Live at SMX East:What Are The Most Important Search Ranking Factors?

By Scott Garrett | Oct 1, 2013
More Articles by Scott

This was a very interesting session about ranking factors in SEO.  The session was moderated by Danny Sullivan and had informative and thought provoking presentations by Moz’s Matthew Peter and Searchmetrics’ Marcus Tober. Both presenters gave very detailed data to back up their claims on the current elements that contribute to the ranking factors on Google and Bing. The idea of correlation vs. causation was discussed when determining which ranking factors played vital roles in Google’s and Bing’s algorithm, especially dealing with social signals. Below I will give a short bio of each presenter and also detail their main talking points from their presentations.


Dr. Matthew Peters is the Chief Data Scientist at Moz, where he manages a team broadly responsible for all of Moz’s metrics.

  • Key SEO ranking factors
    • URL string
      • Exact matching domains as a ranking factor is still as strong as it was two years ago.
  • On-page content
    • Keywords on the page are not as important as they were in the past.
      • Keyword relevance vs. keyword ranking
      • You need good on-page content that will create relevance for the keyword that a user searchers
  • Anchor text
    • Anchor text not as important as it was last year
  • Load time
    •  Is not a direct ranking factor, but does affect user experience and will hamper repeat visits or purchases on your site.
  • Social signals
    • Based off of Moz’s data, social signals are in fact ranking factors, even though Google says it doesn’t include Google +1s or Facebook shares in their algorithm.

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  • Final word of caution
    • Entity search, aka “knowledge graph,” is continuing to  grow and dominate the top of the search results.
      • It is stealing organic visits and with the new Hummingbird update, entity search looks to only continue to grow and dominate SERPs.

Marcus Tober studied computer science in Berlin and started his career by developing the known SEO platform This passion for every kind of search engine data led to the founding of Searchmetrics in 2005.

  • Some ranking factors
    • Exact matching domains
      • As a ranking factor it actually went down according to Tober’s data, which is at odds with Moz’s data.
  • Google is taking into account anchor text from backlinks, while Bing is not.
    • According to Tober, anchor text is more or less dead as a ranking factor.
    • Everyone thinks they have great content, so if Google just says to make great content, then what do you do?
      • Social signals are user signals
        • Focus on all social signals, not just +1s or backlinks.
          • Google is using Google+ as a discovery tool for fresh content. According to his data every time a post receives a +1 it is re-crawled by Google within 6 seconds.  

 Both of the presenters had a great deal of data on the current ranking factors for SEO. Peters and Tober both agreed that social signals are in fact a ranking factor and need to be viewed as such by SEO agencies.

What are your opinions on social signals as a ranking factor? Comment below and follow me on Twitter @scottgarrett89.

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