SEO Factors – How David Beat Goliath
SEO factors are essentially the stepping stones, or blueprint, that bloggers must follow if they hope to gain a good search engine ranking or get substantial visitors via organic search. It’s not about manipulation, but rather about preparing your content in a way that makes sense, as we’ll talk about here.
If you search for SEO or getting pages ranked by search engines you’ll find that there are mountains of conflicting information and much of it outdated, specifically related to on page factors. Therein lies the problem for most bloggers; we lay our livelihoods (our blogs) on the line and hope that we’re doing it right so as not to find our hard work punished for spammy SEO, yet get our pages ranked well so that readers ultimately find, and enjoy our work. We base our actions on what we’ve read and learned online, to a large extent, and unfortunately many people just haven’t gotten the memo about search engine optimization for 2013 and beyond.
I’ve successfully gotten pages ranked on the first page of Google with the following elements at play: a new .info domain (.info on purpose as you may have read elsewhere on my blog), no backlinks for the post/page in question, very little social effort, using keyword appropriate titles and code (H1, etc…), appropriately using keywords and long string variations throughout, using synonyms throughout, and making sure to include relevant images and ALT tags and videos when possible.
What I’m saying is this… little guys with no budget, no social network and no substantial blogging knowledge can, in fact, do well in this SEO era if they write good content AND construct their pages in a way that makes sense to search engines and readers. So let’s see how and why.
Ranking Factors – A Rank Correlation Study
Below is a current and spot-on infographic which shows you exactly which metrics are most important for getting pages ranked these days, how those elements are inter-related and consequently, what you should be focusing on. This is your guide to on page SEO factors 2013.
Infographic by searchmetrics.com
What should jump out at you right away is that Google has an ego… that is, there’s a great deal of weight given to Google +1 social likes compared to Facebook and others. While they all matter, of course, if you extrapolate the most important SEO elements and make them your priority (since you can’t do it all) then you’re miles ahead of the pack. As is stated, it looks as if Google will have increasingly more “SEO value” than Facebook, so if you haven’t already, start building your +1 presence and activity.
Also standing out is that despite all the hoopla from “experts,” backlinks do matter, still. In fact there’s a strong positive correlation between backlinks and the top ranked pages in this study. Of course that’s merely part of the picture… the type of backlink matters, and as you’ve likely heard, diversity wins the race. It’s even shown here that having a large portion of your blog’s backlinks being classified as no-follow is a normal, even good, strategy. Google cleverly realized that in order to gauge social activity, such as interacting and commenting on blogs, which results in nofollow links much of the time, that their algorithm needed to identify and give value to those links, even if they don’t pass any page rank. I’ve ranked many posts with no backlinks, but the point is that by adding them you solidify your ranking and authority.
Two more things stand out and are worthy of mentioning… 1) Backlinks from same country. Getting a bazillion backlinks from SEO sweat shops abroad have little value these days, and the real value is given to those backlinks from your target country. 2) Finally, it’s now proven that keywords as an anchor in backlinks have little to no real value; with a positive coorelation of a mere .06, it’s clear this is now done with. Get backlinks in your home country, using longer strings such as “if you look at this article” as your anchor text; whether they’re follow or nofollow is no longer a huge matter.
SEO Factors – The Periodic Table
Another important and useful tool to help understand the most important SEO factors is the periodic table Search-Engine Land created, called “The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors”, shown below. Like the infographic above, this one breaks down the smaller, individual search-engine ranking factors that you need to understand in order to ensure that what you have to say, what you write, is indexed and ranked properly by search engines and ultimately found by people. The table shows each element and the corresponding “weight,” or “value” that a particular component has. For example, per the table, Content has a value of 3, while Shares has an importance of 1. Conversely, Stuffing has a negative value, meaning it hurts your ranking efforts as we all know.
Periodic Table by Search Engine Land
As I’ve written about before, we have to view search engines as the Librarians that they are. The information that we provide within our content, in the Title and even the URL itself, tells search engines what your writing is about, specifically, and ultimately how relevant and valuable it is to readers for that topic.
When you put the SEO page ranking factors into perspective, we have enormous control over how well (or poorly) our articles and pages rank. In fact, I’d be so bold as to say that we have all of the control. Google doesn’t arbitrarily rank articles, they use the information and metrics which “we” provide to do their work. Only in the past few months have I come to realize this fully, and in turn parlay it into better rankings for articles I write for others, and on my various blogs. These days, most of the content I publish ranks rather well and quickly because I work precisely with the Librarians, and they like it!
Considering the information in these two charts, and other known credible information, I’ve broken down the most important Google SEO factors that every blogger must consider when preparing and publishing content. These aren’t written in the order of importance, but you should understand all of the areas.
Top 10 SEO Factors 2013
- Content Words – Decide what you want to say and who you’ll be talking to (bloggers and potential bloggers in the case of this article). You can use an outline for each and every post, many bloggers do. I don’t do that in its purest sense, but I do think about my message and then decide how best to deliver it, and which kinds of images, videos or documents would help. Rather than giving even the slightest consideration for keyword use I write the entire article first, and only after I’ve finished do I go back and look at how I might best be able to incorporate keywords and synonyms. Only after writing do I begin looking into keyword variations and my competition (for clues on which words they’ve used to rank well). If you write like this, with the message in front of SEO, you’ll find it much easier to make both readers and search engines happy. Modern search engine algorithms are very, very good at parsing out good content amongst the mounds of crap. Good content means good content; from proper grammer to conversation flow and tone.
- Social Signals – Never before have social signals had so much influence in determining the ranking your content receives by search engines. If you download the complete study by SearchMetrics, who made the correlation chart at the top, you’ll see that the two metrics with the highest positive correlation with higher ranking pages are Google +1 and Facebook Shares. Remember, these correlations don’t mean the page with the most likes get to the top, just that the pages who got there had a lot of them. I make the prediction here and now that soon, very soon, Google’s Plus will become THE required social source for conducting business online. Get on the bandwagon now if you haven’t already and build a network.
- URL – We now know that a shorter URL is deemed more favorable by search engines, and that having keywords earlier in the URL is best (though exact match domains can have a negative influence). However, keyword in the URL is not even a major factor if the study is to be believed. With a positive correlation of just .01 it could be argued that keyword in the URL has neither a positive, nor negative effect on ranking. Bottom line? Chose the shortest domain name that you can that makes sense for your company, and use abbreviated permalinks (URL) when it’s practical.
- Title and Relevance – Another metric which has increased significantly in importance is the keyword in the title and the placement within the title. The earlier in the title you place keywords, the better. Keywords in the content is also now more important than ever (not keyword count, but relevance), and it’s precisely why I’ve had extremely high success rates using SEOPressor, because it puts a lot of that on autopilot for me, showing me LSI keywords that I can use automatically and which Google has shown to have a close relationship to my chosen keyword, increasing how relevant my posts are perceived. It also highlights important opportunities to improve ranking, such as proper uses of H1, H2, and H3 tags (talked about later), and more. Take a look at my Blogging Tools page for more on this. One more thing… the study highlighted a positive relationship between having H1 and H2 tags, and a description, even if the keyword wasn’t used in them, so make good use of these.
- Backlinks – Ah yes, the once mighty backlink! Unfortunately for many who relied on the spammy tactic of throwing out garbage content and then simply buying hoards of sweat shop backlinks, search engines have gotten smart and have rolled up their sleeves in order to find out how best to make sure that when real people are looking for real information and solutions, that they aren’t delivered to those crap sites. In doing so they’ve taken a different stance and held that in a natural situation no person is going to have a backlink profile in which 80% or more of the backlinks have the keyword as the anchor. In fact it’s this very stance by Google which diminished the value of keywords in the URL and led to the Exact Match Domain (EMD) penalties. Real writers, writing for real people, Google seems to believe, don’t stuff their keyword into every hole and corner.
- Keywords – Keyword density is no longer the name of the game. The study talks about the WDF*P*IDF formula, which essentially takes the keyword density of your article and compares it to the keyword density of other, relevant articles already indexed and ranked, to determine how relevant and/or spammy your article is. While it isn’t a strong indicator of better ranking, it should be clear that Google is thinking along these lines and using something similar as their measuring stick for keyword density and spam. So one thing I’ve done is take the keyword I want to rank for and see what the keyword density is for that term on the top 5 ranked competing pages; I strive to go at or maybe just above that ratio, and then include a lot of semantic search terms (synonyms) throughout to show relevancy (again, SEOPressor to the rescue). Here’s a great free (and quick) tool to check density of competing pages, or your own- http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword-density/
- Page Load Time – You hear about this all the time from SEO experts, but the proof is in the pudding and while you certainly don’t want to be delivering your pages at baud modem speed, the difference in a second or two is simply trivial in terms of ranking. I tend to agree with the analysis that Google is smart enough to also include viewer metrics such as time spent on page and bounce rates as a way of measuring how much your site speed affects the user experience, and while they don’t seem to “reward” for a faster site, you could be penalized if your pages load like molasses.
- Authorship – By now everyone has heard about Google Authorship and how the internet is shaping up to be a more personal and transparent experience. While you aren’t going to be rewarded for adding Authorship and rich snippets to your content (yet), there’s no doubt in the mind of many experts that rich snippets are coming and coming on fast, so do yourself a favor and get on top of using them as soon as possible; I know I’m trying to learn everything I can about them and will be adding a post on this subject very shortly. Here’s a great resource if you want to learn how to add rich snippets to your site. It’s been proven quite conclusively that having Authorship shown in the search results equals a far great click rate, so there’s that, too. The video at the bottom of the page explains in simple steps how easy it is to add Authorship to your own blog. As you’ve already read, Google kind of likes itself, so in addition to adding Google Plus activity you can gain unending favor by incorporating rich snippets (which Google is pushing) and also using and incorporating YouTube into your content (yes, Google owns YouTube, too). Search engines are wanting to see brands, that is, they want authors to own their content and get away from the flim flam quick sale sites of yesterday. You won’t have a choice soon, so get started on it now.
- Content Structure – First to jump out at me was how important “word count” is now to ranking. While I’ve ranked posts with 500 words or so, pages like this one which have high word counts seem to rank well and fast. Title length is shown to have a preference for shorter titles, which surprises me, but I presume this is inline with the preference for shorter URLs. I don’t know what length is too little or too much, but I would guess they want to get away from those sales heavy, keyword-laden titles. It was also shown HTML length, that is, the overall size of the content page in HTML code, has something to do with ranking better. I suspect that the search engines correlate a larger HTML file with a more user friendly and appealing experience, though that’s purely my conjecture. Multimedia such as images and videos are more and more of a positive factor in getting ranked, that you simply must include them at every practical opportunity. Tip – when searching for videos to include, use those which match closely your target keyword and which already rank high in YouTube for that word (relevance is the name of the game). Finally, internal linking is more important than ever. I make it a point to link to at least one other article from the same site in each and every post. This inter-linking is an easy way to boost your SEO efforts. The study revealed a tidbit that I think is useful to remember as a rule of thumb… use hard links internally (links with keyword as anchor) and soft links externally (no keyword as anchor). Doing so seems to be advantageous, even if only slightly.
- Advertising – There was no clear correlation shown on this metric, but I mention it because one theme seems to be coming to light… search engines are sick of “sales only” sites which pitch themselves as “content sites.” These are the strategies that affiliate marketers used for years, and with a lot of success. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, only that search engines seem to take some level of notice these days of how much and what kind of advertising your site has. This is making the job of affiliates more difficult because, well, affiliates need to make money. I know of very few content sites which exist out of benevolence. Writers of every sort and class seek to make money from their work. But moving forward affiliates are going to have to be more accurate in our attempts to serve ads to readers… and rather than spray and pray with advertising banners all over a site, we’ll actually have to research our audience and better serve their needs with limited products or services that readers are more likely to click through on.
There is no magic bullet to SEO success, of course, but this knowledge is an additional tool in your arsenal. If you review and study the infographics presented here, and use the above 10 ideas as a study guide or outline, then you will find like many of us bloggers that getting ranked is truly much easier these days with just a little bit of work. In fact, with the help of SEOPressor I’m able to turn out top ranking posts in just hours. Getting social engagement on those articles later helps to cement their ranking.
Thanks to the great work of sites like SearchEngineLand and SearchMetrics, you and I are now armed with a better blueprint for SEO success than we’ve ever had access to, so getting pages ranked, for the informed, is truly much easier now. I hope you’ll put these SEO Factors to good use, and that you’ll leave a comment and of course share this article.
Are you surprised by any of the new SEO rules for 2013 and beyond?