On the heels of an announcement by Google last week that anchor text does impact rankings, it once again opens an important argument, or at least a deeper explanation for those that dabble in the world of SEO in a DIY type of way, or are listening to providers tell them what matters and what doesn’t. An important part of being a good SEO consultant is to use the client budget in the most efficient way to move the needle and get sites ranking for the proper keywords that bring in new business. One of the more common issues I run into with SEO is people and companies not understanding the nuance of what “ranking factors” are, which can lead to a lot of wasted time and effort chasing after the wrong things, especially for small businesses on a limited budget.

Nearly Everything is a Ranking Factor

SEO Ranking Factors Pie ChartYes, that’s right.  Just about anything that has any bearing on your website user experience is a ranking factor. The important thing is how much does it matter, and that can differ by industry or even individual search. Everything is relative and different searches have different intents. One search may require a speedier result while another may require a more thorough result with a rich level of images and/or videos. It is highly dependent on what Google has learned their users are looking for.  A photographer may get away with a slower load time than a chiropractor because they are showing off their work and higher resolution images and likely competing against others doing the same thing.  It is important to understand what is important for your specific target keywords and of course understand what those target keywords are. Then focus your resources on the factors that have the most bearing on moving you up in the rankings. That is why a good SEO company can be so helpful. They help you avoid wasting all of that time, money, and energy on things that may not matter as much. If you can’t fix everything, you should work on fixing what matters most.

Ranking Factors are Nuanced – More Not Always Better

It is not only just about different factors having different weights for different searches, but there is even nuance to each ranking factor. In the opening example of Google acknowledging anchor text as being a ranking signal, we see a great example.  Think about these ranking factors and what they may mean. Anchor text provides context. Google is searching for relevance and natural links to websites. The words that are used for anchor text for a link give Google context to help them decide the topic and strength that is being sent along via that link. A local chamber of commerce link tells Google a different story than a link from USA Today. The text used for the link also tells a story.  A plumber may logically be helped by a link with “plumber” as the anchor text, but you can also have too much of a good thing and sometimes these are signs to Google that you are trying to cheat the system. Typically, you don’t have a lot of control of the anchor text used to link to you, so if 90% of your links have “plumber” as the anchor text, that becomes a red flag that those links aren’t natural.  So you can reach a line where you have too much of a good thing.  When links come naturally, you should see some “click here”, brand names, or simple url’s as links mixed in with some “plumber”, “fix your toilet” and other types of links that appear more natural.

This can be the case with any factor. Look at any ranking factor and realize there is nuance. Google is looking for natural signals and some manipulation triggers red flags that can negate the strength or relevance you are building. Know the rules before you jump in the game. It can be very important and knowing what not to do is often just as valuable as knowing what to do.