2013 SEO Ranking Factor Results
Moz’s 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors presents survey data from over 100 search engine professionals and provides insight into the inner workings of the future of search. The following data represents the opinions of the respondents on the various weighting of factors thought to be used (or not used) in Google’s search algorithm.
As Google does not publish any of their algorithm we can only learn what may lie behind it from experience so who better to ask than those involved in search engine optimization on a daily basis.
Broken down into 10 sections covering various aspects of SEO this is the most comprehensive survey to date.
1. The Overall Algorithm
According to our survey respondents, here is how Google’s overall algorithm breaks down.
Notes on the survey’s responses regarding the overall algorithm: 1. Links are still believed to be the most important part of the algorithm (approximately 40%). 2. Keyword usage on the page is still fundamental, and—other than links—is thought to be the most important type of factor. 3. SEOs do not think social factors are important in the 2013 algorithm (only 7%), in contrast to the high correlations.
2. Domain Level Brand Metrics
These features describe elements that indicate qualities of branding and brand metrics. Rated on a scale of importance from 1 (No Importance) to 10 (Very Important)
Comments on Domain Level Brand Metrics
Tim Grice “We are seeing a strong shift towards co-occurrence, and brand + keyword search volumes. Instead of anchor text, your link strategy should focus on developing opportunities for people to talk about your brand alongside your main product or service.” Rob Kerry “Social signals are still in their infancy. Unless your brand exposure is enough to reach a significant market share, concentrate on traditional PR and branding for old-school signals.”
3. Domain Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
These features relate to the entire root domain, but don’t directly describe link or keyword-based elements. Instead, they relate to things like the length of the domain name in characters. Rated on a scale of importance from 1 (No Importance) to 10 (Very Important)
Comments on Domain Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
Russ Jones “When Matt Cutts says you will be ‘surprised’ about the level of influence of handling mobile right, it is time to start handling mobile right.”
Carlos del Rio “The freshness of content and load speed are the most consistent factors in this group. Currently authorship metrics are being overvalued, and I expect to see this factor weaken over the near future.”
4. Domain Level Keyword Usage
These features cover how keywords are used in the root or subdomain name, and how much impact this might have on search engine rankings. Rated on a scale of importance from 1 (No Importance) to 10 (Very Important)
Comments on Domain Level Keyword Usage
“Like it or not, having the keyword in the domain helps—sometimes more than it should.”
“Exact-match domains still perform really well, despite Google updates to diminish the ‘free pass’ EMDs typically get. If I were to start a new site today I’d prefer to build a brand.com oriented domain rather than making the EMD my main site.”
Carlos del Rio
“Exact match domains are still overvalued in Google’s algorithm. I expect that we are going to see continued reduction in exact match value over the next year.”
5. Domain Level Link Authority Metrics
These features describe link metrics about the domain hosting the page.
Rated on a scale of importance from 1 (No Importance) to 10 (Very Important)
Comments on Domain Level Link Authority Features Julian Grainger “Context again. What are we trying to rank? How long is it useful content? Velocity can be a blessing or a curse. If your brand is global, your links should be too.” Will Critchlow “I suspect sentiment is coming soon, but I haven’t seen any evidence of it in use yet.” Matt Gratt “Google seems to be depreciating more links than ever before, so this is actually increasing the impact of getting the links that count, IMHO.”
6. Page Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
These elements describe non-keyword-usage, non-link-metrics features of individual pages (such as length of the page, load speed, etc.). Rated on a scale of importance from 1 (No Importance) to 10 (Very Important)
Comments on Page Level Keyword-Agnostic Features
Greg Niland “Many of these factors are intertwined. Does adding authorship markup boost your rankings? Or is it because the authorship markup added your smiling face to SERPs, which in turn drove a higher CTR? Another example is the length of content. Are you ranking because your content is long or because your long content contains extra synonyms that can’t be squeezed into shorter content? Or maybe longer content keeps users on your site longer, which can reduce bounce rates? It is hard to isolate a single ranking factor, but to be honest, you don’t need to be that precise. It’s like baking a cake: It doesn’t matter how much of one ingredient is in the recipe. It matters much more that the sum of the ingredients taste good.” Scott Smith “Structured data’s importance varies greatly by vertical. If I could do one thing to help every webpage out there rank better these days, it would be to add a video.” Ruud Hein “Approach your content from a conversion optimization point of view; that’s how Google is doing it.”
7. Page Level Keyword Usage
These features describe use of the keyword term/phrase in particular parts of the HTML code on the page (title element, H1s, alt attributes, etc.) Rated on a scale of importance from 1 (No Importance) to 10 (Very Important)
Comments on Page Level Keyword Usage
“Good on-page optimization is STILL important. It helps Google understand what the page is about. Google won’t rank a page until it knows what the page is relevant for.”
“As Google becomes better at what it does, the reliance on tangible, on-page features seems to be disappearing as fast-if not faster-than link metrics.”
“Keyword usage seems to have decreased a bit in importance, especially relative to brand importance. In many cases we have observed industry authority webpages with little keyword usage actually outweigh more informative, keyphrase-relevant pages, presumably on brand authority.”
8. Page Level Social Metrics
These features relate to third-party metrics from social media sources (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) for the ranking page. Rated on a scale of importance from 1 (No Importance) to 10 (Very Important)
Comments on Page Level Social Metrics
“Sorry—I’ve not seen any evidence that’s convinced me that page-level social metrics play a part in the algorithm. I think these signals are either too easy to fake, or in the case of sentiment the search engines, just aren’t quite there yet. I think in the future there’s the potential for them to become more heavily weighted, but I don’t think the data is reliable enough yet.”
“Expect Google to push for higher adoption of G+, and adopt more social signals as their network of users grows and becomes more reliable for important relevance data points.”
9. Page Level Link-Based Features
These features describe link metrics to the individual ranking page (such as number of links, MozRank, etc.)
Rated on a scale of importance from 1 (No Importance) to 10 (Very Important)
Comments on Page Level Link-Based Features
David Iwanow “Link velocity seems to be coming back. If you stop building links you fall down in rankings … competitors who can keep up velocity of links can seem to rise in rankings even if the quality of the links is low.”
AJ Kohn “Topical relevance of linking pages and domains remains the most powerful signal, and it’s only getting stronger as topic modeling is influenced by entity detection.”
Tim Grice “Anchor text has had its day—in fact, we have been running successful strategies for years without considering anchor text. Having a strategy around number of anchor text or a specific ‘anchor text variation formula’ is just ridiculous and will lead to problems somewhere down the line.”
10. The Future of Search
Participants were asked to share their predictions of how the following factors might change (in terms of their impact on Google’s ranking algorithm) over the next 12 months.
Comments on the Future of Search
“Social signals from Google+ will become more and more relevant over the next 12 months. Eventually Google+ will take equal, if not more, prominence than Facebook due to its position at the cross-section of search and social.”
“Some of the research papers from universities and/or search engines have shown them testing things like how long the window is in focus, scrolling on a page, printing from a page, and-what I think is the most interesting one (used for testing a page’s credibility)-automating the process of identifying topical experts and giving weight to the pages they visit.”
“Don’t believe the hype of social and G+. They will increase in importance, but certainly not replace more traditional offsite factors. Inbound links and offsite equity will continue to be highly influential to search relevance when validated by other factors. Expect these offsite equity trust and authority factors to maintain a large portion of the importance that they’ve always held as the foundation of the Google algorithm.”