Gone are the days when SEOs had no choice but to obsess over small or tedious things that hardly matter in ranking. Since the SEO industry leader ‘Moz’ has started releasing the results of their Biennial Search Engine Ranking Factors surveys, it has become much easier for SEO services providers to identify the most influential factors in search results and figure out exactly where to put their efforts.
In its last Biennial Search Engine Ranking Factors survey, Moz documented the opinions of over 150 leading SEO minds across the world on more than 90 ranking factors and run a correlation study to gain insight into Google’s ranking algorithm.
According to the aggregated data, following are the ranking factors that should never be ignored by an SEO company:
1. Domain-Level Link Features
The features, which describe link or citation metrics for the root domain or subdomain hosting the page, are the first and foremost thing to consider. These include the quantity of unique linking domains, topical relevance of linking domains, distribution of authorities/popularity of linking domains, raw popularity and trust of domain, backlinks from sites of your own geo-targeted area/language, domain-level etc.
In short, links still have a reasonably strong connection with ranking.
2. Page-Level Link Features
Link or citation metrics to the individual ranking page are the second most vital factor to take into account. These features comprise the number of links from high-authority sites and known brands/entities, topical relevance of linking sources, diversity of link anchor texts, number of unique linking root domains, trust of links, position/context of inbound links, page popularity, number of links using keywords with exact-match and/or partial-match anchor texts, etc.
Quite clearly, there is no sound basis to claim that links to a particular page on your website have zero impact on its ranking.
3. Page-Level Keyword & Content-Based Features
The way you incorporate the targeted keywords or key phrases in specific sections of the HTML code on a web page is important in terms of ranking algorithm. Page-level keyword-based features basically describe the inclusion of keywords in title tags, H1 tags, Meta descriptions, alt attributes, and so on. It is also essential to ensure that the targeted keywords and the content on that page are strongly related to each other.
Quality and relevance of content, language modelling of the targeted keywords/phrases, etc. are what you need to consider in page-level content-based features.
4. Page-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
This is all about the usage of non-keywords/phrases on a web page as well as other non-link metrics associated with it. The elements need to be focused on are content uniqueness and freshness, content length, relative CTR from SERPs for the keyword, quality of supplemental content, number of searches for the keyword with particular domain/brand/URl, overall design/UX, mobile-friendliness, page load speed, pure bounce rate, page age, dwell time and return visits, presence of structured data markeup, international targeting, and others.
5. Engagement & Traffic/Query Data
Traffic and user engagement metrics might not be a true component in Google’s ranking algorithm, but they correspond to ranking in an indirect yet robust manner and you should never ignore it. All forms of website visits, such as search visits, direct visits, total visits, etc. translate into increased traffic, which impacts rankings positively. Conversely, more page views, lower bounce rate, longer time-on-site, etc. reflect better user engagement, which also helps websites rank higher in Google search results.
6. Domain-Level Brand Metrics
Identify all those elements of the root domain, which point to the qualities of branding and brand metrics. Typically, these include search volume for the brand/domain, existence/quality of verified business information, domain name citations across the web, brand/domain name mentions on social sites, number of co-occurrence keyword with brand across the web, and so on.
7. Domain-Level Keyword Usage
The usage of keywords in the root domain or subdomain name must be practiced carefully by marketers as it seems that Google is still adjusting the ranking ability of exact match domains (EMDs) and partial-match domains (PMDs). In general, the keyword can be an exact match for the root domain name, present in it directly, relate to it through entity association, present in the subdomain name itself, or an extension for the domain.
8. Domain-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
Consider all non-keyword usages as well as non-link elements of the root domain. Pay attention to the length of the domain name (character-wise), uniqueness and freshness of site-wide content, responsiveness, aggregated CTR from SERPs, aggregated page load speed and dwell time for domain, number of crawled error pages, domain age, TLD extension, SSL certificate, etc.
9. Page-Level Social Metrics
Must evaluate the third-party metrics from various social media sources for its individual web pages. Social signals, such as engagement with content/URL, quantities of Google+ shares and +1s, Facebook likes and shares, Pinterest pins and tweets, comments and upvotes for a specific page, and sentiment of links/citations are directly related to ranking.
When combined with vast knowledge and rich experience of search marketing, this understanding of Google’s ranking algorithm breakdown can eliminate little niggles and facilitate better SEO practices. So, concentrate on these components to stay ahead of the ranking challenges and take your website to the next level.