Helping our Constant Profits Club students, I’ve looked at keyword research data containing 20 ranking factors per term, on at least 100 niche markets in the last two weeks.
Here are the ranking patterns I’ve seen consistently, and what they mean for you trying to get search engine traffic in 2016.
1. Word Counts Just Keep Rising
Search Metrics does a report on Ranking Factors each year and one consistent trend is the rising word count of pages ranking page 1 in Google for a range of keywords.
They’re not kidding.
1000 words isn’t a long article anymore. It’s a short one.
This is particularly true if you have a new website.
What I saw consistently is new websites (domain ages less than 1 year) ranking page 1 for keywords but mainly on the back of very large pieces of content (3000 words plus).
Incredible content even helps overcome the backlinks/trust gap that you have between other sites in your niche when you’re just getting started. Regularly when I saw sites ranking top 10, with new domain names and low trust scores, I’d scroll over on my sheet and see sure enough… a big monster relevant piece of content there earning them that place in the SERPS.
2. Trust Trumps (Even Content)
I’m going to write you a full, more detailed piece on trust soon, what it means and how to acquire it.
But all over the SERPS in basically any commercial niche, you see pages ranking, with a range of low ranking factors (low word count, low page backlinks, low domain backlinks even) so long as they have high trust scores.
If you’re a trusted domain name (According to Trust Scores… again, I’ll do you a big breakdown of this soon) you can put up short content… not get many links to it… not even optimize it very well and you can still rank and make money.
It doesn’t help a new blog/affiliate or content site at all but… one day it will if you keep at it.
3. Affiliate Sites Are Still Everywhere
Shutup about affiliate marketing being dead. Or about Google hating them.
Aff sites in one form or another are everywhere that products with affiliate programs exist.
They’re better than they ever where. And THIN affiliate mini sites are (almost) nowhere.
If you want a laugh, have a look at this article a friend sent me recently where BLOOMBERG (not a typo) featured a content site that had found a “new way” to get paid online… (I won’t spoil the surprise but… it’s affiliate marketing :))
On a more serious note, we’ve kept giving students the age old reminder that seeing other affiliates in your niche means someone is making money and you can too.
4. Outbound Reference Links Are Important
Those large pieces of quality content with thousands of words in them? They don’t just contain 5 affiliate links and nothing else.
They’re packed with reference links: Links out other high quality relevant sites on the topic.
In the Rankings Institute we talked about aiming (if you’re a fan of benchmarks) for 3-4 external reference links per 1000 words of content but if they’re relevant to the content and they serve your reader, you can double or triple that number with only positive effects.
There’s always this fear that linking out to other sites will have your traffic leaving your site in a way that doesn’t make you money. But from my heatmap tests, it just doesn’t happen as much as you think. Often not ever.
One rule I use is to think about the keyword someone found my page for, and think about what they’re most interested in. I don’t link out to an external authority with some anchor text that’s HIGHLY likely to catch my reader’s eye and make them want to click, according to how they found me. There’s no need, unless of course I actually want the reader to read that article.
If you think you’re losing a lot of traffic to your external links, there’s a simple solution: Heatmap it. You’ll quickly see if it’s happening and with a quick change of the link, the problem is solved.
If you’re choosing who to link to: Don’t choose the external authority links arbitrarily. Ask: Who is highly relevant and valuable to the topics I’m discussing who isn’t my direct competitor in the SERPS.
Last thing: Follow links.
This is a bit of a debate among SEOs but it’s pretty simple to me: If you’re telling Google that you recognize this site as an authority, why would you also tell them that you don’t want any link juice passed through to them? Why would you link to them in the same way you link to say an affiliate link? Bit weird, right?
5. Quality Sites Without Many Links Ranking
I’ve been saying this for a few years now, but it hasn’t stopped making me feel optimistic yet.
Sure, there’s still junk ranking all over Google. But I’m sure there’s less of them than there was.
Sure, there are still sites with ridiculous low quality link profiles ranking all over Google. But I’m sure there’s less of them than there was.
If you know what you’re doing, and you’re in it for the long term, the search engines are still a game “the little guy” can win.