Moz’s 2015 Search Ranking Factors: The Surprising (and Not So Surprising) Results

Every two years, Moz, a thought leader in the SEO industry, surveys expert SEO marketers about what they think is most critical to rank higher in search results. Earlier this week, the findings from this year’s survey were released.

Moz’s survey is extensive – there were over 90 ranking factors involved – and the data can get quite statistical and detailed. However, it provides an interesting glimpse into the state of affairs of search. Even though the survey results are based on opinions, the level of analysis these experts go through on a daily basis reassures us that the survey results are not merely educated guesses.

If you’re keeping up with the SEO industry day-in and day-out, most of the findings from this report won’t surprise you. The following were found to be essential SEO tactics to rank higher in search results and are nothing groundbreaking, but still important to remember:

  • Having quality links from authorities websites
  • Using in-demand search terms throughout your content
  • Writing content that people find engaging
  • Organizing your site so that it’s easy to navigate

All of these strategies have worked for years and will likely continue to work in the distant future. However after pouring through the results, there were a few not-so-obvious ranking factors that caught my attention:

  1. Little correlation between top-level domains (.com, .org, .net, etc.)
    Google has talked about how they’ve handled top-level domains (TLDs) before and the Moz survey results support this. The TLD you have isn’t nearly as important as many people think. If there’s a great domain out there, but you can’t get the .com or .net version of it, from an SEO standpoint you should be in good shape getting it anyway, as long as you develop a site that provides excellent value to visitors and uses quality SEO best practices.
  2. HTTPS sites have a low positive correlation
    In August 2014, Google informed everyone that HTTPS was now a ranking signal. This led many site owners to rush to get their sites converted. However, according to the Moz report, it hasn’t shown a noticeable difference yet. Fact is, most visitors won’t notice or care if your site is HTTPS. While it’s great to convert if you have the capabilities, it doesn’t have to be your most pressing priority.
  3. Social shares showing a positive correlation
    There are two parts to this. On the one hand, Google has said that the number of tweets/likes isn’t directly written into their search algorithm. So don’t expect to climb up the Google search results if your page gets a bunch of Facebook likes. However, if your content is getting shared naturally on social media, that tells search engines that the content you produced provides value. Which means it likely is checking off some boxes on some of Google’s other ranking factors, which in turn could be why you’re ranking well. Bottom line: Don’t get too hung up on how many social shares you’re getting and expect it to directly boost your search traffic.

Now we wait two more years before Moz’s next extensive survey. While it’s interesting to see so many of the SEO tactics digital marketers focus on continue to correlate with better rankings, it isn’t anything newsworthy. Keep writing great content that people naturally link to. Make your customers and visitors happy, and chances are you’ll find yourself on the positive side of the next ranking factor update.

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