Ranking-Factors 2018

Searchmetrics has recently published a study on the most important ranking factors for 2018. Searchmetrics has adopted a new approach this year and is no longer focusing on general statements but is analyzing specific industries and market segments to better understand which criteria influence Google rankings.
According to Searchmetrics, market segments are a specific online market that is defined by a specific product portfolio or search interest. An example to help better illustrate this is: e-commerce describes the industry, while garden furniture represents the market segment. Ranking factors for market segments are therefore a new, in-depth approach by Searchmetrics to better understand the criteria Google uses to evaluate websites.

Although general ranking factors reflect trends in well-ranked websites, they are not necessarily suitable as optimization aids for webmasters and SEO experts. As Google continues to improve RankBrain, user queries are becoming better understood and search results are becoming even more accurate.

If you want to optimize your website according to SEO guidelines and trends, it is important to know as exactly as possible, which ranking factors are relevant for your market segment.

Which Market Segments were Analyzed?

In 2017 Searchmetrics analyzed the most important ranking factors of the following industries: E-commerce, finance, health, travel and media. Searchmetrics also decided to examine these industries for this year’s analysis and select two market segments from each.

The following industries and market segments form the basis of this study.

  • E-commerce: furniture and automotive.
  • Finance: credit and financial planning.
  • Health: Slimming and recipes
  • Travel industry: Destinations and camping.

What is a Ranking Factor?

Finding an official definition of a ranking factor is almost impossible. Search engines use an algorithm to evaluate websites by topic and relevance. This evaluation is used to rank and display websites in the search engine index. The criteria used to prepare search results are the so-called ranking factors. It is important that not all ranking factors are valid across industries, but that they can differ from industry to industry.

Top Ranking Factors in 2018:

  1. Content relevance including word count: The number of words on all selected URLs was analyzed. The displayed value refers to the average of the top 10 search results per market segment.
    The overall average word count was 1,692 words. Thus the recommendation of 500-800 words per landing page is probably outdated. Nevertheless, the number of words varies from market segment to market segment. Users in the financial industry prefer landing pages with detailed information, while users in the travel industry prefer less detailed content.
  2. Number of images: The number of embedded images of the respective URL was examined, the image size is not relevant here.   Content in the form of images is particularly desired in the e-commerce industry. Through the use of product images, the industry achieves an average of around 23 images per landing page. The industry with the fewest images is the financial sector. As already mentioned, here more value is placed on information in the form of text.
  3. Integration of videos:  According to the study, the integration of videos is only relevant in the market segment “slimming”. Significantly more videos are used here than in all other market segments. The average in this market segment is an average of 0.4 videos per page, while the general average is 0.08.

  4. File size: The file size (size of the HTML document in KB) varies greatly between the individual market segments. For example, the file size of furniture pages is on average five times larger than that of landing pages in the financial sector. Certainly, one of the main reasons for this is that more images are used on e-commerce sites, which inevitably leads to an increase in file size.
  5. HTTPS: 

    HTTPS encryption is now standard and pages without HTTPS protocol now display a warning in browsers. This is especially problematic when pages request personal data or handle purchase processes.

    The results of this year’s study show significant differences in the use of HTTPS encryption. The fewest HTTPS encryptions were found in market segments whose business model is designed for revenue from advertising placements.

    The largest number of pages with HTTPS encryption can be found in the e-commerce and financial industries. The “credit” market segment, in particular, is far above average, followed by landing pages from the “furniture” market segment.

  6. User Experience: Internal Links: 

    Even when analyzing internal links, there are clear differences between your individual market segments.

    Not surprisingly, e-commerce market segments have more internal links than financial market segments. The reason for this is, of course, the internal product linking.

    In the end, it is important that the internal linking makes sense and that the logic of the link structure is understandable for the user and for the search engine crawler.

  7. Subordinate Lists: 

    With this ranking factor, the results also differ significantly across market segments. For example, pages from the automotive segment have more lists than pages from the furniture segment. The reason for this is that cars need even more information than pieces of furniture, because width, height and depth are usually sufficient for furniture. There are also significant differences between camping and destinations in the travel industry. Landing pages for travel destinations make more frequent use of lists, for example to list attractions for each country.

    Check your own industry and find out how often Google Featured Snippets plays out on the so-called position 0. Featured snippets require HTML list markups. If your site makes use of featured snippets, this often means a significant increase in traffic and conversions.

  8. Microdata: Embedding microdata into gives Google a better understanding of the content of the site. In addition, microdata as rich snippets, for example for ratings, recipes or price presentation on the search results page, can provide a significantly higher click rate. The market segment that uses microdata the most is recipe pages. Here, microdata is used to display cooking time, calories, ingredients and ratings.

  9. Tables: Tables display content on a landing page in a more structured way. Although tables are not used as frequently as lists in all market segments, it is noticeable that tables in the market segments automotive, financial planning and camping are much more frequently found than in the other market segments examined.

Conclusion and Summary

The study not only shows the differences between individual market segments, but also proves that every website operator should research exactly which ranking factors are relevant for their own market segment. Nevertheless, the following basic principles can be taken from the study:

Content: The right choice of content is a fundamental success factor. And when it comes to the choice of content length and the integration of images or videos, there is no magic formula. It is important that you make the content as understandable as possible for your users.

Technology: The technical optimization of a website is always going to be a big factor, but you should not lose sight of the needs of your market segment. If you want to reduce the file size of your site, this is certainly a pleasant approach, but you should make sure that you do not part with important content. This could then bring you worse ranking positions despite optimized file size.

User Experience: Search engines can use artificial intelligence to better understand whether a website provides added value for the user. Therefore, you should always make sure that you present all content in a user-friendly way. Analyze your direct competitors here as well.

If you have further questions on this topic or need support with the SEO optimization of your website, write me an e-mail.

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