One of the best ways to bring forward new ideas is by exploring SEO data, trends, and research. Not only is reading-up on the latest search studies a vital way to stay informed, but it can also offer renewed perspective.
In many cases, compelling data can reshape how we think about SEO and what new opportunities we may be missing. So to cut through the clutter of generic SEO roundups and surveys, here are ten pieces of SEO-related data that we’ve distilled into actionable strategies.
1. SEO is 10x More Effective Than Social Media Marketing
Data from BrightEdge, one of the industry’s most dominant sources of SEO intelligence, suggests that an overall majority (over 50%) of all traffic across the Internet comes from organic search.
Specifically, 51% of all website traffic comes from organic search, while a mere 10% stems from paid search, 5% from social media, and 34% from all other sources, like direct, referral and email.
That translates to SEO being 10x more effective than social media in generating traffic to a site. That’s not say a social media strategy isn’t important. But it does shed light on how brands might want to structure their marketing budgets.
Sure, for some brands and local businesses, investing a healthy portion of marketing dollars into social media is the right thing to do. But if those same types of businesses are not blogging, or producing any content to share on their social platforms, then they’re missing out on both social and SEO opportunities in failing to do so.
In other words, having a cohesive content marketing strategy that combines SEO and social media packs the biggest punch – not just for generating traffic, but also building awareness, audiences, and trust. Additionally, much of the same effort in producing and sharing content can be repurposed for email marketing too.
2. Only 9% of Web Pages Are Visible in Google Search
Based on an Ahrefs study that looked at over a billion web pages, a little over 9% of them are actually visible in Google organic search. In other words, about 91% of web pages across the Internet receive no organic search traffic whatsoever.
There are a number of factors that contribute to this. In addition to the fact that 4 out of 5 Google users never make it past page one of the search results, many sites lack the fundamental SEO to enable their pages to be found by users.
The Ahrefs study goes on to discuss a couple other reasons why 91% of web pages are virtually invisible. The first reason is because a page doesn’t have any backlinks. As we discuss in more detail below, backlinks do correlate to higher rankings. The second reason is that most pages fail to target a specific topic (or keyword theme) with sufficient search traffic potential.
Sure, not every web page is published to be a high-ranking SEO asset. But, with 9 out of 10 web pages never seeing the light of search, many sites are missing out on the most popular source of traffic: organic search.
Whether for on-site SEO or as part of a content strategy, performing keyword research and extracting relevant search data goes a long way in helping to inspire topics as well as optimize content for target keywords. Although considered the most rudimentary of SEO practices, purely being keyword-relevant is foundational to ranking in Google and driving qualified users to a site.
3. Direct Website Traffic is the Most Influential Ranking Factor
With content and links often being the hottest topics of conversation in the SEO community, the most dominant ranking factor rarely gets discussed. That is, direct website traffic.
Supported by a recent SEMrush study, Google places direct website traffic as the most influential ranking factor in search.
To be clear, direct traffic is defined by users who visit a site directly from the browser bar without searching Google or clicking a link on another site. Like link signals, Google views this behavioral factor as a powerful indication of a site’s credibility, trust, and authority.
This underscores the importance of having a diversified marketing strategy beyond Google search. SEO itself, especially for a new site, can take time before starting to produce search visibility and traffic. And while Google Ads can help bridge the gap, it still doesn’t send direct website traffic to a site.
Consider optimizing for this ranking factor by expanding your marketing mix:
- Start building an email list and creatively employ an email marketing strategy to promote sales, content, and your brand.
- Use social media platforms to start building relationships, grow visibility and followers, and promote your content.
- Start blogging (including guest blogging). This supplements what you share via social media and email. Blogging also supports your site’s SEO, as blog posts can earn organic traffic and links from other sites.
- Consider joining certain groups and business networks, such as your area’s chamber of commerce (sometimes the citation and referral link alone is worth the membership fee.)
- Sponsor local events, conferences, or even consider charitable donations.
- Consider high impression offline advertising (ie billboards, direct mail, etc.) that drives users to your website.
4. More Backlinks Correlates to Higher Rankings
After that last bit of SEO data, you maybe wondering “what about links?” In painting a broader picture behind what influences search rankings, Backlinko set out to see whether or not Google still uses link signals as a primary ranking factor. Based on its findings, the study claims that “the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.”
So although the latter SEMrush study found direct website traffic to be the most influential ranking factor, link signals still play a powerful role in determining a site’s search rankings. But before we begin debating over backlinks and direct website traffic, it’s important to dissect what exactly Backlinko is saying in its findings.
In short, “number of domains” does not mean number of links. Rather, this metric defines the number of different websites (or “referring domains”) in which a site is earning backlinks. In other words, Backlinko’s claim is based on a site’s link diversity.
So how can you cultivate greater link diversity in your SEO strategy?
- Have an active social media presence where it makes sense and promote your best content to help increase its visibility (thereby helping encourage other bloggers and publishers to link to it.)
- Become a guest blogger on other publishing platforms.
- Take advantage of online directory listings, whether local or industry-related.
- Submit your business to Local Data Aggregators like Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, Factual, and Acxiom (we use BrightLocal to help us with this)
- Create linkworthy content on your own blog or website (easier said than done)
- Consider other link building practices, like broken link building and outreach to earn placements on other sites
5. The Top 5 Google Organic Listings Get 68% of the Clicks
Perhaps the most authoritative and up-to-date source of organic click through data is Advanced Web Ranking. This recent 2019 analysis looks at both desktop and mobile searches in U.S., with a sample of 2,666,696 keywords across 50,765 websites. In short, the top five organic listings receive 68.8% of the clicks, with the top three owning 55.7% of those clicks on desktop.
That’s more than ⅔ of desktop users clicking a page within the top 5 Google organic listings. The distribution of organic click-through data on mobile is slightly less, with the top five earning 58.8% of the clicks. However, that’s likely because users are often required to see paid ads before reaching the organic on a mobile device (desktop paid ads are slightly easier to bypass.)
Not only does this data support the importance of SEO on all devices, but it also suggests Google Ads on mobile are potentially more effective than desktop. For certain keywords in which a site ranks well organically on mobile devices, doubling-up with a paid ad could significantly increase its click share.
6. The Average #1 Ranking Page Will Also Rank for About 1,000 Other Keywords
If you’ve ever looked at the Organic Keywords feature in Google Analytics, then you’ve probably noticed that a vast majority of traffic comes from “(Not Provided)”. Using CaptivateSEO.com as an example, a whopping 98% of keywords are nestled under this seemingly useless label.
Case in point, the “Also rank for study” from Ahrefs helps articulate what’s going on here. The study set out to answer the question “how many keywords will an average page rank for?” What it found was quite astonishing.
The SEO study found that an average #1 ranking page will also rank in the top 10 for nearly 1,000 other relevant keywords.
Here’s a basic scenario that helps translate the study’s findings into a real world situation. Let’s say you stepped in someone’s chewing gum while existing the grocery store. Curiously, you ask Google “how to remove chewing gum from your shoe?” A post that offers several great solutions is shown in the featured snippet. That same post also happens to rank for hundreds of iterations of the same question you asked, a few being:
- removing gum from shoe
- best way to get gum off shoes
- getting gum off shoes
- how to get smeared gum off shoes
- how to get hard gum off shoes
You get the point. There are many ways to phrase the query, but the underlying user intent is essentially the same.
The same concept applies across all types of keywords. For instance, a common mistake SEO’s still make today is creating several dedicated pages to cover the same keyword theme and user intent model. That is, having redundant pages that target keywords like “SEO agency,” “SEO company,” and “SEO firm” – all synonymous with same model.
Instead, it’s far more efficient and effective to create one piece of content that can rank for numerous variations of the same keyword theme. Whether it be your content strategy or internal pages of your site, consider taking a more consolidated approach and targeting specific user intent models instead of individual keywords. Just take a look at this link building guide from WordStream and all of the different #1 rankings it has achieved in just one post:
7. Local Search Queries Containing “Near Me” Have Increased 219% in the Past 3 Years
This SEO data we pulled ourselves from Google Trends. In the last three years (2016 to 2019), local queries containing “near me” have risen 219% worldwide.
The “near me” trend is no secret to the SEO community. So beyond discussing just how popular these localized searches have gotten over the last few years, it’s important we emphasize how businesses can better position themselves for these queries.
The SEO cornerstones we typically employ in this context include:
- Claiming and optimizing a business’s Google My Business listing is essential, as the local pack (which is comprised of GMB listings) almost always appears in the search results for “near me” queries.
- Implementing LocalBusiness schema markup on your site can help improve visibility for “near me” search queries.
- Having a mobile-friendly site is also absolutely critical to be competitive for “near me” searches, as smartphones are largely responsible for this growing search trend. To assess this, try using Google’s Mobile-friendly Test Tool.
- Incorporating certain on-page SEO techniques can help increase local relevance for “near me” related search queries.
- Business can also leverage Google Ads to bid on relevant keywords that contain “near me” (or suggest local user intent), which is particularly effective with mobile search.
8. 76% of Local Search Users Will Visit a Business Within 24 Hours
Yes, you read that right: 76% of people who use their smartphone to conduct a local search (i.e. “shoes downtown Atlanta”) will visit a business within 24 hours.
If that isn’t enough to magnify the importance of local SEO for brick and mortars, then consider that the same research from Think by Google found that 28% of those local search queries result in a store purchase.
This underscores why SEO is more than just growing search visibility and traffic. It’s also about mapping the customer journey and leveraging those insights to instruct decisions about content, offers, and other strategies.
If you support a brick and mortar, then this data applies to you. Make sure to cover the basics like:
- Making it easy for people to contact the business via email or form submission AND phone.
- Clearly having store hours available, as well as up-to-date holiday hours. This includes GMB, Facebook, and other listings where users might be checking to see when your open.
- Having webpages for the products, or at the very least the brands, in which the business carries.
- Promoting discounts and specials on the site. A rotating banner is an accommodating feature for this.
9. Social Signals are Correlated with Higher Rankings
Although social signals (such as Facebook Likes, Shares, Tweets, Pins, etc.) are not explicitly said to be Google ranking factors, compelling research by Cognitive SEO indicates that social signals do actually influence SEO.
The first part of Cognitive SEO’s research looked at overall social presence. It found that the average number of shares, comments, and likes on social media platforms correlated to a higher ranking in Google.
Taking a look at Facebook activity, the study showed that a stronger presence on Facebook is clearly linked to better rankings. Specifically, the data highlighted the top 3 ranking sites to all have significantly higher Facebook Likes, Shares, and Comments than the rest of the sites ranking on page one.
In essence, social media affects SEO because all of this sharing adds up to more visibility of a site’s content. If lots of people are sharing your content on social media, then it’s far more likely that people will link to it. And as we know, links are still hugely influential in determining a site’s rankings.
If you’re not already investing in boosted posts and other social media initiatives, then it might be time to give it a try. While Facebook shares alone might not boost a page’s rankings, it does help increase its exposure. In turn, this can help build awareness (which may contribute to direct website traffic) and may even help attract links.
10. By 2020, Over Half of All Searches Will Be Voice-based
With voice command smart speakers becoming popular household devices, voice search is rapidly on the rise. So much so that voice search predictions by ComScore are on track to becoming a reality. By the year 2020, it’s predicted that over 50% of all searches will be initiated via voice search. And unlike traditional search where users see multiple organic listings, with voice search, you either win or you lose. There is no second place.
From a strategic perspective, data from seoClarity points to related insights that can be applied to SEOs and content marketing strategist. Based on the data below, 20% of all voice search queries are generated by a combination of only 25 keywords.
For voice search optimization, it’s clear that producing content that almost literally speaks to certain questions is the way to go. That is – structuring content so that it asks the question and then answers the question. Supporting this idea is the growing prevalence long-tail search queries, which are often more descriptive and question-oriented.
It’s no secret that developing a voice-search friendly content strategy has become integral to modern day SEO. It’s also why you see more and more bloggers positioning their content as questions. For instance, instead of a post titled “5 tips to help rank your site in Google,” it’s “how to rank your site in Google in 5 simple steps” (note the SEO-friendly trigger work being “how” in this example.)
It seems like every week the Google search landscape is evolving with new changes and algorithm updates. This makes SEO a continuous practice of strategic adaptation.
But for most SEO’s, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds, overly-focusing on specific tasks like creating content and building links. While these things are important, it’s good to take a step back and see the bigger picture of what’s going on it the world of search. Hopefully these SEO studies will lend to much-needed inspiration to help actualize new strategies.