The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors: 2013 Edition #SMX #11A

Moderator Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land, @dannysullivan

Jenny Halasz, Archology, @jennyhalasz
Marcus Tober, Searchmetrics Inc., @marcustober
Eric Enge, Stone Temple Consulting, @stonetemple
Matthew Peters, Moz @mattthemathman

SEO elements

When they were updating the Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors, they considered adding a “mobile” element, but they didn’t. Google just won’t rank you as well if your mobile experience isn’t good.

Matthew Peters: How Search Engines Determine Relevance

If you search “philadelphia phillies” a search engine is going to decide the results that are relevant. There’s a difference between ranking and relevance. Relevance is the first step – what pages are about this query. Ranking is the second step, when the relevant results are ordered. He’s going to focus on the first piece: deciding relevance.

A search engine computes similarity scores across page elements, title tags, H2, things in bold or italics, body text, all rolled up into an aggregate score. This is a well-studied problem in the computer science and information retrieval field. He’s going to focus on the fundamental ways search and retrieval are done.

Measuring query-document similarity:

Query Model

  • basic building blocks like language identification, spelling correction, word segmentation, tokenization (reviews, reviewer, reviewing > review) + normalization
  • higher up the chain are query expansion, classification (images, video, news), local, user intent
  • further abstraction are entity extraction and topic model (LDA)

Document Representation
(fancy formulas I missed…)

Which method performs best? The language model performs the best. It’s a new model. When stemming is calculated in, then TF-IDF and language model perform equally well.

Takeaways:

  • Query-doc similarity is based on decades of research.
  • With sophisticated query and document models no need to optimize separately for similar words, e.g. “movie reviews” vs. “movie review.”
  • Each page is relevant to many different keywords, so optimize each page for a broad set of related keywords instead of a single keyword.
  • Content creation: what keywords will this new post target?

Jenny Halasz: Why Technical SEO Still Works

Crawling issues, signs to look for:

  • Consistent crawl patterns
  • Increased crawling when changes are made, decreased when site is static
  • Big spikes or drops can indicate a problem

3 seconds = good load time
3 seconds = average user attention span

Radware study (Spring 2013):

  • Pages are getting slower and larger
  • Browsers are not keeping up
  • Many site owners are not implementing potential performance improvements

URLs and architecture:

  • Don’t create pages just for the sake of keywords
  • Clarify which pages have value (XML Sitemaps)
  • Keep it simple

Takeaways:

  • Google is your boss.
  • User intent comes first.
  • Speed matters.

Marcus Tober: Spam, Penalties and Algorithm Updates

Google has bajillions of pages in its index: 30,000,000,000,000.

Matt Cutts has several methods to fight Internet spam.

Method 1: The red card. Penalty.

Method 2: Algorithm changes like Panda, Penguin, Exact Match Domain – baked into the algo. This is harder to regain rankings from. The number of announced algorithm changes is growing exponentially.

Marcus’s company is doing a ranking correlations study for 2013 that is still in progress. They are looking at number of backlinks, backlinks % with nofollow, backlinks % with stopwords, visibility of backlinking URL…

Findings:
If you have links from more visible sites you rank better.
From last year to this year, anchor text value has gone down in value

Social Graph

20130611-103138.jpg

He predicts that if the growth rate stays the same then in February 2016 Google+ will overtake Facebook.

Eric Enge: Social Indexing and Ranking

Who believes Google+ is a ranking factor? Majority
Who believes Facebook is a ranking factor? Not as many

They ran a study on how social sharing impacts SEO. They were trying to find what other things Google and Bing use to discover content. They tested Google+, Google+ shares, Facebook likes, Tweets, Chrome and Google Analytics. They tested on 5 different websites.

Page Performance Tracked Over Time:

  • Searchmetrics used for tracking in many cases
  • Log files checked to see what pages were accessed
  • Backlinks checked as well to make sure people weren’t corrupting data and threw out when they were

Even the presence of Google+ 1 JavaScript code can cause a page to get indexed!

  • Google+ drives Google indexing and ranking within 4 or 5 days
  • Facebook drives Google indexing and ranking within 7 to 8 days
  • Links often take longer than this
  • Bing did not show indexing and ranking behavior
  • Keywords were 3 words or longer in length
  • Definitely powerful way to create visibility for content
  • Definitely has rankings impact, especially on long-tail and chunky middle terms
  • Shows some decay over time
  • It’s not powerful enough as an isolated signal, but its a powerful supplement to a traditional SEO strategy
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