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Five vital factors affecting Google UK search rankings

It doesn’t matter what B2B market you operate in, getting on the first page of Google search results is a key way of driving customers to your site. But what are the factors that push you up the search rankings? 

To find out we analysed search results from for 10,000 popular-keywords and 300,000 websites in order to pick out the factors that seem to correlate with a high Google ranking. For the technically minded these correlations were calculated using Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, with a coefficient score of +1 implying a perfect positive correlation and a score of -1 demonstrating a perfect negative correlation.

We identified 30+ factors, but the most interesting are:

1) Social media has arrived in search
Social signals from Facebook, Twitter and Google+ now correlate very strongly with good rankings in Google's UK index. The number of Facebook 'shares' a web page has received appears to have the strongest association, while Twitter is the 6th strongest factor on Searchmetrics’ list of Google ranking factors (see chart here). What this means is that B2B marketers shouldn’t neglect social media – at the very least it will help you with search visibility. 

2) Top brands appear to have a ranking advantage
People think of search as a level playing field, but the study found that top brand websites seem to be enjoying a ranking advantage.  Factors that are commonly believed to help web pages rank well, such as the quantity of text on a web page and having keywords in headlines and titles, don’t seem to be as important a correlation in the case of large, well known brands – both B2B and B2C.

3) Too much advertising is a handicap
Google has persistently warned that too much or too prominent advertising on a site will be punished when it comes to search. Our study bears this out – and also that the rankings drop most when there is a high percentage of Google’s own AdSense ads. This supports Google’s statements early in 2012, in which the company said that particularly prominent, distracting or above-the-fold ads could lead to ranking problems.

4) Quality and quantity of links both count
The number of backlinks (links to a web site from other sites) is still one of the most powerful factors in predicting Google rankings. However to get the most benefit, it appears a site needs to have a spread of links that looks natural – rather than artificially created. So make sure your site has a proportion of ‘no follow’ links (links which do not convey ranking benefits) and links that contain ‘stopwords’ (such as ‘here’, ‘go’, ‘this’). Essentially, don’t over SEO your site or Google will notice. 

5) Keyword domains still frequently attract top results:
Surprisingly, despite all rumours to the contrary, B2B web sites with keywords in the domain name still often top the rankings. Although Google has repeatedly said that keyword domain sites will slowly weaken in power in searches, this does not yet seem to be the case. 

Our study gives B2B marketers five interesting areas to look at if they want to move their sites up the rankings – though of course at the end of the day only Google knows exactly how their search algorithm behaves. To find out more download the full report here.