Every now and then someone will conduct research that makes website owners reconsider how they approach SEO. One of the most compelling was conducted by Ahrefs, the developer of a widely used and highly regarded SEO platform. Looking at over a billion web pages, its research has revealed some very interesting and surprising facts about organic search results. Here, we will take a closer look at their findings.
1. Most pages never get any organic traffic
After analysing a billion web pages, Ahrefs discovered that more than 90% of them never got a single visitor from Google. Of the 10% that do, half of those get fewer than 10 visitors a month. Indeed, only 1.25% get 100 or more.
2. The number of web pages continues to expand
The more web pages offering the same or similar content to you, the more competition you face when trying to rank. According to Ahrefs, it discovers 1.8 million new web pages every day. That’s 657 million, every year. Add these to the 4.2 billion web pages already in existence and you can see how difficult it can be for some web pages ever to see the light of day.
3. 94% of new pages don’t rank
A study of over 2 million newly published web pages showed that only 6% of them managed to rank on Google’s first page in their first year. Most of these only ranked for one search term. The remaining pages failed to get a single visitor from Google in an entire year.
4. Lack of backlinks a ranking barrier
Ahrefs found a definite link between backlinks and ranking. The study showed that the more quality links a site had, the better it ranked. At the same time, the 92% of websites that had fewer than 3 backlinks were generally the ones that ranked least well and got fewest visitors. Of these, two-thirds of websites didn’t have any backlinks at all.
In total, only 5% of pages without backlinks managed to rank and most of those got less than a few hundred visitors per month. The reason many of these pages ranked at all was because they were on websites with high domain authority and internal links from other pages helped push them up the ranking ladder. Other pages managed to rank simply because they featured topics rarely covered by other sites.
It is important to point out here, that using paid-for links or any other linking strategy that contravenes Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, can result in your website getting a penalty and disappearing from Google altogether.
5. Irrelevant pages get ignored
When correlating search results against search queries, another startling fact was that many of the pages had zero relevancy for the things people were looking for. Search engine algorithms are astute in being able to match the relevancy of a website for specific search terms and will rank those pages which best match the needs of the searcher. Quite simply, there are billions of website pages, even ones with plenty of backlinks, that don’t, in Google’s opinion, fulfil any searchers’ needs.
Even those which have some relevance fail to rank simply because the content has not been updated in years and is no longer accurate. With 1.8 million new pages published every day, containing the most up-to-date information and advice, older pages become increasingly irrelevant.
6. Pages aren’t optimised for search intent
Another key reason why so many pages fail to rank is that they are not optimised for search intent. Search engines are highly sophisticated tools. Today, they go beyond looking at keywords and finding matching sites. Instead, they can take multiple searches and browsing histories into account and, from there, work out not just what the user is searching for, but their intention. For example, they can accurately tell if a user is wanting to find information about a product, get someone else’s opinion about it or buy it. This enables them to rank the most useful results.
Web pages that are optimised to meet a specific intent rank better. For retail websites, this could mean creating three separate web pages (a product information page, customer reviews page and sales page) each serving and trying to rank for a different user intent along the sales funnel.
With billions of web pages floating around the internet, the chances that yours will rank in search engine results is small. This can be dramatically improved through SEO and by creating relevant content which matches user intent. However, websites should not just rely on organic traffic to get visitors to their sites: paid advertising, social media and other forms of promotion can also be highly beneficial.
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