Live from SMX Advanced: The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors – 2013 Edition

By Janet Driscoll Miller | Jun 11, 2013
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Danny Sullivan posted an updated Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors post on Search Engine Land yesterday — a collection of the universally accepted on-page and off-page factors to rank highly in search engines:

The panel today examined some of their own findings and those of others when testing particular ranking factors. This panel featured Jenny Halasz of Archolgy, Marcus Tober of Searchmetrics, Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting and Matthew Peters of Moz. (Writer’s note: My apologies, but I missed Matthew’s portion of the presentation.)

Jenny Halasz

Jenny started out by discussing crawl budget. What is it? Crawl budget is the amount of pages you can get a search engine bot to crawl when it comes to your site. While it’s natural that the bots may not index a lot of pages at each visit, you want to be sure you optimize your opportunities. Here’s Jenny’s take on how to do that…

First, you have to crawl before you walk:

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How you format your pages (how well they are formatted for SEO) has an effect. One way you can measure how often Googlebot crawls your site and how many pages it is indexing each time is through the crawl stats report in Google Webmaster Tools. Look for consistent crawl habits for your site. You should see an increase in crawling when changes are made, but big spikes or big drops may be a signal of a problem.

Next Jenny covered the issue of duplicate content. Not only is duplicate content a problem for Panda issues with Google, but it also reduces the impact of inbound links and link authority for a given page if there are several versions of that page that have inbound links. By resolving duplicate content issues, inbound links can be attributed to one version of the page, giving that page a higher link authority than if the links were split between multiple versions of the page.

Finally Jenny addressed site speed as a ranking factor. She shared a study from Radware, first showing how, overall, sites are experiencing a slowdown in load time:

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Jenny summizes, as did the Radware study, that much of this slow down is an effect of the added elements and resources on pages that need to load:

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So a quick tip if you want to improve load time for your site is to reduce the number of resources that will need to load.

Marcus Tober

Marcus shared lots of great stats on search ranking factors and correlations that they’ve found at Searchmetrics:

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While the keyword appearing in the backlink doesn’t appear to be as important as before (see above), but backlinks still appear to be a very important factor for sites ranking highest in Google:

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What about the effects of Penguin on inbound links? As the slide below shows, many backlinks have been lost since Penguin began taking effect:

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Penguin also affected content that was not very relevant to the site. He shared examples from a large jeweler where certain keywords that had previously ranked highly in Google and driven a good deal of traffic (even though they were less relevant to the site’s main theme and content), began dropping on those words with Penguin.

In the end, Marcus stressed, “Links make you stronger, but don’t cheat on Google!”

Eric Enge

Eric was up last and focused on a study his firm did looking at how social media affects indexing and ranking. He ran a study to see what methods Google uses to find new content and to see what non-SEO factors influence ranking. They tested +1s, likes, tweets, shares, Google Analytics, and more. They ran this test on five websites and created 14 articles for each site that were fully isolated with no inbound links. Each used only one signal. They also looked for corruptions like inbound links that got built and threw that data out.

Here are the findings:

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Google +1 took about 4 days to get indexed. Additionally, even the presence of the +1 code or use the Google+ API may help drive indexing.

Facebook likes also drove indexing and ranking.

With Chrome, it does not appear to be used by Google to discover new content. Similarly GA does not seem to improve indexing behavior. Eric shared data from Searchmetrics that confirmed his original findings as well.

Rankings did erode, however, over time. This could be like query deserves freshness — it may reduce over time.

Google+ drives ranking within 4-5 days. FB appears to take 7-8 days. Links often take longer than both of these. Bing did not show indexing and ranking behavior. Keywords were 3 or more words. It’s  a powerful way to get content discovered and a supplement to your SEO strategy.

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