Moz is one of the industry leaders in search engine optimization research and analysis, and the search rankings factor studiesĀ that the company conducts every two years are invaluable for marketers and anyone with an interest in SEO.

search engine rankingsWhereas anyone who is interested and willing to take the time to learn can get a pretty good grasp of what generally goes into search ranking algorithms by perusingĀ blogs and whitepapers, these landmark studies are among the most comprehensive SEO resources out there, accounting for not only a wide variety of expert opinions but also hard data derived from in-depth correlation studies.

Last week, Moz released the results of its 2015 Search Engine Rankings Factors examination, featuring input from more than 150 leading search marketers and data culled from extensive correlation studies performed on high-ranking websites. The information is all geared toward Google’s algorithm, but the concepts generally apply to any engine and of course Google is the search industry standard.

You can dig into the SEO study results here , but today we’ll take a look at some of the key takeaways.

Domain-Level Link Features Lead the Way

This refers, in a basic sense, to the dot-com (or dot-net, dot-org, etc.) domain where you host your company’s website. Is your site name short and unique? Does it match up to the keywords that you’ve built your content around? Do other authoritative sources link to it? Does it have a strong PageRank? These are all important questions when it comes to root-level link features, and while many of them need to be primary considerations in the initial planning stage of your website, there are ongoing tweaks and adjustments that can be made to optimize.

Page-Level Link Features Aren’t Far Behind

These dig deeper into the meat of your site, applying the same concepts mentioned above on a more granular level. Again, PageRank is vital here, as are trust metrics, inbound/outbound link source quality, anchor text distribution and more. As you can see from the almost non-existent gap in Moz’s influence ratings (8.22 out of 10 vs. 8.19 out of 10), page-level features are almost equally weighted with domain-level. These factors are more easily adjusted and optimized through a strategic SEO campaign.

Keyword and Content-Based Features Are Quickly Growing in Importance

And that is one big reason that content marketing has become such a fixture for digital marketers — the SEO benefits are significant and growing all the time as algorithms become more intelligent and complex. Ensuring that your website has dynamic, relevant content in terms of on-page copy, blogs and keyword usage is critical. The weight of page-level keyword and content features relative to the last study two years ago has grown, and that trend only figures to continue.

Relevance is the Name of the Game

No matter which factor we’re talking about — domain names, page URLs, on-page content — relevance almost always ranks among the most important aspects. If you want your website to rank well, it is absolutely imperative that you have defined focus keywords and tailor your links, content and anchor text around them.

The Impact of Social on SEO is Still Largely Unclear

Social Metrics were the lowest-ranking factor listed on Moz’s report, checking in beneath Domain-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features. However, the authors did note that “the number of social shares a page accumulates tends to a show a positive correlation with rankings,” and made this acknowledgment: “Although there is strong reason to believe Google doesn’t use social share counts directly in its algorithm, there are many secondary SEO benefits to be gained through successful social sharing.” In other words, while heightened social media activity might not play directly into Google’s algorithm, there is substantial evidence that it does lead to higher traffic, through search and otherwise.

Where Do You Stand?

How does your site rate across the emphasized category within the Moz report, such as domain-level and page-level link features, content and keyword relevance, and social and brand features? For a free SEO report, simply take a few seconds to fill out this form.