Category: Author: Jaren Martineau
Let’s face it, everyone wants to be visible in Google. The closer your website is to the coveted first position of the first page of Google search results, the more likely your website will be found by visitors.
Scaling the mountain
Google’s interested in showing only the most relevant and useful content available. The problem for search marketers is that the words “relevant” and “useful” are vague at best.
Website content creators aren’t given a clear path to reach the pinnacle. Google keeps its search algorithm a closely held secret. Every blue moon, the search giant’ll throw us a bone, sharing a hint or clue that encourages good practices and behavior. But, for the most part, they keep the pertinent details close to their proverbial vests. Why? Releasing this information would make it much too easy for marketers to manipulate the system.
What’s a marketer to do?
Luckily for content creators and search engine marketers, there are researchers out there investing a great deal of time attempting to define and monitor factors that impact Google rankings.
These studies share valuable insights on the factors–there are well over 200 identified–that contribute toward your Google rankings. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that many of these studies are based on correlation, or surveys of so-called experts. While these studies can certainly help, they leave gaps in understanding, and in some cases, may even be partially misleading or conflicting.
So…you know, let’s dive into some of these ranking factors reports!
We’re starting with the 2015 SearchMetrics report–mostly because they’ve made the information super digestible.
You’ll notice the number of back links–links from other websites that point back to yours–remains an important factor.
More interestingly is their take on the importance of click through ratio, time on site, and bounce rate. These user experience metrics are new findings in their study. Other newly added ranking factors include SSL certificates, mobile responsive websites, and site speed.
The Moz 2015 ranking factors report based their findings on both correlation with large data sets as well as survey results.
In agreement with Searchmetrics, Moz also found that back links are still prominent in Google’s ranking algorithm. The number of quality links pointing to your website, in addition to more specific linking factors such as the number of unique domain names and the number of unique IP addresses are strong factors in Google’s algorithm.
The findings also shows a slight decline in the value of exact keywords in the algorithm. Moz believes this is because Google’s ability to discover the meaning of a Web page in the absence of repeated, exact keywords is slowly increasing.
Interestingly, the Moz report doesn’t go into much detail about user experience metrics as ranking factors, even though Moz’s own Rand Fishkin recently created a Moz Whiteboard Friday session with some interesting information on the value of those measurements.
This year a newcomer’s joined the fold. Northcutt published an interesting variation on determining Google’s ranking factors.
Their report is based on specific Google citations of various ranking factors, technologies identified by Google patents, and actual scientific studies. The report lists the likelihood of legitimacy for each identified factor, and dispels commonly held myths about rankings factors.
Northcutt’s report indicates that probably as far back as 2011, Google’s used correct spelling and grammar on a Web page as one of its contributing ranking factors. Negative factors include the same foreground and background colors, one pixel image links, and broken internal links within your website.
The report debunks several SEO myths including the one that adding Google Analytics to your website or setting up Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) positively impacts your rankings. Still others include that using Google’s pay-per-click service–Adsense–increases your rankings, and that a dedicated IP address on your website server is a positive contributing factor.
I look forward to these reports each year–yeah, I get it, maybe I should get a hobby.
The number and complexity of these ranking factors requires careful examination and consideration for your website ranking improve. While there are vendors who would lead you to believe that SEO’s a relatively simple set of factors, it’s clear these practices are complex and dynamic.
Some factors are much more important than others and it’s important to have a strategy in place in order to make the best use of your SEO time and efforts. Often we find it’s a better value to spend more time on several of the most important ranking factors while excluding others that are of a lesser value. While you can’t may not be able to take advantage of every one of the hundreds of ranking factors, the more that you can control and improve, the better you’ll rank.
Hiring an experienced SEO company that keeps up on the latest trends will make or break your website rankings.