Some Thoughts on Google Ranking Factors

By August 28, 2009 SEO No Comments

Rand Fishkin recently posted a nice in-depth look at on-page optimization over at SEOMoz.  In the piece, he acknowledged that on-page keyword efforts are only one part of a much bigger SEO picture.   Other slices of the SEO pie include time-tested concepts like link-building, site authority, and even something newer called social graph metrics.  These slices, or suspected ranking factors, were the result of the latest SEOMoz biennial survey of industry insiders.

The Pie of Search?

The Pie of Search?

What do all these other (speculative) pieces mean for SEO?  Let’s break it down:

1.) 23.87% – Trust/Authority of the Host Domain

Surprise! Is it 2004?  This is SEO 101.  “Trust” probably refers to how long the site has been around, as a more established domain has traditionally had an easier time getting rankings than a new one.  Another part of the “authority” might relate to how much, if ever, Google has nailed you for cloaking or creating link farms and doorway pages.   The guiltier you are, the more likely you’ll be exiled from the first page.   Still, how many of you readers know of a new blog or other website that was able to go toe-to-toe with more established players for competitive keywords in a relatively short time thanks to good SEO and a little luck?

2.) 22.33% – Link Popularity of the Specific Page

No surprise here.  This means the page gets links from other pages.  Probably lots of them.   Quality over quantity, but quantity does count, at least according to Google’s own Matt Cutts (see the excerpted quote in point #2).

3.) 20.26% – Anchor Text of External Links to the Page

Really?  Is the year really 2009?  Not to say anchor text (the words framing a link–see below)  isn’t important, but almost as important as link popularity?  Anchor text is one of those things that is nice, but I think most people would take a link from a quality site without ideal anchor text over a mickey-mouse link that contains anchor text.  For example, I would take a generic link to my employer from SEOMoz any day over a link from my grandmother’s website that recommended us as an SEO firm.   No offense, Grandma.

4.) 15.04% – On-page Keyword Usage

Use your keywords and use them well.  Meta-data, page title, headings, even boldface.  Again, if you have no idea how to get keywords on your page and behind-the-scenes in the coding, read Fishkin’s piece.

5.) 6.91% – Registration + Hosting Data

This likely means consistency in redirecting multiple domains with mirrored content using the “301 redirect” command.  Another matter of consistency could be the use of “www-” vs. non-“www” or domains vs. subdomains  and other elements at the directory level.

6.) 6.29% – Traffic + CTR Data

Shocker this number isn’t higher.   Traffic to a page and how frequently people click on your page once it’s in the results should be carrying more weight in the ranking equation.  Assuming Google’s algorithm is logical, it stands to reason that a web page that earns a first-page Google listing and then promptly takes a traffic dive would have a hard time holding down that top spot.  But only 6% for this factor?  Child, please!  In the name of reason,  how many of the 72 people surveyed were sober when these questions were asked?

7.) 5.30% – Social Graph Metrics

This factor may be an extension (or subset) of link popularity.  In the hot realms of social media and online social networking, social graph metrics refer to mathematical models that determine hierarchy–and resulting quality of connections/links–in groups.   In other words, if you are well-connected to the right people online, then your particular web page is more likely to appear at the top.  For more detail on social graphs of online communities, check out Valdis Krebs.*

To get connected online, try Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,  Ning, or any number of websites/applications that allow easy sharing and social networking.

Now, to paraphrase the Dos Equis commercials, get out there and stay thirsty for rankings, my friends.

***

*Hat-tip to colleague Dominic Litten

Photo courtesy of DigiDi via Flickr.

About Paul Richlovsky

Paul purposefully merges a creative writing and teaching background with his decade-long marketing career. He advises clients on content strategy, editorial direction and PR/distribution. He is a perpetual critical thinker who has written/edited hundreds of blog posts and multiple long-form marketing guides, including those aimed at audiences as varied as healthcare, higher education, financial services, B2C brands and manufacturing. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon."He gets really excited about the science of elite performance, usability, brand voice, headlines, digital governance, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece and nephews.

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  • Those look like a very accurate figures. Trust is the big one. I think bounce rate has a direct correlation with the trust factor. If people are spending a significant amount of time on your site that will help in building your trust factor.

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