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I recently had the opportunity to attend the Visibility_14 conference hosted by Searchmetrics in Chicago and it featured a great lineup of speakers covering a range of search and content marketing topics. It is always great to attend shows and bump into industry leaders in our “backyard” here in the Midwest.

Over the course of this week, I’ll provide specific notes, insights, or key takeaways that I think are worthy of sharing from the conference.

This post features a presentation titled:
“The Search (R)Evolution” by Marcus Tober of Searchmetrics.

Marcus went through a very intriguing presentation showcasing the past year’s SEO ranking factors based on their own primary research. Here’s a rundown of conclusions taken from a wealth of data, graphs, and advanced statistics.

Visibility_14 search marketing conference logoRanking Factors Research Background:

  • Tracked rankings 1-30 in Google search results for organic and video results for 10,000s of queries
  • The ever important reminder that correlation doesn’t equal causation
  • All comparisons noted are to the same data in 2013

On-Page Techniques:

  • Site speed (page load times) increased in importance by 200%
  • Avg load time 0.7-0.8 seconds per page for top rankings. 1.2 seconds average for page 2 search results.

Number of Internal Links

  • The brand factor – even if not optimized, Google wants to show it
  • Less is more!


  • Keyword in description is not as important as last year
  • Text length in characters – increased over past year by 12% (words, sentences, etc.)

Hummingbird Update:

  • This is not just about the knowledge graph
  • Contextual search (where you are, what device you use, etc.)
  • Conversational search
  • Semantic search

Context in Search is Important:

  • How are keywords connected
  • High correlations on content complexity and quality
  • Relevant keywords = high
  • Proof keywords = high

Mobile:  Only 64% of same URLs are ranking for desktop vs. mobile SERPs

Semantic Search:  Google is trying to understand and answer for users

Google (After Hummingbird):

  • It understands multiple queries mean same thing and delivers same SERP results for similar queries. Ups and downs in diversity of SERPs as Google is testing it.
  • Diversity is dropping in general slightly, but ups/downs. Question queries dropped 10%.
  • Example shared of rice dish vs. rice recipe with 2013 having just 2 matching results in the page 1 SERP compared to 2014 having 7 of the 10 matching.
  • Key takeaway is to be holistic in optimization and thinking.

Backlink Elements

  • Number of links dropped in correlation and importance
  • Increase in SEO visibility of linking URL.
  • A big takeaway here is to consider the visibility of the site/page that is linking to you.  You want links from sites/pages that are performing well in the SERPs too!

Evolution of SEO

  • More content isn’t better unless it is meaningful
  • Because of “not provided” we’ll look at URLs and not keywords.  Note: this aligns with my philosophy and a noted key takeaway from Tom Schuster’s presentation on The Future of SEO.
  • Keywords will become topics and rankings are an expression of relevance
  • Mobile content is becoming a ranking factor
  • Remember that search engines don’t buy products, people do

New in 2014 Data is an Analysis of User Signals in 2014:

  • Time on site has positive correlation (135 sec avg at top of page 1 results, 80 seconds at position 10)
  • Bounce rate = neutral correlation
  • Positions 11-13 have higher CTR than position 10.

SEO Conclusion/Goal:

  • Conserve traffic – conventional SEO-methods
  • New traffic through fresh content
  • Search engine optimization transition to search experience optimization


Want to hear more about this presentation, the Visibility_14 conference, or learn about Voltage?  Please reach out as I’d love to chat!

Read the previous post from Visibility_14: The Future of SEO-a business view” by Tom Schuster

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post covering the session by Prushant Puri titled “Content Marketing & Link Auditing.”

Chicago photo by Bernt Rostad, modified by Voltage.

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