Top SEO Ranking Factors 2013

Top SEO Ranking Factors 2013

According to Google they make around 500 algorithm changes per year.  That is equal to 1.5 per day.  Most of these we don’t even hear about!

We only hear about the big ones – Penguin, Panda, Vince, Caffeine, and so on.  Even though every SEO company performs its own research, it’s hard to say if what has been found really is true or not.

And that goes even for companies with large research teams available to do the work!

That being said, the more research performed, the more likely it is that what is found is actually the truth.

Because search constantly changes, and because those changes can significantly impact the amount of business you receive, we’re going to discuss what’s working right now in SEO – where your dollars are best spent.

The Top Ranking Factors

Much of this data is thanks to a study performed by Moz.  The study had a correlational part, which means it examined what features tended to occur most often with sites that ranked highly.  It is important to understand correlation does not mean causation.

Think of it this way:  if you follow these tactics, you are likely to rank higher than your competitors.  But, just because you do them does not mean you will rank higher.

The other part of the study involved a survey of 120 leading SEO professionals, simply asking their opinion on what works.  Here’s how things broke down after the study was performed:

1.      Page Authority

This metric has been created by Moz.  Of all the factors Moz studied, this one had the highest level of correlation.  Basically, you can think of this metric as how competitive a page is likely to be in Google.  Primarily, it’s made up of your link profile, so the best way to influence it is to get great links from highly reputable websites.

A number of other factors affect it as well, including virtually every SEO factor imaginable.   So that means things like page load speed, appropriate keyword placement, and authority on social media accounts also play a role.

2.     Links

The fact that links are a top ranking factor is not a surprise at all.  This data came from the survey part of the study.  Specifically, the more domains you have pointing to the page and your domain, the relevance of the page linking to you, and the diversity of incoming links were particularly important factors.

3.      On-Page SEO

This one is still pretty important, and the data comes from the correlational part of the study.  Sites with keywords in the body text, title, META description, and H1 and H2 tags tended to generally have a higher ranking.  What this means to you is that the most important place to get your keywords in is the body, followed by the title, and so on.

In the survey, SEOs generally agreed with this hierarchy, but getting the keyword in the title was more important than the page.  In addition, images have an “alt” tag, and they added you should get your target keyword in there as well.

4.      Exact Match Domain Name

What this means is that the name of your domain, matches your primary keyword exactly.  The alternatives are a partial match, or no match at all.

Even though Google announced last fall it would reduce the power of exact-match domain names, Moz found in its study that exact match domain names ending in .com generally had higher rankings than exact match domains with other extensions (.org or .net for example) and partial match domains.

The interpretation of this is that Google reduced the power of exact match domains for low-quality websites.

5.      Social Signals

Of all the factors studied, social signals had some of the highest correlations in the Moz study.  Sites that ranked highly typically had more Google +1s, followed by Facebook shares and Twitter Tweets.

Interestingly, SEOs did not see social shares as an important ranking factor.

What This Data Means to You

To sum it all up, this is what you should be doing as much as possible:

  • Optimizing every page on your site well
  • Attracting high-quality links from other sites
  • Encouraging people to share stuff on your social media accounts

Enjoy your improved search rankings!

By: Casey Weisbach