A new study of 1 million Google search results were analyzed to determine which factors correlate with Google’s first page rankings. The research, conducted by Brian Dean of Backlinko.com, Eric Van Buskirk of ClickStream, and their data partners reveal 11 key findings that online business owners need to know. This article will cover the top four factors that correlate with high rankings in Google.

Top 4 Factors That Correlate with Google First Page Rankings

1. The Number of Domains Linking to a Page Correlate with Rankings More than Any Other Factor

Backlinks remain the dominant factor for ranking websites and web pages. When looking at backlinks, the key factor is the amount of referring domains (individual websites) linking to a site or page. To further illustrate this, it is better to get five links from five different sites than five links from the same site. According to Dean’s findings, domain diversity had the highest impact on rankings in Google.

05_Number of Referring Domains_line

Sites linking to a site act as endorsements for said site. Google wants to see several different sites endorsing a website, not just one site giving multiple endorsements.

The study states, “In fact, the number of unique referring domains was the strongest correlation in our entire study.”

Key Takeaway: Getting links from different websites is a must for getting into Google’s top ten.

2. Authoritative Domains, Not Pages, Tend to Rank Higher in Google

A website’s overall link authority, as measured by Ahrefs Domain Rating highly correlates with Google rankings.

08_Domain Link Authority (AHREFs Domain Rating)_line

A website’s overall authority had a stronger correlation to rankings than the authority of the page that was ranking. In other words, a website’s domain is more important than the ranking page itself.

Key Takeaway: Individual pages on a site may rank higher when the number of links pointing to the site increases.

3. Comprehensive, In-Depth, Focused Content Outperforms Shallow Content

In the early days of search engine optimization, Google would determine a page’s topic by looking at the key phrases that appeared on the page. I a term or phrase appeared X number of times on a page, then Google would deem that page as relevant for that term or phrase.

Thanks to the intelligent Hummingbird Algorithm, Google can understand the topic of every page without looking at specific verbatim terms or phrases.

For example, when a search for “2016 Candidates” is conducted in Google, Google doesn’t look for pages that contain the phrase “2016 Candidates” but understands the meaning of the question and provides the information sought.

The new algorithm creates a new challenge for online businesses. Whereas, before, websites were able to produce shallow content and point links to a page to rank it in Google, now, websites need to cover individual topics in-depth.

Comprehensive content significantly outperforms shallow content.

07_Content Topic Authority (MarketMuse Data)_line

The more focused a website or web page is, the higher the website or page tends to rank in Google. This is known as Topical Authority. The higher the topical authority, the higher the ranking.

Key Takeaway: Providing on-topic, comprehensive, focused content may help websites and pages rank higher in Google.

4. More Words On a Page Translates into Higher Rankings

According to Dean’s findings, “pages with longer content ranked significantly better than short content.”

02_Content Total Word Count_line

The average word-count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.

Multiple search engine ranking factors studies have come to the same conclusion that longer content performs better than short content in Google.

Further Study Resources:

Additionally, studies have shown that longer-form content receives more backlinks than short-form. More backlinks, as previously noted in this article, correlate with higher rankings. Long-form content produces multiple effects:

  • Long-from content tends to rank higher
  • Long-form content tends to receive more backlinks
  • More backlinks highly correlate with first page rankings

There are many theories as to why long-form works better for ranking in Google, but only correlations have been made.

Key Takeaway: Long-form outperforms short-form content. Shoot for 1,890 words or more.


In order to improve website rankings in Google, business owners need to focus on creating in-depth, long-form content that attracts backlinks to a website and internal web pages.

What You Can Learn About SEO From Analyzing 1 Million Google Search Results