Search engine optimisation techniques and tips for anyone who is serious about their website. SEO is not for the feint hearted and it requires consistent application of a wide range of techniques and initiatives to be applied on a regular basis. There are a number of things that you can do to improve your website through a better understanding of what SEO is about and what is required. Through a growth in your own understanding you will be able to deliver a better web solution and improve your chances of attracting greater and better qualified leads to your website.

Does SEO really work – a report by AHREFS only confuses matters further

In a very detailed report compiled by well-respected SEO company AHREFS, over 2 million random searches were analysed to examine the correlation between SEO factors agencies were gone to optimise your website and actual ranking position results derived. The report raises a number of questions and on the surface questions the value of many long held SEO beliefs.

We have closely looked at the report and offer our own interpretation of the results presented. We strongly suggest you read the report online (or you can download a printable version – all 33 pages – for easy reading.).

The first thing to note is that the study is only examining on-page SEO factors which really are only part of the story when it comes to improving your website’s SEO ranking position.

With the updates we have seen, and will continue to see, from Google, it is our belief that off-page factors will have an increasingly more important role to play in ranking determinations.

The report looks at the correlation between individual SEO techniques around the placement of exact keywords in different elements of your website and the actual SEO rankings observed in real search results. The report examines exact match keywords in the following areas.

  1. Keyword in Domain Name
  2. Keyword in URL
  3. Keyword in Title
  4. Keyword in the beginning of the Title
  5. Keyword in Meta Description
  6. Keyword in Headline (H1 tag)
  7. Keyword in Subheading (H2 tag)
  8. Keyword in Content
  9. Keyword in the first 100 words of a page
  10. Keyword in image “alt” tag

A summary of the correlation results is shown below.

On-Page SEO Factors

One of the key off-page factors in SEO is back linking to your site content. Quite interestingly, AHREFS includes the following graph that shows how significant Backlinking compares to some of the better-known and more commonly used on-page SEO factors.

Backlink Factors Vs On-Page Factors for SEo

What this report does do in our view, is reinforce the importance of off-page SEO techniques, or at the very least, reduce the significance of many on-page SEO factors that have been long held as being more important than what now appears to be.

We must say however, that any apparent correlation should not be read as causation. This is because, statistically speaking, the results presented by AHREFS can’t be used to link specific reasons to the interpretation given.

On-page SEO

Long held as the bastion of SEO, on-page techniques look at how you can organise content within your site to maximise your ranking advantage. Originally focussed largely on keywords, on-page techniques have been expanded and changed, even in the way in which search engines interpret keywords has itself been changed.

The exact, impartial or broad matching of keywords is no longer enough in the search engines are becoming more "interpretive" now aiming to understand the "intent" of user searches in the websites themselves.

Have you ever looked at some search results and wondered just how some site rank the top four keywords they don't seem to refer to it all?

This is because they have utilise SEO techniques not focused on keywords strategies. They have most likely achieve the ranking results from off-page SEO tactics.

So is use of exactly keyword matching as good as we have been led to believe? The results presented largely indicate there is no significant value. Remember, however, that correlation does not represent causation.

So should we abandon the long standing practices of keyword research and matching altogether? I would suggest not as it certainly can't do you any harm to continue with these practices. I will say however that now focusing on your target audience themselves is more important, so creating meaningful and relevant titles, descriptions, URLs, etc. is a more pragmatic solution utilising your keywords as part of the process rather than being the process.

With the changes in Google's algorithm focusing on delivering well written, well-structured and relevant fresh content, this has to be the top priority for SEO. Understanding your audience’s intent and purpose has now become the area of interest by search engines who now adopt "semantic" search techniques. As a result, website owners need to take audience intent into consideration ensuring that the context of their content aligns with the intent of their audience.

Some of the factors that do appear to hold true as being positive influences on ranking position are:

  • age of your domain.
  • Length of content in your pages (but not deliberately creating extra long content)
  • page load times (lower page speed score is the objective)
  • linking out to authority sites has slight advantage where other SEO factors are lacking.
  • Exact keyword matching will work when he failed to have quality content or any off-page SEO however if your competitors to employ these other factors then they will readily outflank you.

In conclusion

Do we feel our on-page SEO is a waste of time and effort? No not at all, as the most relevant aspect is in understanding that you only need to do better than your competition and at a local level this will largely fall to on-page techniques with limited off-page SEO. In Australia, this is a significant proportion of businesses.

If you are a local plumber in your concerned only about doing better than your local competitors. At a local level the SEO techniques relevant to you are going to be quite different to say, a national white goods distributor.

Whilst the report was very interesting and certainly gave rise to much thought and discussion, we do need to bear in mind that the results would have been US-based and that this is an entirely different market/.

What I think this report and study does do is illustrate that any SEO strategies need to be carefully considered looking closely at business and its target audience and that a very clear understanding of both is essential. SEO is no longer the “tick-and-flick” process too many have followed for too long.


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