmetrics report is divided into 7 keys areas of content that all impact search ranking factors and rank correlations and my analysis highlights some of the key factors that should be considered by brands when looking to create Knowledge centres.

1) Existence of Description and Header (H1) tag

The report found that meta descriptions were found in all of the URLs analysed. This helps optimize the search engine results page and provides clear signposting on the content of the page to help drive click through. There has been an increase in pages including an H1 tag compared to the previous year.

What this means for Brands

Audit your pages to ensure you have populated meta descriptions for every page of your site and that it’s tailored to the content of the page with a call to action. Find which of your pages include/do not include header tags and descriptions and look to optimise these on page sections related to the content of the page.

2) Keyword in Domain

There has been a decline in the number of websites achieving top 30 rankings with the keyword within their domain name, only 6% of exact match keyword domain are within the top 30 rankings, down 3% from 2014.

What this means for brands

Brands should not be concerned in having to bid for exact match domains should they want to achieve high rankings for a specific search term or phrase. Rather, they should look to focus on building out their content opportunities within the sector they operate and measure how their brand name becomes associated with such content groups. Suggested metrics to measure and monitor this performance is the Moz Site Explorer in assessing your domain authority as well as completing more extensive keyword research to accelerate content areas for your audience


3) Search volume of domain name

There has been a rapid growth in the search volume attributed to searching for domain names, thus the “stronger” the domain name, the more recognized they are to rank of the first page of Google.

What this means for brands

The majority of the URLs that were analysed within this report are part of successful domains that are generating large volumes of organic search through multiple landing pages. Building your domain authority around you brand should be central to help deliver more search results for non-brand searches and be associated to the brand. Brands should consider building out their content marketing efforts to drive content hubs and drive optimization for these content areas through search

 4) Ratio of homepages

There has been a downward trend in homepages ranking in the 1st position than in 2014. All top 30  results decreased in this regard, the top position decreased the least. Conversely, there has been a rapid growth in landing and internal pages gaining better search ranking visibility.

What this means for Brands

With the recent focus by brands to invest in content marketing and the strategy to develop content hubs and evergreen content to service search demand, this is paying dividends for brands to identify themselves as knowledge centres in maximising and serving best user experience to direct users to the these most relevant content pages


5) Number of images

There has been an increase in images found within the landing pages analysed which rank in the top 30 search results

What this means for Brands

Provides an opportunity to utilise your library of images within your organization to make use across your site and help to add value and points of difference to your page content. Analyse the content you have already created and look to create galleries of images if it’s relevant to the content

6) Video Integration

There has been a decrease in the number of websites ranking with integrated videos on the page of their site compared to the previous year. However 8 out of 10 videos in the top US search engine ranking positions are from YouTube

What this means for brands

YouTube continues to be the channel of choice for your video strategy and is an opportunity for brands to re-purpose their content for video to help drive time on site and reduce bounce rate. It’s also a good tactic to consider in driving engagement for your brand through social sharing. Ensure you understand your metrics as to the channels used of choice and then understand how video could be consumed by the more popular channels e.g. mobile v Desktop – helps to increase time on site


7) Click through rate (CTR)

CTR provides a  measurement on what % of users click on a certain result in each position in the SERPS. CTR averages for the top rankings within the findings emphasise the point that the higher the search result, the more they are clicked on.

What this means for brands

Focus on providing the best user experience for all your landing pages to maximize the opportunity to enhance your CTR. According to Searchmetrics “landing pages with good SERP snippets that have an above average CTR can expect higher rankings”.

8) Facebook/Twitter Total

The number of likes and shares increased across the pages analysed within the search results positions. Webpages at position 1 have twice as many Facebook signals than pages ranking second. For twitter, the number of tweets and retweets on websites that rank in the top 30 showed a high, slightly decreasing correlation compared to last year.

What this means for brands

Ensure you are integrating your social media strategy and share buttons across desktop and mobile web to drive user engagement of content as well as channels to help amplify your content to social channels. This also provides an opportunity to associate your content with new audiences engaging with your content through social

9) Mobile

The percentage of mobile traffic continues to increase. Google were recently quoted as saying that “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan”. Due to this, Google launched a mobile update earlier in 2015 assigning the “mobile friendly” tag to sites that had optimized their experience for mobile

What this means for brands

Start to measuring how effective you are engaging and driving reach through your mobile channel and audit gaps and opportunities in how to engage with your audience or how this channel delivers what objectives to your digital strategy.

Focusing on your analytics to provide you with some quantitative insights into how users interact with your brand via mobile. I wrote a blog post on creating a mobile strategy here with some ideas on insights that you can be collecting.


The key themes from the 2015 Searchmetrics report in supporting your digital brand are around content, engagement and mobile fast becoming the go-to channel. As was highlighted in 2014, there is an opportunity for Brands to drive their content marketingefforts around expanding their domain authority and reputation for associated content within their industry sector. Brands should consider auditing opportunities through keyword research and engaging with their audience as well as auditing opportunities within their organisations to identify content hubs

Although social signals are not impacting search rankings, they are providing a channel to help drive social sharing of content by users. Brands should consider monitoring social engagement of the content that is being created to understand better what social channels as well as the “type of content” resonate better with their audiences so to help fine tune where budgets need to be invested.

Finally, the growth in mobile usage is fast becoming the dominant channel of choice for users – this means brands need to consider a mobile-first approach in terms of building their knowledge centre and engaging with audiences.

For more information of SEO ranking factor anaylisis, see our posts 'Update to Moz SEO Ranking Factors recommendations' and 'SEO Ranking Factors Correlation Research – Love or Loathe?'

By Simon Swan

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SEO Ranking factor analysis

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