5 Surprising Things the Top Ranked Sites on Google Have in Common

5 Surprising Things the Top Ranked Sites on Google Have in Common (And What You Can Learn from Them)

What separates the heavyweights of the search engine rankings from everyone else? That’s a question every good SEO constantly asks themselves as they look to outrank sites that seem to dominate Google for every relevant keyword (like Wikipedia or WebMD).

Unsurprisingly, these sites have more than a few things in common. It’s not just their age or authority either—factors that other sites can’t hope to match. There are plenty of similar qualities that help top sites stand apart from their competitors that you can copy and improve today.

Let’s review five of the most important and surprising factors and explain what you can learn from them and how you can use that to improve your own site.

1. Backlinks Reign Supreme

Let’s get the least surprising commonality out of the way first. The top-ranked sites on Google all have a serious number of backlinks. As we all know, high-quality backlinks almost always mean high rankings.

Research from Backlinko finds the first result on Google has an average of 3.8 times as many backlinks as the rest of the results on the first page.

Top ranked sites Backlinko study

The big boys have it made when it comes to acquiring more backlinks, too. They continue to get more backlinks over time as a result of their position in Google.

Research by Ahrefs finds that the top three results generate more new referring domains than the rest of the pages on Google. Pages ranked first and second get significantly more new referring domains. Those pages ranking first get between backlinks at a faster rate of between five percent and 14.5 percent per month.

top ranked sites Ahrefs study

It’s not just a large number of backlinks that are important. They need to be high quality, too. What does a quality backlink look like? It comes from an authoritative domain, is placed within its content, and has topical relevance to your website.

Let’s say you have a car blog. A link from another high-ranking car blog carries more weight and is of higher quality than a link from a major health website because it’s much more relevant to your niche.

You shouldn’t discount internal links, either. The biggest websites (and news outlets in particular) almost always put a lot of effort into making sure every new piece of content links back to several previous posts.

Great internal linking makes it significantly easier for Google to crawl your website and index your information. The easier your site is to crawl, the more likely Google will find and rank your content. They may not have the same power as backlinks, but internal links can still result in higher rankings.

All this is to say that you need to build backlinks in a scalable way if you want your site to compete with the biggest brands in your industry.

2. Provide High-Quality Content

Most top-ranking websites are well known for the quality of their content. Okay, some major sites don’t publish high-quality content all of the time, but every high-ranking site does produce exceptional content, at least some of the time.

Don’t forget, high-quality content doesn’t necessarily mean it’s longer or more detailed than everyone else’s. It might contain unique research that other companies can’t hope to copy. Or it could break a story. Or it could be designed better. Or it could go viral. There are lots of ways to create amazing content.

Doing so matters when it comes to SEO because high-quality content helps boost several ranking factors. It’s a magnet for backlinks, it reduces your bounce rate, and it should result in a higher clickthrough rate (CTR).

The top-ranked sites don’t just rely on the objective quality of their content, though. They also take steps to optimize it to perform better in Google. That means including keywords in header tags, throughout the content, in the page title, and in the URL.

Creating high-quality content isn’t easy, especially when there’s no objective way to determine how good your content is. That’s the job of your users. That being said, there are still steps you can take to make it more likely your users think highly of your content.

The first is to make sure it’s written by an expert. This is a pretty simple task for some top-ranking sites like media outlets. Journalists, by default, are experts on certain topics. However, there’s nothing stopping you from writing about your expertise or hiring expert writers, either.

You could even use a strategy adopted by some health websites, where content is written by a professional writer and then fact-checked by a medical professional. Doing so has the double benefit of having content written by an excellent writer while also being medically accurate.

3. Focus on User Experience

Top-ranking sites on Google put a premium on the user experience and do everything they can to keep customers coming back. This means having a great design, high-quality content as discussed above, an intuitive layout, and a great browsing experience in general. Yes, some of the highest-ranking sites may serve up ads on their pages, but they don’t ruin your browsing experience with them or use intrusive popup ads, either.

A great user experience is one of the reasons these sites are top of Google, after all. Google announced that user experience metrics would be used to rank sites, beginning in 2021. How your site loads, what it looks like, and how users interact with it contribute to your rankings, along with other factors like HTTPS, safe browsing, mobile friendliness, and the presence of interstitials.

Google puts such a big emphasis on your site’s user experience because it aligns with its goal of giving customers the best possible browsing experience. The search giant finds over half (52 percent) of users will be less likely to engage with a brand after a bad mobile experience. So why would it rank you if you have a high bounce rate?

Improving your site’s user experience and aligning it with the experiences provided by the top-ranking sites won’t just improve your rankings; it also makes commercial sense. Ad network Ezoic generated a 186 percent increase in earnings per 1000 visitors by improving the UX of a publisher.

4. Make Sure Your Page Speed Is Competitive

You’ve never had to wait for the New York Times to load, have you? That’s because top-ranking sites know the importance of delivering content as fast as possible. Page load speed has been a ranking factor for desktop searches since 2010, and Google announced it was also a ranking factor for mobile searches back in 2018.

Say it with me: A slower site means lower rankings.

You need to optimize for page speed if you want to mix it with the highest-ranking sites. It’s not so much about getting the edge over your competitors and making your site 0.1 seconds faster, however. It’s about having a site that’s fast enough to not impact the user experience negatively.

Research by Google finds over half (53 percent) of visitors abandon a mobile site if it doesn’t load in three seconds.

If you have a slow site, you won’t just get penalized for a poor load time. You’ll also get penalized for having a high bounce rate as users get fed up with waiting and choose a different site instead.

The easiest way to check your page speed is by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It will let you know how fast your site is, give it a score out of 100, and suggest improvements.

Top ranked sites page speed

If you want to have a seriously fast-loading page, read my advice on getting a perfect score with Google PageSpeed Insights.

5. Consider User Intent

Have you noticed how some top-ranking sites have several pieces of content that all seem to approach the same topic from a slightly different angle? That’s because they understand the power of user intent and the value Google places on it.

Google wants to serve up the best and most appropriate content for each query. A big part of that is understanding what the user is trying to achieve from their search. Are they trying to learn something? Research a topic? Make a purchase? Google delivers different results for each intent.

For instance, Google shows e-commerce pages where it thinks the user is trying to make a purchase, but it serves up blog articles for information-related queries.

Knowing what type of content Google thinks users want to see is key to becoming a top-ranked site, because you’re much more likely to get ranked if you create content that matches the user intent for each target keyword. This is why so many top-ranking sites have similar content targeting the same topics: to catch every user intent.

It’s not simply a matter of informational vs. commercial, either. There are dozens of types of informative content that users may want to access. In some cases, it’s a listicle. For other queries, a video may be more appropriate.

Taking time to understand the user intent for each keyword or topic you’re targeting can yield serious results. Marketing SaaS CoSchedule saw a 594 percent increase in search traffic when they aligned content with user intent.

Top Ranked Sites: FAQs

What do the top-ranking sites have in common?

They all have a lot of high-quality backlinks, great content, an excellent user experience, a fast-loading website, and content that matches the user’s intent.

Why do the top sites have so many more backlinks?

This is partly because of the quality of content but also due to the fact that they sit at the top of Google. This makes them an easy target for people trying to link to an authoritative source.

How can better content improve my rankings?

Better content can improve your rankings in several ways. High-quality content attracts more backlinks, but Google also rewards in-depth content and results in users spending a long time on the page.

Why does user experience matter?

Google wants to provide the best experience to its users. Part of that means sending them to sites that are easy to browse. It’s why user experience factors are now ranking factors.

How can I check my page speed?

Use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool.

How can I gauge user intent?

Google the keyword you want to rank for and look at the pages that appear in the results. If all of the content has the same format, that’s the type of content you should create.

Conclusion: What You Can Learn From the Top Ranked Sites

You can’t turn your website into a top-ranking site overnight. However, you can learn a lot from them and implement tactics they use to improve your site’s Google ranking. There are more than a few things they do in common, as you’ve learned.

Make sure you have a scalable system for generating backlinks, create high-quality content, focus on the user experience, ensure your site loads fast, and consider user intent when you create content.

Do these five things, and you could be well on your way to having a top-ranked site in the future.

What are you going to work on first?

Mindful Marketing: 5 Uncommon Ways To Work With B2B Influencers

Businesswoman in wild glasses against an unusual orange striped background image.

Businesswoman in wild glasses against an unusual orange striped background image.

What are some uncommon ways B2B marketers can successfully work with influencers?

One of the many advantages of working with subject matter experts (SMEs) who are influential in their industry is the sheer variety of ways that marketers can collaborate to build a mutually beneficial partnership.

While we’ve explored many of the traditional ways B2B marketers often work with influencers, we wanted to take a look at a few of the unusual ways collaboration is taking place.

Let’s dive right in, with examples from both SMEs and marketers who’ve implemented uncommon takes on the B2B influencer partnership that can help inspire your own influencer programs.

1 — From Influencer to Long-Term Friendship


Christopher Penn, co-founder and chief data scientist at Trust Insights, has found that an influencer partnership can on occasion lead to something bigger than the sum of its parts.

“Uncommon experience? Becoming great friends with one of the folks who was originally just doing outreach,” Christopher shared.

“There’s always a bit of a power imbalance in any kind of influencer situation, especially in cases where someone is asking for help and there isn’t a tangible exchange of value — like payment,” Christopher explained.

“But occasionally you run into someone that’s just a solid, good human being, and the commercial relationship evolves into an actual friendship. Rare, but delightful,” Christopher noted.

Successful B2B influencer marketing programs are often built on long-term professional relationships that find brands and SMEs working together and helping one another over the long haul, giving rise to always-on efforts that gain strength as years of shared experiences and successes accumulate.

Finding friendship is a bonus that can sometimes happen when working with influencer programs, and is certainly one to treasure as Christopher shared.

[bctt tweet=”“Occasionally you run into someone that’s just a solid, good human being, and the commercial relationship evolves into an actual friendship. Rare, but delightful.” — Christopher Penn @cspenn” username=”toprank”]

2 — Building Trust with Pre-Release Influencer Briefings

Michaela Underdahl

For Michaela Underdahl, marketing lead at customer relationship management software firm Nimble, there are a variety of uncommon tactics that can be used when working with industry influencers.

“One of our main goals at Nimble is to turn the influencers that we work with into power users and evangelists,” Michaela said.

“So, every time we are launching a new feature, we brief our influencers prior to the release date and request quotes describing the benefits of the feature to them. Depending on the type of the influencer, we use the quotes in various different ways,” Michaela explained.

“Some of the more common ways are press releases and blog posts, but we also create social graphics and use the quotes to reach out to additional influencers and press. This helps us open new doors as people recognize these influencers and are more likely to start working with us since they know we already work with people they know, like and trust,” Michaela shared.

This trust and the variety of ways it can be nurtured when working with SMEs is another example of the power of influencer marketing to go beyond traditional content or search marketing initiatives, as we explored recently in “Trust and the Search for Answers: How Influence Optimizes SEO Performance.”

Empowering evangelists as Michaela noted can lead to stronger influencer relationships that benefit both brands and industry experts.

[bctt tweet=”“One of our main goals at Nimble is to turn the influencers that we work with into power users and evangelists.” — Michaela Underdahl @MichaUnderdahl” username=”toprank”]

3 — Discovering New Influencers In Unusual Social Hangouts

Woman By Sunny Lake Image

B2B influencer marketing continues to evolve, and SMEs in some industries aren’t always going to be found solely on the traditional social media platforms of LinkedIn*, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Many industries have attracted an infusion of newly-minted marketing professionals, and the SMEs they consider influential may frequent an entirely different set of online communication platforms, which could be any of the following or others:

  • Clubhouse
  • Reddit
  • Twitter Spaces
  • TikTok
  • Spotify Greenroom
  • Facebook Live Audio Rooms
  • Caffeine
  • Twitter Blue
  • MeWe
  • Twitch

Today there are more social channels than ever, and we all have our favorites for work, play, research, or other tasks.

B2B marketers are finding untapped audiences on uncommon social platforms — audiences that often become customers — and that feature potential influencers to consider for certain industries.

We’ve explored how B2B marketers can utilize some of these alternative social platforms in the following articles:

Additionally, Penry Price, vice-president of marketing solutions at LinkedIn, recently explored how B2B marketers can tap in to Gen Z, in “Focusing on gen Z: how B2B brands can hook this new generation of customers & candidates.”

[bctt tweet=”“Participating on the Clubhouse app immediately increased my social and professional networks. Clubhouse is amazing for the give-and-take communication and information exchange.” — Stephanie Thum @stephaniethum” username=”toprank”]

4 — Working Together To Drive Industry Knowledge

Colorful element particle image.

Perhaps even more than in B2C marketing, B2B influencers have increasingly formed mostly private groups that serve as communication tools for refining and driving the long-term success of influencer marketing.

Sometimes driving industry knowledge and empowering influencers are also tackled by more public groups, such as the popular Adobe Insiders program.

“Working with a small group of influencers can be a great place to start, but that small group should be backed by a much larger list of researched candidate influencers. As relationships develop through the course of different collaborations, B2B marketers will refine and find the right influencers. A VIP group of influencers might be created as Adobe has with its 60+ Adobe Insiders being activated at individual, small group or large group levels depending on the situation,” our CEO and co-founder Lee Odden noted recently in “B2B Influencer Marketing Strategy: 5 Questions to Ask First.”

The Adobe Insiders program is a diverse group of over 60 influencers that includes leading executives, industry leaders, major media correspondents, contributing journalists, and technology pioneers — including Lee.

Managing the B2B Adobe Insiders program is Rani Mani, head of employee advocacy at Adobe. Rani shared her insight into the program and how it drives industry knowledge and more in her in-depth interview for our Inside B2B Influence show, which is available at “Inside Influence 1: Rani Mani from Adobe on the B2B Influencer Marketing Advantage.”

[bctt tweet=”“I think we’ll see a lot more influencers standing up for their creative freedom and creative license and I think we’ll see less prescriptive micromanagement from brands.” — Rani Mani @ranimani0707″ username=”toprank”]

5 — Spark Interest by Mentoring New B2B Influencers

Woman holding ball of energy image.

By mentoring the next generations of marketing influencers, you’ll not only help new SMEs develop, but also continue your own lifelong learning.

Influencer marketing is a two-way street when it comes to mentoring opportunities.

“I think it’s really important that people seek out a person who is going to be a champion for them if they want to advance and grow their career,” Jen Holtvluwer, chief marketing officer at Spirion shared in our “Inside Influence 5: Jen Holtvluwer from Spiron on Award Winning B2B Influencer Marketing.”

“I’ve had so many that I still keep in touch with today that have been that champion for my cause. So I think it’s really important to not to do it alone and make sure you put in the time and that your time is noticed. And make sure that you’re marketing yourself to the right champion in the business. Then they’ll stay with you and refer you as other opportunities come up,” Jen explained.

We can do a great service to future generations by sharing our insight with aspiring young B2B influencers.

If we can spark an interest by mentoring a younger colleague, client or associate, we’ll contribute to a future of marketing that is more robust with your own personal knowledge passed along to the next generation.

We can do this by inspiring and mentoring young influencer talent by imparting your own passion for B2B marketing, as Peggy Smedley, editorial director and president at Specialty Publishing Media, shared with us in “B2B Influencer Marketing Advice from 9 Top B2B Influencers.”

“As influencers we are here to serve the mission and [know] that our influence on people comes from our ability to be a role model. We need to be very mindful about what we say and how we say it. We are always leaders and mentors and we need to focus on the needs of others first because we have been tasked with leading others. We always need to serve others and by doing that we are doing the best for ourselves,” Peggy shared.

[bctt tweet=”“We are always leaders and mentors and we need to focus on the needs of others first because we have been tasked with leading others.” — Peggy Smedley @ConnectedWMag” username=”toprank”]

Taming Your Uncharted Influencer Waters


By making the leap from influencer to long-term friendship, building trust by sharing pre-campaign briefings, tapping into unusual social hangouts, using influencer groups to drive industry knowledge, and mentoring future influencers, your own B2B influencer marketing program can benefit substantially from these uncommon tactics.

These five are only the tip of the influencer marketing iceberg, however, as the power of influence is expansive and only expected to increase as we make the push to 2022.

To learn more about the power of influence in B2B marketing, be sure to catch the new season of our Inside B2B Influence show, featuring in-depth video and podcast interviews with the top B2B influencers working with the world’s biggest B2B brands. The season kicked off with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs in “Inside B2B Influence 14: Ann Handley of MarketingProfs on Content Marketing and Influence.”

Creating award-winning B2B marketing with an artful mixture of influence takes considerable time and effort, which is why many firms choose to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Contact us today and let us know how we can help, as we’ve done for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and others.

* LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post Mindful Marketing: 5 Uncommon Ways To Work With B2B Influencers appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

MozCon Virtual 2021 Interview Series: Dana DiTomaso

We’re thrilled to welcome Dana DiTomaso back to this year’s MozCon Virtual where she’ll discuss modern web development that puts SEO first. Check out what she has to share ahead of the show!