Today I want to go in to SEO Ranking factors. On Friday I touched on some of the technical SEO stuff that we learned at SMX Advanced in Seattle last week. Today I want to continue the series by going over some of the latest in ranking factors. I stopped using the SMX logo because Facebook won’t let me promote a share of any images with letters in them, so I apologize for the inconsistency in imagery, but I will tag consistently and link together so it is easy to read them all.
So the beauty of SMX Advanced is so many reputable sources come together under one roof. One session had both Moz and Search Metrics sharing early results from their latest ranking factor correlation studies. These are both reputable sources and to have them presented back to back really gives you a chance to see where they overlap, giving even more credence to what they agreed upon, which was considerable. They used slightly different rules with their studies, with Search Metrics removing what they deemed to be some brand bias from their numbers, but the factors seemed to agree in most part, with some slight differences in the specific correlation numbers.
It is important to keep in mind, as both presenters warned, that correlation does not equal cause and effect. As one presenter said, you may eat snow cones when you go to the beach and you may always get a sunburn when you go to the beach, but that doesn’t mean that eating snow cones causes sunburns. With that in mind, and having a historic knowledge of how SEO works through reading my blogs or being in the industry, you can gather a lot from these studies.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if everyone is doing something, the correlation becomes less obvious, as these studies are meant to test what people are doing to cause ranking improvements in the top ranking listings. If every page that ranks is doing some particular aspect of SEO, it isn’t going to show as “driving rank” because it is just accepted practice and not something that differentiates any more. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do this any more, just that it has become a standard and everyone pretty much does it.
With all that being said, let’s share some of the major contributing factors:
Backlinks Still Matter, A Lot
As has always been the case, and despite Google acknowledging that they are trying to get away from it, the number of domains that link to your site have a high correlation with your ranking. Google is definitely getting better at punishing the fakers or people getting links in bad ways, but the overall number of different domains linking is hugely important according to both studies.
Anchor Text Matters
Though at one time everyone “over optimized” and made all of the anchor texts the same as the keyword they were ranking for, and therefore it became a red flag when all of your anchors were the same keyword, it is still important. However, partial match keyword anchor texts are more important than exact match and having too many exact match is still a no no.
As we talked about in the tech post last week, https is mattering more and more. Though it is not a huge factor yet, it is a growing factor,and something that should definitely be in your plans. Especially for small businesses, for the price involved, it is worth getting whatever boost you get from this and being ahead of the pack for when it matters even more down the road.
Schema Dropping in Importance
Though we were told for the last few years how important schema is going to be, it appears to be dropping in importance. It wasn’t fully adopted and Google, with their tagging, as adopted its own version of this, and doesn’t have to rely on the industry standards. Engines are getting better at interpreting this information through page structures, etc. and don’t need to be relied on as much to be told through schema. As one reputable presenter said, if you have already baked in schema to your process, keep doing it, but maybe don’t put huge effort in to baking it in now.
News Sites and Readability Boosted in Search Metrics Study
Though Moz didn’t touch on these factors, Marcus Tober of Search Metrics, touched on news sites links growing in importance. Though people can overdo press releases, getting a good story about your business is a natural part of doing business and being newsworthy is a factor in being relevant. Including news in your plans is still important, but releasing press releases over and over again as your only plan, is not the answer.
Marcus also talked about readability importance and correlations being discovered with un-ordered lists and how easily readable the content is.
I will be doing another posting on semantic search this week, but “proof”keywords are becoming more important. Rather than your page just focusing on a specific keyword, Google looks for other keywords that it has determined should be around when you are talking about your core keyword and wants to see those in your content as well. It isn’t about a specific phrase, but about the concept and the solution. Google is getting better at figuring out the concepts involved in getting there.
Another great SMX Advanced and all of this stuff is important, but keep in mind that doesn’t mean that core competencies should be overlooked. The keyword in the title tag has dropped in correlation and some would say with semantic search it may be less important than in the past, but it is a factor employed by anyone who is trying these days, so that is also why the number dropped.
If you want to make sure your website is using the search factors the best way possible and you have a plan to maximize your search presence, please give us a call. We live and breathe this stuff, and we find a way to bring it to the smaller businesses in a way that fits your budget but still has an impact.