Searchmetrics Study on SEO: Keyword Domains Attract Top Results & Social Media & Backlinks Are Important

Searchmetrics just released a study today on SEO coming to the conclusion that Keyword Domain names still attract top results and that Social Media and Backlinks are very important in SEO results.

“The biggest unknown in SEO is always the algorithm. Many myths and rumors surround the “what” and “how” of Google results. Although SEO experts won’t be able to know the specific algorithm used, by examining the data you can figure out how best to influence results.””At Searchmetrics, we continually aggregate billions of data points a month and naturally look for the answer to the question: “Which factors are relevant for a good ranking in Google search results?”

“With this study, from February and March 2012 data, we get closer to the answer based on an analysis of 10,000 selected top-keywords, 300,000 websites and millions of links, shares and tweets.”

“The data shows that all of the factors that have a positive effect on SEO in the U.K. also have a positive effect on SEO in the U.S. although to different degrees and perhaps in a different order of importance from other variables. “

“A few highlights from our analysis

  • Social media signals show extremely high correlation: social signals from Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are frequently
    associated with good rankings in Google’s index. This is interesting in particular for the UK, which
    hasn’t had such a strong correlation with social signals up to this point.
  •  Too much advertising is detrimental: for the first time we are seeing sites with too many advertisements struggling to rank well. However, the problem correlates only to AdSense adblockers.
  • Backlinks are still important but quantity is not the only important thing: even though the number of backlinks is still the most powerful factor, links with stop words and ‘nofollow’ should also be included in the link-mix.
  • Brands leverage classic SEO signals: apparently pages with strong brands do not need be as concerned with the areas of title tags, headings etc. According to our figures, this group operates under different rules.
  • Keyword domains still frequently attract top results: despite all the rumors to the contrary, keyword domains are still alive and well and are often in the top rankings.


The larger the bar, the greater the correlation.The correlation coefficient is displayed on the x-axis.  Greater values along the x-axis (e.g. Facebook Shares) have a positive correlation (the more, the better) while lower values (e.g. Keyword position in title) have a negative correlation. Therefore, we can say that the largest correlation occurs between Facebook Shares and the lowest between the “number of words in text” for the U.S. and “keyword position in title (words)”.

U.S. Data:

In the case of social measures, the U.S. and the UK are in lock step in terms of importance of various factors. ‘Shares’ appear to have the strongest association, followed directly by the number of backlinks in the overall summary. Twitter is far behind these values but is still the 6th strongest metric in our analysis behind Facebook and the number of backlinks. A note on Google+: analyzing Google +1s with a Spearman correlation, we found a significant result of 0.41. From this we can assume that the quantity of +1s has the strongest correlation of any of the metrics analyzed in the study.

Advertisements might be an obstacle

Too many and/or excessively clumsy advertisements were presumed to be a factor in the Panda Update and its successors. The data in this study support this assumption as all our analyzed advertisement factors returned a negative correlation. The negative correlation was slightly stronger in the UK (-0.05 vs -0.04 for the U.S.).

General AdLinks (common integrations e.g. Commission Junction, AdSense and others) are slightly less negative than the use of AdSense alone. However it is important to note that the correlation value above is for AdLinks for all integrations including AdSense. If we take the % trend for AdSense integration and all other analyzed competitor networks according to rankings, we arrive at a surprising conclusion:

U.S. Data:

We can clearly see that AdSense advertisements drop sharply among the top rankings.

“However, all other forms of advertisement that we analyzed have in fact remained consistent. The bottom line is, then, that only AdSense has a negative correlation.”

“Regardless of the rising power of social media, backlinks remain one of the most critical factors in achieving good rankings.”Moreover, there still appear to be other quality factors at play when dealing with backlinks:

U.S.  Data:

These figures indicate that the proportion of nofollow links correlates more strongly with rankings than the proportion of links containing keywords in the U.S..

Keyword domains & URL keywordsThe power of keyword domains has been known for years and is still clearly visible in our analysis:

Keyword domains correlate much better with high rankings than results from just any random start page. The correlation with keyword domains is also significantly higher than the correlations for keywords in the rest of the URL title. Although Google has repeatedly emphasized that these sites will slowly weaken in power, this does not yet seem to be the case.

You can read the rest of the report here


  1. says

    They mention Google +1s having the strongest correlation, but it doesn’t appear in any of the charts. I realize FB is infinitely more popular and wins in terms of reach & time spent on the site, but considering G has started boosting results that have Google+ pages, it’s odd it’s not up there along with Facebook shares and backlinks.

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