On-Page Features That Correlate With Big Google Updates + New Data on Keyword Cannibalization

By Cyrus Shepard
Updated: April 3rd, 2024

Originally published as part of the SEO Tips Newsletter. Sign up free.

As Google “recovery” stories continue to be far and in between, does it ever seem unclear what exactly Google means when they demote a site for “unhelpful content” or one of their other ranking systems?

I tried to figure a small part of it out.

Taking 50 sites that saw either significant traffic gains or losses over the past several months, I looked at 50+ distinct on-page and UX signals, and then hand-collected over 2500 individual data points – yes, this took a very long time. I then performed statistical analysis on the findings to mine for insights (thank you, Code Interpreter!)

The results are… illuminating, to say the least.

Unsurprisingly, ad and affiliate-heavy sites got hit the hardest, and we see this reflected in the data. The average number of ads on “winning” sites was 6.32 per page, while “losing” sites displayed a whopping 14.01 ads per page.

However, the number of ads wasn’t even the most interesting thing about the study. In fact, ad count was only the fifth highest correlated feature. In total, the study identified 17 on-page features with statistically significant correlations to traffic change.

These likely aren’t “ranking factors” in the traditional sense, and correlation doesn’t equal causation. But in the age of machine learning and pattern matching, these features may provide solid hints as to what Google rewards in search results as high-quality, helpful content.

Read the post and see all 17 correlated features here.

Top SEO Tips This Week

1) How to find Google Notes for your website and what those Notes could signal about quality, UX, the ad experience, and more

Glenn Gabe provides some fantastic advanced search queries/operators to reveal specific Google Notes for websites. Many sites don’t have notes yet, but keep this one in your back pocket for larger sites/clients.

2) Keyword Diversification: Cannibalization’s Good Twin (SEO Study)

The myth that all keyword cannibalization persists on SEO blogs everywhere, but is it true? In this much-needed study, Mateusz Makosiewicz proves what many of us already suspected: some keyword cannibalization is actually good. In fact, the majority of it may be beneficial for many sites.

3) Thought Exercise: What if people stopped using search engines tomorrow?

If you believe Gartner’s predictions that search engine volume will drop 25% by 2026, and brands will see 50% less organic search by 2028, how do you prepare for this as an SEO and a marketer? Wil Reynolds has some thoughts for you, and they are very, very good.

Best of luck with your SEO!

Why You Should Trust Us On SEO

Zyppy started optimizing websites for Google traffic in 2009, led by Cyrus Shepard, a former leader at SEO authority Moz. We run dozens of SEO experiments per year, so we know the data. Our knowledge allows us craft successful SEO strategies for startups to Fortune 500 companies, and our mission extends to educating the public on SEO best practices. Learn more about Zyppy SEO.

Rank Higher with the free SEO Tips Newsletter

    Trusted Companies Subscribed to Ranking Factors

    Marketers at these companies subscribe to the SEO Tips Newsletter