There was a bit of a fuss yesterday on whether or not votes (or related activity) on Google’s social network leads to better rankings. The title of this article popped into my head, and the following ten items presented themselves as 10 things I care more about than Google +1s.
- Google’s classification system: How Google classes your site – or rather YOUR INTENT, will have a major impact on your rankings. If your intent is to be an end-point of traffic stop – to make money from Google’s free traffic – and offer little in return – then Google is not your friend. If you are willing to play the long game game Google’s way (which isn’t easy), there are still plenty of OPPORTUNITY, plenty of organic listings to be filled – even if they are under an amount of ads Google’s own top heavy algorithm would choke on.
- Domain Reputation: I don’t keep up with the terminology – but this is about how much Google trusts your site. This is a main reason as to why certain pages rank at the top of Google without (many) inbound links and sometimes have lots of social activity noise, and hence why we see crazy articles about social media having a bigger impact on rankings than links. Domain trust – or online business authority, I think – is basically based on factors I go into below. But getting, and keeping, domain trust, is all important now for real businesses who want to rank in natural listings using a quality content programme.
- Low quality links: The low quality links well is poisoned. Get out, now. Disavow them, remove them. Google killed low quality link building techniques in most of the competitive niches I am in – probably yours, too. It’s NOT just a matter of ‘does this technique” work any more. Low quality links are not a defensible link strategy for most small businesses these days.
- Low Quality SEO: If Google has a reason to put you in the sin bin, they will. Usually – they will do this by algorithmic means or lately by MANUAL ACTIONS in Google Webmaster Tools. So if flagged for manual review, your site had better not scream “seo”. You don’t want to be caught milking Google’s cash cow for yourself, whether that be pushing limits of technical seo, or just plain old keyword stuffing. NOt unless your business model allows for this.
- High quality links. Still, THE most important ranking factor. Link building just got HARDER, and MORE EXPENSIVE, just as Google wants it to. Low quality link building is not defensible anymore and WILL get you into trouble, now that Google is policing it’s guidelines. The game now is to get high quality links your competition CANNOT get (by hook, or by crook, you don’t want caught doing it). This is not an easy task, when Google’s PR is making people even scared of linking out to reputable sites, for fear of appearing manipulative.
- Original, in-depth, passionate content: If you side with the visitor, you will win, Google says. Ultimately – it’s a moot point if you believe them or not. If you want free traffic from Google, you better get used to giving it free, high quality content that will satisfy their visitors. Google wants to be the best search engine – it does want to satisfy certain users intent to find information. Google wants in-depth articles in organic listings – we even have new code for ‘in-depth articles’ too.
- The correct keywords – this is genuinely the simplest thing you can do in seo to get free traffic – proper keyword research. Sometimes – having A word on the page can be the difference between ranking no1 and not ranking at all, even with very relevant traffic. THIS is one way Google uses to share all that lovely free traffic about.
- Availability of your site – if Google can’t find your site for a few days – you will lose rankings that in some cases take some time to regain (smaller sites). If you block content from Google, you don’t rank. It’s a simple error I still see a lot of folk making – even theoretical physicists can foul foul of this**.
- Satisfaction score – the amount of time people spend on your site, and the ‘success’ rate of your visitor (e.g. did you help Google serve their customer? did they stay on your site for a long time, and not go back to carry out the same search? And it’s not just visitors from Google – if you want a page to rank – it better satisfy the curiosity of a Google web spam team reviewer, too. The author who created the controversy yesterday about Google Plus votes, actually wrote a GREAT ARTICLE about user satisfaction (ignore the title, it is sensationalist and inaccurate, again). The article itself is a great read.
- Speed of your web pages: I’d wager this was more important today than first introduced. Google even said that mobile sites rankings WILL suffer if not fast enough(and I have witnessed this I think). It’s all about – user experience and satisfaction. If you make your website faster, everybody is probably happier.
Even as I write those – I can still think of other factors. In fact, I can say I don’t really factor Google Plus votes in at all (at this time) and I have tested a few things.
Google plus, for my purposes, is a channel to get the word out – to get real links to a post (if I have my seo hat on). If they are in play – it’s too light a factor for me to have noticed above other things I expect to have an impact.
Are there more ranking signals?
TONS. The above are some of the main things you can do SOMETHING ABOUT without knowing the more technical aspects of seo or falling foul of Google’s guidelines. Google is in constant flux, constant testing, constant UI change. Where you are in the world, and how often you’ve used Google from that location, and whether Google knows it’s YOU that is searching, has a MASSIVE impact on the listings Google personalise for you.
If Google want’s to turn up authorship signals, that will probably be important too. I am not saying ignore Google+ – there ARE reported benefits in other areas – just not when it comes to ranking your content about other content using more traditional methods. I am thinking of testing Google+ for comments on this blog, for instance.
I just don’t think Google are turning off links as a source of identifying quality any time soon, not when they are raking in the cash, and not when they are putting so much effort into punishing low quality link building.
Some related articles on my thoughts above:
- Page Speed - http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/using-site-speed-in-web-search-ranking.html
- In depth Articles - http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/in-depth-articles-in-search-results.html
- Levelling the playing field – http://www.seroundtable.com/google-over-seo-update-14887.html
- Rewarding high quality sites - http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/another-step-to-reward-high-quality.html
- Mobile site speed - http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/making-smartphone-sites-load-fast.html