SearchMetrics analyzed 300,000 websites in their Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation 2013 study to determine what Google’s top ranked pages have in common, and what makes them stand out from lower ranked pages.
A few key factors are pointed out:
As social media presence becomes more and more crucial, top ranked pages have a strong presence in social signals, including: Google+, Facebook Shares, Facebook Comments, Facebook Likes, Pinterest, Tweets. Social network activity is increasing, and frequently shared social content correlates with higher rankings.
Keywords in domain names and URLs have lost significance. They have lost their relevance due to recent updates in Google’s algorithm, which devalues excessive hard keyword links. As a result, the importance of strategically placed keywords throughout the webpage, as well as position in titles, has increased.
The rules for search engines seem to not apply for brand names. They seem to have more backlinks with the brand name in the link text alone, and not be penalized as other non-brand sites are.
Content quality, including: Number of internal links, HTML length, Word count, Keywords in body, etc. almost always correlate with higher rankings.
Number of backlinks continues to be a key factor in higher ranked webpages. This year, there was a clear correlation between higher quality backlinks and rankings.