With Google’s constant algorithm updates, website owners tend to lose track of the most important factors that define their websites’ visibility in search. SEO is highly dynamic and its rules have been rapidly changing over the last few years, which is why it may be challenging to keep up to date with all the latest trends.

Therefore, any large-scale study in the field greatly helps in illustrating the real state of SEO and if you have been wondering what strategies and techniques work best in 2016, a fresh study by an SEO company Backlinko should answer most of your questions.

The study examined one million Google search results, looking at content, backlinks, speed, domain authority and other website elements to find out which ones matter most. Quite expectedly, the number of unique referring domains had the strongest correlation with the top positions. This means that link building techniques which focus on backlink diversity and authority of referring domains remain the essence of a successful strategy for boosting a website’s search visibility.

In addition to the number of referring domains, several other factors were found to correlate significantly with better search positions:

  1. Domain authority – measured by Ahrefs to assess the overall authority of a domain that links to your website.
  2. In-depth content – posts that focus on a specific topic and cover it in detail.
  3. Content length – the average length of the top pages in Google is 1,890 words.
  4. HTTPS implementation – as recently announced by Google, SSL has become a more relevant signal for the engine.
  5. Images – most Google first results had at least one image.
  6. Website speed – pages that load fast rank significantly higher in search.
  7. Bounce rate – a significant correlation was found between pages with low bounce rate and higher positions in search.

These factors give you a clear picture on what Google appreciates most on your website and are not really far from what the company has been talking about for the last couple of years. As for the factors that do not have a strong correlation with website rankings, schema markup, title tag keyword optimization and exact match anchor text no longer play an important role in the SEO world.

The low correlation, of course, doesn’t mean these techniques should be abandoned, but simply that your focus should be elsewhere.

Judging from Backlinko’s findings, it’s clear that Google’s perception of the web content has considerably changed compared to several years ago. Once again, website owners are given the actual reason to abandon manipulative techniques and old-school link building practices based on quantity. Instead, developing a methodological approach to generating more backlinks, while focusing on consistent production of relevant content and natural backlinks generation should be your focus.

For more info on how you can boost your website in search, consult our New York SEO Office.